What's going on with Scotland's eroding coastal heritage

The next generation of Eyemouth explorers

We always enjoy our trips to Eyemouth, and our most recent visit at the start of March was no exception. Our first stop was at the Primary School, where we were overwhelmed by the friendly welcome and the enthusiasm of the pupils. During Friday afternoon, five classes got the chance to explore our interactive virtual reconstruction of Eyemouth Fort which shows the fort as it would have been when it was occupied by the French army in the middle of the 16th century.Image

They had a lot of fun learning about life in the fort and exploring the different buildings; seeing the types of food the soldiers ate in the kitchens, visiting the animals, and firing the cannons on ramparts accompanied by clouds of smoke and echoing blasts; we could almost smell the gunpowder.

Three children in front of a computer screen showing a computer model of a table covered in food

Primary school children exploring the kitchen in the virtual model of the 16th century fort

Enthusiasm was also evident during the evening’s talks at the Community Centre, where more than a hundred people came along to hear experts talk about their research into the fort. First Bess Rhodes from the University of St Andrews spoke about the discoveries she’s made about the fort in the historical papers; the name of the spy who infiltrated the fort to produce a map complete with detailed measurements of the formidable defences, the food that was sent from around Scotland to feed the soldiers and the attacks made on Eyemouth during the French occupation, before concluding with the fort’s demolition following the treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis.

1557 spy plan of Eyemouth fort showing the defences and cannon on the fort and the town.

The 1557 plan of Eyemouth Fort and town, drawn by an English spy (BL, Cotton MS. Augustus I.i.60)

After Bess set the historical scene, David Caldwell spoke about his archaeological excavations at the fort in the 1980s. David told us about some of the finds made during the dig – a tassel from a uniform, French and English coins, a cannon ball, pottery from the cups and bowls the soldiers used and plenty of evidence about the construction of the fort itself. Although some of the rampart had been faced in stone, this hadn’t been completed by the time the treaty forced the French army to flatten and abandon their fort. Despite being unfinished, the bank and ditch would have been a daunting obstacle to any attacking army; beneath the traces of the impressive earthworks that we see on the promontory today, David discovered the remains of a deep, steep-sided ditch which was deliberately filled in when the departing army dug away the high bank to flatten the impressive but short-lived fort.

A sixteenth century soldier and the tassel found at Eyemouth Fort

The tassel David discovered at the fort, and an engraving of a sixteenth century Arquebusier in a tasselled uniform

With our heads still buzzing with the wealth of information Bess and David had imparted, it was time to put their findings to use during Saturday afternoon’s workshop with the Friends of the Fort and Eyemouth Museum. We explored our model of the fort in the light of our newly-acquired knowledge, thinking about how to make the reconstruction as accurate and informative as possible as well as good fun for visitors once the model’s installed in the museum.

It wasn’t just the primary school pupils who got to learn about Eyemouth Fort; on Monday we spent a day with maths students from the High School. They started off learning about the history of the fort by exploring the model before visiting the site to explore the remains for real. After getting our bearings it was time to get to work recording the profile of the defences using a level and staff.

Two children holding a surveyor's staff

High School pupils surveying the earthworks on the fort

Once back indoors and warmed up, we draw up our results using Excel, creating graphs from our measurements. This was when the pupils turned the tables on us by demonstrating their far better knowledge of computing, tweaking the colours and effects on the graphs to create impressive profiles which show the shape of the surviving earthworks.

A graph showing a series of depressions and rises representing the shape of surviving earthwork defences

The completed graph by High School pupils showing the profile of the surviving earthworks on Fort Point

Once again, we’ve had a lovely time in Eyemouth, seeing old friends and making new ones. Thank you to everyone who took part trying out the model or came along to the talks, we look forward to seeing you again soon.


One comment on “The next generation of Eyemouth explorers

  1. Pingback: Reconstructing Eyemouth Fort – DigIt! 2015

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This entry was posted on March 11, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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