Restoration at Kingarth


The Church of St Blane, Kingarth © David Gill

The church of St Blane’s at Kingarth lies at the southern end of the island of Bute. The site is now managed by Historic Scotland.

I was particularly interested in the contribution of Robert Weir Schultz. I had come across him as an architect at the British School at Athens. (Further bibliographical details can be found in Sifting the Soil of Greece.) Weir Schultz had a strong interest in Byzantine churches.

The connection with the 3rd Marquess of Bute is also significant. 

Heritage Signs for Temple Wood

Temple Wood

Sign for the Temple Wood Circle, Kilmartin © David Gill

There is something reassuring about the retention of the ‘old’ sign for the Temple Wood stone circle(s) in the prehistoric landscape around Kilmartin. The site is now managed by Historic Scotland. 

Heritage Signs: Commandant’s House


Chesters Roman Fort: Commandant’s House © David Gill

Foundations of buildings can be hard to understand and the Ministry of Works labelled individual buildings and features for visitors. This sign is placed on the east side of the ‘Commandant’s House’ at Chesters Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall (Northumberland).

Professor Eric Birley’s guide (Chesters Roman Fort, Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, 1960; sixth impression 1970) has a section on the ‘Commandant’s House and bath-house’ (p. 21). The building was excavated by John Clayton in 1843. The same terminology is also used on the fort plan.

Nick Hodgson’s guide (Chesters Roman Fort, English Heritage, 2011) has a section on the ‘Commanding officer’s house (Praetorium)’ (no. 4) and ‘Praetorium baths’ (no. 5). Indeed the sign ‘Commandant’s House’ is placed on what Hodgson defines as the ‘Praetorium baths’.

My 13th edition of Collingwood Bruce’s Handbook to the Roman Wall (1978) [ed. Charles Daniels] identifies the ‘House and baths of commandant’ (on the plan) but discusses ‘the commanding-officer’s house’ and ‘the commanding-officers’ [sic.] bath-house’ (p. 115). My 14th edition (2006; David J. Breeze) refers to the ‘commanding officer’s house’ (p. 203).

Guide to North Leigh Roman Villa


The Roman villa at North Leigh lies some 10 miles from Oxford (and is under the care of English Heritage). This was a site leased and excavated by Professor Francis Haverfield, and thus has plenty of resonances with the history of archaeology in Britain. 

On my shelf is a 1973 Department of the Environment guide to the villa (cost 3p). It consists of a folded piece of A4 light card, with a plan on the inside. There is a detailed description of the remains.

The path to Hallaig

Hallaig sign

Footpath to Hallaig © David Gill

There can be few signs that can stir the emotions like this one marking the path along the east side of Raasay to the clearance village of Hallaig. The poem by Sorley MacLean (and translated here by Seamus Heaney) evokes the ruined houses nestling under the cliffs on a small plateau. But the walk along the carefully constructed turfy path makes a connection with the communities that lived and worked here. 

Heritage Signage at Dunstaffnage Castle


Car-park sign at Dunstaffnage Castle, Scotland © David Gill, 2014

The new signs at sites managed by CADW, English Heritage and Historic Scotland include graphics and information panels, and each has adopted the corporate identity of its heritage organisation. But I wonder if part of the heritage of heritage sites is being lost as the “old” cast signs there were in use from the eras of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW) and the Department of Environment are replaced. Are they documented? Are they being deposited in a store?

So it is good to see some of the older signs still on show at some of the more remote heritage sites.

The Antonine Wall at Rough Castle

One of the most surprising Roman monuments is the ‘turf’ Antonine Wall that stretches effectively from the Firth of Forth to the Clyde. One of the best preserved sections is at the Roman fort of Rough Castle (near Falkirk). As you look northwards you get a sense of the edge of empire (though, of course, the network of Roman forts stretches northwards).