The Kirk, Castle & Priory
The Glebe & Kilspindie Castle
In the centre of the Glebe field between the Kirk and the Bay may be seen the remains of Kilspindie Castle, built by Patrick Douglas in c.1580 – about 50 years after the harbour quay and port house. Whether the name – derivation is Gaelic for monastic cell or church of the black hoods – originated here or was transferred here through Douglas land ownership in Perthshire is unclear. However, the powerful Douglas family came into ownership of the lands of Aberlady through rights bestowed by the Crown and Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld. Sir Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie was Lord High Treasurer of Scotland from 1520 to 1528.
The castle remains
Not much is known about the Castle, which may have been a fortified three-storey house, or when exactly it was thrown down. A heavy studded door from the structure is now located within Luffness House, itself built on the remains of earlier fortifications of a similar period. During the laying of a field drain in 2000, the remains of a mortared wall, cobbled surface and a semi-circular construction were recorded.
A Site of Continuous Occupation
Metal finds from the site indicate its continuous occupation since earliest times. It has yielded the single largest concentration of Anglo-Saxon finds yet recorded in Scotland. The field has been surveyed three times since 1995, most recently in 2008. The geophysical survey results are complex and, although the evidence beneath the surface may extend to the Iron Age and include Anglo-Saxon timber halls, the anomalies have yet to be satisfactorily resolved. Therefore, while there was certainly an important ecclesiastical function at Aberlady, we are not yet to say what other activities were taking place here. As such, it is a hugely important research location. The site was scheduled by Historic Scotland during the mid 1990s.
Interpretation of 1998 Geophysics survey of the Glebe field
Many of the 300-plus finds from the site may be viewed online at www.scran.ac.uk. The archaeological reports from the site may be viewed here. Some of the Anglo Saxon finds from the site are on display in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Anglo Saxon pinhead
The pinhead is high quality openwork piece depicting an interlaced beast. It suggests cultural ties in a north south trading route between Anglo-Saxons and Picts.
The hollowed stone in the wall of a neighbouring garden is possibly a holy water stoup of an early chapel.