Project aims to unearth priory’s secrets

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From August 22–25, Flodden 1513 project will be holding a major archaeological event to unearth the history of Coldstream Priory. The Flodden 1513 Coldstream Priory Project, being organised by Dr Chris Burgess (pictured) will work with the community to investigate and record the remains of the Priory. Though the site is well known in the town, little is known about its extent and surviving remains.

The Priory played a significant role in the events surrounding the battle at Flodden, and was located south of the High Street, along the banks of the Tweed.

Its Prioress, Isabella Hoppringle, is thought to have ‘spied’ for the English both before and after the events of August and September 1513 and may well have acted as an informal conduit between the Scottish and English crowns.

The dig’s organisers want to hear from you if your house sits in the area that was originally part of the Priory. For example, you might have stones from the Priory in your garden, or even surviving walls on your property may have been part of the Priory. As this is to be a community-based dig, the team can help you uncover and record history in your very own backyard or you can assist in the community dig designated area of the town (still to be finalised).

The main aim of this “Big Dig” is to uncover this specific part of the town’s history.

Chris Burgess, archaeologist for the Flodden 1513 Project, said: “This is the first time we have held an archaeological event that will take place in people’s gardens in Coldstream.

“The entire commemoration of Flodden has always been about the community, and this archaeological event is no different. We are hoping the whole community will get involved either offering to dig themselves in their own gardens, or joining us to dig in a public area, possibly on the Leat Green. Before excavating on the public parts of the site however we hope to be able to carry out some geophysics to help identify features on the site.”

The priory was home to Cistercian nuns from 1150 until 1588, the most prominent of whom were members of the Hoppringle family which provided many of the order’s prioresses.

The most well-known of these was Prioress Isabella Hoppringle who was said to have maintained her position in Coldstream before the battle through her friendship with Margaret Tudor, James IV’s wife and queen.

She also provided an account of the Scottish invasion force crossing the river at Coldstream on the 22nd August 1513 and 17 days later is said to have led a party of her nuns from Coldstream to the Battlefield 3 miles south of the English border, to retrieve the bodies of fallen Scottish noblemen which had been gathered after the battle in the church at Branxton.

Following on the success of the 2013 events, and the popularity of Time Team on Channel 4, uncovering Coldstream’s secret past should to be one of the high profile events being held in the town this summer.

If your house or garden has some connection with Coldstream Priory and you would like to join in please let the organisers know, or if you would be interested in joining in the work in the public areas, or for further information please contact us by email -