Site where Wallace made Scots Guardian uncovered in Selkirk

William Wallace. Picture: Ian Rutherford
William Wallace. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Archaeologists believe they have uncovered the remains of the medieval Borders kirk where Sir William Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland more than 700 years ago.

The Scottish hero was made Guardian of Scotland in 1297, after defeating the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

A ceremony took place in front of gathered nobles and clergy in the Kirk o’ the Forest, in Selkirk. The scene was depicted in Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning epic Braveheart, but the church itself was demolished and later churches built on the site in the 16th and 18th centuries.

A geophysics survey carried out within the ruins of the 18th century Auld Kirk was expected to show traces of its 16th century predecessor.

Instead, it revealed the remains of a medieval chapel, pinpointing the spot where Wallace was honoured.

Dr Chris Bowles, Scottish Borders Council’s archaeologist, said: “The association between William Wallace and this area is quite well documented, with Wallace using guerrilla tactics to fight the English from the Ettrick Forest.

“We knew vaguely this site was associated with Wallace, and the Scottish nobles made him Guardian of Scotland at the Kirk o’ the Forest in recognition of his military successes.

“We had been expecting the survey to uncover a 16th century church that we know to have existed and which was a replacement to the medieval church, but the only evidence in the survey is in relation to the medieval church.

“What we found was the foundation footprint of a medieval chapel within the footprint of the 18th century church. There are certainly wall lines forming an east-west aligned rectangle. The measurements are similar to St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle and point to it possibly being a Romanesque chapel.

“If it is the Kirk o’ the Forest, it is where Wallace was honoured. He went on to become the legendary figure he remains today.”

Dr Bowles, who commissioned the survey by the University of Durham in conjunction with the Selkirk Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS), said: ”It was in the back of my mind that if we found any evidence of the medieval church we could have something that could be an attraction to people..