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Kelso Abbey

Kelso Abbey

Kelso Abbey, a ruined abbey, dedicated to the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, was founded in 1128 by David I for monks from Tiron in Picardy, whom he transferred hither from Selkirk, where they had been installed fifteen years before. The abbey, the building of which was completed towards the middle of the 13th century, became one of the richest and most powerful establishments in Scotland, claiming precedence over the other monasteries and disputing for a time the supremacy with St Andrews. It suffered damage in numerous English forays, was pillaged by the 4th earl of Shrewsbury in 1522, and was reduced to ruins in 1545 by the earl of Hertford (afterwards the Protector Somerset). In 1602 the abbey lands passed into the hands of Sir Robert Ker of Cessford, 1st earl of Roxburgh. The ruins were disfigured by an attempt to render part of them available for public worship, and one vault was long utilized as the town gaol. All excrescences, however, were cleared away at the beginning of the 19th century, by the efforts of the Duke of Roxburghe. The late Norman and Early Pointed cruciform church has an unusual ground-plan, the west end of the cross forming the nave and being shorter than the chancel. The nave and transepts extend only 23 ft. from the central tower. The remains include most of the tower, nearly the whole of the walls of the south transept, less than half of the west front with a fragment of the richly moulded and deeply-set doorway, the north and west sides of the north transept, and a remnant of the chancel. The chancel alone had aisles, while its main circular arches were surmounted by two tiers of triforium galleries. The predominant feature is the great central tower, which, as seen from a distance, suggests the keep of a Norman castle. It rested on four Early Pointed arches, each 45 ft. high (of which the south and west yet exist) supported by piers of clustered columns. Over the Norman porch in the north transept is a small chamber with an interlaced arcade surmounted by a network gable.

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