Graveyard Dig 2016 – Day 14

Alexander talks to a journalist from New York
Alexander talks to a journalist from New York

A really quiet day on site today; with just Alexander able to turn up. We spent some time cleaning up the edge of the trench with the large table stone in and talking with visitors, Alexander once again being roped into engaging with members of the public.


The last hour we spent on drawing a section of one of the trench edges with Alexander being the artist for most of the drawing. You can see the what we drew in the photo below; the double-low-marker and the side of the trench beneath it.

Sue Mowat has been researched the history of the plot and its occupants. A list made in 1819 states that this plot was assigned to the heirs of the Beveridge family. The stone we excavated commemorates William Hoggan, a Dunfermline mason who married Margaret Beveridge in around 1790. William died in 1836 and so the stone must have been erected to his memory some time after. The headstone was well made and the engraving finely done. Unfortunately the stone has laminated badly, layers flaking away over time and taking much of the inscription with them, as you can see on the 3D model below.

Other stones in the graveyard had new inscriptions added at the bottom as children and grandchildren followed older generations into the grave. Here however, the damage to the first William’s gravestone made it impossible to do so here. Laying it carefully, face up into the ground may well have prevented the fragmented inscription from disappearing completely.

The low-marker still standing appears to commemorates William’s grandson, another William. This William and his family appear in the 1861 census records for Dunfermline, so we know a little bit about his circumstances in the last years of his life. The census record tells us that the Hoggan family lived in Reform Street, which was situated at the end of Pilmuir Street, now mostly beneath roundabout and road.

Reform Street, Dunfermline
Reform Street, Dunfermline, around 1960

We learn that William, aged 31, was a handloom weaver, like so many others in Dunfermline at the time. He lived with his wife Christina and five children aged from 11 years to 7 months old. We don’t know how big their home was, but the 1861 census did record the number of rooms in a home with one or more window. The Hoggan’s had only one room with a window.

William died just a few years later in 1865 at the age of 37 of tuberculosis, a disease that was one of the biggest killers in industrial Britain. Sue discovered that William’s sons mentioned on the gravestone, William, Robert and James, also all died of tuberculosis in their late teens, perhaps a result of being brought up in cramped conditions with a parent also suffering from the disease.

Interestingly, Sue discovered that William’s gravestone was not erected until around 1890, probably by his surviving sons. Our excavation suggests that the stone to William’s grandfather was simply moved out and laid in the ground within the plot to make room for the new stone.

Hoggan/Beveridge Gravestones
Hoggan/Beveridge Gravestones

The photo of the trench was taken over a week ago and you can see from the section that it didn’t look exactly the same any more. However, in both the photograph and the section drawing you can see what may be the cut for the original gravestone underneath the low marker. This was filled, presumably around 1890, with a layer of ash, containing burnt coal and small pieces of slag, and graveyard soil. The regular edge of the ash layer on the north side and at the bottom of the trench are very suggestive of a hole being dug into the ground to accommodate the earlier gravestone.

Hogan Trench Section
Hogan Trench Section

So we have two William Hoggan’s, grandfather and grandson, resting in a plot inherited from the Beveridge family that the older William had married into. We can see how a single burial plot could be reused across the generations and room made for a new memorial.

YAC Graveyard Dig – Day 8

We had a late start on Sunday; Erin, Griffin, Dougie and myself enjoying the late summer sunshine and warmth. We didn’t dig, but spent our time planning the largest of the trenches excavated so that it can be (mostly) backfilled during the week.

The destructive treeFirst we finished off a plan that Charlotte and I had worked on during the week, adding in the tree that had been at least partially responsible for wrecking the nearest grave.

Next we thought it would be interesting to draw a profile of the trench to see better the differing heights of the four main gravestones.

Trench 1 gravestonesGriffin and Erin read off horizontal and vertical positions, I plotted them onto paper while Dougie rushed from one end of the dig to the other, explaining to hundreds of interested passers-by what we were up to.

We finished just as our two hours was up, and this is an inked version of what we came up with. The variation in level is perhaps partly the result of different amounts of subsidence across the trench. Gravestones 2 and 3, those with no surviving inscription, do not seem to have been set into the ground in the way Stones 1 and 2 do. Trench 1 profile diagramRather, they give the impression of having been placed onto the ground, presumably over graves that lie beneath.

YAC in Abbot House

Abbot House seen from the Abbey GraveyardAbbot House closes to the public on August 15th. But in the meantime we are working hard with Scotland’s Urban Past ( to record as much as we can of the building and the community of people who love it so well.

Dunfermline YAC has the chance to get involved over the next two weeks with photography, film-making, drawing and planning. If you are aged between 8 and 16, would like to join YAC and get involved, then send an email to