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Duns

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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Dunse or Duns (the spelling till 1740, revived in 1882), a town and a parish of central Berwickshire. Standing, 420 feet above sea-level, on a plain at the southern base of Dunse Law, the town by road is 44 miles ESE of Edinburgh, 15¾ W of Berwick-on-Tweed, and 3 furlongs N by W of Dunse station on a loopline of the North British, this being 8¾ miles SW of Reston Junction, 55¼ ESE of Edinburgh, and 22 NE of St Boswells. The original town, which by charter of 1489 was made a burgh of barony, was built on the dun or Law, but, overthrown and burned by the English in 1545, was thereafter abandoned to utter decay and extinction. This Law is a round, smooth, turf-clad hill, rising gradually from a base of 2½ miles in circumference to a tabular summit 700 feet high and nearly 30 acres in area, and itself consists of trap or greenstone rock, through which obtrudes a block of the Old Red sandstone, highly metamorphosed by the action of heat,the ' Covenanters' Stone.' Here in the spring of 1639 Leslie encamped with an army, numbered variously at from 12,000 to 30,000 men. Charles was at Berwick, whence through a telescope he saw the hillside stirring with pikemen and musqueteers, stout ploughmen and Swedish veterans, and Argyll's supple Highlanders with their targes and plaids and dorlachs; before every captain's tent a standard bearing the legend, in golden letters, ' For Christ's Crown and Covenant.' ' Our hill,' writes Principal Baillie, ' was garnished on the top towards S and E with mounted cannon, well-nigh to the number of 40, great and small. Our regiments lay on the sides of the hill almost round about. The place was not a mile in circle-a pretty round rising in a declivity without steepness to the height of a bowshot. On the top somewhat plain, about a quarter of a mile in length, and as much in breadth, as I remember, capable of tents for 40,000 men. The crouners lay in canvas lodgings high and wide; their captains about them in lesser ones; the soldiers about them all in huts of timber covered with divot or straw.' Ministers also there were to superfluity, who encouraged the soldiers by ' their good sermons and prayers, morning and even, under the roof of heaven, to which drums did call them for bells. ' So the host lay, barring the royalists' progress, till a ' humble supplication ' on the part of the Scots and a - gracious proclamation ' on that of his Majesty led to the hollow Pacification of Berwick, 18 June 1639. The Stone, an oblong, measuring originally 5 by 2½ feet, had been chipped away by relic-mongers almost to nothing, when, in 1878, it was enclosed and cleared of the surrounding turf, so that now once more it stands 2½ feet above the ground.

The present town, the ' Dunse that dings a',' was founded about 1588, and at first was defended on three sides by a deep morass, long since drained and obliterated. In 1670 it was constituted a burgh of barony under Sir James Cockburn of Cockburn, who had bought the estate of Dunse from Hume of Ayton; and down to 1696 it claimed to be one of Berwickshire's countytowns, a rank that it once more shares with Greenlaw under an act of 1853. The single episode in its history, apart from the prayerful encampment, is that of the ' Dunse demoniac ' in 1630, a poor woman whom the Earl of Lauderdale believed to be possessed by an evil spirit, and who spoke better Latin even than the minister (Chambers's Dom. Ann., ii. 43); but Dunse has produced some very worthy sons. Foremost among them, doubtfully, the ' Angelic Doctor,' Duns Scotus (1265-1308), author of Realism and greatest of schoolmen. Afterwards, certainly, the Rev. Thomas Boston (1676-1732), author of The Fourfold State, whose birthplace in Newtown Street is marked by a tablet; Cadwallader Colden, M.D. (1688-1776), botanist and lieutenant-governor of New York; James Grainger, M.D. (1724-67), a minor poet; Thomas M'Crie, D.D. (1772-1835), biographer of Knox and Melville; James Cleghorn (1778-1838), an accomplished actuary; John Black (1783-1855), for twenty-three years editor of the Morning Chronicle; and Robert Hogg (b. 1818), botanist. The Rev. Adam Dickson, too, an able writer upon agriculture, was minister from 1750 till his death in 1776. Lighted by gas since 1825, and well supplied with water by a company founded in 1858, the town has a modern and well-to-do aspect, with its square or market-place, its spacious streets, and its pretty suburbs, studded with tasteful villas. The Town-Hall, in the centre of the marketplace, a Gothic structure with elegant spire, is of modern erection, as likewise are the County Buildings and the Corn Exchange, the latter opened in 1856. A mechanics' institute dates from 1840; and in 1875 a public library hall was built at a cost of £670. Dunse has besides a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and railway telegraph departments, branches of the Bank of Scotland (1833), the British Linen Co. (1784), and the Royal Bank (1856), 20 insurance agencies, 3 hotels, 2 masonic lodges, a horticultural society (1842), a volunteer corps, and a Tuesday paper-the Berwickshire News (1869). An important corn market is held on every Tuesday, and hiring fairs are held on the first Tuesday of March, May, and November; sheep, cattle, and horse fairs on the first Thursday of June, the second Thursday of July, 26 August (or the Tuesday after if the 26th falls on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday), the third Tuesday of September, and 17 November or the Tuesday after. There is also an auction mart, with fortnightly sales of sheep and cattle, at which a large business is done. The parish church, a very plain building of 1790, that superseded an ancient Norman edifice, was almost destroyed by fire in 1879. As reopened on 16 Jan. 1881 after restoration at a cost of nearly £4000, it contains 920 sittings, of pitch-pine, stained and varnished; is beautified with several stained-glass windows; and has a fine new organ, its congregation having been the second in the Church of Scotland to employ instrumental music. Boston Free church, repaired in 1881 at a cost of nearly £700, contains 650 sittings; and three U.P. churches East, South, and West-contain respectively 650, 640, and 900. There are also a Roman Catholic chapel (1882) and an Episcopal, Christ Church (1854; 200 sittings), in simple Norman style. A new combined public school, erected at a cost of £5760, was opened on 9 Feb. 1880. Dunse now is governed by 9 police commissioners, having adopted the General Police and Improvement Act in 1873, when the burgh bounds were extended. In 1882 its municipal constituency numbered 400, and its burgh valuation amounted to £8400. Pop. (1834) 2656, (1861) 2556, (1871) 2618, (1881) 2438.

The parish is bounded NE by the detached section of Longformacus and by Bunkle, E and SE by Edrom, SW by Langton, and NW by Longformacus proper and Abbey St Bathans. Its utmost length, from NW to SE, is 7¼ miles; its breadth, from NE to SW, varies between 15/8 and 5 miles; and its area is 11,474¾ acres, of which 78¼ are water. From just above the Retreat to a little below Cumledge, Whitadder Water, winding 6¾ miles south-south-eastward, traces all the north-eastern border; and Blackadder Water for a few yards touches the south-eastern corner of the parish, being joined here by Langton Burn, which, coming in from Langton, runs 3¾ miles on or close to the southern and south-eastern boundary. The surface sinks to 250 feet above sea-level at the confluence of Langton Burn with the Blackadder, and along the Whitadder to close on 280, thence rising north-westward to 700 feet at Dunse Law, 869 at Jennies Wood, 1000 at Black Hill, 1033 at Commonside, 960 near Windyshiel, and 1065 at Cockburnlaw-heights that belong to the southern ridge of the Lammermuirs. The rocks of the hills are partly eruptive, mainly Silurian; and those elsewhere are sandstone of three different formations, which has been quarried, and which in places is rich in vegetable fossils. More than once copper has been mined on the banks of the Whitadder, but never with profitable results. A sharpish gravel is the prevailing soil throughout the N, and a very rich light deep loam over most of the S, with patches near the town of dark deep sandy loam. About one-half of the entire area is in tillage, and as much as one-sixth perhaps is under wood. By the gale of 14 Oct. 1881 great havoc was done to the trees here, especially to the limetree avenue at Dunse Castle. This, the chief mansion in the parish, standing 1 mile W by N of the town, near the south-western base of the Law, is a splendid modern castellated pile, with an ancient tower adjoining it that is said to have been built by Randolph, Earl of Moray, and with beautiful grounds containing an artificial lake (4 x 2/3 furl.). Its owner, Wm. Jas. Hay, Esq. (b. 1827; suc. 1876), holds 5812 acres in the shire, valued at £10, 094 per annum. Other mansions are Manderston, and Wedderburn Castle, Berrywell, Cairnbank, Cumledge, and Wellfield; and, in all, 7 proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 10 of between £100 and £500, 18 of from £50 to £100, and 54 of from £20 to £50. Dunse is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Merse and Teviotdale; the living is worth £479. Dunse public school and Millburn school, with respective accommodation for 739 and 95 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 326 and 42, and grants of £268, 1s. and £41. Valuation (1864) £22, 495, (1882) £26, 513. Pop. (1801) 3157, (1831) 3469, (1861) 3595, (1871) 3602, (1881) 3353.Ord. Sur., shs. 26, 34, 33, 1864-63.

The presbytery of Dunse comprises the parishes of Abbey St Bathans, Bunkle and Preston, Cranshaws, Dunse, Eccles, Fogo, Greenlaw, Langton, Longformacus, and Polwarth. Pop. (1871) 9615, (1881) 8810, of whom 2169 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878.-The Free Church has a presbytery of Dunse and Chirnside, with churches at Allanton, Chirnside, Dunse, Eyemonth, Greenlaw, Houndwood, Langton, Longformacus, Mordington, Reston, and Swinton, which together had 2212 members in 1881.

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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