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Jedburgh Abbey, 50m ESE of Abbey House

A Scheduled Monument in Jedburgh and District, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.4766 / 55°28'35"N

Longitude: -2.555 / 2°33'17"W

OS Eastings: 365016

OS Northings: 620443

OS Grid: NT650204

Mapcode National: GBR B5L3.NM

Mapcode Global: WH8YH.QLJZ

Entry Name: Jedburgh Abbey, 50m ESE of Abbey House

Scheduled Date: 15 November 2012

Last Amended: 31 December 1921

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13126

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Ecclesiastical: abbey

Location: Jedburgh

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Jedburgh and District

Traditional County: Roxburghshire


The monument comprises the upstanding and buried remains of the Augustinian Abbey of St Mary, founded as a priory around 1138 but raised to the status of abbey around 1154. The main upstanding structure is the largely complete shell of the abbey church. The other principal monastic buildings are visible as wall footings, laid out around a former cloister on the slope south of the church. The church and the area of the precinct immediately to the north represent the main burial ground for the burgh of Jedburgh. The abbey was suppressed in 1559, but parts of the abbey church continued to be used for worship by the parish until 1875. The monument lies on the S side of the historic core of the burgh, at around 90m OD, on a site that slopes south towards the Jed Water. The monument was last scheduled in 1921 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this. The Newgate was previously a separate scheduled monument, but its footprint is now included in this rescheduling.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling extends up to but excludes the buildings to the northwest of the burial ground. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the visitor centre and the Newgate, and the above-ground elements of all structures and fittings erected after 1950. The scheduling specifically excludes the top 500mm of the Abbey Close road and pavements to the north of the gates lying east of the Wren's Nest. Elsewhere, the scheduling excludes the top 300mm of all modern roads, paths, and yards, and the above-ground elements of all fences, railings, gates, street furniture, lights, telegraph and electricity poles and electrical apparatus to allow for their maintenance. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the burial ground boundary wall and railings.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Researchers suggest that the Augustinian abbey succeeded an earlier minster church, built either on the site of the abbey church or slightly to the north, within the present kirkyard. Pieces of Anglian sculpture were found before and during the 1984 excavations south of the abbey church, including a late 8th-century fragment. The excavations also revealed several archaeological deposits considered to pre-date the abbey, including walls, patches of metalling and human bones, among which juveniles and children were represented. Unexcavated areas below the church and to the north and south retain potential to tell us more about the earliest use of the site.

The construction of the abbey lasted from around 1138-1300. The completed church comprised a presbytery without aisles at the E end, an aisled choir of two bays, two asymmetrical transepts with a central tower over the crossing, and an aisled nave of nine bays, the whole structure measuring a maximum of 67m E-W by 35m transversely. Most of the building survives intact, the major losses being the walls of the presbytery, the N choir aisle, the outer part of the S transept, and the outer wall of the N nave aisle. The choir, probably started around 1138, is remarkable for the giant cylindrical piers that rise through both arcade and gallery levels. The nave was constructed on an altogether more ambitious scale in the years following 1170. At ground level, arcade piers formed of eight clustered shafts carry gently pointed arches, while above, at gallery level, there are round-headed arches framing pairs of pointed arches. The clearstorey, probably a modification of the original scheme, has four equal height arches to each bay, the central two open as windows. At about the time the nave was being completed, the presbytery at the E end was rebuilt to an increased length. Shortly afterwards, work began on the choir clearstorey, but initial work was soon altered to bring the choir up to the same height as the nave. The strikingly good preservation of this early fabric means that the impressive nature of the abbey can easily be appreciated and understood, which allows researchers to assess the influences on the architecture. Subsequent alterations have done little to obscure the early abbey church: the N transept was extended in the mid 15th century, then rebuilding was undertaken around the crossing and choir, with the tower completed around the turn of the 16th century.

Excavation of the footings of the conventual buildings south of the church in 1983-6 showed that their building history is more complex than might have been expected. The remains indicate that the chapter house, in the E range, was rebuilt on at least two occasions and that the cloister was expanded to the west and south after 1300, necessitating the remodelling of the refectory in the S range. The foundations of the conventual buildings were partly reburied after the excavations and retain the potential to be exposed and re-examined. Researchers believe that our picture of the buildings around the cloister will probably not be altered dramatically by further archaeological work, but the church and other parts of the precinct retain high potential for future discoveries that will enhance knowledge of the architecture and layout of the abbey, together with evidence for its economy and the daily lives of the monastic community. Surviving graves in the church footprint and kirkyard to the north may date from the 12th to 19th centuries and can provide information on the population over a relatively long time period. They may enhance our knowledge of status and burial practice, but can also reveal evidence for health, diet, illness, cause of death, and perhaps place of birth and the types of activities people undertook during life. Researchers consider that the site of the principal entrance to the abbey precinct lies beneath the Newgate, a gatehouse and tower dating to the 18th century. However, there is also excellent potential for medieval road and yard surfaces to survive beneath Abbey Close, to the west of the abbey church.

There is some evidence that before the suppression of 1559, troops made use of the reduced abbey buildings as fortifications. From the spring of 1548, a French garrison held the town and it may have been responsible for building the structure known as 'The Rampart' that lies northeast and east of the abbey church. In 1857 it was described as being about 12 yards broad and seven or eight feet high. These dimensions conform well with those of earthworks erected elsewhere in Scotland during the 1540s. The implication is that the E range formed the S end of a defensive line, with the rampart cutting off the gap between the abbey church and the market place to the north. Researchers suggest that the S range also formed part of the southern defences of the town and that the later street known as 'The Bow' may have developed from these southern defences. The remains of 'The Rampart' have the potential to tell us more about the construction and use of this feature, improving our knowledge of how border abbeys were used for defence.

Contextual characteristics

The first plan of the abbey church was a variation of a design possibly first used for the Archbishop of York's collegiate church at Southwell, in Nottinghamshire. However, the architecture of the choir is more closely paralleled by a group of buildings in S and SW England, including abbeys at Reading, Romsey, Tewkesbury and Glastonbury and Oxford Cathedral. These connections show how widely David I was prepared to look in order to provide his church with appropriate buildings. The later nave shows the direct influence of St Andrews Cathedral Priory, but this was itself almost certainly inspired by the Cistercian Abbey of Byland in Yorkshire and by York Minster. Jedburgh in turn inspired Arbroath Abbey and priories at Lannercost and Hexham ' lowland Scotland and northern England being part of the same architectural province. Jedburgh can be compared with the other major Augustinian foundations of David I at Cambuskenneth, Holyrood and St Andrews, and with his other major monastic foundations, including those at Dunfermline, Kinloss, Loch Leven, Melrose and Newbattle. The Scottish royal house relied heavily on the Augustinian Order as a vehicle for church reform and the Order's Scottish monasteries tend to be on a larger scale than comparable houses in England.

In addition to these architectural parallels, there is archaeological potential to explore Jedburgh Abbey's relationship with the medieval burgh of Jedburgh, and to compare and contrast the nature of the artefacts and ecofacts from abbey and town. The new burgh of Jedburgh was founded by the king before 1170, arranged along an axis extending northeast from the castle, but angles in the fossilised property boundaries suggest that the burgage plots were laid out over the open fields of an earlier settlement. The nave of the abbey church would have served the parish throughout the medieval period as well as in later times, and was probably accessed via a path through the kirkyard to a door on the N side of the nave.

Associative characteristics

The foundation of the abbey was a central element in David I's plans for the revitalisation of the Scottish Church in the early 12th century. The scale and quality of the abbey's buildings and their position close to the English border were a clear statement of David's ambitions for the Scottish Church and for the face he wished it to present towards England. In addition, historical sources suggest the abbey was built by David I as part of his efforts to heal the rift with Rome following a dispute over the authority of the archdiocese of York. Today, the abbey continues to provide an imposing view to those approaching Jedburgh from England and is an object of great pride to many inhabitants of Jedburgh and the Scottish Borders.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Scotland's medieval abbeys. The site retains the dramatic, impressive and well-preserved remains of the abbey church, together with much buried archaeology, including the footings of the conventual buildings and a medieval and post-medieval burial ground. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of monastic architecture, layout and culture. Archaeologists have investigated the southern part of the site, but there is very high potential for other future discoveries, especially in the church footprint and to the north. The foundation of the Augustinian Abbey was a central part of David I's strategy to invigorate the Scottish Church and the abbey's architecture is an invaluable indicator of the architectural inter-relationships between Scotland and England in the 12th century. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand Scotland's medieval abbeys and their key role in the history of the nation and society.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the Priory as NT62SE 15.00.


Cowan, I B and Easson, D E, 1976 Medieval Religious Houses; Scotland, Longman: New York.

Lewis, J and Ewart, G, 1995 Jedburgh Abbey; the Archaeology and Architecture of a Border Abbey, Soc Antiq Scot Monog 10, Edinburgh.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Jedburgh Abbey
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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