Nestled in a bend in the Ale Water lies an enigmatic site. Long suspected to be the location of a residence belonging to one of the Medieval Bishops of Glasgow, and used by Alexander II for the signing of important documents, the Mantle Walls has captivated the interest of local residents for decades.

In 2019, Ancrum and District Heritage Society will lead a new community heritage project focused on understanding the rich history and archaeology at Mantle Walls. Volunteers will be able to engage with the project by participating in excavations, workshops, public talks and event days. Explore the site to find out more.

The project is kindly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Fallago Environment Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Borders Council.

Community Excavations

Excavations will take place at the Mantle Walls site from the 16th to the 28th of September.

If you would like to sign up to volunteer as a digger on site, please send your full name, contact details and days you would like to volunteer to

Our excavation aims to confirm the nature, condition and date of the archaeological remains present on site.

*Our digging days onsite will be Tuesday the 17th of September to Saturday the 21st of September and Monday the 23rd September to Friday the 28th September.

About the Site

East of the village of Ancrum, overlooking the Ale Water, a field known as Mantle Walls has long been suspected to be the site of a Bishops residence dating from the 13th Century.

It is known from documentary evidence that William de Bondington, Bishop of Glasgow from 1232/33 until his death in 1258, had a residence at Ancrum, famed for its gardens.

At least three royal charters were signed at Ancrum by Alexander II on the 3rd of December 1236, all assigning grants of land to Melrose Abbey.

Although no upstanding remains are visible on the ground, several historical documents have referred to buildings on the site, primarily the Old and New Statistical Accounts.

“the most venerable fragment of antiquity in the parish is the Malton wall or walls, upon a rising ground at the bottom of the village of Ancrum, close to the side of the river, where it turns its course towards the SE. These walls were strongly built of stone and lime in the figure of a parallelogram, and, ascending on one side from the plain adjacent to the river were considerably higher than the summit of the hill which they inclose; but are now levelled with its surface, and a small part of them remain. Vaults of subterranean arches have been discovered in the neighbouring ground, and underneath the area inclosed by the building. Human bones are still found by persons ploughing or digging in the plain at the side of the river, which is an evidence of its having been formerly occupied as burying ground” (OSA, Vol. X, 1794, 294).

“the ruins of Maltan Walls… enclosed, at no distant period, an acre and a-half, within the area o which weer visible various vaults and subterranean passages, but of which there is now nothing to be seen except a small remnant of the outer wall." (NSA 1845, 243).

Image from Maldonado, 2012, report can be accessed here

Previous Work

In 2010, masonry was recovered from the field margins and a section of wall was visible on the southern edge of the hill’s summit. Medieval and post-medieval pottery was identified. Based on these discoveries, a geophysical survey was carried out in November 2011 (Maldonaldo 2011) and excavations were carried out informed by the survey in 2012.

Results of the excavations and further documents can be found here.

Public Talks

A programme of public talks will run throughout our project. These talks are listed below. The venues and dates will be updated closer to the time - so please check back soon for these!

Opening talk

Interim results talk

Final results talk


Throughout the Mantle Walls project we will be offering workshops aimed at giving individuals training in three further aspects of archaeology - conservation, post excavation and archival research. The workshops are listed below and the venues and dates will be added nearer to the dates - so check back soon for these.

Archival Research

Retent Processing

Conservation, The Basics

Excavation Open Day

On Saturday the 21st of September the Mantle Walls site will be open to visitors to view the excavations and learn a little about what we might have found.

More details on the day and logistics will be available soon, so please keep checking back!

Community Day

Ancrum and District Heritage Soceity are pleased to announce that they will be hosting a Community Day on Sunday the 22nd of September on the village green in Ancrum.

On the day there will be activities, stalls and demonstrations of Medieval crafts. Further details will be announced soon.