Coldingham High Street
Coldingham is a historic village in Berwickshire, on the coast north of Eyemouth. It is a pretty place, found a few miles off the main A1, under an hour’s drive from Edinburgh. Coldingham is one of the earliest recorded towns in Berwickshire, known as Coludes burh in 679, when it was a Northumbrian town and the site of a wealthy nunnery.
Nearby, St Abbs was originally called “Coldingham Shore”; it was renamed at the end of the 19th century by the then Laird Mr Andrew Usher.
The parish kirk is known as The Parish Church of Coldingham & St Abbs, and is a restored building of the old Coldingham Priory. It is the most notable building in the parish. The Priory is a Grade A Listed Ancient Monument.
Coldingham Bay close by, where a sandy, secluded beach breaches the cliff-bound coastline, is popular with surfers. It has rows of beach huts.
Nunnery and priory
As early as AD 660, Coldingham was the site of a monastic establishment of high order, when it is recorded that Etheldreda, the queen of Egfrid, became a nun at the Abbey of Coldingham, then under the management of Æbbe the Elder, aunt of her husband. Bede describes it as "the Monastery of Virgins" and states that in 679 the monastery burnt down. It was rebuilt, but was again destroyed by fire at the hands of a raiding party of Danes in 870. This time the ruins were not rebuilt.
In 1098, by which time the village belonged to Scotland, King Edgar of Scotland founded Coldingham Priory in honour of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. It was the northernmost house of the monks of St Cuthbert and belonged to their monastery of Durham. It became the caput for the Barony of Coldingham, with the prior as the feudal lord.
In the 15th century the office of Prior of Coldingham became secularised, seized first by the Crown and then passed to the Home family. In 1519 Prior Blackadder was murdered by David Home of Wedderburn, who then married the Prior’s widow and the priory and its lands came back under Home control. The priory continued as a monastic establishment until 1560, when the Reformation put an end to monasticism in Scotland. The priory buildings were partially destroyed and the estates of the priory passed to Lord Home. The last signing of an existing Coldingham paper by a monk was in 1588 by George Acheson.
The last Prior of Coldingham was the Sixth Lord Home. In 1606 the sixth Lord Home gave up the spiritual privileges remaining to him and the title of Prior, which was confirmed by the Parliament of Scotland.
In 1650, Oliver Cromwell marched north and the priory building were fortified against the invader. After a siege of two days, the main tower in which the besieged defended themselves was so shattered by artillery that they were forced to capitulate. This great tower of the original priory finally collapsed about 1777.
In 1855 the ruins of about 40% of the original priory church were rebuilt for use as the parish church.
- coldingham.info Village website
- Coldingham Priory
- RCAHMS entry for Coldingham
- Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, 1882-1885
- History of the Priory of Coldingham by William King Hunter, Edinburgh & London, 1858.