The Anglian monastery and medieval priory of Coldingham: Urbs Coludi revisited
Skeletons Animal Bone, Settlement, Ditches, Cemetery, Church Graveyard, Monastery, Animal Bone, Midden, boundary
Coldingham; Scottish Borders; Scotland; UK
An excavation was undertaken in the north of Abbey Yards Field, adjacent to Coldingham Priory,
the Scottish Borders. Three ditches crossed the area on the same alignment and one was wood-lined.
Radiocarbon dating indicated that this boundary had been created in the 7th or early 8th century AD.
Several patches of midden were preserved within adjacent hollows in the subsoil. Finds were scarce
but a similarly dated fragment of antler comb and an assemblage of pre-medieval animal bone were recovered from the fills and midden. Bede referred to an Urbs Coludi as the location of a monastery
and nunnery presided over by St Æbbe in the mid-7th century. The location of this foundation has
been identified as Kirk Hill, situated on the coast to the north of Coldingham. The evidence is reviewed
and it is concluded that Coldingham is as likely a location for the ecclesiastical site, with Kirk Hill
a contemporary secular fort. There may have been some form of continuing settlement at the site, as
suggested by later medieval historians, before the founding of a new church by Edgar King of Scots
at the very end of the 11th century. By the middle of the 12th century this had developed into a priory dependent on Durham. The edge of the church graveyard was identified, with several industrial
features immediately outside. A second late medieval phase of cemetery was also excavated. It is
suggested that the edge of the graveyard was an area used to bury marginalized members of society,
with ill health and disability commonly evident among the skeletons. Animal bone associated with
the industrial features indicated that activities such as production of glue or tallow and tanning were
undertaken in the vicinity.