Field of Mantle Walls (Bishops Palace) : Ancrum : Google Maps
The field of Mantle Walls, immediately east of the village, has long been suspected as the site of a major medieval building.
Local traditions from at least the 18th century suggest that the then ruined building was a stronghold of the crusading Knights of Malta or that it was a Bishop’s Palace.
Since 2010, a story has steadily been emerging that Mantle Walls is in fact the probable site of a Bishop’s house or palace dating from the 12th or 13th centuries.
The medieval Bishopric of Glasgow extended at this time as far as Ancrum, and one of Glasgow’s Bishops – Bishop de Bondington who was responsible for building Glasgow Cathedral – actually died in the village after dictating his last writ to the Pope. Ancrum, it seems, was at the very centre of medieval religion and politics until the Wars of Independence.
SBC’s Archaeology Officer Dr Chris Bowles was contacted by a member of the public in 2010 who was concerned about possible illegal metal detecting at Mantle Walls.
In light of the threats to the site, Dr Bowles proposed a research project to investigate its history and determine what, if anything, survived of the supposed medieval building.
After gaining the support of Historic Scotland, Treasure Trove Scotland and the National Museums of Scotland, the project got underway in November 2011 with a geophysical survey.
Professional archaeologists, along with help from residents in Ancrum, will be conducting a further evaluation of the site. This will consist of small excavation trenches to test the results of the geophysics.
It is hoped that this will further reveal features and strong dating evidence that will prove this to be a medieval site of regional and possibly national importance. Daily site tours are planned for the public at 4pm between Monday and Thursday.
SBC’s Archaeology Officer Chris Bowles said: “From the geophysics results we obtained last year, Mantle Walls looks to be an extraordinary site. I am very hopeful that we can not only show that this is an important medieval site but that the added awareness will bring some measure of protection against illegal metal detecting.
“Metal Detecting is a fantastic way to interact with the past and find new evidence for it, and on the whole I encourage it. But metal detectorists have a responsibility under the Law of Treasure Trove to contact Treasure Trove Scotland about their discoveries. If they hand them in, on most occasions the objects are studied and sent back. Where they are seen to be of some importance the items are bought by museums at market value from the finders. This way, we are both learning important things about our past and preserving objects for future generations.”
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