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Archeological dig at Ancrum and we visit Jedburgh


Home -> Europe -> Scotland -> Travelogue Scotland -> 16 September 2019

Monday 16 September, archeological dig at Ancrum and we visit Jedburgh

Fatlips Castle, a tower houseBetween Selkirk and Jedburgh there is a whole network of roads where we have not yet been to, which means that I still have to mark them on my map. And we always hope to see something surprising or new, but that does not always happen. This time we see a tower on a hill above the forest, it appears to be Fatlip's castle, a fortified tower house. There are a number of original explanations for the name of the castle: for example, a goat by the name of Fatlips would have warned the residents of an approaching English army by loudly bleating.
In 1828, one Robert Chambers writes that one of the pleasures of visiting Fatlips was that "every gentleman, by indefeasible privilege, kisses one of the ladies on entering the ruin." At the time, the tower was apparently inhabited but not in good condition, and it was extensively restored in 1857.
Another explanation is: Fatlips is the name that the wife of a hermit, who moved into the ruins of the Dryburgh abbey, gave to a legendary house ghost. She claimed that Fatlips carried the moisture away from the floor where she slept with his heavy iron boots. This led to the idea that Fatlips lived in medieval ruins including this tower.
And so there are countless stories in local folklore about the origins of all kinds of Scottish names in which often supernatural beings play a role.
Archaeological excavation in Ancrum Excavation of a medieval building in AncrumWhen we drive towards Ancrum we see roadsigns everywhere that point to an archaeological excavation. I love to see an archaeological dig so we drive to the terrain where they carefully dig the top layer of a hill with bulldozers. An enthusiastic volunteer receives us and says that this is only the first day of a 2-week excavation and that we have to come back later in the week to have a closer look at the excavation. In the past, remnants of a large building have been found in test trenches and it is believed that this is the place where once stood the summer residence of William de Bondington, a bishop of Glasgow in the 13th century. Led by a number of professional archaeologists, a group of volunteers is going to excavate and the local historical association plays an important role.
We get brochures and some website addresses where we can follow the developments. We certainly promise to come back later in the week because we are very interested in everything that has to do with history. It is a shame that we will be home again next week, otherwise we could have attended the presentation on the last day.
We crisscross a few roads and next to that also a number of dead ends. Sometimes we come across people, such as now an elderly couple with a dog who ride their bicycles very slowly. They will wonder where we are going and we already know that we will meet them again when we have to drive back. And yes, they have to halt for us again on the small road. They indicate that they want to ask something and that's how we get to talk to them. After a few minutes the man turns out to be a Dutch doctor with his Scottish wife who have been living here for a few years. They mainly enjoy the peace and we can fully imagine that. And we are not the only ones who drive into dead ends, friends of them do exactly the same. Fortunately, I am not the only crazy one ...
In the sun in front of Jedburgh AbbeyThen we drive to Jedburgh where we first look for a terrace in the sun. We find one opposite the abbey and do not recognize that we have already paused here on the outward journey, we will only find that out when we view the pictures back at home. The abbey here is a ruin too, because the English regularly carried out raids on it and no catholic buildings were restored after the Reformation. Years ago we visited it from the inside, so we now skip that.
Mercat Cross in the center of Jedburgh A house where Robert Burns lived in JedburghIn most smaller Scottish towns you can park for free and often quite near the center, as is the case in Jedburgh. It is only a 2 minute walk to the main square past a house where the poet Robert Burns once lived. It is now a hotel where we have stayed a number of years ago. On the square is a mercat cross, the Scottish name for a market cross that you find in many villages and towns that had been given the right to hold a market regularly. Although it is called a cross, it is rarely in the shape of a cross, but it is usually a pedestal with a lion or unicorn on yop of it, symbols of the Scottish royal family. The merchants gathered here, but it was also the place where the city announcer announced news.
There are many information signs about buildings in Jedburgh Passage to a courtyard, JedburghWe have already told Scots are proud of their origins and history, but in Jedburgh they have also used this to make the city more attractive to tourists and there are many information boards that provide information about the city, a building or a person. For example about the 'closes', courtyards or passageways to other streets. There are still a number of original passageways and Under Nag's Head Close is one of them. A 'nag' is a horse or mule, although a horse could not pass through this gate that runs underneath a house.
Courtyard in Jedburgh Cottage in a courtyard in JedburghIn the courtyard we see old houses, some of which have a stone spiral staircase going up as it used to be for upstairs houses. A large number of these courtyards can still be seen in the town. Another place of interest is the Mary Queen of Scots House where Queen Mary spent a few weeks in 1566, so little is needed to change a building into something historically important! Now it houses a museum where the story of the Scottish Queen Mary is told. She became queen when she was 6 days old after her father died in a battle. At the age of 44 she was beheaded by the English.
The Brown Sugar Cafe in Jedburgh Jedburgh Castle JailIt seems that at that time people sometimes applied the 'Jeddart justice', as the town was also called, whereby someone is first hanged and only later judged and convicted. Probably this happened only once during the execution of a notorious gang, but the term has lingered in the English language for someone who gets a random punishment.
We walk from the historic center up the road to the Jedburgh Castle Jail.
Teije before Jedburgh Castle Jail Jedburgh seen from Castle JailOn the hill overlooking Jedburgh there used to be a castle that was destroyed by the Scots during the wars of independence with England in 1409 so that the English could not conquer it. In the early 19th century, a prison was built on that spot and by then the government wanted to reform the prison system. Instead of just being locked up to wait for a judgement and being treated arbitrarily, all kinds of rules applied here, such as the right to receive a certain amount of food and have activities outside the cell. In 1834 a pastor wrote: "There is not indeed a more comfortable place of confinement in Scotland".
Children under 10 were also put in prison, Jedburgh Punishments at Jedburgh Castle JailBut no matter how comfortable the prison may have been, it was certainly no fun. You were not allowed to talk to fellow prisoners who each had their own cell. Children were also held as a punishment for a few days when they had stolen something, usually from hunger. The youngest was 9 years old. When a prisoner was brought in, he was first measured, washed and had his hair cut. This was quite a change from earlier times when the prison was nothing more than a place to detain people until they were convicted and the sentence could be executed (for example, pay a fine, to be exiled or get executed). The time in prison was not regarded as punishment in itself.
Cemetery at the Jedburgh Castle JailAdmission to the museum is free, but a donation is appreciated. Not only much is being told about life in a prison in the 19th century, but also about the history of Jedburgh. Behind the building is a small courtyard where prisoners were sometimes allowed to air and behind that we see a cemetery. Would that have been a kind of warning for the prisoners?
The visit costs us less than an hour, but is very interesting. For example, we learn that the last death penalty was carried out in Scotland in 1963 and what penalties were given for certain offenses.
Church with cemetery in HobkirkOn the way back to our house we take a detour through villages that we don't know yet and at Bonchester Bridge we see the Hobkirk (or Hopekirk). The baptismal font contains stones from older churches from the neighborhood and it is thought that the oldest is from a pillar from the 9th century. We especially find the cemetery interesting with old weathered stones and barely legible inscriptions.
Back home (that's what we call all the places we are at that moment) we read more news about the Brexit. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had sent the parliament home for 5 weeks to put them more or less sidelined in connection with the upcoming Brexit, but a Scottish court ruled that decision unlawful. The United Kingdom officially leaves the EU on October 31 and Boris wants to go ahead with that plan, even if there is no agreement with the EU about the exit. The parliament has forbidden this by law and stated that in that case a delay must be requested. Boris Johnson responded that he would rather be found dead in a ditch. We are curious what it will be, as far as we are concerned, the UK stays with the EU for all sorts of reasons.

 


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