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Innerleithen

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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Innerleithen, a town in E Peeblesshire, and a parish partly also in Selkirkshire. The town stands 479 feet above sea-level, on Leithen Water, ½ mile NNE of its influx to the Tweed, and has a station on the Peebles and Galashiels section of the North British, 6¼ miles ESE of Peebles, 12¼ W of Galashiels, and 33¼ S by E of Edinburgh. A ` quiet, pretty watering-place, it is situated in the wide, meadowy valley of the Tweed, environed by high, round, green hills; and has a main street of rather new, good-looking houses, with an older street extending up a hill-crest to the well.' It was a mere kirk-hamlet from the middle of the 12th century down to 1790, when a woollen factory was started at it by Alexander Brodie, a Traquair blacksmith who had made a large fortune in London. About the same period, too, its medicinal saline spring, and the healthiness of its climate, began to attract invalids and tourists; and it acquired much celebrity by the general identification of that spring with the ` St Romans Well' of Sir Walter Scott's romance (1824). Further causes of its well-being have been the institution of annual games by the St Ronan's Border Club (1827); the attractions it offers to anglers as a convenient centre for fishing the waters of the Leithen, the Tweed, and the Quair, even of the Yarrow and St Mary's Loch; and the great extension of its woollen industry since 1839. Besides some good shops and lodginghouses, Innerleithen now has a post office, with money-order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Bank of Scotland, a National Security savings' bank, 7 insurance agencies, 2 hotels, gasworks, recent drainage and waterworks, a volunteer hall, and a public hall. Having adopted certain clauses of the General Police and Improvement Act (Scotland) in 1869, it is governed by a chief magistrate and a body of police commissioners. The medicinal spring, rising on the skirt of Lee Pen at an elevation of 200 feet above the town, and at a short distance to the W, in 1826 was furnished with a verandahed pump-house, containing subscription reading-rooms. In every gallon of its water are 216.72 grains of chloride of sodium, 148.16 of chloride of calcium, 16.17 of chloride of magnesium, 1.15 of sulphate of magnesia, 5.03 of carbonate of lime, etc., this being the stronger of the two streams into which the spring branches. It is in high repute for ophthalmic, scorbutic, bilious, and dyspeptic complaints. As stated already, the earliest woollen mill was built in 1790 at a cost of £3000, but it did not come into fairly successful operation till 1839, when steam was added to the original water-power from the Leithen. Since 1845 four other woollen mills have been erected at Innerleithen itself, and two at the neighbouring village of Walkerburn; and the seven factories together have 29 sets of carding-machines, 264 hand and power looms, and 18,708 spindles. They use about 960,000 lbs. of wool a year; turn out tweeds, tartans, blankets, etc., to an annual value of over £200,000; and employ above 700 workpeople, paying £24,000 of wages a year. The parish church was built in 1870, and contains 800 sittings. A Free church was enlarged in 1878, when also a Gothic U.P. church, with 600 sittings, was built at a cost of over £2000. St James's Roman Catholic church (1881; 300 sittings) is in the Early Gothic style of the 14th century, and has a tower and spire 97 feet high. A handsome school in connection with it was built in 1876. The municipal constituency numbered 477 in 1883, when the annual value of real property within the burgh was £7605. Pop. (1841) 463, (1851) 1236, (1861) 1130, (1871) 1605, (1881) 2313. Houses (1881) 469 inhabited, 18 vacant, 29 building.

The parish, containing also the stations of Walkerburn and Thornilee, 1¾ and 5 miles E of Innerleithen, comprises all the ancient parish of Innerleithen and about one-third of that of Kailzie. It is bounded N by Temple and Heriot in Edinburghshire, E by Stow, S by Traquair and Yarrow (detached), and W by Peebles and Eddleston. Its utmost length, from W by N to S by E, is 8¾ miles; its utmost breadth, from N by W to S by E, is 77/8 miles; and its area is 24,122¾ acres, of which 3578¾ belong to Selkirkshire, and 141 are water. A tract of 836½ acres, belonging to the Selkirkshire section, lies detached 3 furlongs E of the main body of the county. The river Tweed sweeps 113/8 miles east-by-southward along all the southern border; Leithen Water, its affluent, rising in the extreme NW at an altitude of 1750 feet, runs 9¾ miles south-south-eastward through all the interior, in a line a little W of the middle; and numerous burns flow either to the Leithen or the Tweed. Along the latter stream is a belt of very rich haugh; another extends for 3 or 4 miles up the lower course of the Leithen; a narrow border of low land fringes parts of the channels of some of the burns; and all the rest of the parish is part of the broad hill range called commonly the Southern Highlands, and presents, for the most part, a rounded and grassy appearance. Where, below Thornilee station, the Tweed quits Innerleithen, the surface declines to 410 feet above sea-level, and rises thence northward or north-north-westward to 1634 feet at Cairn Hill, 1802 at Priesthope Hill, 2161 at *Windlestraw Law, 2038 at Whitehope Law, 1647 at Lee Pen, 1708 at Black Knowe, and 2136 at *Blackhope Scar, asterisks marking those summits that culminate on the eastern or just beyond the northern boundary. Dorothy Wordsworth thus describes the scenery, as viewed from the Tweed's valley, down which she drove with her brother on Sunday, 18 Sept. 1803:- 'The lines of the hills are flowing and beautiful, the reaches of the vale long; in some places appear the remains of a forest, in others you will see as lovely a combination of forms as any traveller who goes in search of the picturesque need desire, and yet perhaps without a single tree; or at least if trees there are, they shall be very few, and he shall not care whether they are there or not.. The general effect of the gently-varying scenes was that of tender pensiveness; no bursting torrents when we were there, but the murmuring of the river was heard distinctly, often blended with the bleating of sheep. In one place we saw a shepherd lying in the midst of a flock upon a sunny knoll, with his face towards the sky-happy picture of shepherd life. 'The predominant rocks are Silurian, with some porphyries and clay slate; and they have yielded detritus favourable to vegetation. The soil of the haughs is alluvial; on the banks of some of the burns is a gravelly loam; and on the hills consists of the disintegrated native rocks. A hard, dark-coloured porphyry has been much worked for curling-stones; the fissile greywacke of Holylee has been employed for tessellated pavement; and a clay slate was at one time worked at Thoruilee for roofing. Barely one-eleventh of the entire area is regularly or occasionally in tillage; plantation covers some 500 acres; and the rest is either sheep-walk or waste. The principal antiquities, besides the site or vestiges of five peel-towers, are the oval hillforts of Caerlee and Pirn, 400 and 350 feet in length; the Purvis-hill Terraces, twelve to fourteen in number; and the ruined castle of Nether Horsburgh. The last is noticed separately, as also are the mansions of Gienormiston and Holylee. Six proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 9 of between £100 and £500, 8 of from £50 to £100, and 47 of from £20 to £50. Giving off a portion to Caddonfoot quoad sacra parish, Innerleithen is in the presbytery of Peebles and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £385. Three public schools-Innerleithen, Leithenhope, and Walkerburn-with respective accommodation for 283, 32, and 236 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 227, 10, and 158, and grants of £183, £23, 6s., and £125, 5s. Valuation (1860) £9616, (1881) £19,423, including £1202 for the Selkirkshire portion. Pop. (1801) 609, (1831) 810, (1861) 1823, (1871) 2812, (1881) 3661, of whom 61 were in Selkirkshire, and 3636 in the ecclesiastical parish.—Ord. Sur., shs. 24, 25, 1864-65.

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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