History 3



Research and Copyright belongs to Michael Hickman




The Cistercians – Cistercian Abbeys (Scotland) – Cistercian Nunneries – Cistercian Nunneries, Scotland - Earls of Dunbar and March, Founders and Patrons – Foundation of Coldstream Priory – Priory Lands – Daily Duties – Habit – Priory Site – Historical Events – Damage to the Priory by Edward the I of England – Wars of Independence – Hoppringle Prioresses – Flodden – Queen Margaret Tudor/Dame Isabella Hoppringle – Rough Wooing – Burning of Coldstream Priory and Town – Dissolution of  Coldstream Priory.


The Cistercians


The Cistercian Order was founded by Robert Molesme in 1098 and, along with a group of former Benedictines, was granted land in the forest south of Dijon, near Citeaux (Burgundy). The Latin place-name was Cistercium. The Cistercians chose as their habit undyed wool and were called the White monks or White nuns / ladies.


Perhaps the most famous Cistercian was St Bernard of Clairvaux, who was the first abbot of Clairvaux, and a great reformer of the Cistercians. It was he who helped formulate the Rule for the Order of the Temple (Knights Templar). After St Bernard, the Cistercians were popularly called the ‘Bernardines’.   In the 12th century there was a great expansion of the religious Orders throughout Europe; by 1153 there were 338 Cistercian Abbeys. Part of the Cistercian ethic was a return to a simpler or ‘purer’ form of the Rule of St Benedict. Their buildings reflected this new-found austerity, in that they were less ornate than other Orders, although it is believed they initiated, or at least influenced, the architectural form known as Gothic. As much emphasis was placed on manual labour as to their inner activities and in Britain they were renowned as sheep farmers. It was the Cistercians who developed the system of lay brothers and sisters but this declined in the 15th century. In France they are renowned for the development of the great vineyards, particularly in Burgundy.


The first foundation in England was Waverley Abbey in 1128, followed by Tintern Abbey founded in 1131 in the Wye Valley (Wales). The expansion of the Cistercians across Britain was remarkable and by the 13th century there were 86 Cistercian abbeys in Britain. Their enduring legacy can still be seen in the magnificent ruins, mainly in tranquil rural locations, usually close to a river. They were a great inspiration to artists, in particular J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Girtin, whose evocative paintings of the abbeys of Tintern, Fountains, Rievaulx and Melrose are timeless.


Cistercian Abbeys (Scotland)


The first Cistercian Abbey founded in Scotland was Melrose Abbeyby David I c1136. The heart of King Robert the Bruce is buried there, as well as being the resting place of Michael Scot the Wizard. In 1560, the list of Cistercian houses for monks included the abbeys of Balmerino, Beauly, Coupar Angus, Culross, Deer, Dundrennan, Glenluce, Kinloss, Melrose, Newbattle and Sweetheart.


Cistercian Nunneries


The Abbaye de Tart (Burgundy) is credited with being the first Cistercian nunnery, founded in 1123. The nuns were renowned for establishing the famous vineyard of Clos de Tart which today it is a leader in the world of wine. The first foundation in England was Handale Priory in North Yorkshire (1133). Kirklees Priory was founded before 1135. Legend has it that Robin Hood died and is buried there, and that he was allowed to bleed to death by the Prioress after letting his blood. There was a particular concentration of nunneries in North Yorkshire and Southern Scotland. In Spain, the earliest nunnery was the monastery of Tulebras, founded in 1149. Probably the most famous is the Royal foundation of the Spanish monastery Santa Maria La Real de Las Huelgas in Burgos (1187) which still functions as a nunnery. It was here that Edward I, as a young prince, was knighted and married Eleanor of Castile in 1254. Within its cloisters are many Royal Spanish tombs. It is estimated that there were over 900 nunneries in Europe at the height of the medieval period.


Cistercian Nunneries (Scotland)


In Scotland there were nine Cistercian nunneries: St Leonards of South Berwick (Berwick-upon-Tweed (c1140), North Berwick (c1150), Haddington (1178), Eccles (c1156), Coldstream (1165/66), St Bothan’s (c1200) and Abbey St Bathan’s, believed to have been founded by Ada, daughter of William the Lion and wife of the Earl of Dunbar. Then there was Elcho priory (before 1241), St Evoca (before 1423) and Manuel (Emmanuel) priory founded in 1156 by Malcolm IV for ‘ladies of rank’. These convents were still functioning towards the end of the 16th century with the exception of South Berwick and St Evoca.


King David I of Scotland founded the first Cistercian Nunnery in Scotland, the Priory of St Leonard’s at South Berwick (Berwick-upon-Tweed) sometime before 1153 and this was probably the mother house to many of the Scottish nunneries. The foundations of the St Leonard’s Priory church and other buildings around the cloister were discovered during excavations in Berwick in 2003 (Bondington Project) and numerous artefacts, including a Pilgrim badge, were found.


The wool from many of these Priories was shipped to Bruges in Flanders, later to Calais. Berwick-upon-Tweed, in the time of Alexander III, was the major Scottish wool exporter, with huge quantities passing through the port annually. There was a strong contingent of Flemish merchants based in Berwick. David II tried to have the wool port moved to Dunbar but this proved uneconomical as the Berwick wool-duty was set at a lower rate. The total sheep of the famous Fountains Abbey were said to number 18,000 sheep and, although the nunneries could not compete with the large Abbeys for monks, there is no doubt they had impressively large sheep flocks.


Earls of Dunbar and March, Founders and Patrons of the Abbeys


Cospatrick I, Earl of Northumberland, was a grandson of Malcolm II. He came to Scotland in exile after forfeiting his estates to William the Conqueror c1072. Malcolm Canmore conferred on him the lands of Dunbar and Lothian as well as land in the Merse and he is recognised by most historians as the first Earl of Lothian/Dunbar. He is buried in Norham Church (Ubbanford c1075). Cospatrick II, Earl of Dunbar, and his descendants were benefactors of Kelso Abbey and granted to the Abbey the churches of Greenlaw and Hume. Cospatrick III granted lands to May Priory, as well as pasture and arable land east of the Lammermuirs and also a salt pan to the monks of Melrose Abbey. He and his wife, the Countess Derder, founded the nunneries of Coldstream and Eccles. In later life he is believed, by some, to have ended his days as a monk at Durham but there is no mention of his name on the Monks Register. He died in 1166. Waldeve took over the earldom on his father’s death and he granted to the monks of Melrose common pasture in the Lammermuirs and bestowed on the Nuns of Coldstream the lands of Whitchester. He died in 1182.


Patrick I donated land to Dryburgh Abbey (c1205) and grants of land and sheep to Newbattle Abbey. Patrick II and his wife, Countess Euphemia, founded Blantyre Priory (c1240). The Earl died in 1248 at the siege of Damietta (Egypt) during the Crusades. PatrickIII founded the Carmelite monastery in Dunbar. At the Battle of Largs (1263), he commanded the left wing of the Scots Army, led by Alexander III, against the Norwegians. Patrick IV (Black Beard), Earl of Dunbar, first to use the title of the Earl of March, was one of the competitors for the Scottish Crown in 1291 and he was summoned by Edward I in 1294 to provide assistance for the war in Gascony. The Earl paid homage to Edward I at Wark Castle in 1296, and his lands in Northumberland were restored. He died in 1308. Patrick V, after the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), gave sanctuary to Edward II at Dunbar Castle. His second wife Agnes, 4th Countess of Moray is better known as’ Black Agnes’ of Dunbar.  In the absence of her husband, she put up a strong defence of Dunbar Castle during a nineteen week siege after which it was abandoned by the Earls of Salisbury and Arundel. George the first Earl of Dunbar fought on the English side at the battle of Homildon Hill, near Wooler. After the Battle of Otterburn (1388) he took command of the Scottish army. He later forfeited his estates and fled to England, was reinstated in 1409, but died of a fever in 1420. George the second Earl of Dunbar was the last of this family to hold the titles of Earl of Dunbar and March and he died sometime after 1457 in England.


Foundation of Coldstream Priory


Coldstream Priory was founded by Cospatrick III, Earl of Dunbar, and his wife Derder, in 1165/66. It was founded as a nunnery and remained so until its dissolution in 1621. In nearly all the charters, solely the Prioress and nuns are mentioned with the exception of late 13th century charters, which include a Master and brethren (lay brothers). Earl Cospatrick III and his wife Derder are believed to have founded Eccles Priory in 1156 and his estates extended over most of Berwickshire and beyond. The foundation was confirmed in a charter by Richard, Bishop of St Andrews, sometime after 1165, as he became Bishop in that year. Earl Cospatrick died in 1166 and was succeeded by his son Waldeve. Coldstream Priory church was dedicated to St Mary by David de Bernham in 1243 and is referred to in the early charters as ‘the church of St. Mary of Calstrem’.


In the foundation charter and a subsequent charter, the nuns are referred to as the sisters ofWitehou’ or ‘Whithaugh’ In the Gazeteer for Scotland (1882) it asserts that the nuns came from Whiston in England, but no religious house of this name has ever been found, and is an obvious mistranscription. Whithou seems to have been the place-name of the land or the haugh that the priory was built on, or overlooked. In a 17th century sasine, the eastern bound of a property in Coldstream called Saffron croft is described, ‘by east the water of Tweed from Querell holes to the Whithaugh foord”. This is in close proximity to the Priory and is probably an old name of Coldstream ford; the whithaugh was probably an earlier name of the Tweed Green. The suggestion that the Priory church and conventual buildings had not been built when the foundation charter was granted seems a reasonable one.  In most of the charters the nuns are called the ‘sisters, or the nuns of caldestrem.’ The first mention of Coldstream is in the third charter (c1170), by Earl Cospatrick’s son Waldeve, where he confirms his father’s grants to…  “ the Holy sisters of Caldstrem, I have conceded and by this present charter have granted to them witechestre (Whitchester) by its right bounds, and as much common in his pastures for their own work horses…”.


All the charters, including the foundation charter, are written in Latin, with ink on vellum and the capitals are illuminated in vermillion. Some charters have illuminated drawings of animals. The cartulary is bound and is part of the Harley Manuscript Collection (Harley MS. 6670) in the British Library. Although we are fortunate to havesixty of the early charters, they are in fact copies of the originals, made on 3rd April 1434 by the Notary, John Laurence, at the request of “Mariota, prioress of Caldstrem”. With her nuns, she had assembled in the chapter house with the charters and demanded that the originals should be faithfully copied, ”partly on account of their age, partly on account of the fear of the English, especially those dwelling nearest, and on account of the various transfers, there is a danger that the truth of the originals might perish”. Some original charters do exist with seals attached, for example in the Durham Cathedral Chapter archives and in the National Archives of Scotland. Charters of the abbey lands and fishings were still being issued up to 1621.


Priory Lands


Most of the early charters are gifts of land. Some refer to tofts and tenements, others are for grazing and mill rights. As one would expect, the majority of donations of land were close to the convent. Much of this land formed what was to become much later Lennel / Coldstream Parish. Other donations were further afield, with land in Bassendean, Gordon, Whitchester, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Bamburgh and others. It is interesting to note that many of the place names and field names mentioned in the early charters are still the same. A charter of the Northtoun of Lennel (c1274), which had been resigned by Lady Mariota Home, after the passing of her husband Patrick Edgar, was granted in favour of the nuns. Following the grants of Hirsel and Lennel Churches, the Priory held a charter of the Church of Bassendean and these appropriated churches remained in their possession until the dissolution.  Coldstream Priory had a charter of “Faw Law” and an adjacent meadow at Bassendean by Earl Patrick I (c1215).


The charters in the cartulary are numbered and charters three to six are grants of the lands of scaithmor (Skaithmuir), by Earl Patrick to the nuns in perpetual alms. These had previously been held by Norman, son of Norman, and had been given in dower to his wife, Amabilis. Other charters are mainly confirmation of the land transfer. By the end of the 12th century, the same Earl confirmed by charter a toft and a meadow at Bassendean. In Thornydykes (c1220) the nuns were granted four acres and an adjacent four acres called “Lene” and a further charter of land in Thornydykes by Thomas of Rauchburn of a pasture called ”Cammesmedu”. The charters of William son of Patrick of Hirsel are interesting as they throw light on the extent of their farming activities at Thornydykes. The grant to the convent includes ’the whole common grazing of Thornidicke, for forty mares and their foals, until the foals reach the age of three years, and for eighty oxen, eighty swine and for two hundred ewes, and they shall have the common grazing of Gordon. In a later charter, the animal allowance had been increased by the grantor, Thomas of Gordon, to three hundred ewes and one hundred oxen. In addition the nuns had permission to grind their corn at his mill.


In a mid 13th century charter by Patrick II, Earl of Dunbar, there are grants of land in Hirsel ‘near the water of leet , south of the bridge, given freely to the church of St Mary of Coldstream and the nuns’. His son, Patrick III, added to the Priory’s holdings with a grant of land at Ald Hirsel (c1250), formerly held by Thomas, knight of Derechester (Darnchester) who ‘quitclaimed’ the land in favour of the Earl. This was augmented with a charter of land in the territory of Hirsel by William, son of Earl Patrick, called Rondes, and a meadow called Bradespotes. In a later charter, probably by the same William, other Hirsel lands were donated to the nuns eg Caldstreflat, Spechenes, and Thotherig (Todrig).  A further charter of Putanyshalwe (haugh land near the Hirsel east of Leet water) was granted to the nuns as well as twelve acres near his landcalled Huysheuigh. Walter theChaplain, of the same family, gave one acre of land near the road called cakewellegat in the vill of Derchester and one and a half acres at Coceflatte. This is probably ‘Cocked Hat’, a field name that survives at Hatchednize.


In a later charter by Walter the Chaplain, the priory was granted grazing rights at Darnchester. Further Darnchester land was endowed by Richard, son of Hugh the cook of Derchester who feued to the Priory a toft with a rood of land adjacent, for a yearly rental of one pound of cumin, or three halfpennies. This was to be paid annually at the fair of Roxburgh and from Alan, son of Thomas and Helen, land was granted from their croft and 3 acres in Spitilflat in Darnchester. Apart from the Priory’s main benefactors, the Earls of Dunbar, there were many other donors. One charter records Ranulph de Haulton, where he grants seven acres of land in the territory of Lennel, near ‘Auctaslau’ (c1200) to the priory (probably Halkslaw but some historians believe it to be Anton’s Hill). This was ‘before the conversion of his daughter Matilda” and, as noted by the Rev. Rogers in his Chartulary of Coldstream Priory, she had probably entered the convent.


In Berwick-upon-Tweed, the Priory had an annual rent of 20s granted tothem from land in Uddingate by William the Boatman, a burgess of Berwick. The Mayor of Berwick, Sir Mathew of Grenelau is one of the witnesses. There is also a charter of the same period of land in ”corsgate” (crossgate) for a payment to the King yearly of six pennies and similarly a donation yearly of 20 shillings from rented land in Soutergate, in a charter by John of Dunbar, burgess of Berwick and witnessed by Robert de Bernham, Mayor of Berwick. All the Berwick charters are 13th century.  The priory also had mill rights over the border in Sepley (Shipley) which were granted by Ysouda, daughter of Widonis the glassmaker in Alnwick. Another Northumberland charter is interesting, as it refers to the grantor’s daughter. Her name was Johanna, who was a nun at Coldstream:


John of Plessey to the nuns of Caldstreme , in free pure and perfect alms; 40s of annual rent of his mill of Plesset (Plessey), to be uplifted there by their certain attorney from the granter and his heirs and his assignees annually at two terms, viz.:20s at the  Annunciation of the Blessed Mary, and 20s. at the Nativity of the Blessed Mary. But the granter has assigned John of Plesset for the safety of his soul and rent specially for the dress of his daughter Johanna, who is a nun there, as long as she lives, and after her deceasit may remain for the use of the said house forever. And should it happen at any term that the payment of the rent is not fully made, then the granter and his heirs shall answer for expenses incurred in recovering it, as these shall be established on the simple word of the masterof the house or the prioress.” LordAdam,Abbot of Newminster is one of the witnesses.


A field in Bamburgh near the hospital of St Mary Magdalene had been granted to the nuns of Coldstream in a late 12th century charter, by Thomas of Warenham, from which they received an annual rent of 2s. The land was declared forfeit in 1386 by Richard II and given to ‘John of Creswelle, for a white greyhound yearly’.


There are two books for those wishing to study the early charters in detail. Both are rare but some libraries do hold them. The Historic Memorials of Coldstream Abbey, by a Delver in Antiquity, published anonymously in 1850, is believed to have been written by William Watson of Coldstream, and ‘The Chartulary of the Cistercian Priory of Coldstream’ 1879, edited by the Rev. Charles Rogers for the Grampian Club.



 A transcript of part of the charter of King Alexander III  confirming the lands of Lennel donated by Patrick Earl of Dunbar:                                                                    

Confirmation of King Alexander  to the Monastery of  Caldstrem of  the Lands of Laynall


Alexander,  by the grace of God ,Kings of Scots, to all honourable men in the whole realm, wishes salvation. Know ye that I have conceded, and by this my present charter have confirmed, that donation which Patrick,   Earl of Dunbar, granted to God, and the church of the Holy Mary of Caldstrem and the sisters and their assistants serving God there, the whole lands of  Laynall viz : the Suthtun of Laynall (Southtown )of Laynall.with the pertinents held and possessed by the same Sisters from the said Earl and his heirs, with all the liberties, properties, and pertinents etc. among the witnesses : Hugo de Berkeley, justicar Laudonie (Lothian) , Alexandro de Baliol de Caveres etc  12.6.1270



There are two charters to the nuns both of Little Swinton, one by John Swinton of Swinton, done at Dunbar 11.6.1424, the other by the Prior of Coldingham, William Drax on 22.7.1426.   Most of the later charters were issued in the 16th century, when many of the priory lands were being feued out increasingly to tenants. Some charters were given in the form of remuneration for assistance, when the monastery needed to raise capital after the various conflicts.


A dispute over fishing rights on the River Tweed arose in 1553, between Sir John Selby of Twizell and Alexander Hume of Manderson. Selby claimed the fishing at Tillmouth haugh, but it was judged to be a ‘Scots fishing owned by the Prioress of Coldstream, and leased out to Alexander Hume and that the Lord of the Manor of Twizell had only the right to use a ring-net and stand in a place called Fillispotte, upon the south side of the river.’    


In 1559 Dame Jonet Hoppringle gave in feu–ferme, by charter to James Hoppringle of Langmuir, for the payment of 18 merks yearly, the lands of Leyes (Lees), Braidhauch and others. This was witnessed by Isabell Rutherford sub-prioress, Marion Rutherford, Margaret Logan and Joneta Kinghorn. James Hoppringle, probably a relative of the Prioress, had a charter of the Mains of Coldstream and the mill, which had been destroyed by the English, ‘with licence to rebuild it’. Sir Alexander Home of Huttonhall received the teindsheaves of Lennel for life (c1578) from the Prioress of Coldstream, and the lands of ‘Wylliecleuch’ and ‘Todrighill’, for the sum of £58.10s annually.


In 1579 the Prioress Elizabeth Hoppringle and convent granted three charters, one to Sir Alexander Home of Huttonhall of 16 hubandlands of Skaithmuir and the dominical lands. A second charter grants to Alexander Home of Manderston the lands of Snuke and Simprim, and a final charter to John Ker, son of Walter Ker of Littledean grants the lands of Auld Hirsel and other lands, near the water of Leet, plus the Lees, Braidhauch, Deadrig, Fireburn and Coldstream Mills which had been destroyed by the English, with a permission to rebuild. The charter is undersigned:


‘We, Dame Elizabeth  Hoppringill  priores of Cauldstreame, Helen Riddell, Jonet Shaw, and Jonet Kinghorn, conventual sisters of the said abbacy, with our hands led on the pen by Maister Johne Crawmonth, Tho. Aitkin, at our command, because we cannot write ourselves….,’(1583).


 These were probably the last charters to be issued by the last prioress of Coldstream.


In a charter of May 1601, Sir John Ker of Hirsel held the lands of Braidhauch and Lees in feu-farm from the Crown, originally from the Priory.


Daily Duties


The Cistecians like most monastic Orders had their own Rules which seem to us today to be very rigid and austere, but in fact kept harmony with the Seasons and the movements of the Sun and Saints Days. The Rules for Masses and prayers were called The Divine Hours, of which there were seven, and these offices began in the early hours at sunrise with Matins and Lauds. During the day a further six other offices were celebrated - Prime at 6am, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers was at sunset and Compline before retiring.  An eighth office was held during the night called Vigils, also called Nocturns. It was the duty of the Sacrist to make sure the timetable was adhered to by sounding a bell for the nuns to assemble in choir. The Prioress was the superior in a Priory with many of the Prioresses coming from noble families and the office was usually, but not invariably, hereditary.


It was usual in most nunneries to have the following offices:


  • ·       Prioress : which was usually for life, after being elected by the Nuns in the Chapter-house. 
  • ·       Sub-Prioress : appointed by the Prioress; took over the duties of the Prioress in her absence.
  • ·       Cellaress : an important office as she looked after the upkeep of the house, food, repairs etc., and supervised the running of the home-farm and hired the servants.
  • ·       Treasuress : in charge of the finances and accounts.
  • ·       Sacrist : looked after the books and vestments.
  • ·       Chambress : in charge of the nuns clothing.
  • ·       Chantress : in charge of the church services.
  • ·       Almoness : supervised the giving of alms.
  • ·       Fratress : in charge of the Refectory (Dining Hall).
  • ·       Infirmress : looked after the sick. 
  • ·       Novice Mistress : guided and supervised the ‘newcomers’, who were called Postulants. The intending nun went through a Novitiate, which was about a year but it could be much longer. It is possible in the Priory of Coldstream, that some of the duties were doubled up, as sometimes happened in smaller monasteries. The earliest age a girl could become a nun was laid down by the General Chapter and varied between 15 and 18 years of age.




The habit of a Cistercian nun was a white tunic, with a black scapular, a white coif and wimple with a black veil. The novices wore a white scapular over a white tunic and a white veil. The sleeves of the tunic in medieval times were much wider.


Priory Site


Coldstream Priory was in the Diocese of St Andrews, the Archdeaconry of Lothian, and the Deanery of the Merse, as well as being within the Earldom of Dunbar and Sherrifdom of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Nothing remains of the monastery, with the exception of some fragments in Coldstream Museum and indications on town plans and old maps. There are also street names and signs, from which one can assume that a religious house was in the vicinity. Examples include Abbey Road (formerly Abbey Lane), Nun’s Walk, Penitents Walk and Ladiesfield but whether these names are original, or are Victorian names, is unclear. However, it is documented that after the priory was secularised in 1621, it was in use as a quarry after its owner, Sir John Hamilton, had ‘allowed it to become dilapidated,’ the foundations of the Priory are probably still in situ.


Various 19th century Ordinance Survey maps indicate the Priory was near the Marjoribanks burial aisle, and is marked on the 1864 plan of Coldstream, with a cross and designated ‘St Mary’s Abbey Chapel’.  Abbey House and its grounds are without doubt in the grounds of the old Priory, overlooking what is now the Tweed Green at the mouth of Leet water. Many so-called histories of abbeys and religious houses concentrate, sometimes tediously, on the buildings and architecture, with little emphasis on the people who lived there. Here in Coldstream we have little choice as there are no buildings, but this may be to our advantage.


We are extremely lucky to have in the National Archives of Scotland, (West Register House, Edinburgh) an original Sketch plan of properties in Coldstream near St Mary’s Abbey (see illustration). According to Berwick historian Francis Cowe original plans of Abbeys are rare enough, but in the case of nunneries, they are extremely rare. Where these are extant, they mainly show the claustral buildings, the original is on vellum and has a fine watermark of a ewer on the reverse. Part of the description of the map has been destroyed but appears to be: ‘The Lordship of Coldstream Abbey of St. Mary’s’. The plan is dated 1589 and was drawn up in a legal action between the Commendator of Coldstream Priory, Prior Mark Ker and Sir Alexander Hume of Huttonhall and others. According to the plan and the accompanying documents the disputed land was, ‘the orchard called the croft.’


The sketch plan clearly shows the cloister, in typical Cistercian fashion, the Abbey church (kyrke) to the north with a south facing cloister, on the east of the cloister was the chapter house, and on the west side of the cloister, the main building which probably housed the Prioress, and that on the south, the Refectory.  The grave yard of the nunnery was to the east of the Chapter house and on the north side of the Church.


To the west of the claustral buildings, but still within the walled precincts was the Court, described on the plan as ‘the Close’; entry into this was through the Abbey gate. Surrounding the court were a number of buildings, no doubt the Guest house and the Gatehouse being the most important. Although these buildings are not named on the plan, it can be assumed that it would be similar to other monasteries of this type.  The buildings around the Close probably included kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse, malt-kiln, laundry, stables with various yards and work-places.


West of the Close, but adjoining it, was the Priory garden which, according to the 1589 plan, ran parallel to Leet water, and it would appear, that most of the present gardens of Leet Street are on the ground of the old Priory garden. The garden was enclosed by a wall and entry was probably through a gate adjoining the Close. The high east wall bounding the property of the old Crown Hotel, parts of which are very old, may be part of the original wall that divided the Abbey close from the garden. In 1948 two carved capitals (cornices of a pillar or column) were discovered in the garden of the Crown Hotel, and are now in Coldstream museum.  Some fragments of a paved pathway, described as a ‘cloister walk’, were also found a few feet below the surface. It seems unlikely that this was the cloister walk, as the inner cloister was approximately 50 metres further to the east.


The Orchard, despite it being called ‘little croft’ and ‘little orchard’, seems to have been a very large orchard and according to the 1589 map, it is referred to as the Auld Orcheard in the legal documents of the case. The Cistercians, or at least their lay brothers, were renowned for farming, and were expert gardeners, and it is little wonder that they chose this site for their orchard as it is sloping, and south facing. Its location was from the present Rosybank overlooking the bend of the River Tweed, past and including Henderson Park and at least as far as Saffron House. In the 17th century the orchard was called the Pomariam.


Dr James Hardy,’the eminent Berwickshire naturalist’, visited William Cunningham’s orchard (Rosybank), this orchard is now in the grounds of Tweed Villa. Hardy produced an interesting paper for the Berwickshire Naturalists’ History (1876): Notice of the Orchard of Coldstream Priory, and the Origin of the Auchan Pear. The extent of the Orchard was recorded by Mr Hardy as being two acres and ‘the Pears which it contains are the Bergamot, the Drummond, the Auchan, the Lammas, Jargonelle, Hessel, Green Pear of Yair, Bell-tongue etc. The Apples consist of Queen of England Codlin, Paradise-pippin, Strawberry-pippin, Thorle-pippin, Lemon-pippin, Red Astrachan, Hawthornden, and one or two other varieties.’ In 1296 the Priory received an annual income of 100s from the orchard.


The outcome of the disputed orchard is unclear. There are, however, many un-translated Latin documents relating to the case in the National Archives of Scotland. Sir Alexander Home had a charter from the prioress of the orchard seemingly for providing funds for the reparation of the monastery, after it was badly burned during Hertford’s invasion. The orchard was part of the Priory lands at the Dissolution of the Priory in 1621.


Every monastery had one or more granges or home-farms for their own use and for the community they served. The Maines of Coldstream was probably one of their home farms as it is called the demesne or dominical land in the charters.


The area on the 1589 plan depicted as the Barne yarde lay to the north of the Abbey gate, and this small grange provided for the nunnery and the town nearby; it was surrounded by the Barne yarde dyke. Within the Barne yarde was a large Barn for the storage of grain, also a Byre and a Doucot (dovecote). The dovecote can be more precisely placed, as it was mentioned in a Kirk session record of 1765 stating that it was the property of the Earl of Haddington and was near the Parish church, within the graveyard.


The causeway (causey) is marked on the plan and approached the monastery from the north where it entered at the Abbay Yet (gate). It is useful to note that a pack horse bridge was discovered in 1868 by Rev. Peter Mearns, stating that it had been discovered in the garden of James Briggs of Duke Street when he was making a new saw pit in his garden. According to the Royal Commision for Ancient and Historical Monuments, Scotland, the location of the bridge was in Nesby Place (Duke Street). The Rev. Mearns states that the bridge was in a direct line with the Abbey and the ford over the Leet, he goes on to say that old people in the town could remember water running in that direction. It is well known that medieval monasteries had elaborate water systems. Water was diverted from the Leet water by way of a mill lade to Coldstream mill and the intake for this lade can still be seen downstream from a caul over the Leet a short distance south of the Hirsel House. The priory water system may well have been connected to this lade.


Of the old road systems that existed in the area we cannot be certain, but the causey previously noted approached the Priory from the North. This road was the Duns / Dunbar road which continued in a northerly direction. In a 16th century document, it describes a road leading from Coldstream, called the Dunbar gait which joined the Salterpeth gait at the north east corner of the Hirsel and went on to Dunbar via Duns and Oldhamstocks. Many of the Border abbeys would have used the Salterpeth to transport their salt from the saltpans on the East coast, originally from the coast near Berwick, and later probably from Dunbar or Prestonpans. The Charterpath bridge over the Leet may be a corruption of Salterpeth. Other roads or tracks were connected to the nunneries of Eccles and Abbey St Bathans.


Historical Events


Apart from the chartulary, the early history of Coldstream Priory is sparse. The first nun to be mentioned by name was Joanna, daughter of Sir John de Plessey (he became the Earl of Warwick), who granted to the sisters of Coldstream in perpetuity 40 shillings yearly from the rent of his Mill of Plesset, on the river Blyth, Northumberland c1250. This grant was specifically to be used for the upkeep of clothes for ‘my daughter Joanna, who is a nun at Coldstream for as long as she lives, thereafter for the benefit of the house’. A charter (c1255) from Mary, the Prioress of Coldstream, grants land in Berwick-upon-Tweed to Roger, son of Martin. She is the first Prioress to be referred to by name. Nearly all the early charters deal with donations to the Priory, this is the first recorded charter of land / tenement grants by a Coldstream Prioress.


There was a dispute over lands in Lennel in 1272, prompting the prioress to appeal to Pope Gregory X, who later issued a Bull, in the nuns’ favour, confirming their rights. The English /Scottish border at Coldstream is generally mid-stream on the River Tweed and with the Priory being 100 metres from the frontier meant that it was in a vulnerable position. The Abbey lands were dominated by two English castles, Cornhill Castle which was downstream and nearly opposite the old Lennel ford, and Wark Castle which was upstream, opposite the western limits of the priory lands at Fireburnmill. Wark Castle was strongly defended, which was to become problematic for the convent.  In 1249 Border laws were drawn up by English and Scottish Commissioners, ‘for the better preservation of Peace and Commerce upon the Marches of both Kingdoms’.


Coldstream priory became one of the favoured meeting places of the Wardens of the East March. The ford over the Tweed, just downstream from Leet Point, is still fordable when the river is low. It was one of the main invasion routes used by opposing armies and reivers alike.  According to a 1542 survey by the English Commissioner Sir Robert Bowes, there were numerous fords over the Tweed between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Redden-Burn. He names the fords going ‘onto the fields of Coldstreme’ :  Gradenford, the Rutherford, Chapellford, Randall ford, the Milne ford, Swape ford, Clayclott ford, Hexham ford, Fireburn milne ford and St Gilly ford. These fords were watched nightly, the ‘watchers and setters’ being provided by the villages and townships.


Damage to the Priory by Edward I of England, 1296


Edward I, prior to the sacking of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and according to his itinerary on ‘28th of March, King Edward passed the River Tweed with 5000 armed horse, and 30,000 footmen, and lay that night in Scotland at Coldstream Priory’. The Tweed was swollen, one boy fell from his horse and was drowned. We learn from the document which was drawn up by the King’s Treasurer, Sir Hugh Cressingham, that there was extensive damage to the house of Coldestrem, destruction of houses within the Priory court and outside, the orchard suffered particularly, it was left to the King’s council to decide the estimate, ‘as the orchard of Caldestrem used to be worth yearly in common years 100s’. This was not wilful damage, according to the tone of the document and seems to have been prearranged with the Prior, Patrick the Earl of Dunbar, who with the leading Scottish nobles, including Robert Bruce the future King of Scotland, paid fealty to Edward I at Wark on the 25th March.


The King’s Treasurer probably arranged with the Prioress and the Master of Coldstream that the Priory would be reimbursed. The King’s army had to be fed, and Cressingham had the task later of making good the claim, which was witnessed by Walter, the Master of Coldstream, and six lay brothers. The total claim was considerable, with each item valued down to the last quarter of grain. The total for wheat, rye, barley, malt and oats and for the amount of beasts totalled £62.15s. and included ‘of ewes, four hundred and fourscore and seventeen, with as many lambs, price of each sheep with the lamb,8d.; and 100 sheep, price of each sheep 8d.; of eleven score hoggs, price of each 6d.; and of oxen and cows seven score and nine, price of each 3s. The treasurer Sir Hugh de Cressingham instructed the sherrif to deliver 700 sheep to the priory from the county of Athole.


In the list of those who paid fealty to Edward I (called the Ragman Rolls, 1296), Walter de Morton’s name appears as Master of Coldstream.


Wars of Independence


During the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Priory was under the Protection of the English crown. Sir William Wallace conducted raids into southern Scotland and north Northumbria and in 1297 he burned the village of Carham, destroying its monastery and encamped on Carham Moor. The field name still exists as Wallace’s Croft.  Blind Harry the Minstrel in his ballad ‘William Wallace’ describes how Wallace had set a trap for the Earl of Dunbar at ‘Calstreym and waited for Earl Patrick to come from Norham Castle’, but the Earl evaded the ambush. There is near the Anney (or anna) at Lees Haugh, a deep pool in the Tweed called Wallace Hole and two fields at Hatchetnize are called Wallace’s Crooks:-


…….to Norham passed he.

To Colstreym rode, and camped near Tweed,

Then Earl Patrick made great haste and speed……….


O’er Patrick’s lands, Wallace he marched fast

Took out the goods, and castles down did cast.

He twelve of them, that Mathamis they call,

Broke quickly down, and them destroyed all.

Within the Merse and Lothian left he none,….


To Bamburgh came the Scottish army then,

Which did consist of sixty thousand men.

To Carrum moor, came all in good array……...


. From Sir William Wallace by  Blind Harry (c1477)


Just south at Fireburnmill is Beacon Ridge, which was part of an elaborate system of beacons along the Border within sight of the next beacon, to be set alight when invasion threatened. In 1310, because of the imminent hostilities, Beatrix de Hodesack, an English nun formerly at  Coldstream, had left the priory, and was found to have taken up residence in a house of Anchorites near Doncaster. The Archbishop of York wrote to the Bishop of St Andrews (1315), asking him to enquire into the matter and according to the correspondence, she was allowed to stay as Coldstream Priory had been sacked by the Scots in 1310 and the nuns had dispersed.


On St Valentine’s Day 1316, on Priory lands at Skaithmuir, there was a fierce skirmish, (Battle of Skaithmuir). An English raiding party, returning to Berwick-upon-Tweed, led by Edmund de Caillau and a party of Gascons were intercepted by the Warden of the Scottish West March. Sir James Douglas (the Good or Black Douglas) completely routed de Caillau and personally killed him, with over fifty of his force either killed or taken prisoner. Notwithstanding the part he played at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), Douglas is said to have remarked that Skaithmuir was the hardest fight that he had been in. One of the fields of Skaithmuir, is called the Greystone field and in the past, there may have been a stone memorial to the battle. The encounter is depicted in Blind Harry’s Wallace c1477.


Coldstream Priory had letters of protection granted by Edward III on 25 July 1333. The Priory was granted special protection from both English and Scottish monarchs - Edward I in 1296, Alexander III in 1263 and Henry VIII.


In 1419 Marion/Mariota de Blackburn became Prioress and a dated and sealed indenture (1 October 1419) is preserved in the archives of Durham Cathedral. The indenture is between John, the prior of Durham Cathedral, and the prioress Marion and convent, in relation to the annual rents of Litill Swynton. The second part of the indenture of the same year is by Sir John Swinton, who granted the nuns the lands of Little Swinton and the charter is signed: AT CALDSTREM (The Priory Seal in the illustration, is attached to this document). Very little is known about Dame Marion, however there is a record of her instructions to the Notary in 1434 to make a copy of all the Priory charters, in the form of a cartulary, or charter book. The cartulary is preserved in the British Library. In this same year (1434), Margaret de Newton became prioress, but it is unclear if Dame Marion had resigned her office or had passed away.


In 1464 the convent was involved in various disputes concerning their lands. One such dispute was over their lands at Whitchester, the result of the hearing was that David Marescall quitclaimed the lands, and the nuns were adjudged the rightful owners. Two nuns are mentioned in the charter, Dame Marion of Kerketal, probably the sub-prioress, and Marjory of Kynghorne. A similar dispute was over lands in Simprim which had been given to them by Walter of Fentoun but in 1472 King James III confirmed the grant of Simprim to the nuns. A three year truce between England and Scotland was concluded at Coldstream, probably in the Chapter house in 1489, and a similar truce was agreed in 1492.


Hoppringle Prioresses


Margaret Hoppringle is the first recorded Hoppringle to become prioress. Her name appears on a charter of 24 June 1489 by John Liddale of Lanellgranting thenuns a carucate of his land in Lennel. The Hoppringle nuns were to play a large part in the unfolding history of Coldstream Priory and no less than five were elected to the office of Prioress. Tracing the family history of Margaret is difficult, but we learn from ‘The Records of the Pringles’ by Alexander Pringle that they were from the noble family of the Hoppringles of that Ilk (later of Torsonce).


Letters of protection were issued by Henry VII in 1489-90 to the Wardens of the English Marches to inform them that royal protection and safeguard had been granted to the Prioress and convent of ‘the Abbey of Caldestreme, and that a servant or two with their attendants may venture into England to buy lead, wax’ etc.


Isabella Hoppringle, the niece of Margaret Hoppringle, was elected to the office of Prioress by her sister nuns, who had convened in chapter on 10 June 1505. She was unanimously elected and was the fourth child of Adam Hoppringle of that Ilk (later of Torsonce), who had been a Royal Guard of King James III. There was relative peace at this time as in 1503, James IV had married Margaret Tudor who was the sister of Henry VIII.


In May 1509, the prioress was given a special licence from James IV, ‘to intercommoun with Englishmen in the buying and selling of vitallis, sheep, horses, cattle and other lawful goods ….. and also with the power and licence to the said prioress and convent, to assure Englishmen to the number of twelve persons….to come as oft as need be to the said placeof Caldstrem.’


However, things were to change in the summer of 1513. Following an incursion across the Border by the Scottish Chamberlain (Lord Home, Warden of the Scottish east march), his Borderers fared badly and, returning with a large drove of cattle, they were ambushed by Sir William Bulmer’s bowmen hidden amongst the broom at Broomhouse, near Milfield Plain. The road travelled on that day by Home’s borderers was long referred to by the Scots as the ‘Ill Rode’ or the ‘Devil’s Rode’.


Various payments from the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer are interesting:


1512 - Item for bridilsilver of ane hors geven by the Priores of Caldstreme to the King.


1513  February - Item the XI day of februar, to ane servand of the priores of Coldstreame that brocht wild foulis to the Kyng and capons,……..5s.


1513 - Item: the 5th cannone with 36 oxin of the kingis and Provest of Coldstremys : total payment of 6li.6s.




The large number of oxen required to draw the heavy cannon of James IV’s army from Edinburgh to the Border was a monumental task. The Lord High Treasurer’s Accounts for August, which refer to expenses and wages, include an item referring to the Provost of Coldstream. Unfortunately no other records of a Provost have come to light.


King James IV, at the head of his large army, crossed the river Tweed near the Nunnery of Coldstream on the 22 August 1513. Prioress Isabella Hoppringle, her nuns and servants would have witnessed the spectacle of the horses splashing across Coldstream ford and the Milne ford, (opposite Cornhill mill), knowing that their own kinsmen were among the horse and foot soldiers.  This was the prelude to the Battle of Flodden, which took place a little over three miles from the Priory, as the crow flies. Before the battle it is said the Prioress reproached George Home for leaving the field; he was the eldest of the Seven Spears of Wedderburn, and had been persuaded by his brothers to leave as he was son and heir. The Prioress succeeded in persuading George Home to rejoin his kin. Later during the fierce fighting on Branxton Moor, he and his father Sir David Home were killed.


Robert Chambers in his Picture of Scotland 1827 records the discovery of remains in Coldstream connected with the battle. ‘In a slip of waste ground between the garden and the river, many bones and a stone coffin were dug up some years ago; the bones of the former supposed to be the most distinguished of the warriors that fought at Flodden; for there is a tradition that the Abbess sent vehicles to that fatal field ,and brought away many of the better orders of the slain, whom she interred here.


Captain McLaren, of the Berwickshire Militia, in 1860 stated that he was present when the coffin was found by workmen who were making a road for the convenience of the residents. Captain McLaren lived in a house overlooking Tweed Green. After his father died he moved to Hope Park taking with him the coffin, which is still there, built into the eastern gable of a former stable. In the same letter he also described a further discovery of bones some 10 years later in 1834, when workmen were digging a pit for the Gasometer. A report by McLaren was published in the 1834 November issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine entitled: The Relics of Flodden: ……‘on a spot said to have been formerly part of the burying ground of the Priory of Cistercian nuns, immediately below the surface discovered a great number of human skeletons, which seemed to have been buried in the greatest confusion…….at the bottom of the trench the blade of a knife, seven inches in length, was found.’


Queen Margaret Tudor/ Dame Isabella Hoppringle.


Two years after Flodden, Margaret Tudor, the Queen Mother to the infant James V, and sister to Henry VIII, was fleeing from the regent, the Duke of Albany. She was forced to leave Blackadder Castle and after being refused entry to Berwick, she proceeded to Coldstream Priory. There she awaited permission from the Warden, Lord Dacre, to enter England. Margaret Tudor was pregnant and unwell at the time and Coldstream Priory would have been a welcome sanctuary, not least because it had letters of protection from Henry VIII.  Nevertheless the Queen Mother wrote to Lord Dacre asking for his assurance that he would do no harm to the Priory. Dacre replied, saying he would observe her commandments as long as the prioress and her house were not supporting any that would harm the king ‘ner keeping ner receiving into hir hous any Scottishemen of war’.


A further protection was issued by Henry VIII on 1st July 1515 stating ‘for as much as we be credibly informed that the priory of Caldstreme, in Scotland, lying upon the borders towards our said marches, is often seasons in time of war invaded and dispoile by our subjects….. and by these presents take the said prioress and religious women, their place, lands, towns, goods and cattle, with all their servants and tenants dwelling in their proper lands and farm holds…..into our special protection …..’


 During her stay at the priory, Margaret Tudor received visits from Lady Home, the Chamberlain’s mother, who attended her in her sickness. The Frenchman, Sir Anthony Darcy, (Antoine Darcie de la Bastie), the Scottish warden of the East march, was informed and on the orders of the Duke of Albany, abducted Lady Home - ‘put her on a trotting horse to her extreme peril and pain’, escorted her to Dunbar, where she was imprisoned in the castle for six weeks. Prior to Darcy’s arrival, and after staying sixteen days at the priory, Margaret Tudor was able to escape across the river Tweed into England, aided by Lord Home. There she was escorted to Harbottle Castle by the English warden Lord Dacre. Margaret Tudor returned to Scotland in 1517.


In the spring of 1523, on hearing that the Earl of Surrey was coming to the borders and had threatened to burn the priory, the Queen Mother again requested protection for the priory,  pleading in a letter to the earl :‘ther is ane gud frend and servand of myn quilk I behaldyn to do for…..and is prioress of ane puir abbay of sestis callyt Caldstreme, and it is aperand to be gret trubile on baythe ye sides, and is nearest to  ye scaythe and that place has beine triblyt divers timis of before, quarfar I pray….for my saik that she and ye said place may be untriblyt’.  The Marquis of Dorset, who was warden of the English East March, wrote to Henry VIII regarding the request, saying the Queen Mother : ‘her grace reported that the Prioress had been very goode and kind to her…..another cause which moved us sooner to assure the sayd house was by cause the prioresse there is one of the best and assured spyes that we have in Scotland…’. There is no doubt that Prioress Isabella Hoppringle was passing on information across the border. She had reputedly travelled north for eight days visiting Dunbarton, Glasgow and Stirling, gathering details of military preparations and troop numbers and these she duly passed on to Sir William Bulmer the commander of the English eastern borders.


Not only was the information of vital importance to the English, it seems the prioress was passing on information about the Scottish Court, including the character of Margaret Tudor. Indeed it is on record that largely because of Prioress Hoppringle’s letters, historians have used these as an assessment (rightly or wrongly) of her character. One extract from a letter to Bulmer: ‘she is right fickle….therfor Councel the man ye know, (Surrey) not to take on hand overmuch of her credence…’, was passed on to the Earl of Surrey in October 1523. In November of that year, the Duke of Albany besieged Wark Castle. His camp was directly opposite, at Fireburnmill, and earlier in the year he said he intended to put out the nuns of Coldstream, and place soldiers there.


He failed to take the castle, however, and suffered considerable losses, largely from the French contingent. The imminent arrival of the Earl of Surrey forced him to retire to Eccles nunnery. Surrey sent a message to Henry VIII: ‘the Prioris of Coldstream sends me word that the borderers had assured the Duke that  I was coming with an army, and that he had left the Abbey of Eccles and had quite departed - begs to be discharged for the winter - complaynes of ill health’. Due to a sudden snowstorm both armies dispersed. Dame Isabella arranged to meet the Garrison commander of Norham Castle, Sir John Bulmer, at Graden ford (near Tweedmill). She kept him waiting for two hours saying she ‘durst not come forth of her doors…she had such affray of her neighbours of Wark’ and for Bulmer to take word to his cousin, Sir William Lisle. But the real reason for the meeting was to report that a servant of hers had arrived from Edinburgh with the news that the Scottish Parliament was in favour of a marriage ‘betwyx the king of Scottis and the Fransh Kyngis dowter’ and to let no-one know this, for if this were known in Scotland she would be ‘undoyn for ever’. In a letter, January 24th 1525, from Dr Magnus to Cardinal Wolsey, she is described as a ‘spy in the pay of England.’


Notwithstanding the loyalties of the Prioress, she was presented with lands by King James V, confirmed by Royal Charter, 6 September 1528:


‘....considering the prioress and convent of Coldstream show great

Hospitality and are ever ready to receive and entertain the ambassadors of England and other countries…in aid of their great costs, with the consent of his dearest mother, the queen, liferentrix of the undermentioned land and of the enroller of his accounts, grants in feu farm to Dame Isabella Hoppringil, prioress and the convent, and her successors, the lands of Hirsill, and the third part of the lands of Gradane, with its fishing near the said monastery,….also

Building and maintaining a sufficient mansion on the lands, with a hall ,chamber, kitchen, barn, cow-house, pigeon-house….’                                          


The grants by the King did not seem to discourage the Prioress and in a letter to Cromwell from Norfolk (Aug 1537), the King of Scots movements are disclosed. Cromwell said, ‘the news came from the Prioress of Coldstream, whose name must be kept secret.’


An extract from the Accounts of the High Treasurer (Scotland) records:

Item: To Wille Duncane, to pas with diligence at the pois all the nytht with secret writings of the lordis to the  priores  of Cauldestreme; 17s


from the Pursemasters Accounts:

Item: 14th day November in Kelso gevin to ane servand of the lady Cauldstryms that brocht bakin salmont to the kingis grace; 22s.


Dame Isabella Hoppringle died on January 26th 1537/8 after being Prioress for nearly thirty two years. Her death was recorded in the election charter of her successor, Dame Jonet Hoppringle. The Nuns assembled in the Chapter House at the sound of a bell on the 13th February and, after the necessary ritual, they unanimously elected Dame Jonet Hoppringle as Prioress. The other nuns present were Dame Isabella Rutherford sub-prioress, Katherine Fleming, Joneta Brown, Mariota Rutherford, Joneta Kinghorn, Elizabeth Hoppringle, Christina Todrig, Kathrine French, Joneta Shaw, and Helen Riddle. Robert Hoppringle, Archibald and James Hoppringle were among the witnesses, and so it was according to the charter ‘that Isabella, the late prioress of honoured memory, formerly prioress of the said monastery had on the 26th January previous, as it pleased God, gone the way of all flesh and her body reverently buried.’


By the end of the year Henry VIII was excommunicated by the Pope, who issued his Bull in January 1538. It was to be published in Dieppe or Boulogne, Tuam, Ardfert, St Andrews and Coldstream. The Dissolution of the English monasteries by Henry VIII began in 1536, and created disaffection in the clergy. One opponent was Dr Hillyard, a parson/clerk to the Bishop of Durham and his flight into Scotland caused an international incident, with the Prioress Jonet Hoppringle caught up in events.


The English warden, Sir Ralph Eure, reported the matter to Henry VIII (Dec 1539), saying that Dr Hillyard  had crossed the River Tweed at Cornhill-on-Tweed, and on his arrival at Cornhill he was asked who he was. He replied, ‘a doctor of my lord of Durham going to see my lady of Coldstream’ (Prioress) and, after stealing a boat from the boatman, he reached the Scottish bank of the Tweed and asked for asylum at Coldstream Priory. In finding the Prioress not at home, he asked for her brother Robert, and explained his reason for defecting, which was his opposition to the King’s closure of the monasteries and his desire for a meeting with Cardinal Beaton.


In a further letter by Sir William Eure, he reported: ‘the Prioress does not wish herself or her family to appear in the matter for fear of the displeasure of the King of Scots. If this were to happen it would be a great hindrance to obtaining further information.’  The matter went on for months with Hillyard’s movements closely observed. Jonet Hoppringle said that he had demeaned himself by coming to her monastery, and repeated to Eure what he had said to one of her chaplains.


Rough Wooing


There are numerous accounts of the Wardens of the East Marches meeting at Coldstream and according to T.I. Rae in his Administration of the Scottish Frontier, 1513 to 1603, Coldstream was a favoured place for Days of Truce. There were no fewer than eighteen Warden meetings at Coldstream during that period. Other trysts were at the Westford (Norham) and Redden Burn (Carham). Usually it involved the East march wardens and occasionally the Middle March wardens, like the Agreement made ‘at Caldestreme,’ on 21 January 1539/40 betweenAndrew Ker of Ferniehurst, Warden of the Middle Marches of Scotland, and Sir John Wetherington with their councillors and commissioners, on the extradition of rebels and fugitives on either side. It was agreed the wardens should meet at Rothbury in England the 17 Feb next, and at Jedburgh in Scotland the 24 Feb, to receive all bills of complaint and give redress within the bounds of their Wardenries. The following day a list of the ‘rebel Scottesmen’ residing in England and list of English rebels was exchanged. Not surprisingly, Dr Hillyard was on the list, together with John Charlton of Blaiklaw, Rynen Charlton of the Nuyke and Peicevell and John Robson of Fairstone. The names of some of the Scots Rebels were Roben Rutherford, Geo. Rutherford, called Cok Bankes, Pait Trumbill called Catle elder, Hobbe Ainsley called fat Collope and others. At Coldstream 22 Jan. 1539.


During the period called the Rough Wooing (1542-51), in the October of 1542, Henry VIII launched punitive raids into the Merse and beyond. Some say the Battle of Solway Moss and the subsequent attacks across the Border were a direct result of the refusal by James V to hand over Dr Hillyard and others to Henry VIII, but the victory at Hadden Rig (6 miles from Coldstream) for the Scots in the August of 1542 was probably the main reason for the invasion that followed.  Andrew Ker of Dolphinston received from King James V in 1542, all the lands of Hirsel with the two mills and the fishings, he was the eldest son of Mark Ker of Littledean. According to Home of Godscroft he was rewarded for being the first to inform the King of the victory at Hadden Rig.


The invasion of Scotland which followed began in the east under the command of the Earl of Hertford, while in the west a force of 18,000 men commanded by Sir Thomas Wharton met their Scottish foe under Lords Maxwell and Sinclair. The ensuing skirmish became known as the Battle of Solway Moss, which resulted in an English victory. In October, the Duke of Suffolk crossed into the Merse from Berwick and his army burned and pillaged numerous towns, farms and Abbeys. Even for those murderous times the destruction was on a very large scale.


Burning of Coldstream Priory and Town.


In November 1542, Coldstream Priory and town, were the first to be attacked by order of the Earl of Hertford who was headquartered at Alnwick Castle. His commanders, Ralph Bulmer and Sir Ralph Eure, described the destruction in a letter to Hertford, who implicitly called for the burning of Coldstream. The night before, they held a meeting with the officers at ‘Crookham Moor-Stone’, with orders of strict secrecy, but the Prioress had been forewarned by Hugh Paitt of Cornhill. He had taken a casket full of valuables and had also taken prisoner Jonet Hoppringle’s brother, with others. The Prioress had sent many people away for their own safety along with a great drove of cattle and 2000 sheep. Not surprisingly, Bulmer believed there to ‘be some pakn between the laird of Cornhill and the Prioress’.


The raiding party was met at the Abbey gate by the Prioress, Jonet Hoppringle and her priests, who were carrying the cross. The nuns were on their knees singing psalms, when Bulmer and Eure set fire to the house. They then proceeded to burn the Priory church. The Abbey barn was next set alight by the Captain of Berwick; he was nearly burned in the process and judged the corn kept there amounted to a great sum. The town was next put to the torch. Bulmer and his torchbearers were so nearly engulfed in smoke, with the church in flames behind, the Abbey and Barn on either side, and with the town’s stacks and kilns ablaze to their front, they had to take refuge down a back lane. Most of the Border Abbeys, towns and villages were destroyed in a similar manner.


The nuns had been forced to disperse and a letter of 1543 confirmed that two nuns from Coldstream were taking refuge in Berwick and were awaiting permission to return to their old cloister. In the December of the same year the Duke of Suffolk issued a licence to Robert Pringle and twelve servants, plus 16 oxen, 8 kine, 300 sheep and 8 labouring horses and geldings to remain on the town fields of Coldstream.


The Earl of Hertford returned to the Merse in 1545 and again laid waste to southern Scotland burning and pillaging towns, villages and monasteries including Coldstream Priory. From the contemporary document entitled the Earl of Hertford’s Second Expedition to Scotland, the invasion took place in September. An extract from the account describes Hertford’s activities: ‘on the Sunday we removed and passed the water of Tuyd on the east Marches of Warke and birned and destroyed Egland and the nonery cald Colestreme, and so to Fogga an there campit that night.’


In December 1551 Alexander 5th Lord Home was appointed Baillie of Coldstream by the Prioress and her nuns who witnessed the charter. It seems by this very act Coldstream became  a Lordship. There seems to have been a period where they were without a prioress as part of this letter implies: ‘the nuns of Caudstrame, Margaret Logane, Margaret Brown, Elizabeth Hoppringill, Jonet Schaw, Helan Riddale, Jonet Kingorne and Katherine Franche’ were allotted £140 and a certain quantity of wheat, as ‘ they had been indigent after the death of the Prioress’.


By 1566 Elizabeth Hoppringle had become Prioress. In Heads of Religious Houses in Scotland, (Scottish Record Society 2001), it states there was a second Elizabeth who became Prioress. Certainly there is a transcription of a charter which mentions both Elizabeths, but this may be an error for Jonet Hoppringle. The Elizabeth who took over as Prioress in 1566 seems to have been the last Prioress of Coldstream Priory.


During this period Scotland was in the grip of religious upheaval, in what was to become known as the Reformation. The eventual dissolution of the monasteries was a more gradual process in Scotland than in England under Henry VIII. The Prioress is named by the King’s advocate, in 1575, as having lost her benefice for failing to bring a testimonial subscribing to the articles of religion. The sanction was probably never enforced as the Prioress’s name appears on numerous subsequent charters. In 1587 money paid to the Crown for the priory was £66 13s. 4d. being a surplus of a ‘Third of the Benifices’. The total value of the Priory was £201.


Elizabeth Hoppringle died in May 1588. At the time there were eight nuns, the remaining nuns were probably given pensions. Thereafter the Priory was overseen by Commendators who were not in religious orders, but laymen appointed by the Crown. The first was Mark Ker, son of Walter of Littledean. The King authorised him to become Prior and Commendator of Coldstream for life. The Kers of Littledean also had the Hirsel at this time. Prior Mark Ker died c1615 and he was succeeded as Commendator by Thomas Home in June 1615. By July 1618, John Hamilton is named as Prior of Coldstream. He was the third son of the Earl of Melrose (later Earl of Haddington).


The Dissolution of Coldstream Priory


In July 1587 the Priory ‘kirk lands’ were annexed by the Crown in an Act of Parliament. John Hamilton was the last Commendator and Prior of Coldstream, he became the Superior of Coldstream at the demise of Coldstream Priory, which occurred on 4 August 1621 by an Act of Parliament;


The Dissolution of the priory of Coldstream in favour of Sir John Hamilton of Trabrown, knight :


Our sovereign lord (James VI) and his estates of this present parliament, remembering the constant and faithfull services done and performed by his majesty’s right trusty cousin and councillor Thomas (Hamilton), earl of Melrose, lord Byres and Binning,……now considering that John Hamilton, third lawful son to the said Thomas, earl of Melrose… provided by his majesty to the monastery and abbacy…..and the said John Hamilton, prior of Coldstream, with consent of his steward and of the convent of the said priory…..suppress and extinguish the said Priory of  Coldstream. with its…..formally dissolved from the Crown and by this act………into the free temporal barony of Cauldstream in favour of the said John Hamilton and his heirs for the sum of £40 blench ferm paid yearly to the King.…and specially all and the lands called the Mains of Coldstream and fishings of the same upon the water of Tweed; all and whole 17 husband lands of Scaithmure…the lands of Snuke…with the salmon fishing in Tillmouth hauche and Littlehaugh….the lands of Old Hirsel and a ploughland  in the territory of Hirsel, Vulgo Lie, Countess Croft, Cauldestremeflat…Panneshauche, Rounds and Braidspottis….the lands of Braidhaugh Dedrigs and Lees….3 husband lands of Darnchester; 4 husbandlands of Hatchednize….3 husbandlands in Bridge-end….the mill of Fyreburnmill and the mill of Coldstream….and dissolve all and whole the abbey place of Coldstream, barns, byres, barn yards, yards, orchards, dovecot and little croft called the Little orchard and others lying within the precinct of the said priory…..


 The little town of Coldstream, in proximity to the abbey precincts, up to this period was still an ‘unfree burgh’, but after the closure of the Priory, it must have marked a new direction for the town, as it entered the new era.




Primary sources


The Cartulary of Coldstream Priory (1434),   British Library.


Anon. Historic Memorials of Coldstream Abbey, Edinburgh,1850.


Chartulary of the Cistercian Priory of Coldstream. ed .C. Rodgers (Grampian Club 1879).


The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, 10 vols.


The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, 8 vols.


Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, 5 vols.


Calendar of Border Papers, ed. J. Bain, 2 vols.


Calendar of State Papers Relating to  Scotland, 1547- 1597, ed. J. Bain, 12 vols.


The Hamilton Papers, 1532- 1590, 2 vols.


Leges Marchiarum or Border Laws, ed W. Nicolson, 1705


Letters and Papers, Foreign  and Domestic, of  Henry VIII , 21 vols.


Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scottorum, ed. J.M. Thomson, 11vols.



Secondary sources


Coppack, G. The White Monks, 2005.


Easson, D.E. ‘The medieval Nunneries of Scotland’, Trans. of Scot. Ecclesiological Society vol.13, pt.2, 1940-41.


Power, E. Medieval English Nunneries, 1922.


Pringle, A.  Records of the Pringles, London, Edinburgh : Oliver & Boyd, 1933


Rae, T.I. Administration of a Scottish Frontier, 1503-1603, Edinburgh U. P. : Edinburgh


Ridpath, G. Border History. Berwick, 1848.


The Heads of Religious Houses in Scotland, from Twelfth to Sixteenth Centuries,

 Ed .D.E.R. Watts & N.F. Shead, Scottish Record Society, 2001.


The History of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club, vols. 3, 5, 8, 29, 33,36, 38, 40, 41.


History of Northumberland, ed .John Hodgson 1858.




Sketch plan of St.Mary's abbey lands and buildings,Coldstream, 1589.


Gordon’s manuscript map; National Library of Scotland

Pont’s Map of the ‘sherrifdom of Berwick or the Merce’ in Blaue’s Atlas.




Foundation Charter of Coldstream Priory, Harley Manuscript 6670, British Library     


Coldstream Priory Seal, DCD/Misc. Ch 5984; Durham University Library, www.dur.ac.uk/library/asc


Sketch plan of properties in Coldstream near St Mary’s Abbey, RHP 49993; SCOTLANDS IMAGES.COM, Crown Copyright, The National Archives of Scotland


Drawing of Coldstream Nunnery 1784, (Adv.MSS. 30.5.22-23 ;34b) one of two drawings in the National Library of Scotland’s Hutton Collection and probably drawn by Lieut-General G.H. Hutton himself, who was also a great antiquarian.