The history of Jedburgh especially in the middle and late Medieval period and beyond is fascinating. Being only 12 miles north west of the present English border, like many towns in the borderlands it has found itself caught up with the constant fighting between England and Scotland. The tug of war between the two sides is a well known topic of history that is still felt keenly even today. I don’t have the time or space to go into an in-depth look at Jedburgh’s history during this period and I don’t pretend to know more than the basics anyway, so hopefully you will all forgive me for glossing over this time period quickly. My main interest after all is the Jedburgh, or more accurately the two Jedburgh’s of the 9th century.
Over the past 1100 or so years there has been over 83 versions of the name Jedburgh, the most unusual of which was Ludanbyrig in the 10th century version of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. Today the locals refer to their town affectionately as Jeddart which is similar to another earlier spelling (Jethart). Most of these alternate spellings derive the first part of the name from the nearby river Jed or Jed waters. This in turn was originally the river Gad, the namesake of a british tribe called the gadeni who lived between the Teviot and the border of present day Northumberland.
The first written evidence of the town comes in 854 AD when two settlements on the Jed water are mentioned both with the name Gedwearde. The remains of a church that was founded in 845 have been found approximately 5 miles south east of modern day Jedburgh and was probably the centre of one of these Gedweardes. Grave mounds can be seen nearby and the coins of various English and Scottish kings such as Canute (Danish King of England), Edred, Edwy, Ethelred, Edward I, Edward III have also been found. Just like Melrose Abbey, during this time period both settlements were in fact within the territory of the Northumbrians. Early sources such as the writings of Simeon of Durham tell us that there had been a church built here by Bishop Ecred of Lindisfarne who later left the two settlements to the monks of Lindisfarne after his death. Simeon also adds that this same church was also the burial place of a man called Eadulf, a kinsman to the earls of Bamburgh and one of the assassins of Bishop William Walcher of Durham in1080.
The two settlements of Gedwearde were still known in the time of the Scottish King David I in the mid 12th century. After this time the settlement with Ecred’s church seems to have disappeared but the settlement that evolved into the modern day Jedburgh flourished and was made into a burgh with a priory built for the Augustinian monks. The priory grew with royal patronage into a monastery and then an abbey by around 1147 and by the end of the 13th century it had hosted the marriage of King Alexander III of Scotland. In the turmoil of conflict between Scotland and England the Abott of Jedburgh changed his allegiance to the English King Edward I in 1296 and received land in Northumberland as his reward. The friendship soured the next year however as Jedburgh and its abbey were pillaged by the English in retribution for William Wallace’s victory in battle against the Earl of Surrey.
Robert the Bruce took great care to restore the Abbey to its former glory but for the next 300 years it continued to be caught in the middle of Scottish and English hostilities. After the reformation in 1560 the abbey was severly downgraded to serve as a protestant parish church. From the 1670s the abbey seems to have fallen into disrepair and in 1871 the problem was so bad that worship had to be stopped and a new parish church erected. It is now in the care of Historic Scotland.
In addition to the abbey there was also a castle at Jedburgh which was called home to many Scottish Kings and Queens. Even Mary Queen of Scots stayed here for a while in 1566.