In Assignment 3, we are asked to explore a landscape or small part of a landscape to which there is some form of significance. The main objective of the assignments is to question how a “place” becomes as “space” and show how the idea of a place is formed by external pressures or associations.
Recently I have been involved in a number of discussions regarding the history of the UK and history within Scotland in general. These discussions have been driven by a number of news items where developers or businesses have started to bury and destroy historic areas of interest.
In the majority of these cases, this reflects what has already happened in parts of East Lothian and the Borders where history has been destroyed in favour of development of the land.
In this case, I wanted to focus on the missing history of Haddington. Recently Haddington celebrated 700 years – a celebration around the signing of a town charter by Robert the Bruce. When I started to look into the historical landscape of Haddington, what I started to find were a number of bare patches.
I decided to research and photograph the historical landscape around the siege of Haddington.
What I quickly found was that most of 16th Century Haddington was covered over and redeveloped in the 18th Century by the Victorians as they remade Haddington into a Market town and rural holiday spot, leaving very little of any historical value behind.
What remains of the siege walls, earthworks and boundaries of the town within have either disappeared completely or were reinterpreted by the Victorians as part history, part, folly, part garden structure.
During the 16th century siege of Haddington, the town was surrounded and walled in for the duration of the siege. The English army held Haddington through the siege for 18 months.
During the siege, hundreds were killed, but little is seen of the town as it was then. Having been recreated in the market town image of the 18th century, 16th Century Haddington appears to have been wiped clean from the map. Little is said about the siege, the brave soldiers on either side nor what happened to the town during the siege.
Having found the map in the book ‘Feat of Arms’ (Unwin, G. 2014), I overlaid and then marked out a rough rectangle within which the siege walls and boundaries lay. My idea is to work within the rectangle and using both google maps and physical survey work out where this large piece of history disappeared to.
Certainly, as can be seen from the google map diagram the current town still lies within the main traffic routes, the north gates and the west gates are easy to locate within the structure of the town. Looking deeper I could find little on display to show what still existed.
For the most part, what remains of 16th Century Haddington are place or street names; The Butts, Langriggs, Sidegate, Hardgate, Mill Wynd.
However, due to the Victorian penchant for repurposing, small parts of the original town and walls can still be seen, if not in the same shape or location, but in style.
One of the few untouched areas is to the East of Haddington, where at one-point cannons had been dug into a mound, to allow the cannons to reach within the confines of the besieged area. This one important archaeological artefact remains relatively unexamined and left to nature. It was only by accident that it was rediscovered as part of this article.
Using google maps I reviewed a number of areas within Haddington that I wanted to visit and possibly photograph; this method of survey was quite helpful to me as it allowed me to manage my chronic pain and fatigue on the days when I was at these locations, moving about and capturing images of what I could see.
There was a delay between the online survey, the physical visit and actual photographing of the locations due to a number of issues. First of all was my own health, due to the cold weather, I was stuck inside as being out in the cold brought on my Costochondritis which makes breathing very difficult. Secondly, since I can no longer drive, I had to rely on the kindness of others when I wanted to go visit some of the locations to review them. Thirdly, my main source of transport is my wife, who having injured herself, could not walk or drive for almost six weeks. Again, I was stuck in the house unable to get to the locations.
During this time, I started to look over the work of other artists who suffer from failing eyesight or visual impairment. The RNIB website was in itself very helpful and pointed me to a number of projects, one of which is a collection of portraits by Roy Nachum. Together with the work of Chris Friel in the collections, Silver and October, I started to review and reassess what I have been doing.
Using the ideas of Text in the style of Ed Ruscha, but combining it with the influences from Nachum and Friel, I decided to restart the assignment and return to the exploration of my visual impairment, my continuing loss of vision, the loss of mobility and at the same time the loss of history due to progress and lack of foresight.
Returning to the original reports and letters written during the siege, I hit upon the idea of taking direct quotes from the reports from (Lawson, John. P. 1893) and the Hamilton Papers (Bain, E. 1890) and overlaying them into the landscape images. I then went further by converting the quoted text into braille.
Taking the converted text, I positioned it into the landscape in such a way as to interrupt the flow of the image, in the same manner, that my eye condition interrupts my day to day vision. By using braille, I further push the viewer into the uncomfortable position of not knowing what is being said.
Rebuilt Walls Marys tower
Here at the Eastern edge of what would have been one of the boundary walls, now stands a tower and two sides of a wall enclosing a small garden. The tower and walls were recreated by the Victorians to emulate the history of the town.
Vennel, formerly a close.
There are very few locations within Haddington where you can still get the idea of how close together the houses were built and what both the soldiers and visiting queen would have seen. Within the confines of the besieges town, there was starvation, squalor, and disease.
Langriggs, Current lay of the land
Down at this end of the town, people would have gathered their livestock together for safety within one of the longer inside dividing walls. Although pieces of stone from the 16th and 17th Century are embedded in the wall, history is still regarded as passé.
Cannon Mound, They planted a great many guns.
Undeclared at the edge of a working field, sits one of the few remaining cannon platforms. Last archaeologically investigated in the 1980s, it now rests disregarded and unknown.
West gate, now part of court street (18th-century development)
Where the West Gate would have sat, many battles were fought over this opening and where Highlanders ducked the cannon fire. Now a major junction into the main street of the remodelled market town.
Nungate bridge leading to now derelict Abbey
The crossing which took troops and royalty back and forth to the south. The Abbey was a designated neutral ground where a meeting between the sides could take place.
St Marys, battle-scarred but still standing.
Sited outside the walls, the battles and siege did not pass this church by. While it was also a neutral space, It bears the scars of musket fire on its stone.
Original wall, an inner boundary
An inner bailey wall, now separating parts of sheltered housing.
Tesco Car Park
Where the main part of the besieged town once sat, now resting beneath the tarmac of a Tesco carpark. Nowadays, food is more plentiful and accessible.
Doocot, Source of food and communication.
Doves and pigeons were a good source of protein, a Jacobean doocot like this would have kept a well-off family fed through the winter months of the siege. Now sealed and unattended, left for decoration and a nod to history.
Full set of images taken for the Assignment. Including the original braille conversion files and screenshots showing the text to Braille conversion.
Contact Sheet for Braille Conversions.
Contact Sheet of Screenshots of the Text to Braille Conversion
As in Assignment 1, the images were taken either handheld or supported by a crutch used as an improvised monopod. I decided to apply filters in post-production, I chose Black and White versions of the images and used them as a layer to either show highlights or shadows where possible, without making the final scene too dark or overblown.
In the beginning I flipped between several ideas and projects, each one had its merits but in the end, the assignment was led by the research. The research itself was very enjoyable as it allowed me to dip into my fascination with local history and start discussions on why so little of it is being preserved in the county.
Hitting on Friel and Nachum was a bit of a game changer for me; it returned me to the exploration of my condition and how it influences what I see and how I see it. The final iteration of this assignment for submission will be printed where the braille dots are raised to allow participation by a visually impaired individual as they will be able to touch the display card and get the image description and relevant information before touching the image and feeling the quote.
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