Coldstream Priory was founded by Cospatrick III, Earl of Dunbar, and his wife Derder, in 1165/66. It was founded as a nunnery and remained so until its dissolution in 1621. It was in the Diocese of St Andrews, the Arch-deaconry of Lothian, and the Deanery of the Merse, as well as being within the Earldom of Dunbar and Sherrifdom of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Nothing remains of the monastery, with the exception of some fragments in Coldstream Museum and indications on town plans and old maps. There are also street names and signs, from which one can assume that a religious house was in the vicinity. Examples include Abbey Road (formerly Abbey Lane), Nun’s Walk, Penitents Walk and Ladiesfield but whether these names are original, or are Victorian names, is unclear. However, it is documented that after the priory was secularised in 1621, it was in use as a quarry after its owner, Sir John Hamilton, had ‘allowed it to become dilapidated,’ the foundations of the Priory are probably still in situ.
Various 19th century Ordinance Survey maps indicate the Priory was near the Marjoribanks burial site, and is marked on the 1864 plan of Coldstream, with a cross and designated ‘St Mary’s Abbey Chapel’. Abbey House and its grounds are without doubt in the grounds of the old Priory, overlooking what is now the Tweed Green at the mouth of Leet water. Many so-called histories of abbeys and religious houses concentrate on the buildings and architecture, with little emphasis on the people who lived there. Unfortunately in Coldstream today no substantial medieval buildings remain.
Aftermath of the Battle of Flodden
In terms of the Battle of Flodden, Coldstream Priory’s role appears to have been in receiving some of the bodies of dead Scots nobles who are said to be buried in the grounds of the Priory. The remains of Scottish nobles were for the most part removed to Scotland in the days following the battle, by groups such as the nuns from the Coldstream Priory who travelled to the battlefield to offer care to the wounded and to retrieve the (important) dead. Unfortunately there is no record of which nobles ended their days here.