AN HISTORICALLY significant bridge has been rediscovered in a Borders river.

Ancrum Old Bridge, which dates back to the 1300s, is described by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) as “one of the most important structures of medieval Scotland” and has been hidden beneath the water in the River Teviot for centuries.

HES funded local archaeology group Ancrum and District Heritage Society (ADHS) to conduct an investigation, alongside Dendrochronicle and Wessex Archaeology, which led to the discovery.

Geoff Parkhouse, from ADHS, said: “Ancrum Old Bridge now has a 14th century date. In Scotland there is not a standing bridge that is earlier than the 15th century.

Border Telegraph:

“In those times, during flood or highwater, the Ancrum Bridge may have been the only place to cross the Teviot between Hawick and Berwick, making it one of the most important structures in medieval Scotland.”

The ADHS discovered cutwater platforms and oak timbers that once supported the bridge’s piers, which stood for over 400 years.

The discovery makes this the oldest scientifically dated remains of a bridge ever found in its original position across one of Scotland’s rivers.

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ADHS enlisted the help of archaeologist Coralie Mills to take the timber samples.

Speaking about the discovery, Dr Mills said: “The timber structure discovered by ADHS in the River Teviot near Ancrum is a rare survival of part of an early bridge in a hugely strategic historical location.

“The oak timbers are in remarkably good condition and provide really important local material for tree-ring analysis in a region where few medieval buildings survived the ravages of war.”

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Built during the reign of David II of Scotland, the bridge formed part of the King’s Way path from Edinburgh, through Jedburgh, to the border.

Mary Queen of Scots would have used the bridge when returning from her tour of the Borders in 1566, as well as James V slightly earlier in 1526 and the Marquis of Montrose on his way to battle at Philiphaugh in 1645.

Bob MacKintosh of Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine described the site as “challenging” but added that the results were “really exciting”.

Border Telegraph:

“In addition to the surprisingly early date, it seems the foundations were built using branders, a wooden frame laid on the riverbed upon which the courses of stone were placed,” Dr MacKintosh said.

“This is the first time branders have been found in an archaeological context in Scotland. They are otherwise only known from historical sources and two accounts of engineering works on extant bridges completed in the 19th and early 20th century."

Kevin Grant, archaeology manager at HES, said the body was “delighted to have played a part in funding one of the most exciting and significant archaeological discoveries in Scotland in recent years”.