Project status: Complete

Kilwinning community archaeology project

A community archaeology project has been uncovering the past in Kilwinning, involving local volunteers and school children in a highly successful venture.

The first phase of the project took place in the centre of Kilwinning during August and September 2010, with other aspects of the project continuing through the winter. The second phase of the dig took place in August and Septmber 2011 and is now complete. Oral history and archiving will continue through the winter with the project completing in March 2012.

The community archaeological project was conceived by Kilwinning & District Preservation Society and developed in the Kilwinning town regeneration plan to stimulate tourism and community activity within the burgh. Read more about how the plans to dig into Kilwinning's past developed. The project is providing excellent opportunities to link with education.

Having intially completed a feasibility study, Rathmell Archaeology was commissioned to support the project. Rathmell has been working with volunteers and has also been involving pupils from local schools.

The first 5 week phase of the project in 2010 explored the main historic remains in and around the town, including Kilwinning Abbey.

During the 2011 season the project focused much of their work on the Chapter House and the East Range of the Cloisters. A combination of excavation and research has doubled the known size of this range, confirmed it as a three storey structure and clarified the sequence of its original construction and subsequent rebuild or repair. 

News of finds was made available as Kilwinning's first reformed church was uncovered during the dig. 

The project cost £90,000, funded equally by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Irvine Bay, and with other support from North Ayrshire Council, Historic Scotland and West of Scotland Archaeology Service.

The core elements of the community-led project are:

  • archive research into the known evolution of the abbey and burgh
  • build a record of the fabric of the historic abbey
  • archaeological excavation around the burgh to investigate the origins of the secular settlement
  • archaeological excavation within the abbey to explore the evolution of the abbey buildings
  • the use of oral history to record the personal accounts of the modern changes that have been wrought on Kilwinning’s townscape and environment.

Throughout the project large numbers of school children and local volunteers have contributed in many different roles. 

You can follow more detailed progress of the dig on on Facebook.

News stories

School pupils meet notable old boys and girls 9 September 2011
The Kilwinning Dig breaks ground 30 August 2011
The Kilwinning Dig Returns 10 August 2011
Churches and ditches 15 September 2010
Playing in the past 3 September 2010
The Kilwinning dig breaks ground 24 August 2010
Kilwinning dig begins 10 August 2010
New project digs around Kilwinning's past 2010 



Kirsty Innes, Irvine Bay - 01294 322506
J S Miller, Kilwinning & District Preservation Society - 01294 558352

Key partners:

  • Kilwinning Academy
  • Kilwinning & District Preservation Society
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • Rathmell Archaeology
Site by tictoc