Search for the lost monastery at Coldingham

Coldingham Priory and grounds which have seen a turbulent history: built, destroyed by fire, rebuilt and raided by Viking, laying in ruins for two centuries, rebuilt housing a Benedictine monastery and fired on by cannons to dislodge dislodge hiding royalists eventually becoming parish church in 1855
Coldingham Priory and grounds which have seen a turbulent history: built, destroyed by fire, rebuilt and raided by Viking, laying in ruins for two centuries, rebuilt housing a Benedictine monastery and fired on by cannons to dislodge dislodge hiding royalists eventually becoming parish church in 1855

A team of archaeologists and history-lovers are about to the begin search for the ancient monastery established by King Oswald’s sister near Coldingham.

Historians believe that the remains of an ancient monastery founded by Princess Æbbe nearly 1,400 years ago lies somewhere in the Coldingham area.

“Despite Coldingham’s significance, compared to Lindisfarne, much less is known about it. This project aims to change that and reveal Æbbe’s side of the story in Scotland,” says DigVentures archaeologist Brendon Wilkins, who begins work in Coldingham in June.

“Although previous attempts to locate the remains of the original monastery, based on historical sources, have come up largely empty handed, we’re working with a new set of geophysics results that have revealed a number of possible Anglo-Saxon structures at a slightly different location. Now, we just need to excavate and see if it’s really there,” said Brendon.

Historical sources indicate that Æbbe’s monastery burnt down soon after she died, was abandoned, rebuilt and thrived until AD 870 when it was destroyed by Vikings.

Anne Dall, secretary for Friends of Coldingham Priory added: “We are delighted that the DigVentures team is coming to the village. Let’s hope that the investigation reveals the hidden traces of Æbbe’s lost monastery and throws more light on the history of Coldingham.”

Details can be found at digventures.com/projects/coldingham

The team ran a small trial excavation in November, and collaborated with the community to help decide where to dig during the upcoming excavation.

“Like Lindisfarne, Coldingham is an important site in the story of early medieval Christianity in the British Isles, and yet we know much less about it than other sites of similar significance. This is a chance to redress the balance, and begin answering some big questions about Coldingham’s early medieval history,” added Brendon.