Continuing my exploration of Abbeys and Cathedrals of Britain, I’m heading north of the Border to Scotland.
In 9th Century Jedburgh was part of Northumbria and the town grew up around the first church, which was built there by Bishop Ecgred of Lindisfarne. King David of Scotland founded a priory in 1118 and it housed Augustinian canons from Beauvais. The abbey was eventually found in 1147. Jedburgh abbey was not in a great location during the Middle Ages – it was caught in the midst of the border wars between Scotland and England and those wars lasted centuries.
The nave and choir were built in the 13th Century and are fine examples of Norman and early English architecture. However, the strong walls of an abbey are not the same as a castle. In 1297, after William Wallace defeated the Earl of Surrey, the abbey was pillaged as retribution. The same thing happened again in 1346 after a Scottish defeat – it really didn’t seem to make much difference who won, the poor abbey kept on being slighted for being in the wrong place, or coming under the influence of the wrong person. In the War of the Roses in the 15th century, the Earl of Warwick had a go at it in 1464… the Earl of Surrey set it ablaze in 1523… the Earl of Hertford in 1544. By the time the Scottish Reformation arrived, the abbey was on the way out for good.
After the protestant reformation in 1560, the abbey became the parish kirk for the reformed religion. It’s decline continued and due to safety reasons it was deemed unusable in 1871. The abbey church is now in the care of Historic Scotland.
Viewing it, the abbey is an odd ruin. It’s not been robbed of its stone so much as stripped bare of everything else – the roof and windows. It’s a shell. Wouldn’t it nice if those missing parts were filled in again.
Artists have long been drawn to painting ruins. Their imagination adds to the missing parts, whether to romanticise the ruins or give a fresh perspective.