Archaeologists find ancient 'freezer' at flood defences dig

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AN old freezer is being investigated after being found dumped in the middle of Craigmillar.

But the case is unlikely to trouble the city's fly-tipping patrols, as the discovery dates back hundreds of years.

The 18th century ice house is just one of a series of new discoveries made by archaeologists at the Niddrie Marischal estate over the past few weeks ahead of flood prevention work in the area.

Pottery has also been recovered from medieval ditches - dating back to the 15th century or possibly even earlier - and evidence of a 17th century farm has been uncovered.

Niddrie Marischal House was built on the site around 1636 and was demolished in the 1960s, but it is believed the origins of the estate may go as far back as the 12th century.

John Lawson, the council's curator of archaeology, said: "It's a very interesting site. We're getting new evidence which adds to the picture of Craigmillar and the history of the area.

"What we're looking at now is evidence from the past 400 years and we hope to get evidence going back beyond that.

"One of the things we have found was something we never knew existed, an early farmhouse. "We have found a very nice well associated with the farmhouse which may throw up some interesting artefacts."

The remains of the farm include cobbled surfaces and hearth and stone foundations.

A replacement farm was built around 1800 just to the east of these remains.

The earliest form of freezer, ice houses were a common feature of large mansions throughout the UK in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The large chambers were dug into mounds and filled with ice or snow in the winter, and were used to preserve food and to keep wines cool in summer.

It is hoped the ice house, a circular stone-lined pit, will be preserved on the site.

Archeologists will continue to work on the site for the next few weeks and it is hoped there may be more exciting discoveries.

The items will be available to view at an open day this Saturday, from 10am to 4pm, where there will be an opportunity to meet the archaeological team, see the finds and explore the remains of the ice house.

Visitors will also have the last chance to see the 100ft sculpture of Gulliver the Gentle Giant, created by convicted murderer Jimmy Boyle while in prison, and the results of a laser survey carried out on the figure.

The rundown monument will soon be removed as part of the Niddrie Burn Restoration Scheme, but it is hoped Gulliver's left foot will be preserved on site as a memorial.

Councillor Deidre Brock, the city's culture and leisure convener, said: "Edinburgh's fascinating past is already world renowned. These excavations by our archaeological service show once again how much more history is there lying just beneath our feet."