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Soutra Aisle

Hospital (Medieval)

Site Name Soutra Aisle

Classification Hospital (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Soutra Hospital; Soutra Aisle, Chapel

Canmore ID 54532

Site Number NT45NE 1

NGR NT 45254 58409

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Fala And Soutra (Ettrick And Lauderdale)
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Ettrick And Lauderdale
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT45NE 1 45254 58409

See also NT45NE 2, NT45NE 5, NT45NE 20.

(NT 4525 5841) Soutra Aisle (NR)

OS 6" map (1964)

Soutra Hospital is said to have been founded by Malcolm IV in 1164, for lodging travellers, but the foundation was probably somewhat earlier. In 1236, specific mention is made that the rule of St Augustine shall be observed, and it is called the house or hospital of the Holy Trinity. Reference to residents in the hospital are found up to 1583-4, but in the 17th c, it is described as utterly ruined.

The small stone building known as "Soutra Aisle" was described in 1700 as the family burial place of the Pringles, and all that remained of the hospital buildings and church. It measures 25 1/2' N-S by 23 1/2', with its wall head 4' above ground, covered by a stone roof over a barrel vault. Above the W door is a datestone "DP AP 1686".

Under the turf there are traces of either debris or foundations for 20' E of the building and for a considerable distance westwards.

RCAHMS 1929; D E Easson 1957

The Holy Trinity Hospital of Soutra had the privilege of sanctuary marked by a chain and cross, still commemorated in Girth Gate (NT45SE) and Cross Chain Hill.

M Walcott 1874

The present building is as described above. In the W wall is a stone inscribed: 'This stone is inserted to mark the site of the ancient sanctuary and once powerful Hospice of Soutra.'

The debris and foundations mentioned by the RCAHMS are too amorphous for survey.

Visited by OS (JTT) 15 December 1964

Soutra Aisle underwent some repairs in 1898.

A Allan 1900

Followed from resistivity survey of the hill top plateau in 1986 a trial excavation of 10 key trenches was mounted to investigate the extent and ground plan of the complex of buildings. The earliest structures noted on the site were 2 boundary walls, 1m thick, each with a drain or ditch 2m wide alongside.

There are, at least, 2 contiguous large, rectangular, walled enclosures. These occupy the hill top to the E of medieval Dere Street. The southmost one contains the hospital Church and the standing 17th century Aisle. The northern boundary wall was cut to form a new access, with 'slot' for door post, threshold and interior passage way; there was secondary vaulting over the earlier drain.

Sampling programmes for 'infirmary waste' have been set up, screening them for blood and other organic residues, leaded contamination and exotic plant material. All are showing up. Exotic pottery has been recovered in small quantities and residues on it are being analysed related to analysis of fabrics and thin sections.

G Ewart and B Moffat 1987

The 1988 excavations revealed part of a substantial domestic range of buildings, associated with the later occupation of the monastic hospital, to the north of the 17th century sepulchral aisle that marks the site. A large trench (23m by 9m) revealed a series of 3 chambers to the west of a cobbled roadway or pend. Two of the chambers were cellars (c.7m square outside; 5.5m by 4.5m inside; 1.2m deep) and, along with the third (at west end of trench), they were formed by the subdivision of the area between two early monastic walls (mid 12th-early 13th century). One wall has been identified as the S wall of a large precinct or enclosure, lying to the north of the site, while the other is associated with the original monastic church and its possible enclosure precinct.

One of the cellars was fully excavated, and showed that it had been converted from its original use as simple storage to that of 'kitchen'. There was a large domed bread oven, built into the NE corner of the room, and a rearrangement of vents. Prior to a systematic back-fill with masonry blocks, there were signs of post-abandonment casual occupation - hearths, brushwood and cooking debris.

A sampling and testing programme was conducted in parallel with the excavation. Deposits in the cellar, in lines of capped drains, and in a chute soakaway have been tested for blood and allied residues, for the lead content and plant remains. Exotic plant material (cloves, opium poppy) - both adhering to potsherds and loose can hardly be explained as other than medicinal in purpose. A sizeable pottery assemblage (including a 60% complete, glazed 'ointment pot' that was part of the documented apothecaries' kit), numerous pieces of metalwork (much corroded; including nails, and masses of 'tap slag'. Also what appears to be a cannula, a 1ft long surgical instrument for unblocking vessels), and animal bone assemblage, worked architectural stone will receive further post-excavation and scientific investigation.

G Ewart and B Moffat 1988.

Architecture Notes


The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, contains, among the 'Uncatalogued MSS of General Hutton', and numbered 88, Vol.1 ., a sketch of the remains of Soutra Hospital. The site, says Chambers, has been overgrown, and can now hardly be distinguished. In the centre of the once sacred area stands a single Aisle of the Chapel, the burial place of a neighbouring wealthy family.

The Sketch bears the date 1784.

Extract from Church Notices - The Scotsman, 30 July 1983




will be held at the Aisle on

Sunday, July 31st, at 4 p.m.

(if wet, in Fala Kirk)

Guest Preacher

The Rev James Currie


Minister at Dunlop



Publication Account (1985)

Though now cultivated, the top of Soutra at the western end of the Lammennuirs is a bleak place on anything but the most attractive, clear and sunny day. Here, in or before 1164, Malcolm IV of Scotland founded a house "domus Soltre" as a hospice for travellers, pilgrims and poor folk. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity, it included an Augustinian Church and held considerable lands, particularly in East Lothian and Berwickshire-all of which were annexed in 1462 to the new foundation of Trinity College in Edinburgh.

After the Refonnation the church ceased to have any parochial charge, the buildings became ruinous and c1850, as part of agricultural improvement, virtually all the walls and foundations were carted away to build field dykes and fann steadings. Only "ane Isle of the Abbace" remained, that had been appropriated by 1686 as a burial aisle for the Pringles of Soutra.

The surviving low, rectangular structure, about 8m long, is widely visible and covered by an outer stone roof over a barrel-vault The west gable has a moulded, lintelled doorway with an incised stone set in above, date 1686, with initials referring to David Pringle and his wife Agnes Pringle. A late 18th century grave-slab adorns the east gable wall.

South of Soutra Aisle the line of De e Street, alias the Roman Road, and for a short way alias the Girthgate, makes its way down to the bum (NT 64567-472553). Rising again through King's Inch, through the gap between the plantations it runs on to Channelkirk and Oxton. 'Girthgate', the 'sanctuary-enclosure road', indicates its special relationship to the foundation at Soutra.

Information from 'Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Lothian and Borders', (1985).

Field Visit (1997 - 2001)

Derek Hall managed an Historic Scotland funded project to record medieval hospital sites in Scotland. Gazetteers were produced for each regional council area between 1997 and 2001 with an overall review in 2001.

Sbc Note

Provisional Scheduled Monument Consent was granted on the 28 September 2000, on behalf of Fala, Soutra and District History and Heritage Society, to complete the excavation site with a cover of weed excluding membrane and a thick layer of washed gravel.

See attached file for further details (file in Scottish Borders Council Historic Environment Record)

Information from Scottish Borders Council Historic Environment Record



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