Talk:Berwickshire Towns and Villages S

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St Abbs

The history of St Abbs Church is much younger than the village itself, once known as Coldingham Shore (and part of the parish of Coldingham) the village grew from a handful of dwellings that housed the fishermen and their families. The first major developement within St Abbs took place in the late 1820's and early 1830's, the village is split into two distinct sections, the lower (harbour) and upper sections. It was only in the late 19th century that the name of St Abbs came into being.


The original church on the site at Simprim Church dates to the early or mid 12th century, built by Hye (Hugh) de Simprine. The income from the church was kept by the then priest. After the death of the priest Hye gave a farmstead, cottage and land to Kelso Abbey, this allowed the income from the church to be used by the abbey.

In 1482 upon the orders of Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later to become King Richard III of England) the church was burnt, although it was rebuilt the Reformation of 1560 left the church without officers for many years. Around 1700 a new minister provided a revival for the church and in the mid 1700's a new bell and steeple were added. By 1761 the tiny parish had united with Swinton, the bell was removed and the church began to fall into ruin.

Within the grounds of the old church gravestones dating back to the early 1700's can still be seen. Simprim "village" lies to one side of the road and comprises the church ruins and a few cottages associated with the farm on the opposite side of the road.


Swinton Kirk lies in the centre of a triangle linking Holy Island, Coldingham and Melrose. These locations (as centres of Christianity) meant a constant band of travellers would criss cross the area and Swinton would provide shelter and accomodation for them.

The building (in parts) dates to pre 1100. The walls are over three feet thick and traces of a ditch surrounding the church have been discovered. In 1482 and 1542 the kirk provided refuge during military attacks.

In 1593 the kirk received the first of several renovations. In 1782 the church was extended (to a "T" shape) to accomodate the growing congregation after the union of Simprim and Swinton. In 1837 the kirk was again altered to the rather unusual current "L" shape and the gallery was added. The final phase of changes took place in 1910 when the roof was raised and the windows heightened, along with an internal refurbishment including floor and pews to produce the building we find today.

The original Free Kirk appears to have been located on Coldstream Road, just a few yards from the Parish Kirk. It is shown on the 1860 OS Map of Berwickshire but has been demolished, the site now forms part of a haulage yard.
The second building used as Swinton Free Kirk sits on the High Street, overlooking the village green. After the unification of the Free Church back into the established church the building became disused, eventually plans were put into place to use the building as a community centre and this continued until recently. The building is currently closed for building works.

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