Today, we can confirm that as part of Doors Open Day and Scottish Archaeology Month, archaeologists from the University of Glasgow “GUARD Glasgow University Archelogical Research Division” are conducting an investigation around the modern manhole which is the present access to the Drain, i was luckily enough to be told in june about the planned dig which started this morning on schedule.
Paisley Abbey’s drain is almost unique in Britain, being in parts somel.5 to 2 metres in height, beautifully built of dressed ashlar blocks. The drain was rediscovered in 1990 when archaeologists from the GUARD (Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division) were directed to the modern manhole by Frank Snow, of the then Strathclyde Sewage Department. The drain was excavated of 2 feet (60 cm) of silt which contained some amazing finds.
Fragments of pottery from several hundred vessels were recovered, along with a complete chamber pot (on display in Paisley Abbey sacristy). Work has been carried out this summer by Sabrina Gillman a post graduate student at Glasgow Uni, to catalogue and study this pottery. She has been assisted by many volunteers from Renfrewshire Local History Forum and Glasgow Archaeology Society.
Other finds included inscribed slates, buckles, lead seals, gaming pieces, and remains of more than one hundred and forty plants. Amongst these are food plants such as barley, wheat, onions, kale, imports such as mace and figs, and medicinal plants such as opium poppies, greater celandine and hemlock.
The excavation’s purpose is two-fold. First to provide information about the construction of the drain, and, it is hoped, help date the structure and reveal any earlier form of drain on the site.
Second, to establish whether there is any valuable archaeology here which might preclude use of the area for any future permanent viewing facility.
The archaeologists will be on site during Doors Open Day to explain their findings, and there will be an exhibition in Paisley Abbey providing more information about the drain.
paisley is very grateful to the University of Glasgow’s Archaeology Department, particularly Professor Steven Driscoll, Robert Will and Sabrina Gillman for their expertise and enthusiasm; the University of the West of Scotland, particularly Tony Grace of the School of Media, Language and Music for recording the dig and helping make it more widely known; Renfrewshire Local History Forum, particularly Andrew Eadie and Bruce Hendry for their unfailing support and enthusiasm; Frank Snow – the man who knew where the Drain was when the archaeologists couldn’t find it and who has kept his sense of excitement and ownership for nearly twenty years; and On Site Ltd, Acre Industrial and Scot Jet Ltd for their generous sponsorship of the dig.