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Sunderlandhall. Anglian Church and Graveyard.
There is a huge haugh in front of Sunderlandhall house which has no sign of ever having any buildings on it. This is remarkable because it is the best land in Selkirkshire lying there between the junction of the Ettrick and the Tweed. The only visible remains of human use are the plough ridges that date to the agricultural enclosures of the mid seventeen hundreds.
It has never been ploughed within human memory, so there has been no field-walking to pinpoint occupation and air photographs show nothing but the parkland which had been laid out pre 1773.
In 2006, Alistair Patullo of Selkirk was walking his dog along the Ettrick side of the haugh when he saw a carved stone in the river and thought enough of it to carry it back to Selkirk where it lay in his garden. It took me about a year to go to see it and I identified it, fairly accurately I think, as a church font and part of a door pillar. This was unusual as there are no records of a church in that area and on that side of the river – Selkirk abbey being on the other side at Lindean.
Here logic and guesswork come into the equation. Recent finds of a Roman cart fitting on the other side of the Tweed and several high-quality Roman objects at the known Anglian settlement at Philiphaugh, tell that there was an Anglian elite in this part of the Borders, by about 750 AD. It is unlikely that the Anglians would ignore the fertile haughs of Sunderland. ‘Sunderland’ is an Anglian word representing the lands cut of (‘sondered’) by the Catrail. This must have been a fairly substantial Anglian estate but there is no documentary evidence to confirm my thoughts.
It took four years before I took my divining rods to see if I could find any trace of a church and I found one slightly above where Alistair found his font stone.
The building at NT 48788 31787 is rectangular with walls about 0.8 metres thick and a doorway on the longer eastern side. The building measures 9 metres by 4 metres internally. It was enclosed by a double palisaded enclosure about 40 metres across and this was a closely-packed graveyard. This would suggest an Anglian church of the kingdom of Northumbria.
This is feasible, even likely, but it adds a further complication to the site. If there was a stone-built church there would be a great hall and several smaller buildings in the vicinity. These would have to be located by divining rods.
9 January 2013. Walter Elliot