Scots archaeologists bid to uncover UK’s 1st abbey

Selkirk's Tironensian monks were moved to Kelso abbey (pictured) in 1128. Picture: Stuart Cobley

Selkirk's Tironensian monks were moved to Kelso abbey (pictured) in 1128. Picture: Stuart Cobley

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ARCHAEOLOGISTS are planning a dig to discover Britain’s first and most important abbey, it emerged on Thursday.

Scottish Borders Council hopes to rediscover the lost abbey in Selkirk that was founded by David I in 1113 before he became king.

The authority’s archaeology officer, Dr Chris Bowles, said unearthing the ancient site would shed new light on Scottish history and allow people to discover what actually happened when Selkirk’s Tironensian monks were moved to Kelso abbey in 1128.

Dr Bowles said: “Selkirk was the first reformed monastic community in Britain, before Melrose, Jedburgh or any other Border abbey,

“It’s probably the most important abbey in Britain.

“So the obvious questions are: Where the is Selkirk abbey? What did it look like? What’s the early history of Kelso abbey, when the community moved there from Selkirk? And what were the links with the mother monastery, in Tiron in France?”

Recent geophysical ground surveys, by local youth groups under Kelso’s Townscape Heritage Initiative, suggest a long structure lies across a field beside Kelso abbey, which may be its “great drain”.

Dr Bowles added: “All the abbeys had a great drain to bring in fresh water, and take away waste.

“All abbeys needed a site with a great sweeping water supply.

“If I were building an abbey in Selkirk, I’d put it at Philiphaugh.

“I am hoping a variety of groups such as youth groups, artistic groups etc will pull together to make this project possible.”

Dr Bowles and Northlight Heritage, who led the community excavation of Selkirk Castle in 2013, now plan to link up with archaeologists in Tiron, Friends of Kelso Museum, Selkirkshire Antiquarian Society and local youth groups to excavate around Kelso abbey, and investigate potential locations for Selkirk abbey, which include Lindean Kirk and mill buildings at Riverside.

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