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Newbattle

The second of the six Cistercian Monasteries established by St. David, King of Scotland

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Newbattle (NEUBOTLE, i.e. new dwelling), in the ancient Diocese of St. Andrews, about seven miles from Edinburgh, was founded about 1140, being the second of the six Cistercian Monasteries established by St. David, King of Scotland. Newbattle Abbey was a filiation of Melrose (itself a daughter of Clairvaux) and was situated, according to Cistercian usages, in a beautiful valley along the South Esk. Rudolph, its first abbot, a strict and severe observer of the rule, devoted himself energetically to the erection of proper buildings. The church, cruciform in shape, was two hundred and forty feet in length, and the other buildings in proportion; for the community numbered at one period as many as eighty monks and seventy lay-brothers. The abbey soon became prosperous, and famous for the regularity of its members, several of whom became well known bishops. It was especially dear to the kings of Scotland, scarcely one of whom failed to visit it from time to time, and they were always its generous benefactors. One of the principal sources of income was the coal mines in its possession, for these monks were among the first, if not the first, coal miners in Scotland. The earliest mention of coal in Scotland is to be found in a charter of an Earl of Winchester, granting to them a coal mine. Newbattle suffered much from English incursions at various times, particularly in 1385, when the monastery and church were burned, and the religious either carried away, or forced to flee to other monasteries; it required forty years to repair these losses. A part of the monastery was again destroyed by the Earl of Hertford, but the destruction seems to have been chiefly confined to the church. At the time of the Protestant Reformation but few of the monks remained, and these were pensioned by the commendator, Mark Kerr, ancestor of the Lothian family, its present owners. The stones of the church were used to convert the monastic buildings into a secular house.

EDMOND M. OBRECHT


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