Soutra Aisle was a medieval hospital, a place of refuge for wayfarers, pilgrims and the needy or eldery and well as the sick and infirm. It also acted as a place of sanctuary for fugitives.
Soutra Aisle stands midway between Edinburgh and the rich Borders abbeys on the Via Regia or Royal Highway, the main Anglo-Scottish road for the medieval period. This spot was originally the place where five roads met, which ensured a regular flow of people in need.
Soutra Aisle was first mentioned in 1164 after King Malcolm IV confirmed the foundation of the charter. The hospital was run by the Augustinian Order, funded by the income from the large hospital estate.
Soutra Aisle continued to grow despite been located in a war zone up until 1320. It eventually covered an area of 700m², becoming one of the three most important hospitals in Scotland of the period.
Soutra Aisle was of both national and international importance up until the 1460s when it experienced a rapid decline. Soutra Aisle lost its lands which caused an almost instant loss of funds which was devastating. The estate was confiscated and handed to the Trinity College Hospital in Edinburgh because the Master of the Hospital, Stephen Fleming was accused of misconduct.
Soutra Aisle only survived because it became the burial vault of the Pringle family. This new purpose saved the church from the same fate as the rest of the site which saw its stone carted away and repurposed in nearby building projects.
Archaeological excavations have discovered rare seeds, sourced from all over the world, were used here for their medicinal properties, including opium poppies, cloves and hemlock.