Ancrum Bridge

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Ancrum and District Heritage Society have recently (2021) discovered and dated a medieval bridge remains on the River Teviot, not far from Bonjedward. The toll bridge that replaced it in 1784 carries a curious shield which carries 4 hearts, one within the other. An archaeologist and art historian who have seen photos of it suggest it might date to the 14th century, and somehow been recycled into the 18th Century bridge.

The 14th Century shield, on an 18th Century bridge, is in an odd position, where most bridge users would not see it. (circled on bridge photo.) It stands proud of the masonry, rather than engraved, quite crudely executed compared to the surrounding pier base masonry, which makes it all the more enigmatic and mysterious. The lands around here are in possession of the Earls of Ancrum (the Kerrs of Ferniehirst/Earls of Ancrum/Marquis of Lothian), so a Douglas(?) heart seems odd....

The timbers in the masonry platform in the river appears to be dated to the mid 14th Century, which is just at the time of the 2nd Wars of Independence and the emergence of the Black Death.

The lands of Jedburgh and Bonjedward had been granted by David II to Douglas and also by Edward III to Percy, and that Edward Balliol had granted Southern Scotland to Edward III in return for his support, The land lies within the Bishopric of Glasgow, whose bishop had built Old Glasgow Bridge in 1345. The 17th Century records of the Royal Burgh of Jedburgh state the bridge was built by 'the Abbacy of Jedburgh', but as Jedburgh lay for long periods under English occupation and the Abbey had been despoiled, it seems an unlikely source of investment.

Built during the reigns of David II of Scotland and Edward III of England, the bridge would have been of historic and strategic national importance. The bridge crossed the River Teviot, carrying the “Via Regia” (The Kings Way) on its way from Edinburgh to Jedburgh and the Border. James V would have crossed here in 1526, as would Mary, Queen of Scots returning from her tour of the Borders in 1566, and the Marquis of Montrose on his way to battle at Philiphaugh in 1645.

Close by is the site of a Bishop's Palace.  The Bishop's Palace at Ancrum was a residence for several bishops throughout its history.  It is thought that  William de Bondington, Bishop of Glasgow from 1232/33 until his death in 1258, had a palace at Ancrum, famed for its gardens. King Alexander II and his retinue signed three charters there in 1236.

However, the most notable bishop who lived there was Bishop Gavin Douglas. Gavin Douglas was a Scottish bishop and poet who served as the Bishop of Dunkeld from 1516 until his death in 1522. He was known for his literary works, including his translation of Virgil's Aeneid into Scots. It is believed that Bishop Douglas built the Bishop's Palace at Ancrum as a residence for himself during his tenure as bishop. The palace was later occupied by other bishops, including David Beaton, who was Archbishop of St Andrews from 1539 to 1546.

•  We do not yet understand the economic drivers that led to the investment in a major building project during a time of War and Pestilence. Nor do we know who built the bridge.



Sources for this article include:
  • Ancrum and District Heritage Society

  • Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024