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Greenlaw, Church Street, Greenlaw Parish Church

Church (Period Unassigned), Cross Slab (Early Medieval), Jail (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Greenlaw, Church Street, Greenlaw Parish Church

Classification Church (Period Unassigned), Cross Slab (Early Medieval), Jail (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Jail; Queen's Row

Canmore ID 58497

Site Number NT74NW 18

NGR NT 71162 46152

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Greenlaw
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Berwickshire
  • Former County Berwickshire

Accessing Scotland's Past Project

Greenlaw Parish Church, which was built in 1675, probably occupies the site of a medieval church which is known to have been granted to Kelso Abbey in the twelfth century.

Originally a simple rectangular building, in 1712 the church was lengthened to join an existing tower which stood to the west. The tower served as the town jail, and against its west side was a courthouse which was removed in 1830.

In 1855 a north aisle was added, and the entire church was refurnished in 1883. During this refurbishment work, coins dating from the reign of Louis XIII (1610-42) and a number of skeletons were discovered.

There is no connecting passage between the church and tower, although a window on an upper storey of the tower allowed prisoners to watch church services. The iron grille, or yett, which was part of the door leading to the ground-floor cell, is now attached to the side of the tower.

Text prepared by RCAHMS as part of the Accessing Scotland's Past project

Archaeology Notes

NT74NW 18.00 71162 46152

NT74NW 18.01 71173 46169 Churchyard with Old Market Cross

(NT 71162 46152) Church (NAT).

OS 6"map, (1957).

The present parish church of Greenlaw was built in 1675, replacing what was probably a Medieval building. This, a long rectangle, was extended W. in 1712 to abut upon a tall 1696 tower, built originally as a jail, against whose W. side a new courthouse was built. The courthouse was removed in 1830 and the church developed into a T-plan by the addition of a N aisle in 1855.

The original church was granted to Kelso Abbey about 1147, and was dedicated in 1242, though the name of its patron saint is not recorded. Gibson suggests that it may have been St Helen, as the fair at Greenlaw was held on St Helen's Day (May 3rd.), and these were usually associated with patron saints.

Against the W wall of the church tower is set a 15th century cross-slab, 4'1" by 2'1", incised with a Latin cross and the initials A H and I L. It formerly covered a ventilating chamber outside the N wall of the church at the E end. Several coins, among them one of Louis XIII (1610-42), as well as numerous skeletons were found in 1883 when excavations were carried out in the church interior.

G Hay 1957; RCAHMS 1915, visited 1912; R Gibson 1905.

The church is generally as described and illustrated and is still in use. The cross slab as described stands against the wall at NT 7115 4613.

Visited by OS(RD) 22 July 1970.

Architecture Notes


Scottish Record Office -

Greenlaw. Estimate from Slater and Mason for alterations and repairs to the Kirk.

'to make the same wind and water tight, build a stair to the common loft up the

North side of the kirk, break out a door for it ... [and] harl the Easter gavel ...

according to our nearest calculation #89. 18. 0.'

Alexander Smith. Slater in Kelso. John Kyle. Mason in Greenlaw.

1729 GD 158/1340/Page 92

Greenlaw. Problem of erection of a dial on the kirk steeple.

'THe turnpike stair goes up upon the East side of Greenlaw steeple and without

the same which will hinder the putting of a dial plate and hand to go on that side'.

Letter from John Dickson to the Earl of Marchmont.

1730 GD 158/1340/Page 99

Greenlaw. Repair of the Church.

Entries of the Earl of Marchmont's share of the cost.


1731-1732 GD1/651/1

Berwick Nats 1863-68, plate 13


Sbc Note

Visibility: Standing structure or monument.

Information from Scottish Borders Council

Sbc Note

A court house formerly stood to the west of a tower separating this from the parish church. The tower was constructed as a jail in the late 17th century, and the court house may have been constructed at this time along with a linking extension to the church. The courthouse, jail and church are depicted on the Greenlaw town plan shown on Armstrong's 1771 map of Berwickshire.



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