Surveying the early medieval structure of the Parish Church of St. Mary, Holy Island

Surveying the early medieval structure of the Parish Church of St. Mary, Holy Island

Last week I travelled to Holy Island to record an early medieval wall within the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin (cover image). Situated next to Lindisfarne Priory, the  current church is stated to be largely 12th century in date, however Medieval Archaeologist Peter Ryder believes the fabric of the present walls could feature earlier building material. The present church stands on the site of a church built by St Aidan in the 7th century, followed by a small stone church (. By laser scanning the church interior with the help of Peter and Minnie Fraser, of Northumbria University, I will generate orthophotos that will help Peter to analyse the stonework of the church in great detail, so he can investigate this further.

Peter and Minnie with the FARO laser scanner, outside the church.

Many thanks to Peter and Minnie for organising the visit and helping with the survey, and for a very informative stroll around the island, discussing the history of some of its buildings and structures before the tides came back in!


Sunny skies on Lindisfarne.
Cairns built by visitors to the island, at its southern tip, looking out to sea.



Survey of Chysauster Ancient Village and Carn Euny site visit, Penzance, Cornwall

Survey of Chysauster Ancient Village and Carn Euny site visit, Penzance, Cornwall

26th-30th September. After an epic drive down south (in 7 and a half hours!) I arrived in Penzance with David and Fiona from Historic England’s Geospatial Imaging team, for a week of surveying Iron Age courtyard houses, unique to the Lands End peninsula and the Isles of Scilly, on the famous site of Chysauster. The houses all had a central open courtyard area, with several rooms attached. More information on the site can be found on English Heritage’s webpage:

We also visited Carn Euny, another Iron Age Romano-British settlement site, 30 minutes south (as seen on the cover image). Info here:

Taking some handheld shots of the prehistoric houses at Chysauster

The layouts of these very impressive structures are very complex – there’s even a semi-detached house! So they were quite challenging to record, but armed with plan drawings and context sheets, we sucessfully laser scanned three of the houses with the most upstanding, exposed stonework and took photographs for SFM photogrammetry, as a record of their current condition.

The weather also took a turn for the dramatic, and I was very thankful for my wellies as torrential downpours and sweeping mists arrived at the start of the survey. On a clear day, the views from the village are spectacular – you can see all the way to Penzance and the coast beyond, but then the fog was thick, I could barely see past the walls of the house I was recording!

Fiona and David surveying with the FARO Focus laser scanner on a misty day.

Luckily, the sun was out on the last day of the survey, and we ended with a site visit to another Iron Age village site, called Carn Euny, to see the fogou (an underground passageway with a large, central chamber). Chysauster also has a fogou, but this has been sealed up for safety. The purpose of these structures is not clear, but the main theories suggest they were either storage areas, places of refuge in times of warfare, or special religious places.

Me at Carn Euny. A smaller Iron Age settlement than Chysauster, but with an open fogou that you can explore!
The steps down to the fogou entrance (David for scale).
The exit of “the creep”, the fogou’s passageway, flooded after heavy rain.

Laser scanning Corgarff Castle, Aberdeenshire

Laser scanning Corgarff Castle, Aberdeenshire

Corgarff Castle is the former noble residence of the Forbes clan, and during the Jacobite Rebellion, it was used as an army base by Redcoats. It sits in a dramatically isolated location in rural Aberdeenshire (see cover image for views from its doorway!). It has a distinctive star-shaped perimeter wall, and as part of Historic Environment Scotland’s Rae project, the entirety of the Castle’s interior and exterior was laser scanned over two days.


I helped out on the second day of scanning, working with HES’ team of Mike Jack and Sofia Antonopoulou, to fill in areas where more detail was needed using the Leica HDS 6100 laser scanner.


I also used a Nodal Ninja (right) to take overlapping photographs that can be digitally stitched into a 360⁰ image. The one I used was specially calibrated to be complementary with the Leica 6100 laser scanner, so the high definition imagery can be overlain onto the scans generated in the same position.

I greatly enjoyed taking views of the surrounding countryside, and watching the Castle’s current residents (nesting families of swallows), swoop around while we continued with our survey.


Me and Sofia using the Leica C10 laser scanner to record the perimeter walls


Laser scanning Spynie Palace, Moray

Laser scanning Spynie Palace, Moray

On Wednesday, the dramatic weather in the north of Scotland forced us to delay the start of our fieldwork, as a very loud thunderstorm drifted overhead very soon after we’d set up the tripods! Luckily we heard the rumbles of thunder before it arrived.

The downpours led to me going down into the Palace’s basement to laser scan its interior using a Leica HDS 6100. It was only after I’d finished taking all the scans that the team cared to mention they thought the basement is haunted (though I didn’t see any spooky goings on while there… it was actually refreshingly cool compared to the humidity outside following the lightning)!

One of the spooky basement cells being scanned with the Leica 6100 (the bag wrapped on the tripod is a rain cover)

Luckily the weather improved over the day, so I went on to scan the courtyard area of the Palace, before helping James to complete his traverse around the exterior walls of the site. As the afternoon went on, the weather turned out to be glorious, and we ended the day with a scan taken from the very top of David’s Tower,the largest tower house to survive in Scotland (see image below). It’s on a publically accessible walkway, which gives amazing views  down into the courtyard and surrounding area (cover image). From up there, you can also see the remains of Spynie Loch from the wall tops – once a great lake that went all the way up to the edge of the Palace estate, which has silted up over time.

Leica HDS 6100 scanning around David’s Tower, Spynie Palace

It’s a very impressive site and well worth a visit! More information on the palace can be found here:

Laser scanning Fortrose Cathedral

Laser scanning Fortrose Cathedral

Fortrose Cathedral was originally the seat of the bishops of Ross. The current ruins date back to the 13th century, and only the south aisle and chapel and the older, two-storey north choir aisle currently survive standing to the present day. I travelled to the site from Edinburgh with James Hepher and Sofia Antonopoulou, of HES’ Digital Documentation Team, on Tuesday 19th July.

Interior of the south aisle – elaborate memorials decorate the interior walls

A clock tower, still in use, was a later addition dating to after the Reformation. It was a fun trip to the top (wearing PPE of course!), and James scanned the tower’s spiral staircase with a Faro Focus while me and Sofia took several high resolution scans of the interior of the south aisle using a Leica P40 to make sure all the fine details would be picked up with the scanner. We later helped to take record the cathedral’s windows, as fill in scans to complement the 360⁰ scans taken from a Leica C10 by Mike and Craig, of HES’ Conservation Group.

It was a very hot and sunny day, so it was fortunate we worked in the shade for most of the day, to stay cool!

The P40 in action. We set it to scan in high resolution to ensure all of the details of the carved stonework, like this effigy, were well recorded

For more information on the site, follow this link:

Historic Environment Scotland placement exchange – part 2

Historic Environment Scotland placement exchange – part 2

Last week I travelled up to Scotland to work alongside Historic Environment Scotland’s Digital Documentation Team, in the second part of a placement swap with Sofia Antonopoulou, who visited Historic England last month.

Many thanks to James Hepher and his team, who introduced me to colleagues from the different teams who work at HES in their Edinburgh offices at South Gyle and Longmore House, to find out more about their work; ranging from digital documentation, Building  Information Modelling, 3D printing, painting conservation and gilding with gold leaf, on Monday.

I was invited to join the Digital Documentation team on a week of full site surveys across some of HES’ northern properties in the Highland region. On the way up to Inverness (our base for the week of fieldwork), we stopped off at the impressive Stanley Mills. It was a booming textile mill during the Industrial Revolution, and closed in 1989. It is now managed by Historic Scotland (cover photo).

I’ll post about each site survey individually, as they’re so fascinating and I took an awful lot of photos that I’d like to share!

Me, Sofia and Fergus the Hairy Coo – on the road up to Inverness

HES followed my placement exchange with a number of tweets on Twitter, so do follow them @HistEnvScot to see these.

HES exchange visit to York office, Historic England

HES exchange visit to York office, Historic England

The week before last, Historic England welcomed a visit from our Historic Environment Scotland (HES) colleague, Sofia Antonopoulou. We had a packed schedule for her to visit some of the sites that the Geospatial Imaging team has previously surveyed around North Yorkshire, including Clifford’s Tower, Rievaulx Abbey and Mount Grace Priory.

We also photographed artefacts in the care of English Heritage’s North Territory store at Helmsley, for SfM photogrammetry. The object in question is a curious little 19th century wooden box, that had been decorated with wax seals taken from medieval stamps that had originated from Fountains Abbey. I’m in the process of generating the 3D models at the moment, so it’ll be really interesting to see how Photoscan copes in processing all of the slight details in each seal design, which range from the personal seal of an abbot’s signet ring to depictions of the Virgin and Child.

We also returned to Bellman Park in Clitheroe, six months after the team’s first survey of the area, to collect the next epoch of laser scans at this Heritage at Risk site. The grass had really shot up since December, but we managed to scan the entire structure in a day.

We rounded off the week with a trip further south, to the Natural History Museum (NHM) and their science department, to see how their researchers are using scanning electron microscopes to gather imagery of microscopic features for SfM photogrammetry and other visual techniques for research, such as producing CT scans. Overall it’s been a very hectic but enjoyable week!

Do check out Sofia’s blog too:

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