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Photo of The Baptistery

Mystery of the Stone Coffin

In March 1814 a sexton was digging a grave on the north side of the church when he found a stone coffin containing the remains of a human body, about ten inches below the surface. It was secured and neatly covered with three stones. The skull was also perfect, but nearly full of water, the teeth of the upper jaw were a full set, and the thigh bone measured eighteen inches. The earth being carefully examined, a Robert the Bruce silver penny was found, together with a steel spur, and several relics of ornamental brass and iron work, supposed to be the remains of the helmet of the warrior who had been interred in the coffin. The Reverend Joseph Cook, the then vicar of Chatton, offer the following remarks on the discovery of this ancient stone coffin;

"In 1318 Robert Bruce and his adherents had been excommunicated by the Pope for contumacy to the messengers of his holiness and having assaulted and taken the fortress of Berwick, as well as the castles of Wark, Harbottle, and Mitford, and laid waste all the intervening country, it is probable that the warrior now alluded to, fell at this juncture, and that the vicar of Chatton, on the strength of the above named anathema, refused sepulchre to his remains in any other part of the consecrated ground, than that of the north side of the church, the place in those times allotted, I believe for the unhallowed interment of excommunicated remains"

Although this is a plausible theory other writers have suggested that no-one of enough importance to be buried in a stone coffin would have been buried in an open churchyard on the north side of the church, and so have posited the view that there must have been at one time that chapel at that side of the church. Indeed, in the present baptistry (on the north side of the church) there are pieces of stone from the tomb(s) of a Knight(s) templar. The templars were mercenaries who were known to have fought at various times on the side of both Bruce and Edward. It is not known whether the stones in the baptistry are the same as those discovered in 1814, but it would seem only natural that the aisle built by the Duke of Northumberland sometime after 1763, should be built on existing foundations and perhaps ruins. This would seem to add weight to the evidence that there was a chapel dating from the thirteenth century.