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Traquair House

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Traquair, a village and a parish of E Peeblesshire. The village, of some importance during the 12th century, but now -dwindled down to a mere hamlet, stands 1½ mile S of Innerleithen, near the right bank of Quair Water, 5 furlongs from its junction with the Tweed, which is near that point crossed by a wooden bridge giving access to Innerleithen.

The parish was formed in 1674 by incorporating with St Bryde's all that portion of the suppressed parish of Kailzie which lay S of the Tweed. It thus took the name Traquair, meaning the hamlet on the Quair or winding rivulet. It consists of a main body and a detached section. The former is bounded N by Innerleithen, and on its other sides by the Selkirkshire parishes of Yarrow and Peebles (detached); and is intersected from the S to within 2 furlongs of its N boundary by a tongue of Yarrow, 2 miles long and 1¼ mile broad at its N and broadest end. The length of the main body, from its extreme NE to its extreme SW point, is 8½ miles; and its greatest breadth is 5¼ miles. The detached section lies from ½ to 1½ mile W from the main portion, from which it is separated by Yarrow (detached); is wedge-shaped, tapering towards the S, and bounded N and NE by Innerleithen, N and NW by Peebles, and SE and SW by Selkirkshire (Yarrow and Peebles detached); and has an extreme length of 3¾ miles, and a breadth across the N of 2¼ miles. The Tweed winds along the N boundaries for 3¾ miles of the W and smaller portion, and, after passing for 3¾ miles between Innerleithen and Selkirkshire (Yarrow), for 5¾ miles along that of the larger portion. Quair Water, its affluent, gathers its waters from the slopes of Slake Law (2229 feet), Dun Rig (2433), and Whiteknowe Head (1676) in the SW, and follows a tortuous course through the middle of the parish. Of its numerous small tributaries the principal are Newhall, Curly, and Fingland Burns, all rising among the hills in the S. The whole of the Quair valley is dotted with lovely birches, relics of the once famous Ettrick Forest. It was a clump of these near the village of Traquair of which Crawford sang in The Bush aboon Traquair. The Kirk Burn drains the W section of the parish and falls into the Tweed. The greater part of the Selkirkshire boundary is high mountain watershed, and includes, besides the three already mentioned, the following summits of an altitude of 1500 feet and over, viz., Elibank Law (1715 feet), Far Hill (1732), Hare Law (1670), Plora Rig (1567), Minchmuir (1856), Scarf Rig (1552), Blake Muir (1522), Duchar Law (1779), Kirkhope Law (1758), and Birkscairn Hill (2169). The hills are mostly of a lumpish form, and generally green on the S side and heather-clad on the N. Large flocks of Cheviot sheep are reared on their pastures. The interior of the parish is hilly, and, in many parts, rocky and bleak, the heights diminishing in altitude towards the Tweed, whose valley declines to an altitude of 450 feet above sea-level. The rocks are mainly Silurian. The only object of geological interest is an old slate quarry at Grieston on the Traquair estate, which abounds in curious fossils. The mansion-house of Traquair, perhaps the oldest inhabited mansion-house in Scotland, stands in the Quair valley close to the Tweed. It consisted originally of a single tower on the bank of the river, which in -those early days took a sharp bend here. The straightening of the course of the river was accomplished by one of the Earls of Traquair. The house has been added to at various times, chiefly during Charles I.'s reign, and now contains the original tower in its NE corner. Built in the style of the old chateau, and standing at the head of a green meadow, with its back towards the river, it now looks down a long broad avenue to the Peebles road. The old-fashioned gateway, flanked by figures of two bears in stone, are said to have suggested to Sir Walter Scott the description of Tully Veolan in Waverley. The avenue has not been used for many years. It was closed up in 1796 by the seventh Earl after the death of his countess, and he declared his intention of never having it again opened till another Countess of Traquair should - be brought home to fill her place, an event, however, which never happened. The walls of the house are of -great thickness; and the interior is fitted up -partly in ancient and partly in modern style, and- includes the family library and a Roman Catholic chapel. It was originally a royal residence, and was visited from time to time by the Scottish kings and queens. Here William the Lyon, some time between 1175 and 1178, granted a charter constituting the hamlet of Glasgow a bishop's burgh. Mary-Queen of Scots and Darnley stayed here for a short time in Aug. 1566, six months before Darnley's tragic death. It is also interesting as being the first place at which Montrose halted during his flight after the disastrous battle of Philiphaugh.

The lands of Traquair were gifted by Robert Bruce to Sir James Douglas, and, after passing through the hands of a branch of the Murray family, then to Douglas of Cluny, and afterwards to the Boyds, they were resumed by the crown in 1469. For 10 years the property of Dr William Rogers (upon whom James I. had conferred them, much to the disgust of his nobles), it was sold by him in 1478, for a most insignificant sum, to James Stuart, Earl of Buchan, who bestowed it on his natural son James Stuart, the first of the illustrious family of Stuarts of Traquair. He acquired by marriage the baronies of Rutherford and Wells, and fell in Flodden (1513), leaving a son William. In 1628 Sir John Stuart was raised to the peerage, under the title of Lord Stuart of Traquair, and in 1633 was further honoured with the dignity of Earl of Traquair, Lord Linton and Caberston. At one time Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and Lord High Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Church, he sank, towards the close of his life, to a state of destitution. In the former capacity he played a very prominent part in carrying out the commands of Charles I. regarding the introduction of the liturgy into Scotland, and in the latter presided over the Assembly of 12 August 1639, which ratified the Scottish Covenant. As comissioner, he opened parliament after the assembly, but owing to the incompatibility of its demands with the royal orders, he was obliged to prorogue it. Soon after he was impeached by Parliament as a grand incendiary, and only escaped capital punishment through the efforts of the king. His treasurership was taken from him, and he received a pardon on condition that he did not approach the royal person. His breaking through this condition led to further penalties and his banishment to Scotland. Restored to parliament in 1647, again through the King's intercession, he, in 1648, was taken prisoner at the battle of Preston, fighting for the royal cause. He was confined in Warwick Castle for four years, and his estate, considerably drawn upon, was meantime sequestrated. He died in 1659, after living some years in great obscurity and abject poverty. A man of great intellectual vigour, he contributed to his own fall through his rashness and inconsistency. By his countess, Catherine Carnegie, he had four daughters and one son, John Lord Linton (b. 1622), who succeeded as second Earl of Traquair, and died 1666, leaving his young family in charge of his second wife, Lady Ann Seton, who, being a stanch Catholic, educated William, third Earl, in that faith. He was succeeded by his brother Charles, fourth Earl (16591741), who was succeeded by his sons Charles (fifth) and John (sixth). Then follow in direct descent Charles, seventh Earl, and Charles, eighth Earl. The latter (b. 1781) died unmarried in 1861, the title thus becoming dormant. The last of the line, the venerable Lady Louisa Stuart of Traquair (b. 1776), sister of the eighth earl, died 8 Dec. 1875 in her hundredth year. -The estates passed by will to her kinsman, the present proprietor, the Hon. Henry Maxwell, of the ancient family of the Maxwells Earls of Nithsdale, who assumed the name of Stuart on his accession to the property. He owns 10,778 acres in the shire, valued at £4846. Traquair is in the presbytery of Peebles and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £461. The parish church, near the right bank of Quair Water, 2¾ miles. S by W of Innerleithen, was built in 1778, and, as altered in 1821, contains 350 sittings. Attached to. the N wall is the burial aisle of the Traquair family. Traquair public and the Glen school, with respective accommodation for 104 and 37 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 75 and 25, and grants of £41, 7s. 1d. and £32, 4s. 6d. Valuation (1860) £6071, (1885) £7526, plus £2237 for railway. Pop. (1801) 613, (1831) 643, (1861) 687, (1871) 669, (1881) 754.—Ord. Sur., sh. 24, 1864.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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