Kids are really digging this history lark
So far around 200 youngsters have taken part in the excavation of Bedrule Castle, an ancient fortress near Jedburgh, as part of a project backed by more than £80,000 from the UK Government.
The popularity of the project has exceeded expectations. Original estimates were that around 60 people would be involved in the investigation of the castle’s remains.
Young adults and school children are working with experts from Archaeology Scotland to discover more about the castle, which was destroyed in a ferocious assault by English forces on a day of carnage in 1545.
The project is equipping young people with skills which will help them into work as well as exploring the tourism potential of the castle and nearby medieval buildings which were destroyed in the same raid.
Phil Richardson, project manager at Archaeology Scotland, said: “We set out with a target of 60 participants and, so far, we have had 187 young people and over 20 adults from the local community. All the feedback has been very encouraging and they want to come back to do this again.”
“There is a wonderful richness in the archaeology and heritage of the area and that can have a big impact.”
UK Government Minister for Scotland, Malcolm Offord, said: “The Scottish Borders have a fascinating history, and it’s great that this project is helping young people uncover the secrets of their local area while teaching them the skills and confidence to help build a brighter future.”
Almost £82,500 has been invested in the project through the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), which is one of several UK Government funds focusing on levelling up.
The project involves eight local organisations including Works+, a charity helping local youngsters into work, and BANG (Borders Additional Needs Group).
As well as getting young people involved in archaeology and giving them traditional skills, it teaches them transferable skills like teamwork, communication, time management, English, Maths and digital skills.
Local participant Steven Hamilton,19, from Hawick, said: “It’s great fun and we’ve learnt a lot about history, which has been really interesting.”
Olivia Robertson,21, also from Hawick, said: “It is so cool. I took history in High School and it is great that I can learn more about it. It has been a big deal for me. I have been digging to see if I can find some pottery or coins. It’s been awesome. I’ve never been to a castle before and it is pretty cool just to be part of it and help out.”
Charlie Ormiston,17, from Selkirk agreed the work had been “really interesting”.
Tom Pride, partnership co-ordinator with the Works+ programme said: “It helps these young people build the skills and confidence needed for employment.
"For them, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get involved in an archaeological dig.
"It might spark an interest in it as a career, but more importantly it is a chance to get involved in the community.”
The Bedrule Castle dig aims to shed more light on a colourful and violent era of Scottish history.
Bedrule Castle was first built in the 13th century, but came to grief in the conflict known as the “Rough Wooing”.
The castle’s fate was linked to the events of 1542 when Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland at just six days old. The English King Henry VIII sought to unite England and Scotland by forcing a marriage contract between Mary and his son Edward.
But the Scottish nobility wanted to preserve Scotland’s alliance with France. Henry went to war to get his way and the conflict known as the ‘Rough Wooing’ began.
In 1545 the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Ancrum Moor and a furious Henry thirsted for revenge. He dispatched Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, to the Borders with 16,000 men to: “Burn and destroy the country about, sparing neither castle, town, pele nor village.”
Bedrule Castle was one of 12 fortifications destroyed by the Earl, and which were dubbed the ‘Twelve Towers of Rule’ in a letter sent to Henry VIII.
Geophysics investigations have uncovered evidence of burning at the Bedrule Castle site, which could shed more light on its destruction. Trenches have been dug at the site of the gatehouse and towers, and these have uncovered the remains of a spiral staircase, as well as some pottery.
Bedrule Castle was built in the mid to late 13th century by the Comyn family.
Records show Bedrule was visited by Edward I of England in 1298, a further indication of its strategic importance.
The castle was granted to the Douglas family after Robert the Bruce murdered John Comyn in 1306.
Historians believe it may have been partially destroyed by Bruce’s supporters so that it could not be garrisoned by English forces. The castle was probably rebuilt by the Douglas family and the excavations should also shed light on aspect of the castle’s history.
Later the castle became the seat of the Turnbull family.