Jedburgh Abbey

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Jedburgh Abbey


Thomas Girtin 006.JPG
"Jedburgh Abbey from the river 1798-99" (Thomas Girtin)
Grid reference: NT651204
Location: 55°28’34"N, 2°33’13"W
Main town: Jedburgh
Order: Augustinian
Established: c. 1118
Founder: King David I of Scotland
Disestablished: 1560
Remains: Extensive
Owned by: Historic Scotland
Public access: Yes
Website: Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey is a ruined Augustinian abbey in Jedburgh, in Roxburghshire. It was founded in the 12th century by King David I of Scotland; one amongst a series of abbeys he created in these shires.


Towards the middle of the 9th century, when the area around Jedburgh was part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria, there were two Gedworths (as Jedburgh was then known). One of them became the Jedburgh we know now, the other was four miles to the south. According to Symeon of Durham, Ecgred, Bishop of Lindisfarne from 830AD to 845AD, gifted the two villages of the same name to the See of Lindisfarne.[1] The southerly Gedworth was the place of Ecgred's church, the first church in the parish. The present town was distinguished from the long disappeared south village by UBI CASTELLUM EST meaning, 'where the castle is'.[2] The only solid evidence of Ecgred's church came from Symeon of Durham when he described the burial, at the church of Geddewerde, of Eadulf, one of the assassins of William Walcher, Bishop of Durham.

Tomb at Jedburgh Abbey

In 1118, before he became King, Prince David established a foundation of canons regular of the order of St Augustine at, what is now Jedburgh. The foundation appeared to have the status of 'priory' in the early years and a man by the name of Daniel was described as the Prior of Geddwrda in 1139. The church was later raised to the status of monastery before becoming in the years prior to King David's death in 1153[3] probably in 1147,[4] a fully fledged abbey and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.[5] It has to be mentioned that over the years, Jedburgh has been described by 83 different names or spellings.[6]

After the death of King David I of Scotland, the patronage and privileges of the abbey were accorded to his grandsons Malcolm IV and William I, also known as William the Lion. The King's son, Henry, had preceded his father in death. The nave and the choir were built in the 13th century and were in place by the time Alexander III of Scotland married Yolande, daughter of the Compte de Dreux in 1285 at the church. The great abbey was said to contain the finery of the best of Norman and early English Architecture. The Abbey Church of St Mary of Jedeworth was growing in stature. As well as the lands and chapels in southern Scotland, Jedburgh Abbey owned great lands in Northumberland. In 1296, the Abbot of Jedburgh swore fealty to Edward I of England at Berwick-on-Tweed.

Edward presented William de Jarum as the new Abbot of Jedburgh in 1296. After the defeat of the Earl of Surrey in 1297 at Stirling at the hands of William Wallace, the abbey was pillaged and wrecked by the English as retribution. Robert I of Scotland (The Bruce) continued to patronise the church during his reign in the early 14th century. In 1346, after the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Neville's Cross, the English once again slighted the church. Later that century, in 1370, David II of Scotland was instrumental in the completion of the north transept we can still see today. The abbey faced more torture and destruction in 1410,1416 and by the Earl of Warwick in 1464. In 1523, the town and abbey were set ablaze by the Earl of Surrey. The abbey faced more indignity in 1544 at the hands of the Earl of Hertford.

The end came for the great Abbey of St. Mary of Jedburgh in 1560 and the coming of the Scottish Reformation.[7]

Jedburgh Grammar School was founded by the monks of Jedburgh Abbey in the late 15th. century.[8]

The Reformation and beyond

When the Abbey was dissolved at the Reformation in 1560, the monks were allowed to stay to live their lives out but the abbey lands were sequestrated and the abbey church was used as the parish kirk for the reformed religion. In 1671 the church was removed to the western part of the nave for safety reasons.

This situation persisted until, in 1871, it was considered unsafe to continue worship at the abbey church and a new parish church was built. The Marquis of Lothian immediately started work on the restoration of the great church. In 1917, nearly 800 years after its foundation, the church was handed over to the state. It is now in the care of Historic Scotland.


See also

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Jedburgh Abbey)


  1. 'Full text of Jedburgh Abbey, Historical and Descriptive' by James Watson
  2. Jedburgh History
  3. Full Text of Jedburgh Abbey Historical and Descriptive by James Watson
  4. BBC History
  5. Full Text of Jedburgh Abbey, Historical and Descriptive by James Watson
  6. Jedburgh, traditions
  7. Full Text of Jedburgh Abbey, Historical and Descriptive by James Watson
  8. Jedburgh Grammar School website