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Soutra Aisle

Soutra Aisle
©2014 Gazetteer for Scotland

Soutra Aisle

Located on the western flank of Soutra Hill, 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Fala is the noted Soutra Aisle. It lies just to the northwest of Dun Law, with its wind farm, and just within the Scottish Borders at its boundary with Midlothian. Soutra Aisle is all that remains of a grand hospital, monastery and church which occupied a location half-way between Edinburgh and the Borders Abbeys from its foundation by King Malcolm IV in the 12th C. until the 17th C.

The House of the Holy Trinity at Soutra, as the mediaeval hospital was formally known, was run by Augustinian monks to assist the poor, travellers and pilgrims, the aged, sick and the infirm. Funding came from vast monastic estates which were augmented by benefactors grateful for their treatment in the hospital. It was undoubtedly the largest and best endowed hospital of mediaeval Scotland.

The decline of Soutra came quickly during the 1460s. The Master of the hospital has caused a scandal by his bad behaviour and, as punishment, the Crown confiscated most of the estates, leaving the hospital impoverished. Soutra was reduced from international importance to only a local service almost overnight. The estates were given to support Trinity College Hospital in Edinburgh, which directly laid the foundations of Edinburgh's future status as a key international centre for medical research and practice.

Archaeological excavations have given a unique insight into mainstream mediaeval medical practice, through the discovery of human remains and the residues of herbal treatments. However, only very limited evidence remains of the numerous buildings which would once have existed. Soutra Aisle is just a fragment of the church and it survives only because it became the burial place of the Pringles of Soutra in 1686. Inside is ornately carved stone, much taken from buildings which would have been constructed by mediaeval masons.


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