The story of the Edrom Arch is one of survival against the odds. It is a magnificent piece of Norman carving that once formed the entrance to the Church of the Virgin Mary. The church stood on estates gifted by Gospatrick, Earl of Dunbar, to Coldingham Priory in 1130: so the arch probably dates back at least that far. The grant to the priory was later confirmed by Kings David I and Alexander I.
The Church of the Virgin Mary, or the Old Church of Edrom, was demolished to make room for a new church in 1732. All that survived in situ was the Blackadder Aisle, added in the 1400s. In 1886 the new church was restored and enlarged, leaving Edrom Church pretty much as you see it today.
At some point in this process, probably in 1732, someone thought it would be a shame to waste the Norman doorway from the original church, so re-erected it as the entrance to a burial vault that has since been located just to the rear of the church itself. We can be thankful to whoever preserved the arch for us to see: though perhaps at the same time regret that its new position appears to leave it subject to more weathering than its original, more protected location within the doorway of the church. Comparing the carvings as you see them today with detailed drawings done in 1896 reveals considerable weathering and loss of detail since then, especially on the capitals (tops) of the shafts supporting the sides of the arch.
The arch itself is made up of three layers, or orders, each carved with intricate patterns of chevrons or squares, many with - in 1896, at least, if not so obvious today - delicate infill or ornament. The arch would originally have been supported by three shafts on each side. Since its reconstruction there have only been two shafts on each side, with the weight of the outer order of the arch being supported by the main structure of the wall of the vault.
It is tempting to wonder what the rest of the church that was lost in 1732 must have looked like if this was its doorway: but perhaps it is better simply to be grateful for what was preserved. The doorway has been sunk into the ground to make it fit the scale of the burial vault it now serves. Someone, either in 1732 or since, has arranged things so that, on entering the vault, you descend three steps to pass through the full height of the doorway, then ascend two steps on the other side of it. As far as we know this is a unique approach to doorway construction, but it is one that allows you to appreciate the full height of the arch.
Edrom Church itself and its Blackadder Aisle can also be visited, but only by prior arrangement, ruling out spontaneous dropping in by those who just happen to be in the area, perhaps visiting nearby Duns or Manderston.