IN one of the most extraordinary Scottish archaeological finds of recent years, a local amateur heritage group has discovered the remains of one of the key bridges of medieval Scotland that had been lost for centuries.

Ancrum and District Heritage Society (ADHS), a local volunteer archaeology group in the Scottish Borders, found the remains of what they thought might be the original and thought-to-be lost Old Ancrum Bridge.

Over the last two years, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has funded ADHS, working in partnership with Dendrochronicle and Wessex Archaeology. The project has confirmed that the remains of the bridge have been found in the River Teviot and date back to the mid-14th century.

HES stated: “Using radiocarbon dating of the bridge timbers, experts confirmed a date of the mid-1300s, making this the oldest scientifically dated remains of a bridge ever found in its original position across one of Scotland’s rivers.

“Initial archive research by ADHS led to the discovery of cutwater platforms and oak timbers that once supported the piers of a multi-arched bridge, hidden under the waters of the River Teviot. These are the last remaining, but crucially also the first built, parts of the bridge.”

Built during the reigns of David II of Scotland and Edward III of England, the bridge is of historic and strategic national importance. The bridge crossed the River Teviot, carrying the “Via Regia” (The Kings Way) on its way from Edinburgh to Jedburgh and the Border. James V would have crossed here in 1526, as would Mary, Queen of Scots returning from her tour of the Borders in 1566, and the Marquis of Montrose on his way to battle at Philiphaugh in 1645.

ADHS also enlisted the help of Coralie Mills of Dendrochronicle, who helped them take samples of the timbers in the riverbed. She was able to identify them as native oak, which is rarely found in Scottish sites after around 1450 when imported timber becomes more frequent.

Underwater archaeologists from Wessex Archaeology undertook a survey and assessment of the remains, which are near the current Old and New Ancrum Bridges.

Timber samples were then sent to the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in East Kilbride for “wiggle match” radiocarbon dating and returned the results, giving a date range in the middle of the 1300s.

Kevin Grant, archaeology manager at HES, said: “HES are delighted to have played a part in funding one of the most exciting and significant archaeological discoveries in Scotland in recent years. This project shows that discoveries of immense importance remain to be found by local heritage groups – and what can be achieved by bringing archaeological science and expertise together with local knowledge which has helped to unlock a centuries-held secret that will add to the fabric of Scotland’s story.”

READ MORE: How a local heritage group found the lost Ancrum Bridge

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. It has been a privilege to work alongside ADHS on investigating this important structure.”

Dr Bob MacKintosh of Wessex Archaeology said: “The site was challenging to survey, and particular river conditions were needed to complete it safely. The regular monitoring of the site by ADHS, and the excellent photography and surveying they completed prior to our involvement, made our work a lot easier.”