Accessibility

Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

All our staffed properties, sites and offices, including the HES Archives and Library, are currently closed, but we’re working on plans to gradually reopen. In the meantime, you can access our services online. Find out more.

Melrose, Abbey Street, Abbey House

House (18th Century), Information Centre (20th Century)

Site Name Melrose, Abbey Street, Abbey House

Classification House (18th Century), Information Centre (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Tourist Information Centre

Canmore ID 100232

Site Number NT53SW 117

NGR NT 54767 34168

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/100232

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Melrose
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Ettrick And Lauderdale
  • Former County Roxburghshire

Archaeology Notes

NT53SW 117 54767 34168

REFERENCES

NT 547 341 Building recording was undertaken in March 2002 at Melrose Abbey House (NT53SW 117), currently the home of the Melrose Tourist Information Office. The building was built as a house in the late 17th or early 18th century, but evidence was found to confirm that the W end is older still. This older medieval building appears to have been a roughly square two-storey structure, with thick walls and a possible external stair turret. It was probably a small tower, possibly defensive and part of the Abbey precinct. The junction between the old and new masonry was identified on the N and S walls. The house was extensively remodelled around 1800, turning the first storey of the tower into a drawing room, and in the 20th century several areas were repaired or rebuilt with brick.

The evidence that the 18th-century house was built onto the E gable end of an older building would seem to be conclusive. The function of this building is unclear, though its size and construction suggest it was, at least to a degree, a defensive structure. Its proximity to the Abbey suggests it was originally part of the precinct, possibly lay brother or guest quarters. The date of this older building is uncertain. Possibly the need for a defensive structure was pressed by the Wars of Independence which inflicted considerable damage on the Abbey. The most likely date would seem to be later medieval, after the establishment of the Abbey and before the Reformation.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: HS

G Ewart, D Gallagher, J Franklin, D Stewart 2002

NS 5476 3416 A watching brief was maintained in March 2006 during the excavation of a new trench for a drainage pipe to the N side of the property. The trench generally revealed gravel surfaces presumed to be modern landscaping. A mixed orange/brown clay deposit may represent an occupation horizon, containing frequent charcoal inclusions, redeposited floor tile, animal bone and an iron nail, and was seen closer to the surface at the E end of the trench. It is possible that a compact ground surface overlaying this clay was removed during relatively recent landscaping/gardening.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

Paul Fox, 2006.

Activities

Geophysical Survey (12 July 1990)

An impulse radar survey and test pitting was undertaken by Harry Granger on behalf of AOC Archaeology in July 1990. The survey was undertaken in the garden south of Abbey House and the northern area of the Melrose Abbey car park. The conclusions reached suggested that there was not a substantial survival of below ground archaeology in the survey area. This was later (see separate entry for 1991 Scotia evaluation) confirmed to not be the case.

Information obtained by SBC HER (CB) from survey report

Trial Trench (11 February 1991 - 22 February 1991)

Two evaluation trenches were excavated by Scotia Archaeology in February 1991 to test results from an impulse radar survey conducted the year before (see separate entry). One trench was opened within the garden south of Abbey House, and one in the northern half of the Melrose Abbey Car Park. The results from both trenches confirmed the remains of signficant archaeology suggestive of metalled surfaces, possibly that of a road or courtyard extending to the south and west of the Abbey church. The remains of pre-industrial metalworking were also encountered.

Information provided by SBC HER (CB) 15/9/16 from a report held in the SBC HER

Excavation (1 December 1998 - 31 January 1999)

NT 5486 3417 Excavations were carried out over December 1998 and January 1999 on the site of the presumed Lay Brothers Cloister. Ten trenches in total were excavated, nine within the gardens and a single trench in the area to the E of Abbey Street, against the interior W perimeter wall of the abbey itself. A magnetometer survey had revealed possible wall lines in the area of the gardens to the N of Abbey House. The magnetometer survey also indicated a possible wall line running E-W below the current Abbey Street, indicating a possible continuation further westwards of buildings presently confined to the enclosed abbey grounds.

Excavation around the lawn and flowerbeds of the ornamental garden located potential abbey masonry in one trench, situated on the E edge of the garden against the inside face of the Abbey Street W wall. The other seven trenches exposed a variety of drainage and landscape features, some of which may be early in date. The principal structure on the site was a large, rubble-filled trench running diagonally across the site from SW-NE, which may be a robbed-out wall line backfilled with rubble, but could also be the principal subsoil drain for the ornamental garden. An E-W cut located in two trenches could be the edge of a scarped terrace of monastic period, of which the general level of 86m OD would represent the upper terrace. It was noted that the only early finds were from below the edge of this terrace.

The single trench within the abbey grounds indicated that the 1m of later deposits found W of Abbey Street had been completely cleared away in building clearance works E of Abbey Street, with the result that the turf lies directly on the natural subsoil in this area. It was, however, noted that the level of the subsoil exactly matched the 86m OD found on the possible terrace W of Abbey Street, and appears to be part of the same levelled surface. Additionally it became clear that the column bases found in the chamber adjacent to Abbey Street do not continue to the W and that the late road wall at the W end of the columned chamber sits on the original W wall of the chamber. The range to the W of the abbey did not therefore continue beneath Abbey Street, as the magnetometer survey results may have suggested.

A small trench placed to the E of the gable end of Abbey House located masonry directly below the gravel driveway, indicating that the original guest house extended further W.

Watching Brief (March 2006)

NS 5476 3416 A watching brief was maintained in March 2006 during the excavation of a new trench for a drainage pipe to the N side of the property. The trench generally revealed gravel surfaces presumed to be modern landscaping. A mixed orange/brown clay deposit may represent an occupation horizon, containing frequent charcoal inclusions, redeposited floor tile, animal bone and an iron nail, and was seen closer to the surface at the E end of the trench. It is possible that a compact ground surface overlaying this clay was removed during relatively recent landscaping/gardening.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

P Fox 2006

Watching Brief (22 February 2007)

NT 5476 3416 The collapse of a small part of the exterior west wall of Abbey House provided an opportunity to examine the interior structure of the wall. Work was undertaken on 22 February 2007. Structural remains were seen in the wall which may have been part of, or even pre-date, a square tower of medieval date which had been suggested during a building recording programme undertaken in 2002 (DES 2002, 1012).

Archive to be deposited with RCAHMS.

Funder: Historic Scotland.

Watching Brief (17 September 2009 - 20 September 2009)

NT 5474 3415 A small trench was excavated on 20 September 2009 to allow the construction of a new buttress wall against the N face of the S boundary wall of the garden of Melrose Abbey House. There were no finds or features of archaeological significance.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland

Alan Radley – Kirkdale Archaeology

Standing Building Recording (November 2012)

NT 54767 34168 (NT53SW 117) This group of stones was accessed in November 2012 and consists of the remaining items not catalogued in 2011 (DES 2011, 164). Many are displayed at high levels on the museum walls, and were accessed by means of a scaffolding tower. Among these stones are a canopy and a large capital, as well as a highly decorative and well preserved group of vault bosses, and many details were visible during the cataloguing process which are difficult or impossible to see from ground level.

Two large stones, a canopy and a column capital, are related. Both are set high up on the W wall of the museum and are 15th-century in date. The canopy is semi-octagonal in plan, with small-scale crennelations running around the outer edge, and rows of crocketing carved along the angles, from the lower edge to the apex. The crocketing is formed by low-relief, and rather seaweed-like leaves. The crennelations are decorated with numerous small holes drilled in the outer faces. Similarly, the lower edge of the capital has also been drilled with small holes. The capital comes from the top of a wall-shaft, and has square flower and foliage motifs set at intervals around the lower edge, and these would have had a row of miniature crennelations above, although these are mostly broken away.

The impressive collection of vault bosses includes one rather fearsome example, which covers the junction of four ribs, two longitudinal and two diagonal. The outer face of the boss is carved with a human head, with the mouth half-open and the teeth showing. Leech-like creatures are shown feeding at the eyes and mouth, and on each side of the head, a tiny pair of human hands are visible. The bodies of the leeches are rather leaf-like, being flattened and veined, and with undulating and seaweed-like edges which encroach onto the vault ribs. They resemble the carving of foliage or scallop shells on other bosses in the museum.

This and other inventories of carved stones at Historic Scotland’s properties in care are held by Historic Scotland’s Collections Unit. For further information please contact hs.collections@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Mary Márkus, Archetype

2012

Standing Building Recording (3 July 2014 - 21 July 2014)

NT 5476 3416 A basic programme of standing building recording was carried out, 3–21 July 2014, on the exterior elevations of Melrose Abbey House, between the removal of the roughcasting covering the walls and their re-rendering. The exterior elevations were sketched and photographed, with all features present being numbered and described. A sequence of four main phases of construction and alteration were identified.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland

Paul Fox - Kirkdale Archaeology

(Source: DES)

Standing Building Recording (19 June 2014 - 8 July 2014)

Under the terms of its PIC call-off contract with Historic Scotland, Kirkdale Archaeology was asked to conduct a Standing Building Recording exercise at Abbey House, Melrose following the removal of the roughcast from the exterior elevations. The removal of the exterior render revealed a series of features, and the work complimented two periods of building recording previously undertaken (in 2002 and 20071). These SBR’s concentrated largely on the interior and a specific area of damage/collapse in the lower portion of the W gable.

It was clear after the removal of the external render that the building fabric and features represented a complex sequence of changes over time. This therefore afforded an excellent opportunity for a general examination of the exterior of the building - to broadly describe and phase the main features rather than to present an exhaustive list of all the minutiae present. The exterior elevations were sketched and photographed, with all features present being numbered and described. The context numbers allocated followed on from those already given in the two previous SBR reports.

Abbey House was previously used as the Melrose Tourist Information Office and is thought to originate in the late 17th/early 18th century. The house has been extensively remodelled on several occasions and incorporates the fabric of at least four different buildings.

G Ewart 2014

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (April 2018)

NT 5476 3420 A watching brief was carried out, April 2018,

at Melrose Abbey during the excavation of foundations for a

new polytunnel within the gardens. The foundation trenches

generally contained deposits of garden soils containing

a mixture of modern finds. Two trenches contained a thin

mortar surface and three trenches contained brick structures,

rubble and modern pipes, probably relating to earlier

glasshouses or other garden structures.

Archive: NRHE (intended). Report: Scottish Borders HER

Funder: Historic Environment Scotland

Stuart Mitchell – CFA Archaeology Ltd

Sbc Note

Visibility: This is an upstanding building.

Information from Scottish Borders Council.

References

MyCanmore Image Contributions


Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions