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The CBA's Community Archaeology Resource

The Kilwinning Community Archaeology Project


Our two year project, which started in July 2010, aims to discover more about the historic burgh of Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, through the application of archaeology and related disciplines. We are achieving this by exploring Kilwinning Abbey, its most visible historic monument, along with additional locations that have the potential to contain information about the burgh's origins and development. The methods of investigation will include archaeological excavation, building recording and oral history.

The Kilwinning Community Archaeology Project is being run by Kilwinning & District Preservation Society whose established role is to improve access to and understanding of our heritage. We are able to deliver this project due to the generous grants and support from Irvine Bay and the Heritage Lottery Fund. However, at the end of the day the hardwork is being done by the volunteers from our community.

Historical Context


The origins of Kilwinning are uncertain. Its name derives from the 6th century Saint Winning (Uinniau), with its early origin supported by the fragmentary remains of a 10th century free standing cross, recovered in fragments from around the town and abbey.

The burgh is dominated by the remains of the 12th century Tironensian abbey which stands south of the Main Street (a Scheduled Monument, Listed Building and in part a Property in Care). Some parts of the abbey church still survive, including the remains of the west gable and south wall of the nave and the south wall of the south transept.

The cloistral range was cleared by poorly recorded demolition and excavations in the 1960s, which took place before this portion of the Abbey was taken into state guardianship. The abbey formed the focus for the growth of the burgh, which is believed to have developed to the east of the abbey complex, adjacent to the River Garnock. Large portions of this ground survive as open amenity ground, cleared of 19th century dwellings in the mid-20th century.

The Project


The Kilwinning Community Archaeology Project enables volunteers to learn about the origins and evolution of Kilwinning through participating in the discipline of archaeology. The core elements of the community-led project will include the following:

• archive research into the known evolution of the abbey and burgh;
• building recording 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, and;
• oral history to record the personal accounts of the modern changes that have taken place within Kilwinning’s townscape and environment.

Volunteers, with professional support from Rathmell Archaeology, are involved in historical research, oral history studies, survey, excavation, post-excavation analyses and reporting tasks. The broader community are able to provide input into the development of the project and to hear about the findings through public meetings, leaflets and internet mounted resources.

Through liaison with Historic Scotland and North Ayrshire Council, including West of Scotland Archaeology Service, the discoveries made will influence the conservation of historic remains and future investigations into the past of Kilwinning.

Keep in Touch


We will be communicating volunteering opportunities, events and our findings through our Facebook Page and our Home Page. If you are interested in volunteering, coming along to see the hard work or just keeping in touch please do link in to our sites.



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