Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Lammermuir Shiels

The great Border Abbeys at Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose were established in the twelfth century. Soon after large areas of land in the Lammermuir Hills were gifted to each of theses religious houses for the purposes of farming. The hills then, like now, were used for the rearing of mainly sheep. Many of these monastic farms have the suffix ‘shiel’, which in all likelihood goes back to the days of the pre Christian church.

In the area where the upper streams of the Whiteadder are located, and mainly to the east of the river around Spartleton were the lands held by the Tironensian monks of Kelso Abbey. Eventually their lands ran from the Whiteadder to the Monynut and to Philip’s Burn in the south; this would originally have been called Fulhope Burn. Old records show that the monks of Kelso had “fifty score of sheep and as many pigs as they needed”. What is also interesting is the fact that their lands had very fixed parish boundaries even then.

Millknowe was the place where the monks had their mill, while Mayshiel was granted to the monks of the Isle of May, to the north were lands belonging to the monks of Haddington. Between Penshiel Hill and the Kilmade burn was land that belonged to the Cistercian monks of Melrose Abbey. At Penshiel stood a vaulted Grange, with a chapel and other outbuildings all within a walled enclosure. The excellent reputation of the sheep from this area lasted for hundreds of years, and well after the demise of the Border Abbeys following the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1545). In A.G. Bradley’s book ‘The Gateway of Scotland’ he writes. “Priestlaw…..a familiar name in every market and fair from Edinburgh to Berwick.” He also says that it was a place of great hospitality for those making the journey on horseback or by trap from Dunbar to the Merse. Even people who the farmer barely knew were expected to pay a visit if they were on the road.

Other Shiels within our area are Gamelshiel, Windshiel, Craig’s Windshiel and Windy Windshiel.

Religious Connections
The place names throughout the hills speak to their strong religious connections. St Agnes, Friarsdyke, Friars Nose, Priestlaw, Nunswells, Kilpallet, Kilmade, Abbey St Bathans, Kirkgate Hill, and Godscroft,

Windy Windshiel, just visable on the skyine, is situated on the B6355 between Ellemford to Duns and is aptly named! It was a fortified farmhouse, the left hand half of it was built in the 16th century and the right hand half in the 17th century.

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