COLDINGHAM, a parish, in the county of Berwick; including the tract of Laverock, and the late quoad sacra district of Houndwood; and containing 2830 inhabitants, of whom a considerable portion reside in the village of Coldingham, 3 miles from Reston, which is on the London and Edinburgh road, and 11 (N. N. W.) from Berwick. This place, of which the name is of doubtful derivation, has a claim to very remote antiquity, and appears to have originally acquired distinction from the erection of a nunnery, in the seventh century, by Ebba, daughter of Ethelfrith, King of Northumbria. To escape from the solicitations of Penda, King of Mercia, who sought to obtain her in marriage, she resolved to leave her father's kingdom, and, embarking for that purpose, was driven by a storm on the promontory of this coast, which from her derived its name. The convent that she founded here, appears to have subsisted till the year 837, when it was plundered and burnt by the Danes, who inhumanly massacred the whole sisterhood. Some slender remains of its chapel, however, existed till about the middle of the last century; but, the cemetery surrounding it being again appropriated as a burial-place, they were soon afterwards destroyed. The monastery of Coldingham is said to have been founded by Edgar, King of Scotland, about the year 1100, though other writers refer its foundation to a period anterior to that of the nunnery of St. Ebba, in the destruction of which by the Danes they say it participated, and that it was only rebuilt by Edgar. That monarch, being driven from his throne, fled to England, where he obtained from William Rufus an army of 30,000 men, for the recovery of his dominions, and from the abbot of Durham the consecrated banner of St. Cuthbert, to aid him in reducing his rebellious subjects to obedience. Having succeeded in re-establishing his kingdom, Edgar founded or refounded the monastery, which he dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and made a cell to the abbey of Durham, from which establishment he placed in it a prior and brethren of the order of St. Benedict.
   The priory continued to flourish, in uninterrupted prosperity, from this time, with the munificent patronage of Edgar's successors, till the reign of Robert III., under whose weak government, and during the regency of the Duke of Albany, the monks placed themselves under the protection of the family of Douglas, of whom the laird of Home became its sub-prior. Not long afterwards, James III. obtained the concurrence of the parliament for the suppression of the priory, the revenues of which he wished to appropriate to the endowment of the chapel royal of Stirling, which he had founded, but their proceedings excited an insurrection of the Homes, which terminated in the defeat and death of that monarch, who was killed in battle, near Stirling, in 1488. The priory, in 1509, was separated from Durham, by a decree of the pope, and annexed to the Abbey of Dunfermline, whose abbot, Alexander Stuart, a natural son of James IV., and also archbishop of St. Andrew's, who fell fighting by his father's side at the battle of Flodden-Field, became prior. After the death of Alexander Stuart, David, brother of Lord Home, was made prior of Coldingham. The priory was, in 1544, seized by the English, who fortified and retained possession of it, against all the efforts of the Earl of Arran, Regent of Scotland, for its recovery; and in the following year, it was plundered and burnt by the Earl of Hertford, after which calamity it never regained its ancient wealth and importance. During the usurpation of Cromwell, it was defended against the assaults of his troops, by a party of royalists who had intrenched themselves within the walls, and who vigorously repulsed the first detachment sent against them. Cromwell, however, bringing up in person a stronger force, with several pieces of cannon, shook it to its foundation, and compelled the royalists to capitulate; and, to prevent it from again becoming an obstacle to his success, he blew up the church with gunpowder, leaving only one of the walls standing.
   The parish, which is about twelve miles in extreme length, and nine in extreme breadth, is bounded on the north and north-east by the sea and the Frith of Forth. The surface is diversified with hills and valleys: a portion of the range of the Lammermoor hills traverses it, in a direction from east to west, and the highest elevation, Wardlaw Bank, is 640 feet above the sea. The valleys are watered by various streams, of which the most important is the river Eye, which, after flowing with a gentle current through the whole extent of the parish, falls into the ocean at Eyemouth. The only lake is that of Coldingham, about a mile to the west of St. Abb's Head, a fine expanse of water covering thirty acres of ground, within 300 yards of the coast, and having an elevation of 100 yards above the sea; it is circumscribed by sloping banks of barren rocky aspect, incapable of plantation, and abounds with perch, the only kind of fish it contains. The coast, near St. Abb's Head, is rocky and precipitous, and indented with numerous caves excavated in the rock, of which some are of large extent, and with natural fissures, inaccessible from the land, and only to be entered from the sea at low water, and in calm weather.
   The soil is various, and, in some parts of the parish, fertile; but there are large tracts of barren land, incapable of being brought into cultivation. The whole number of acres is estimated at about 57,000, of which 6000 are moor and waste, about 500 in woods and plantations, and the remainder, in nearly equal portions, arable and pasture. The chief crops are, grain of various kinds, potatoes, and turnips, and the system of agriculture is improved; very many cattle are fattened, and great numbers of sheep are annually reared. The rateable annual value of the parish is £19,770. The natural woods consist mostly of oak, elm, and birch; and the plantations of the various kinds of fir, and larch, intermixed with the usual forest trees. The rocks are generally of the transition formation, and the principal substrata are greywacke and greywacke-slate; the promontory of St. Abb's Head is one mass of trap rock, composed mainly of trap tuffa, amygdaloid, and porphyritic felspar. A lucrative fishery is carried on, for which purpose a small harbour was constructed in 1833, at Northfield, about a mile from the village, at an expense of £1200, of which sum, about one-fourth was raised by subscription, and the remainder was granted by government. The fish taken off the coast are, cod, haddock, turbot, and lobsters; and about seven boats are regularly employed, affording support to thirty-six families, of which number thirty live in the hamlet of Northfield. The cod is pickled, the haddocks smoked, and the turbot and lobsters are sent alive to the London market. The village of Coldingham is pleasantly situated, and contains many neatly built houses; a library is supported by subscription, in which is a collection of more than 400 volumes of standard works. The weaving of cotton affords employment to more than thirty persons.
   The Ecclesiastical affairs are under the presbytery of Chirnside and synod of Merse and Teviotdale; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the incumbent is £267; the manse was built in 1801, and enlarged in 1828, and the glebe is valued at £25 per annum. The church, which is a portion of the ancient monastery, was repaired in 1662, and is well adapted for a congregation of 827 persons. There is a place of worship for members of the United Associate Synod. Two parochial schools are well attended; the masters have each a salary of £25, with a house and garden, and fees. The remains of the priory, though dreadfully mutilated, still display some memorials of its former magnificence; they contain fragments of the richest details in the Norman style, from its earliest period to its transition into the early English. The north wall of the church was formerly covered with series of intersecting arches, springing from corbels enriched with canopies; but the shafts of the intercolumniations have been cut away, and the whole wretchedly disfigured. The triforium, however, of five elegantly-designed windows, separated by alternate ranges of plain and clustered columns, supporting richly-moulded arches of graceful form, is still tolerably entire, and various other portions, of elaborate design, may still be traced. Upon a peninsular rock projecting into the sea, about two miles to the west of St. Abb's Head, are the ruins of Fast Castle, connected with the mainland by a narrow isthmus, which, for greater security, was cut away, and in its place a drawbridge substituted. By whom it was originally founded is not clearly ascertained: it belonged to the family of Logan, of Restalrigg, one of whom, proprietor at the time of Gowry's conspiracy, was, several years after his death, tried and condemned for the part he took in that transaction, and his estates were forfeited to the crown, and subsequently conferred upon the Earl of Dunbar. It is visited chiefly for the grand prospect it embraces over the German Ocean. There were numerous other strongholds in the parish, of which the names of Langton Tower, Heughead, Renton, and Houndwood, which last was the hunting-seat of the prior of Coldingham, only are recorded. On the hill to the west of St. Abb's Head, are vestiges of a Roman camp, and on another the remains of a British camp, defended on three sides by lofty ramparts; and on the summit of Wardlaw Bank, are traces both of a Roman and a British camp, now nearly obliterated by the plough.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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