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The History of Jedburgh Castle

Jedburgh Castle was once a grand castle situated in Jedburgh, Scotland. It was fought over during the Wars of Scottish Independence. While it no longer exists today, something quite peculiar stands in its place.

The history of Jedburgh Castle

Jedburgh Castle Jail & Museum is a lovely attraction that looks like a grand castle – but inside is a different story! Once a grand and mighty castle, it is now a jail museum that gives visitors a taste of what an 1820s prison was like.

The early history

While nothing remains of Jedburgh Castle, it is quite easy to see why the spot was chosen as a home for the castle. It has a rather commanding view over the surrounding countryside which would have dominated the town. The very first castle on the site was a wooden motte and bailey structure built in the first half of the 12th century by David I.

Known as a royal castle, it was also the place of death of David’s grandson and successor Malcolm IV in 1165.

Front of Jedburgh Castle
Jedburgh Castle is now a museum. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The next king

Then, in 1174, the next king, William I, who was also Malcolm’s brother, was captured by the English at the Battle of Alnwick. In order to secure his release, the Scots signed the Treaty of Falaise which gave the English possession of the castles of Roxburgh, Berwick, Jedburgh, Edinburgh, and Stirling.

Returning to Scottish hands

In 1189, the castle was able to return to Scottish hands when Richard the Lionheart terminated the agreement in return for 10,000 silver marks. However, over the next couple of centuries, the castle changed hands several times as a result of border wars between Scotland and England. Then, in 1409, Jedburgh Castle, by now a stone structure, was demolished by the Scots to prevent it from being occupied again by the English

The site of the original castle was then used to build the reform prison based on John Howards (prison reformer) system. The construction started in 1820.

Jedburgh Castle Jail

The jail structure was completed in 1823 after being built to the designs of Archibald Elliot. It was then modified in 1847 by Thomas Brown. The jail then closed in 1868. The building was then restored to an 1820s appearance in 1968 by Aitken and Turnbull.

Jedburgh Castle Jail
The jail closed in the 19th century. Source: Geograph.

The current day

The jail soon after opened to the public as Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum. The museum features local history displays.

You may also enjoy reading about other Scottish castles such as Neidpath Castle and Ayton Castle.

Jedburgh Castle Timeline

  • Early 12th century- The very first castle on the site is a wooden motte and bailey structure built by David I
  • 1165- David’s grandson and successor Malcolm IV dies at the castle
  • 1174- The next king, William I, who is also Malcolm’s brother, is captured by the English at the Battle of Alnwick
  • 1189- The castle is able to return to Scottish hands when Richard the Lionheart terminates the agreement in return for 10,000 silver marks
  • 1409- Jedburgh Castle, by now a stone structure, is demolished by the Scots to prevent it from being occupied again by the English
  • 1820- Construction of the jail begins
  • 1823- After being built to the designs of Archibald Elliot, the jail is complete
  • 1847- The castle is modified by Thomas Brown
  • 1868- The jail closes
  • 1968- The building is restored to an 1820s appearance by Aitken and Turnbull

Jedburgh Castle facts

  • The castle was fought over during the Wars of Scottish Independence
  • The site of the original castle was used to build the reform prison based on John Howards (prison reformer) system
  • The museum features many local history displays
  • The new building has gained a reputation for ghostly sightings
File:Castlewood Cemetery - geograph.org.uk - 371421.jpg
There is a cemetery adjacent to the castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Featured in TV and film

  • Most Haunted (2008)

Books on Jedburgh Castle

  • Jedburgh Castle: A Georgian Prison by Iain Maclvor (1972)

Tourism

Nowadays, Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum is a popular tourist attraction that looks just like a grand castle. It gives visitors a taste of what life was like back in an 1820s prison. You can even walk through the original cell blocks, see some of the previous inmates and their conditions and follow their stories.

Some even think that it was the most comfortable jail in all of Scotland. It is open from the 19th of July to the 31st of October. However, these dates are subject to change. The jail is closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. When open, it opens at 10.00 am and closes at 4.00 pm.

Booking in advance is essential. Tickets are completely free and allow twenty-minute time slots. Nearby, you can visit Abbotsford The Home of Sir Walter Scott, Floors Castle and Gardens, Jedburgh Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey, The Cheviot Hills, and Melrose Abbey.

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