News in brief

Surveying Dunfermline Abbey

A recent project led by Dr Michael Penman from the University of Stirling in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland has conducted a series of ground-penetrating radar surveys of Dunfermline Abbey, revealing the possible layout of the original medieval choir, which was left in ruins after it was sacked during the Protestant Reformation in 1560.

photo: David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Photo: David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The findings call into question the burial location of Robert the Bruce, whose tomb was thought to have been discovered in 1818. The newly identified layout indicates that this was unlikely to have been his original burial location, as it would have been too close to the screened high altar and would have impeded the chancel steps.

Penman argues: ‘One possibility is that this site was a “rescue” burial by monks who reportedly stayed on at Dunfermline until around 1580, in defiance of the Reformation, and who perhaps saved [Robert’s] remains after a box tomb was destroyed.’

For the full results of the project, visit

Roman road revealed

Part a Roman road has been revealed during works by Northumbrian Water near Settlingstones in Hexham.

Philippa Hunter, senior project officer for Archaeological Research Services Ltd, said: ‘While monitoring the excavation pit, our archaeologist identified a deposit of compacted cobbles thought to be the remains of the Roman road’s foundations.’

While no dating evidence or finds were recovered, the route of the road, its construction, and its depth below the modern road surface indicate it is likely to be part of the Stanegate, a Roman road between Corbridge and Carlisle built around AD 80 – several decades before Hadrian’s Wall was constructed slightly to the north.

Lost key located

Last December, English Heritage mysteriously received a large brass key in the post. Along with the key was a short, anonymous note saying that it belonged to the St Leonard’s Tower, a Norman-built structure in Kent. In the note, the sender admitted to having ‘borrowed’ the key almost 50 years ago, and apologised for the delay in returning it.

While the locks to the tower have since been changed, the returned key did indeed fit perfectly into the original keyhole. England Heritage has said that they wish to thank the individual for returning the key and reward them with a free membership, stating that ‘unlike library books, there’s no fine for a late return’!