Coldingham

When King Oswald founded the famous Anglo-Saxon monastery on Lindisfarne, his sister Princess Aebbe founded another just over the Scottish border. We headed to Scotland to find it.

103.9% Funded
/
£7,792.00 Pledged
/
£7,500 Goal
103.9%

Picture this: it’s the mid 7th century AD and the Northumbrian monastery at Lindisfarne founded by Anglo-Saxon King Oswald is on the rise to fame. But just across the Scottish border something else is happening. Oswald has a sister, named Aebbe, and she too has gone and founded a monastery.

Aebbe’s story is a compelling one, but historical records are few and far between. Those that do survive tell us that she was an influential figure who introduced Christianity to Scotland’s east coast.

They also tell us that her monastery was located just a few days north of Lindisfarne, near St Abb’s Head at Coldingham, surrounded by a deep trench and high palisade, and was home to both monks and nuns.

The monastery burnt down soon after Aebbe died. Abandoned for a short while, it was rebuilt and continued to thrive until AD 870 when it was destroyed once and for all by a devastating Viking attack – just like Oswald’s Lindisfarne.

Over the years, a few small glimpses – of burials, and of sculpture – have shown up, but firm evidence of the monastery has never been found at the suggested location.

But then, in 2014, new hope of finding it emerged through a geophysical survey, which revealed the footprints of a number of possible Anglo-Saxon structures at a slightly different location, close to the ruins of Coldingham’s much later medieval priory.

Finding Aebbe’s monastery will be a monumental addition to our understanding of Anglo-Saxon history in the Scottish Borders, one that allows us to bring Aebbe’s story to wider attention, and establish Coldingham as the site of Lindisfarne’s sister monastery.

 

 

  • 69 volunteers and crowdfunders joined us on site to learn skills such as excavation, photogrammetry, and recording,
  • 161 volunteers got involved with post-excavation processing.
  • 740 responses to our ‘where to dig’ questionnaire.
  • 297 school children were involved in the project via Skype-to-Site sessions, school trips to the site, as well as in-school visits by DigVentures staff.
  • 160 visitors to the site during the 12 days of excavation.
  • Five public lectures, attended by 218 people.
  • Featured on BBC Radio Scotland’s Time Travels, and BBC 4’s Digging for Britain
  • Radiocarbon testing results from bone returned in March 2019 with a firm Anglo-Saxon range from AD 660-860.

I was born and brought up in Coldingham and although I now live in Birmingham, I return frequently to the village. I was in the village last year during the trial excavation and was fascinated. Exciting!

  • Mary (73), Retired Headteacher from Birmingham

 

I took an open university course in archaeology back in 1979-1980 and have always enjoyed visiting sites and learning about prehistory. I have recently thought I would like to experience a dig as well.

  • Alanah (65), Senior Lecturer in Diagnostic Radiography from Edinburgh

 

I read/watch a lot of (pre-/) history generally. If the dig strikes metaphorical gold it would be nice to have played a tiny role, if not I’ll have gained some understanding of the processes at the sharp end of archaeological / historical investigation. So win-win for me.

  • Richard (56), Property Developer

We want to be part of the discovery of British history and our heritage.

  • Wendy (55), Technical Writer at Weta Digital from New Zealand

 

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