Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Jail, An Abbey and Meringue!

I've been neglecting my blog these past few weeks, lots has been going on and I haven't had a lot of spare time to devote to writing.  But I thought I'd write up a visit I recently made this weekend to Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders.

Jedburgh Jail
I met up with my friend Alison in Hawick - I'd taken the bus there because with the sky high price of petrol now it was cheaper than taking my car.  We went for lunch in The Bourtree, a Wetherspoons pub in the centre of Hawick.  It was a rather grand building, that had a sweeping wooden staircase that led to the loos!  Apparently it used to the a Conservative club, and the name Bourtree comes from ancient elder trees that used to stand where the present day building now is.

After a nice lunch we drove the 10 or so miles to Jedburgh.  I'd never been there before and thought it a lovely town dominated by the old castle-like jail on top of a hill at the head of the town's main street.  We first visited the jail which was on a prominent site where there was originally a castle built in the 12th century by King David I.  Being only ten miles from the border with England the castle was constantly fought over and by the 1400's had fallen into disrepair.

In 1823 the remains of the castle were removed and a Howard Reform prison was built on the site.  At the time it was the most modern and forward-thinking form of incarceration.  It has the look of a well preserved castle with turrets and walls and a portcullis-like entrance through the outer wall.  Entry was free (donations welcome) and what we noticed first was how bitterly cold it was inside - colder than outside!  That was really odd, maybe the stories of it being haunted are true.  We saw a display of the history of the building, the bleak cells with huge iron doors, examples of crimes - a 9 year old boy imprisoned for stealing potatoes was an example I remember.  Examples of the prison clothing was exhibited and the prison diet consisted of porridge, milk and potatoes.  It was a reformist jail but it still seemed pretty harsh.
Jedburgh Abbey

It was a relief to get outside again and warm up a bit!  We went to look at Jedburgh Abbey nearby.  It was a large building quite well preserved.  We didn't actually go into it as you had to pay but wandered around the perimeter.  Jedburgh is a small town of 4000 inhabitants today, but was clearly was an important religious seat in past times.

Mary, Queen of Scots House
We walked down Castle Gate and noticed a very old house called Mary, Queen of Scots House so we went to investigate.  It was another donation only museum so we went in to look around. It is rumoured Mary stayed at this house, owned by the Kerr family, while recovering from illness in 1566.  It is has four storeys which you reached via a stone spiral staircase and is full of memorabilia of Mary and this era. Once she returned from exile in France to Scotland, and later England, she seemed to have led an almost nomadic existence staying at various castles and grand mansions along the way.

The walls are wood panelled, the floors stone flags.  In one room there are panels painted with the images of people who played a role in Mary's eventful life.  A family tree shows all the royal inter-connections between those vying for the throne of England at the time. There is also a death mask of Mary taken after her execution in at Fotheringhay Castle1587 in the museum which shows her to have been a very beautiful woman.

Finally Alison and I went to a meringue shop, my idea of heaven LOL!  Border Meringues supplies meringues to shops etc in the region, and it's very ordinary exterior hides a lovely cafe with meringue and cake delights to please everyone.  Delicious and well deserved after our historical traipsing around Jedburgh.  It's a small, but historically interesting town and well worth a visit.

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