The first religious
establishment in the Coldingham area was the nunnery of St Ebba, founded sometime
after 642AD. The young Ebba, from a royal family had had to endure internecine
power struggles within her family for most of her early life, and had been forced
into exile with the Scots at Dalriada for several years.
However, once her
brother Oswy assumed the Northumbrian throne, Ebba returned and established her
mixed nunnery and monastery on the isolated bay. The community survived until
it was burned down in a fire in 683, shortly after the death of Ebba. The locals
viewed this as an Act of God, punishing the loose morals of the nuns and monks,
although this is perhaps applying the morals of a later Church when in fact the
behaviour of those in the early Christian communities was not so strictly controlled.
Not wishing to go against what they perceived as a clear signal from the
Lord, the residents of the area did not attempt to re-establish any form of religious
community on the site. However, 400 years afterwards another royal feud was to
bring about the founding of another monastery at Coldingham.
|Renovated church at Coldingham|
the son of Malcolm III had been deposed by his uncle and had gone into exile in
England. However, he managed to raise an army in England of 30,000 soldiers and
marched north. He had also received a vision of St Cuthbert who promised him victory
if he carried with him the holy banner from the Durham convent.
the Saint had promised came to pass, and Edgar regained the Scottish throne. In
gratitude he established a Benedictine monastery on the site here at Coldingham
in 1098, which grew successfully to become the focal point of the area.
Priory became a centre point of the wool trade, and also a seat of learning writing
a life of St Ebba around 1200. However, in 1560, the Reformation signalled the
death-knell of monasticism in the country, and the lands belonging to the Priory
passed to the local landowner.
The destruction of the priory was completed
by Oliver Cromwell, when, after his victory at Dunbar, he used cannons to dislodge
some Royalists who were hiding in the priory. A new church was built around the
ruins, and renovated in the 19th Century, but the archway in front of the modern
church serves as a reminder of the presence of the Priory and its chequered past.
Directions: Retrace your steps to the nature reserve visitor centre,
from here follow the road to Coldingham, stay on this road through the
village until you come to a junction with a petrol station at it, if you
turn to your left, away from the road, Coldingham Priory is here.