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Remains of medieval bridge below Ancrum Old Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Jedburgh and District, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.5062 / 55°30'22"N

Longitude: -2.5736 / 2°34'24"W

OS Eastings: 363868

OS Northings: 623748

OS Grid: NT638237

Mapcode National: GBR B4GS.M0

Mapcode Global: WH8Y9.FVQS

Entry Name: Remains of medieval bridge below Ancrum Old Bridge

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2021

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13741

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: bridge

Location: Ancrum

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Jedburgh and District

Traditional County: Roxburghshire

Description

1 1/2 storeys. Harled. Gabled. Slated. Gablets to front.

Additions at rear.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a.  The monument is of national importance because as the rare remains of a medieval bridge it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past, particularly the nature of bridge construction in the medieval period.

b.   The monument retains structural and archaeological attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. The surviving structural and archaeological remains can inform us of the techniques of bridge construction in medieval Scotland.  

c.   The monument is a rare example of a medieval bridge which has been dated (through dendrochronology) to the 14th century. Intact structural elements survive and have not been incorporated into a later structure.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past, particularly the engineering techniques used in medieval bridge building.

g.   The monument has significant associations with historical events, most notably it was the site of a skirmish or battle in the mid-16th century between French troops allied to the Scots and English troops during the Rough Wooing.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument is a rare example of the archaeological remains of a medieval bridge, which retains original stone and timber work. The visible remains are of two foundations or pier bases of a bridge. These lie submerged beneath the northern and central arches of the 1784 Ancrum Old Bridge (Listed Building LB224). The northern foundation is heavily eroded, with only two kerbstones and two pieces of timber visible. The timbers have been identified as oak and radiocarbon/ dendrochronologically dated to the period between 1340 and 1360. The southern foundation is more complete, with numerous kerbstones and timbers visible, in the shape of an irregular convex hexagon. This shape suggests the pier had a cutwater on both its up and downstream faces. The southern foundation is heavily eroded to the east, the downstream side. This has meant that the timber framework is visible to the east of the feature, but it remains buried beneath the stone upriver to the west. The stone outline of the southern foundation measures approximately 4.35m in width and is estimated to have measured approximately 10.4m in length between the points of the cutwaters.

The physical evidence at Ancrum suggests the bridge there was built using branders. A brander, which is also known as a 'grating' is a wooden frame laid on the riverbed upon which courses of stone were laid or rubble was piled. Seven timber samples were retrieved during survey of the bridge and these have been scientifically dated to between 1340-1360AD. A further date also suggests that one of the timbers may have come for an earlier 13th century structure. The remains of the bridge at Ancrum, are the earliest evidence of branders being identified in an archaeological context in Scotland, and the remains of the earliest scientifically dated bridge so far identified in Scotland.

Evidence of this construction method is found in accounts of engineering works undertaken on extant pre-Reformation bridges in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These are the Old Bridge of Dee (listed building LB9838), the old Brig of Ayr (listed building LB14272) and the Old Bridge of Stirling (scheduled monument SM90290).

Scientific study of the bridge construction techniques, with reference to other medieval bridges across Scotland and the United Kingdom can add to our knowledge of medieval bridge construction. Further archaeological survey around footings of the existing 18th century bridge could inform us of the exact number of piers and could provide further information on its construction, use and abandonment. Documentary research may also improve our understanding of who built this bridge and their reasons for doing so.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

The remains of the medieval bridge near Ancrum have been scientifically dated to the mid-14th century with the radiocarbon dating suggesting a masonry bridge replaced an earlier wooden bridge. There is precedent for this development process in the documentary record; both Glasgow Old Bridge (Canmore ID 162486) and Stirling Old Bridge originated as wooden structures which were replaced by stone bridges.

The oldest extant bridge in Scotland is believed to be the Bridge of Balgownie (Listed Building LB20067), which is traditionally thought to have been constructed on the early 14th century although the earliest documentary evidence is a reference to repairs carried out in 1443 (Walker and Woodworth 2015). There are many bridges known from the historical sources dating from the 13th  and 14th centuries. Simpson lists the oldest formal references to bridges from state documents or charters as Berwick (1195), Haddington (1202), Perth (1219), Brechin (1220), Ayr (1236), Dunkeld (1260), Dumfries (1270), Glasgow (1285), Stirling (1296), Aberdeen (1310), Bridge of Earn (1317) and Roxburgh (1330) (Simpson 2012). These, however, likely refer to mostly wooden bridges, that were replaced at a later date by masonry bridges. A hiatus in the building of bridges may have also been expected in the 14th century, due to the Wars of Independence, and the black death arriving in 1350.

Comparisons and study of the remains of this bridge and others bridges throughout Scotland that may date to the medieval period has the potential to increase our understanding of bridge construction techniques. The remains also demonstrate the archaeological potential of sites known to have been bridged in the medieval period.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

The bridge has associations with at least two important periods of Scottish history. It was constructed in the mid-14th century. This was a period of great instability where supporters of King David II (son of Robert the Bruce) waged what was both a war of succession and civil war with supporters of Edward Balliol (son of King John). During this Second War of Scottish Independence David II was captured at the Battle of Neville's cross (1347) and held captive by the English for 11 years. It is against this background of internal and foreign warfare, that this monument was constructed. The instability of this period makes the construction of the bridge all the more remarkable; it may have been seen as a strategic crossing point.

The monument is also associated with a battle or skirmish that is said to have taken place at, or on, the medieval bridge over the River Teviot near Ancrum, Scottish Borders in May 1549 during the 'Rough Wooing'. Little is known about this event beyond two differing 16th century written accounts, however, it appears to have been a conflict between the French allies of the Scots and English troops.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography
No Bibliography entries for this designation

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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