Construction workers carrying out improvement works in Orkney came across more than they bargained for after discovering what is believed to be the wall of a 14th century castle.
The works, currently under way on Broad Street in the centre of Kirkwall, have been temporarily halted around the find area while the stone wall is thoroughly analysed and documented by archaeologists.
County archaeologist Julie Gibson said: “It is incredibly exciting.
“The castle was the scene of many kidnappings and battles. It was built by the Earl of Sinclair, who was the last of the Orkney earls whilst we were under Scandinavian rule.
“The wall itself is incredibly preserved. Although we were informed prior to works starting, it was unexpected to discover something in excavations that are so shallow.
“We are now documenting the find and we are hoping to get into the vaults of Trustees Saving Bank (TSB) next door to see if it can be seen from the cellar and possibly find out more about what else has been preserved.”
She added: “We are nearing the final stages of our documentation. It is just a shame we haven’t found the other wall and have only got one side. We are working alongside the roads people and in doing so, it is very easy to see such a good job taking place in a very confined and difficult place.”
A castle was constructed in the area in 1379, initially designed as a defence tactic for the town against an onslaught of claimants, however, was demolished in 1614, with much of the material taken from the site and distributed to other building projects across Orkney.
The discovery was made at the beginning of last week as works to part of Orkney Island Council’s Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative Places and Spaces project.
Peter Bevan, Orkney Island Council’s engineering services manager, said: “It’s not unusual for these situations to occur when a project is digging to depths like this and that’s exactly why archaeologists are attached to major infrastructure projects like these.
“Our contractors are able to keep working around the dig and we do not expect any major delays at this point in time.”
Work under the project is currently in full swing and is designed to improve parts of Strynd and the top of Castle Street, provide a new path to the war memorial, and enhance the attractiveness of Victoria Street.