Searching for the lost village of Bunkle

An aerial view of the site of the 12th century Bunkle Castle.
An aerial view of the site of the 12th century Bunkle Castle.

Anyone driving through Bunkle and Preston parish would think that it was, and always had been, a very rural area where nothing ever happened.

There is no retail outlet within its boundaries, and only one small village. This, however, is a parish which is rich in history, a history which is made up of events, people, and their buildings. Some people called the parish home for generations, others stayed only a few years before moving on. Their buildings too could rise and disappear without trace.

Why are the farms where they are? What is the story of the church at Bunkle and the ruin of the church at Preston? The bridge over the Whiteadder is old, but how old and why was it built? There are earth works at the top of Preston Cleugh – what are they?

Many of you will have driven past the mound beside the B6348 road between Preston and Marygold Farm without realising it conceals the ruins of one of the three castles in our parish.

Bunkle Castle looks down on fields where there was once a busy weaving village, now totally deserted and its site a mystery.

There is a hint of what is to be found at Bunkle Castle in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (Rev. 1915), Sixth Report and Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Berwick, (Edinburgh: HMSO).

Unfortunately, since that report came out more than 100 years, almost no research has been published on the parish.

Exploring the past includes looking at why the castle was built where it was. There are hill forts on Bunkle Edge from the Iron Age. Did people live there in relative safety before moving downhill to begin ploughing and establish farms on lower ground at the edge of the Merse?

Bunkle and Preston History Group is arranging a number of exciting events in 2017.

In April, archaeologists will provide the opportunity for adults and children (from the age of eight) to learn how to do a geophysical survey in the pasture between the 12th century Bunkle Castle and the churchyard. This is where the History Group’s search for the lost village of Bunkle will begin.

There will also be an opportunity to use a metal detector.

Results of the survey will be presented to the public during the summer. If the survey detects what might be significant remains of the village, then test pits will be dug in the Autumn.

There will also be a Family History Workshop day in Preston Village Hall, where training will be available.

Other events are in the pipeline so look out for more history and for information on the Group’s activities in their monthly report in the Berwickshire News.

The whole community, of all ages, is invited to help trace the history of this parish. Please contact Bunkle and Preston History Group:

Telephone 01361 883 434; Email

Bunkle, Billie and Blanerne

Three castles strong as airn

Built when Davie was a Bairn

They’ll all gang doon,

Wi’ Scotland’s Croon

An ilka ane shall be a cairn.