Gable end of building, photo copyright AOC Archaeology Group
A report has recently been submitted outlining the results of a programme of archaeological monitoring undertaken earlier this year by staff from AOC Archaeology Group during work to construct a new car park and associated access roads at Linlithgow Sports Club. This work was required as a condition on planning consent because the proposed development was located close to the supposed location of St Magdalene's Hospitium or Hostillarie, to the immediate east of the Medieval core of Linlithgow and its associated Low Port. The Hospital of St Mary Magdalene was first mentioned in 1335. It has been suggested that it may have provided for pilgrims, based on the fact that a "Pilgrims' Hall" was recorded from the vicinity. A charter of 1528 indicates that this was a poor's hospital , with a chapel or cemetery, and it has also been suggested that it may have been a hospital for lepers. A chapel was depicted on the Pont map (c 1583-96) in roughly the correct position for this site. It is difficult to decipher the name but it appears to read "Maidlad Chappel". Several other historical maps, including the first edition Ordnance Survey map, depict the placename St Magdalen or Magdalens or Magdalans. Although there has been a fair amount of disturbance in the area, resulting from the creation of the railway line and the modern warehouse that now occupies much of the supposed site of the hospital, some potential remained that material relating to it, possibly including burials associated with the chapel, could survive.
Although monitoring did not uncover any deposits directly relating to St Magdalene's Hospital, the works exposed the gable end of a domestic building. These were identified during the cutting-back of a section of bank adjacent to the southern access route. The walls were constructed from roughly worked and faced stone blocks of varying size, but typically 0.5 m by 0.2 m by 0.2 m. The remains were bonded with lime mortar and were laid in up to four random courses surviving to a height of 0.5 m and a width of 0.55 m. The upper courses had been built above a foundation of large, rounded, unworked and mortared boulders 0.2 m in height. Internally the walls had been rendered with plaster on which a green paint could still be seen. At a distance of 2.2 m from the southern end of the building and set within its walls were the remains of a hearth. This had been constructed by using large narrow stone slabs set on edge surrounding a central in-fill constructed from hand-made and unfrogged bricks stacked as headers and stretchers and bonded with lime mortar lying above a hearth stone which was raised above the surrounding floor remains.
Detail of hearth, photo copyright AOC Archaeology Group
The 1856 town plan map of Linlithgow and the first edition OS map clearly shows an 'L' shaped building aligned with its gable end in the same location as the building remains identified during monitoring. On these maps, the structure is called St Magdalens, which appears on both earlier and later maps as a farm name. Magdalens can also be located on the Great Reform Map of 1832, but on this map the building is shown with a north-eastern wing which has disappeared by 1856. Given that the hearth was of a domestic type, it is reasonable to assume that these remains represent the part of the domestic range of the former St Magdalens Farm steading. The map evidence suggests that the farm was constructed some time before 1832, thoughhow much earlier is unknown. It is shown on maps up to 1926
Extract from OS 1st edition, showing extent of St Magdalen's farm, with annotation to the south showing supposed site of Hospital