Soutra Aisle is a seventeenth century burial vault built from and amongst the remains of the twelfth century Hospital of the Holy Trinity. It is situated astride the boundary between the Borders and the Lothians, on the line of the Roman Road, Dere Street.
King Malcolm IV founded the Hospital in 1164 and for 300 years the Augustinian brethren provided an infirmary, legal sanctuary, travellers' hospitality and religious services. Standing beside the main highway from Edinburgh southwards, it was a rich and powerful institution throughout this period. (Some 20 miles south of Edinburgh the Aisle is clearly visible on its hilltop from the A68 trunk road).
Alongside the resident religious community a small town thrived until about 1460, when Trinity Hospital in Edinburgh was set up and most of Soutra's lands were forfeited and re-assigned. Soutra declined for the next 200 years with much of the better masonry, including foundations, being removed as it compared favourably with the great abbeys of the Borders and was much sought after, and the site was progressively levelled out.
In 1542 James V gifted the remainder of the land to John Pringle, a local shepherd, whose family later constructed a small burial vault from the ruins of the hospital buildings. The building has survived and is now called Soutra Aisle. It is a simple barrel vaulted structure of coursed rubble with a moulded doorway and twin infilled windows inset over an inscribed lintel (AD 1686) on its West facade. Its East facade features another infilled window recess and a tablet in memory of John Pringle. In addition, many carved stoned from the original hospital buildings are evident both externally and internally.
The remains of the Medieval Hospital around the Aisle at Soutra are unique amongst all other hospital sites in Scotland and the North of England; it has not been built over, lost in changing street patterns or plundered by the amateur archaeologists of the last century. In the mid 1980's a research project was set up to investigate the site at Soutra Hospital. The project is aimed at recovering and making sense of the waste thrown out from the infirmary over the centuries and from these investigations clarify medieval practices.
The archaeological findings at Soutra have been published in six volumes SHARP PRACTICE 1 to 6. The Aisle is a Category B Listed building and ancient monument but years of neglect and exposure to the harsh environment resulted in severe deterioration of the building fabric, leaving it in a state of near collapse in 1980.
Historic Scotland had long recognised the urgent need for repairs to the Aisle building and was prepared to offer partial funding for repair work on a partnership basis. Fala, Soutra & District History & Heritage Society took it upon themselves to restore the Aisle if possible and are a registered charity. In 1997 the Heritage Lottery Fund offered partial funding and with the grant from Historic Scotland is was possible to commence restoration which was completed in 2001.
The Roman road known as Dere Street passes through Soutra on the way from York to Edinburgh.
SWRI at Soutra Aisle