South Scotland

Ancrum bishop's palace search begins

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Media captionA search of the area known as Mantle Walls hopes to uncover more about its medieval significance

Archaeologists from the University of Glasgow have begun looking for traces of a bishop's palace in a Scottish Borders village.

The field of Mantle Walls, near Ancrum, has long been suspected to have been the site of a major medieval building.

Scottish Borders Council commissioned the works to fully assess the area.

Archaeology officer Dr Chris Bowles described it as an "extraordinary site" and hoped the latest evaluation could underline its importance.

Local traditions dating back to at least the 18th Century suggest that the then ruined building was either a stronghold of the crusading Knights of Malta or a bishop's palace.

Since 2010, a story has been emerging that Mantle Walls is in fact the probable site of a bishop's house or palace dating from the 12th or 13th Century.

At that time, the medieval Bishopric of Glasgow extended as far as Ancrum.

One of Glasgow's bishops, Bishop de Bondington, actually died in the village after dictating his last writ to the Pope.

It puts Ancrum at the "very centre of medieval religion and politics".

The site was subject to a geophysical survey last year, but now a number of small excavation trenches will be dug.

Dr Bowles said that as well as providing a clearer picture of the history of Mantle Walls, he hoped it would help stop illegal metal detecting in the area.

Market value

"Metal detecting is a fantastic way to interact with the past and find new evidence for it, and on the whole I encourage it," he said.

"But metal detectorists have a responsibility under the Law of Treasure Trove to contact Treasure Trove Scotland about their discoveries.

"If they hand them in, on most occasions the objects are studied and sent back."

He said that if items were found to have some importance they would be bought by museums at market value from the finders.

"This way, we are both learning important things about our past and preserving objects for future generations," he said.

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