The oldest bridge in Scotland was thought lost to time and the elements… until it was found by a local historical society member.
For four centuries, the Old Ancrum Bridge spanned the River Teviot so medieval travelers could pass safely to and from Edinburgh. As such, it was considered to be one of the most important structures in the country. But it was believed that the original structure had been forever lost until a local heritage society member found mention of the bridge in a 17th-century document, providing clues to its location.
Using drone photography, a team of archaeologists and society members were recently able to pinpoint the underwater ruins of the original bridge, including its platform and the remains of a wooden oak structure.
Carbon dating the wood placed the construction of the bridge to around the mid-1300s, although it is yet unknown whether the bridge was built by the Scots or the English.
The bridge was part of the King’s Way (Via Regia), which allowed farmers, tradespeople, and noblemen to travel from Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders. It also connected abbeys and castles, thereby facilitating the wool trade and tax collection.
The bridge, which was built using a wooden frame on the riverbed upon which stones were laid, even played a role in the Battle of Ancrum Moor, where Henry VIII, in an attempt to force Scotland to agree to the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to his son Edward, sent a troop of soldiers to the region. Although facing a far greater force, the Scots were able to expel the English, at a site not too far from the bridge.
By the end of the 1600s, however, the bridge had fallen into disrepair and the locals were unable to raise the funds needed to fix it. A toll bridge was erected in the same location in 1784. When that one fell into disrepair, another bridge was erected in 1939, which remains to this day.