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Newcastleton

(Copshaw Holm)

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.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Castleton, a large Liddesdale and Border parish of S Roxburghshire, containing in its lower division the village of Newcastleton, which, standing on the right bank of Liddel Water, 320 feet above sea-level, has a station on the Waverley route (1862) of the North British railway, 24¼ miles NNE of Carlisle, 8¼ SSW of Riccarton Junction, 50¼ NW of Hexham, 71 WNW of Newcastle-on-Tyne, 21¼ S by W of Hawick, and 74 SSE of Edinburgh. Commenced by Henry, third Duke of Buccleuch, in 1793, this is a neatly-built place with one long street and three divergent squares; at it are a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch bank of the British Linen Co., a library, a Free church (250 sittings), a U.P. church (600 sittings), an Evangelical Union church (138 sittings), and a public school, which, with accommodation for 302 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 204, and a grant of £185,18s. Hiring fairs are held on the second Friday of April and the Fridays before 17 May and 8 Nov.; ewe fairs on the Friday before the second Wednesday of Sept. and the Thursday before the second Tuesday of Oct.; cattle fairs on the last Friday of Oct. and the third Friday of Nov. Pop. (1841) 1030, (1861) 1124, (1871) 886, (1881) 924.

The parish contains also the stations of Steele Road (4½ miles NNE of Newcastleton), Riccarton Junction (3¾ NNE of Steele Road), and Saughtree (2¾ E by N of Riccarton). It is bounded N by Teviothead, Cavers, Hobkirk, and Southdean; SE by Northumberland and Cumberland; and W by Canonbie and Ewes in Dumfriesshire. In shape resembling a rude triangle with apex to the SSW, it has an utmost length, from Wigg Law near Knot i' the Gait to Liddelbank, of 17 miles; an utmost breadth, from E to W, of 12 miles; and an area of 68,152½ acres, of which 294 are water. Liddel Water, formed in the NE of the parish by the confluent Caddroun, Wormscleuch, and Peel Burns, at an altitude of about 600 feet above sea-level, flows 15¼ miles SW and S by W through the interior, then 3¾ miles SSW along the English Border. Higher up, the Border is traced for 8¾ miles by Kershope Burn, running SW to the Liddel, whose other chief affluent, hazel-fringed Hermitage Water, gathering its head-streams from the NW corner of the parish, winds 8 miles ESE and S by W to a point 1¾ mile NNE of Newcastleton. In the farthest S the surface sinks to less than 300 feet above sea-level, thence rising NNE and NNW to the lines of mountain watershed dividing Liddesdale from Teviotdale and Eskdale. E of the Liddel the chief elevations from S to N are Blinkbonny Height (864 feet), Priest Hill (669), Stell Knowe (923), Wilson's Pike (1354), Larriston Fells (1677), *Thorlieshope Pike (1180), *Peel Fell (1964), and *Hartshorn Pike (1789), of which those marked with asterisks culminate on the parish boundaries. Between the Liddel and Hermitage Water, with its affluent Whitterhope Burn, are Arnton Fell (1464), Saughtree Fell (1500), and Lamblair Hill (1635); whilst W of them rise Greena Hill (730), Tinnis Hill (1326), Ettleton Hill (922), Bedda Hill (842), *Black Edge (1461), *Watch Hill (1642), North Birny Fell (902), *Roan Fell (1862), Din Fell (1735), Hermitage Hill (1321), *Tudhope Hill (1961), *Cauldcleuch Head (1996), and *Greatmoor Hill (1964). The rocks are variously eruptive, Devonian, Silurian, and carboniferous. Sandstone of excellent building quality is plentiful, as also is limestone of different kinds; and coal has been found on Liddelbank estate. Mineral springs are at Thorlieshope, Lawston, Flatt, and Dead Water; and a petrifying spring, in a moss traversed by Tweeden Burn, exhibits in a curious manner the stages of petrifaction-the moss at the surface soft and flourishing, half petrified lower down, and at the roots changed into solid stone. The soils over much of the two chief vales is a deep and fertile loam, and elsewhere is often better than it looks. Many hundred acres, once in tillage, were thrown into pasture on account of the high prices of sheep and wool; but, on the other hand, as many or more, theretofore untouched by the plough, have recently been brought under tillage, and in some cases have yielded as much as 60 imperial bushels of corn per acre. And still, according to the opinion of Mr Brackenridge, of Yorkshire, expressed to a committee of the House of Commons in 1862, some 35,000 acres of the pastoral area could, at little cost, be rendered fit for any agricultural purpose whatever. Such are the general features of Dandie Dinmont's country, which Scott has described so finely in Guy Mannering: -` The hills are greener and more abrupt than those of Cumberland, sinking their grassy sides at once upon the river. They have no pretensions to magnificence of height or to romàntic shapes, nor do their smooth swelling slopes exhibit either rocks or woods. Yet the view is wild, solitary, and pleasingly rural; it seems a land which a patriarch would have chosen to feed his flocks and herds. The remains of here and there a dismantled ruined tower show that it once harboured beings of a very different description from its present inhabitants, those freebooters, namely, to whose exploits the wars between England and Scotland bear witness.' Elliots and Armstrongs these-the 'sturdy Armstrongs, who were for ever riding.' The latter held the wide haughs and gently-rolling hills of Lower Liddesdale; the former, the bleak and more mountainous uplands, vapourous with mists from the Atlantic. The Elliots alone had from thirty to forty peels on the banks of the Liddel and the Hermitage; but all, except Hermitage Castle, were razed to the ground immediately after the union of the crowns. Yet are the names remembered, the sites still pointed out, of Mangerton, Westburnflat, Liddel, Clintwood, Baholm, Larriston, Riccarton, Thorlieshope, and many another reiver's fortalice. And still we have such Liddesdale ballads as Dick o' the Cow, Hobbie -Noble, Jamie Telfer of the Fair -Dodhead, or Joek o' the Side; such Liddesdale traditions as that of the Brownie of Goranberry, of Shellycoat and the Kelpie, of the foul murder of the 'Cont of Keeldar' in the foaming linn, or of the boiling of the warlock Sonlis on the Nine-stane Rig; such episodes of Liddesdale history as the starving to death of Sir Alexander Ramsay (1343), as Queen Mary's mad ride from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle, where Bothwell lay wounded by 'little Jock Elliot' (1566), or as the Regent Morton's raid 'to make the rush-bush keep the Border kye' (1569). So that something remains of the past, for all the changes that have swept over Liddesdale since Scott's first coming in 1792. Then there were no roads, nor inns of any kind; his was the first wheeled vehicle seen here, on occasion of his seventh and last visit, in 1798. Now the Border Counties railway (1862) cuts through part of the Catrail, one of the few antiquities surviving. Others are camps, both round and square, on the tops of the hills; * circular forts of the kind called Round-abouts or Picts' Works; the 'Druidical circle' of the Nine-stane Rig; and Milnholm Cross, 81/3 feet high, which marks the burial-place of an Armstrong murdered by Donglas, the 'Flower of Chivalry.' There were no fewer than five churches or chapels in the parish-Hermitage, the Whele, Ettleton, Dinlabyre, and Chapelknowe. Of these the Whele, supposed to have been the chief, stood at Liddelhead, near Dead Water and close to a Roman road, the Whele Causey, from which the church got its name; here Edward I. obtained a night's lodging when on a pilgrimage to St Ninian's shrine in Galloway. In 1604, 'being destitute of all instruction and bringing up in the fear of God, the kirks of Castleton, Ettleton, and Quhelekirk and Belkirk, were united and annexed in ane perpetual rectory or parsonage or vicarage of Castleton.' Thus much for the Castleton of bygone days. At present there are 13 landed proprietors, 6 holding each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 3 of between £100 and £500, 1 of from £50 to £100, and 3 of from £20 to £50. The parish is in the presbytery of Langholm, and synod of Dumfries, the living being worth £451. Its church, at the confluence of Liddel and Hermitage Waters, was built in 1808, and contains 820 sittings; in the graveyard is buried John Armstrong, M. D. (1709-79), a native of Castleton, and author of a didactic poem, The Art of Preserving Health. Four public schools-Burnmonth, Hermitage, Riccarton, and Saughtree-with respective accommodation for 55,75,88, and 59 children, had (1880) an average attendance of 42,43,50, and 27, and grants of £51,14s., £48,8s. 6d., £59,15s., and £29, 2s. 4d. Valuation (1880) £30,505,19s. 7d., including £9203 for railways. Pop. (1801) 1109, (1831) 2227, (1861) 3688, many of them navvies, (1871) 2202, (1881) 2256.—Ord. Sur., shs. 11,17,1863-64. See Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish -Border (3 vols., 1802-3); Dr William Chambers's ` Look into Liddesdale,' in Sketches -Light and -Descriptive (1866); and the Countess of Minto's Border Sketches (1870).

* Carby or Caerby Hill, to the S of the village, where there is a strong native camp. 100 feet in diameter. with a Roman station opposite, is by Skene identified with ' Curia,' a town of the Otadeni.

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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