Jed eyesore demolition uncovers abbey link

Stone from the Jedburgh Abbey found at the property under demolition in High St. Jedburgh. Site foreman Willie Freeman inspects some of the stone which has come from the Jedburgh Abbey.
Stone from the Jedburgh Abbey found at the property under demolition in High St. Jedburgh. Site foreman Willie Freeman inspects some of the stone which has come from the Jedburgh Abbey.

WORKMEN carrying out the long-awaited demolition of the derelict building at 31 High Street in Jedburgh have uncovered stonework believed to have come from the town’s nearby ruined 12th century abbey.

It was Glasgow contractor JCJ (Demolition & Construction), which submitted the successful tender to carry out the work at a cost of £153,713.90.

The contract included the demolition of the B-listed building, which dates from the 19th century, and all associated fabric repairs to the exposed gables of the remaining buildings.

The property was compulsorily purchased by the local authority after the premises, formerly an electrical shop and café, had been left in a state of decay for many years.

The demolition phase is almost complete and among the rubble and debris, a number of pieces of dressed stone were revealed.

Scottish Borders Council heritage officer, Mark Douglas, says these corbels and lintels almost certainly came from the town’s abbey, established as a priory of Augustinian canons around 1138.

“There is a post that was found at the back wall which is definitely from the abbey, as well as one or two other bits and pieces such as a couple of corbel stones and a lintel,” he told TheSouthern this week.

“We have been meeting and talking with the contractor and the hope is that these items can be removed and eventually put on display somewhere in Jedburgh – potentially back at the abbey or possibly at the jail.”

An archaeologist has been recording and photographing the items in situ and Mr Douglas says it is not surprising that stonework dating from the Middle Ages had been found as part of the building’s construction.

“The last English raid on the abbey took place in the mid-1540s and the medieval stone items found during the demolition work are definitely from the abbey we can see today, rather than any earlier building on the same site,” he told us.

“When the abbey was destroyed it become a convenient supply of stone for local people and anything dressed, such as door jambs, lintels and so on, would be taken.

“In fact, if you scratched at most of the buildings in Jedburgh you could be pretty sure of finding bits of the abbey having been used in their construction.”

It was up until 2002, that the property hosted the electrical outlet run by the late Bert Dalgleish and the Coffee Pot café.

But since these ceased trading, the building had been high on the local authority’s dangerous buildings list, forcing it to provide structural stabilisation to prevent water infiltration and the spread of dry and wet rot.

This resulted in the erection of scaffolding with the loss of on-street parking and the building became commonly known as ‘a blight at the heart of Jedburgh’.

Local councillor Jim Brown (SNP) had made it a personal crusade to get something done about the situation.

“All the demolition work is pretty much done now,” he told TheSouthern. “The two gable ends are being tidied up and the steelwork in place gives stability, and can be used in any new building erected on the site. The next phase will be to stabilise any exposed areas, rendering them and making them waterproof before the site is put on the market.”

Mr Brown also says part of the walls will be rebuilt to a certain height and then a temporary facade erected so as to hide the fact it is a gap site.

“Basically, a pretend building will be put up, which should look quite good considering what was there before.”