Southdene Church

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Southdean (Southdene, Southden) Church is associated with the Battle of Otterburn in 1388; the leaders of the Scottish army are said to have met at the church on the eve of the battle.



The parish of Southdean occupies about the middle of the English border of Roxburghshire, and lies upon the north-western slopes of Carter Fell, in Jed forest. The old church is situated near the river Jed, and close to the west side of the road that leads from Hawick over the border into Northumberland. The modern church is situated about a mile lower down.

The parish was in the diocese of Glasgow and the archdeaconry of Teviotdale. Nothing seems to be known of the early history of the church, and the dedication is at present unknown. The church is of considerable historic interest for its association with the victory over the English at Otteiburn in the summer of 1388, for it was within its walls that the leaders of the Scottish army met on the eve of the battle.

" Here were assembled in council all the chivalry of Scotland, including the hero of Otterburn, the second Earl of Douglas; Archibald the Grim, afterwards the third Earl of Douglas ; the Earl of Fife, better known as the Duke of Albany ; Sir John Swinton, who died gallantly leading a forlorn hope at Homildon; Sir Alexander Ramsay, and many other famous Scottish knights. An English squire, greatly daring, ventured into the church unnoticed, in their midst, discovered their plans, and, leaving the church, had nearly escaped the Scottish lines but for his horse having been stolen in the interval. He was observed, captured, and brought back to the church, to be ' handled in such wise ' that he revealed the disposition of the English forces. This valuable information decided the Scottish leaders to invade England on both east and west, and thus puzzle the enemy. The larger division went by Carlisle, and a smaller army of picked men, under the Earl of Douglas, swiftly invaded the country on the east, and to them fell the glory of Otterburn."

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; Volume 45 (1910-11) The remains of the church, as shown in fig. 9, have been treated with great care. The walls have been carefully pointed and covered with cement, so as to prevent the rain sinking into them from above.

This cement cover has been hidden with stones for the sake of appearance. The tower has been built up with the original stones just far enough to enable a low fall-to roof to be placed upon it, so that it can be used to protect the carved stones found in the course of the work. These have been collected and placed within it, and an iron gate with a lock has been fitted up in the doorway: Over the doorway has been placed a tablet with the inscription :
" Here, in the year 1388, James, Earl of Douglas, and the Scottish
leaders, assembled their forces, matured their plans, and began the
invasion of England, which culminated in the Battle of Otterburne."
" When the dead Douglas won the field."
" These walls repaired and this stone inserted, 1910."

There was a church of intermediate date, now in ruins, built in 1690, at the village of Chesters; this was built to take the place of the old church of Southdean, which was deserted after the roof, collapsed in 1688.




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    Last modified: Sunday, 02 June 2019