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Mordington, medieval village and church 210m south of Mordington House

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.7961 / 55°47'45"N

Longitude: -2.0797 / 2°4'46"W

OS Eastings: 395099

OS Northings: 655865

OS Grid: NT950558

Mapcode National: GBR F1XF.J3

Mapcode Global: WH9YB.0LY1

Entry Name: Mordington, medieval village and church 210m S of Mordington House

Scheduled Date: 18 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12359

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: church; Secular: settlement, including deserted, depopulated and townships

Location: Mordington

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of Mordington village, an abandoned later medieval settlement, and the site of Mordington parish church and its associated burial ground. A settlement at Mordington is first mentioned in charters dating to the late 11th century and appears to have existed until at least the mid-17th century, while parsons of Mordington appear in late 13th century charters, but the church is likely to have been founded at an earlier date.

The site of Mordington church, destroyed by fire in 1757, lies within an oval enclosure. The only upstanding element of the building is a burial vault, which appears to have been freestanding. The burial enclosure may be of 15th- or 16th-century date, although it is thought to have undergone substantial restoration in the 19th century. Rectangular on plan, the burial vault is stone-built and measures around 6m by 3.7m standing almost fully intact apart from its flagstone roofing. The top of the internal vault is now exposed and is overgrown with turf and shrubs. The exterior of the burial vault has little decoration apart from a simple moulded cornice at the wall-head and the doorway on the east has a roll-moulded border. An inscribed stone with the letters WM carved upon it, previously recorded as 'W M 1662', lies near the door. The interior of the burial vault is approximately 3m high and is a plain semi-circular barrel vault that has little interior decoration other than the inscription 'JP, JK, WJ, 1869' incised on a stone set into the vaulted roof, possibly commemorating the restoration of the structure. In the W wall of the burial vault there is a sculptured panel depicting the Crucifixion, thought to date to the 15th or 16th century that shows Christ flanked by two robed figures. On the right, the figure has a fleur de lys device carved above it and is thought to represent the Virgin Mary, while the left hand figure holds a book and has a thistle above its head and may be a representation of St John the Divine. The flowers have no obvious religious associations but could represent relationship between France and Scotland. The panel is inscribed 'IHUS MARIA' (Jesus, Mary) and may be an original feature or could have been removed from the ruins of the church during the 19th-century restoration. The earth floor shows evidence of burrowing animals and fragments of bone are visible on the surface. The site of the church probably lies immediately to the west of the vault; several stones have been placed here recently to enable the churchyard to be maintained. The surrounding churchyard has been planted in the past as a deciduous wood and is, in places, overgrown with shrubs. Around 12 gravestones, mainly headstones with some table tombs, remain visible it is possible that others may now be buried. The boundary of the churchyard is defined by a ha-ha (landscaped boundaries designed to be invisible from certain views) comprising a drystone wall, now augmented by a modern post-and-wire fence, and a ditch. There is an entrance gate on the south-west.

Remains of Mordington village, likely abandoned in the 17th century, lie in a pasture field immediately to the south-west of the churchyard and extend to the east through a modern conifer plantation. The settlement comprises the turf wall-footings of at least two rectangular structures that lie within a pair of banks with a medial ditch that create a U-shaped enclosure. The banks are heavily spread and grass-grown, measuring up to 2m in width and 0.3m in height with a medial ditch of up to 2.5m broad. The enclosure is complete on the south, where the earthworks run E-W for 105m. The E and W sides of the enclosure survive for around 30m and are aligned roughly N-S. The two buildings lie immediately to the south-west of the churchyard boundary and are arranged in an L-shape. The larger building is aligned approximately E-W and is around 30m in length and 8m broad within low, turf wall-footings of around 4m in width. The ends of the building are rounded. Adjoining the SE corner of this structure is a smaller building, aligned N-S that measures approximately 20m in length and around 5m in width. The walls of this structure are reduced to heavily spread turf-covered footings approximately 4m in width and there is a possible entrance in the SW corner.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area specifically excludes a square plot of ground measuring 3m by 3m, located within the SW corner of the burial ground and depicted on the accompanying map, where the owners have expressed a wish to be buried. The scheduling also specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences, the drystone boundary wall of the churchyard, the gravemarkers within the churchyard and telegraph poles, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Although the visible remains of the village relate to the 16th or 17th century, there is excellent potential for the preservation of several phases of occupation as the settlement of Mordington is first recorded in the 11th century. The village has potential to inform our understanding of late medieval and post-medieval settlement in SE Scotland and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. The church may occupy the site of an earlier place of worship and burial. Although restored in the 19th century, the burial vault represents the last remaining part of the church and may have been repaired using stone from its ruins. Evidence of earlier church buildings and associated structures may be preserved within the churchyard and the site has potential to reveal the extent to which the Protestant reformers changed the layout of the building in the late 16th century. The monument is an important survival, forming part of a wider later medieval and post-medieval landscape that includes well-preserved field systems and the site of a possible fortified lordly dwelling.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is a rare example of an abandoned later medieval or post-medieval village and its associated church and churchyard.

Mordington is first recorded in 1098 as a gift to the monks of Coldingham Priory from King Edgar of Scotland. Mordington likely became a feudal barony in the second half of the 12th or early 13th century as it appears in charters from this period as a lordship held by a family of the same name. During the later 13th and 14th centuries, the lordship passed through marriage to several families until the Douglas family became Lords of Mordington in 1372. An account of an English raid on the Scottish border in 1482 notes that the bastle, probably the fortified lordly dwelling, and the settlement of Mordington were attacked and set on fire. The barony briefly passed out of Douglas control in between 1581 and 1585 when James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton and Regent of Scotland was executed and his estates declared forfeit. However in 1585 the forfeiture was overturned and Mordington remained a Douglas possession until 1636 and again from 1685 to 1785. In 1650 Oliver Cromwell's forces set up camp at Mordington, using Lord Mordington's house as headquarters for several days. After 1785, the barony passed through several families and, more recently, trusts.

Ecclesiastical records first mention the church of Mordington in 1275 when its priest attended a council where he refused to make a donation to fund Pope Gregory X's planned crusade. The church of Mordington was probably dedicated to St Mary as a description of the Bounds of Berwick in 1478-79 mentions the 'place of the cross of St Mary's of Mordington'. In 1296 the parish priest, Barnard of Linton, swore fealty to King Edward I of England at Berwick but later pledged loyalty to King Robert Bruce of Scotland. From 1311 to 1328, Barnard of Linton was abbot of Arbroath and drafted the Declaration of Arbroath, subsequently becoming Lord Chancellor of Scotland. In 1475, James Douglas, Earl of Morton, gifted the income from Mordington Church to Dalkeith Collegiate Church (a church where a community of priests known as a college was set up specifically to pray for the souls of the founder and his family) to specifically support a priest. Following the Reformation in the late 16th century, the church continued as a Protestant place of worship and, its ministers held responsibility for the parish Longformacus until 1666 when the two parishes were formally united. Parish records from the second half of the 17th century reveal the authority the Church of Scotland had in society and the degree to which Mordington was affected by wider religious disputes that affected Scotland. In 1644 local ministers ordered Sir James Douglas, 1st Lord Mordington to attend a meeting at Mordington Church where he was made to renounce Roman Catholicism and solemnly pledge his loyalty to the Church of Scotland. In 1648 local parishioners, petitioned the minister over fears that Lord Mordington's daughters would be raised as Roman Catholics and demanded they receive a Protestant education. From 1660 to 1689, several ministers of Mordington were arrested by the Government for their religious opinions.

Mordington parish church burned down in 1757. Records show that from 1719, the then owner of Mordington proposed a union of Mordington and Foulden parishes that would have moved the church to a new site. Parishioners objected and successfully petitioned the Court of Session to halt the merger.

Associative characteristics

The monument represents the site of the first and original parish church of Mordington and the original settlement of Mordington. The church of Mordington has indirect associations with the Declaration of Arbroath as a former parson, Barnard of Linton, later became Abbot of Arbroath and drafted the charter. The church also has associations with the Covenanting period of Scottish history, the later 17th century religious unrest that affected many parts of the country.

The monument has close associations with the Douglas family, having been part of the barony of Mordington held by the Douglases for a considerable period of time. Mordington also has associations with the Civil Wars of the 17th century when Cromwellian forces occupied Lord Mordington's house.

The monument appears on the earliest surviving maps of Scotland by Robert Gordon (published 1636-52) and Joan Blaeu (published 1654). The place-name of Mordington appears on General William Roy's map of 1747, and by the publication of the Armstrong's map of Berwickshire (1771) only the church and Mordington House, sitting within what appears to be open parkland, are evident.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular later medieval and early post-medieval rural settlement, later medieval ecclesiastical architecture and religious organisation in Scotland. The significance of the monument is enhanced by the good level of preservation of the settlement and the range of documentary evidence, particularly records relating to the church and its importance in the everyday lives of local people. The possibility that the settlement may contain several phases of occupation, covering a period from the end of the 11th century to at least the mid 17th century, could allow us to shed light on the impact of feudalism on rural settlement in this part of Scotland as well as tracing the development of the rural economy. The monument also has potential for the survival of buried soils containing environmental samples that could inform our understanding of the local landscape and the way in which it was managed in the past. Buried deposits from sites such as this have the potential to tell us about wider society at the time, how people lived, their beliefs, where they came from and who they had contact with. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the occupation and use of such monuments, their placing in the landscape and the social, economic and religious structures of the time.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NT95NE 6.01.

References:

Binnie G A C 1995, Churches and Graveyards of Berwickshire, Berwick-Upon Tweed, 372-5, 377-8.

Cowan I B 1967, 'Parishes of Medieval Scotland', Scot Rec Soc 93, 1967.

RCAHMS 1915, Sixth Report and Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Berwickshire, Edinburgh: HMSO, 152 No. 269.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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