A church is recorded in Morebattle (mere bottle = a dwelling place on a lake) or ‘Mereboda’ by 1116 AD. It was part of the diocese of Glasgow and was for a while in the Middle Ages, the seat of the Archdeacon of Teviotdale. Virtually nothing is left of this building, although a plan in the porch shows traces of its foundations uncovered in 1915. Like many buildings in the area, the church was put to the torch by English soldiers during the ‘Rough Wooing’ in 1544, Henry VIII’s attempt to force the Scots to marry Mary, Queen of Scots to his son. By 1757 the old building was ruinous and the present church was erected in the local red sandstone. Extensions made in 1899.
Whilst I’ve been confined to home with this pandemic it’s given me the chance to get stuck into my neglected garden. I just haven’t had the time in the past few years to spend in it. I used to love it and have always grown in raised beds having been taught by my grannnies. So I’ve been making a few changes and given it a proper makeover.
The house is fairly old (c1790), small and is on the end of a set of three two storey “tenements”. Which once sat round one of the village wells. It was the village green but has now been incorporated in gardens by the houses looking over it. My garden is to the back of the house described as being as a yard and byre in the earliest house deeds.
So digging down through what is a long slope in ground level I’ve been pulling up all the usual modern to Victorian stuff you’d expect from bed springs to horse shoes, glass, more glass and of course assorted decorated ceramics. There is a 50mm layer of cobblers “waste” with loads of boot, shoe trimmings, leather and sort of rubbery stuff, heels and soles, segs, tacks and heel trims. Obviously there was a cobbler in the house at one point just dumping the stuff round the back for years.
Below and amongst that layer more pottery and clay pipes. So getting good dating material now to about mid 18th century. This overlies a really compacted layer with an abundance of crushed red sandstone. The new church lies about seventy metres at the top of the garden slope. Being one of the only red sandstone buildings in the village it can only be assumed that it’s the working debris from masonry activity from the construction of the church in the mid 1750’s.
This church build layer is cut by the back wall of the house so that makes sense to a late 1700’s build to our whinstone random rubble house build. Below this layer it gets a bit more interesting. Undisturbed charcoal and animal bone rich layers about 300mm deep lying directly onto the natural yellow/ red boulder clay. This deep layer of occupation yielded quite a few pieces of unabraded 12/13th century white gritty ware ceramic. Some glazed, well-made and thin walled. Many belonging to the medieval pottery group known a Straight-sided cooking pots. This ware is most commonly found at or associated with high status ecclesiastical sites. So really all points to a medieval level sloping down off the early medieval church site.
My own mini-excavation in my back garden. Well chuffed I’ve established dates and storyline. One a digger - always a digger !
A lost landscape .. old elms that were felled 40 years ago having succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. How different the landscape would have looked with these huge trees along the head rigs - and not all that long ago either. We managed to save a few butts throughout the Borders ( from the flames) for furniture and in fact still making with some boards. It is such a beautiful timber to use and when you do see one In full flower such a beautiful tree to wonder at.
This caught my eye the other day. A PhD thesis on sheep populations. As I didn’t have my specs on at the time I thought it was an political map of sorts. But thought that a bit strange as I was looking for something about rewilding. Was struck by the similarity of density ( non pun intended) of Tory voters and where the majority of sheep live in Scotland. Just an observation really and doubt if there’s any sound statistical correlation.
Some recent bark paintings. First time work with ash bark. Got a feeling that I’m going to be seeing a lot of it with the creep of ash dieback.
I’ve always had an interest in landscape and heritage. It’s one of the reasons that brought me to the Scottish Borders in the late 70’s. The village of Ancrum just along the road from the workshop and gallery and the surrounding area has a very long and rich history. From the time of Iron Age people living on Castle Hill, Bronze Age gatherings at Harestanes stone circle, through to the busy Medieval period with Royal visits and religious dignitaries to the Bishops Palace, its ruins resounding to the war-torn years of the 17th century through to the agricultural improvements and “big hoose” builds of the 18th and 19th century.Ancrum has borne witness to Prehistoric ceremonies, Iron age fortifications, Roman infantries, Anglo-Saxon warriors, Medieval pageantry, Border reivers, Georgian carriages and Victorian farmhands.
All of Scottish and European history and society has made the village a site of continual occupation for over 4,000 years and in September last year I was delighted to get involved with the locally run excavations at the Mantle Walls, probable site of a Bishops Palace in the 12th century. Above are some of the field walking finds found in the 1980’s during field walking and metal detecting before the site was scheduled by Historic Scotland. They have never publicly been shown before.
Some of the work of Ancrum and District Heritage Society includes raising awareness of the antiquities and traditions of the area. To this end we have been carrying out archaeological excavations, preserving and recording structures, archiving documents and images, researching oral and written evidence - all contributing to a greater understanding and knowledge of our community’s collective past. This work is all carried out voluntarily by a committed group of local folk, keen to bring all this cultural wealth to the attention of others. It’s interesting, fascinating, perplexing, gory, unjust, curious, political, enlightening and ultimately revealing.
Everything just on standby. Waiting for the go ahead to get back making. Strange not hearing the thump and chop of folks working the wood. Missing it all bad. Dave and Gail the mainstays of the course work feeling the same. Missing our Friday catch ups with work placements, college interns, school escapes spoon club and our returning course attendees. ! I forget how much traffic there usually through the place.
Branch reflections in moving water. The undercurrents twist and contort the limbs of the tree. The tree pushes and pulls the pressure of the wind.
I’ve been working on a series of painted bowls. The drawings are from years ago but with some applied decoration. I like eating from wooden utensils and wanted some colour for the “ Sunday best” dishes. Imagining them on the old dresser in my imaginary cottars howff ! Just got to get the right paints for this project and treat the burnt out bowl. They should look ok?
You cannie beat a good looking dry stane wall or dyke. There’s quite a few hawthorn hedges in my locale as well. Each to their own. The old guys used to say the poorer the ground the more walls you’d have. The better the ground the more likely you were to see hawthorn hedges. Clearing the marginal hills of stone gave a more readily available supply of material I suppose. I’ve seen a few hedges getting ripped out in my day but I am seeing more being reinstated. Prefer a hedge because you can sneak a few trees in as well. Anyway this is a typical Border style wall., near Morebattle. Lichen on it will be 100+ years old probably.