Priory History

Priory History

There has been Christian worship on the site for over a thousand years and our present Priory Church building includes walls dated to around 1200.

Coldingham Priory was founded in 1098 by Edgar, King of Scots and son of Malcolm Canmore and St Margaret, in gratitude to Almighty God for recovering his kingdom from Donald Bane, his uncle, who had usurped it as his father’s death.

The first monastic community consisted of thirty Benedictine monks from Durham, and the Priory remained a ‘cell’ of Durham down to 1590.  Liberally endowed from the outset by Edgar, it received many further gifts and privileges from later Scottish kings and other pious donors, until it became one of the wealthiest religious houses in Scotland.  As with other religious houses, its wealth came from land ownership which brought income from timber management and from the rearing of sheep that produced wool for export.

The original Church, built in Edgar’s time, was destroyed by King John of England in 1216, but was replaced by a greater and more magnificent church, which in turn was largely destroyed in 1545 during the great raid of the Earl of Hertford, which brought ruin also to the abbeys of Kelso, Dryburgh and Melrose.

The choir, however, though further damaged by forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1650, survives and constitutes the present Priory Church.

The scale of the Priory at its peak of influence can be seen in the model of the ancient building below:

A more detailed Priory history timeline can be accessed here.