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Roxburgh

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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Roxburgh, a village and a parish of N Roxburghshire. The village, near the left bank of the Teviot, has a station, Roxburgh Junction, on the North British rail- way, 71/8 miles NN E of Jedburgh, 8½ E by S of St Bos- wells, and 3 SW of Kelso. It is an ancient but decayed place, with a post office, having money order, savings' bank, and railway telegraph departments.

The parish, containing also Heiton village, is bounded N and E by Kelso, S by Eckford and Crailing, SW by Ancrum, W by Maxton, and NW by Makerstoun. Projecting a long, narrow south-western wing, it has an utmost length from NE to SW of 73/8 miles, a varying width of 3 furlongs and 35/8 miles, and an area of 7924¾ acres, of which 143¾ are water. The Tweed, here a splendid salmon river, curves 43/8 miles north-eastward along all the north-western and northern border; and the Teviot, entering from Eckford, flows 4 miles north- north-eastward-for the last 13/8 mile along the Kelso boundary-until, ¼ mile above its influx to the Tweed, it passes off into Kelso parish. Near the village it is spanned by a lofty railway viaduct of fourteen arches. In the NE extremity of the parish the surface declines to 100 feet above sea-level; and thence it rises to 212 at Roxburgh Castle, 368 at Ladyrig, 550 at the Eckford boundary, 383 near Moorhouse, and 663 at Down, Doune, or Dunse Law. The western and southern borders, at one time moorish, have for many years been brought under the plough. In almost every corner the eye is presented with objects which nature and art seem vying how best to adorn. Hedgerow enclosures, rows of trees, clumps and groves upon knolls and rocky hillocks, and curvatures of slope, render the landscape rich and beautiful. A tourist travelling eastward along the highway, a little W of the ancient castle, moves along the summit of a precipice lined with trees, and sees, immediately on his left, through the little vistas of the wood, the majestic Tweed rolling far below him, 'dark, drumlie, and deep;' and, at a little distance on the right, the Teviot, forced aside by a rocky wooded bank, and meandering round a spacious plain. Advancing a brief space, he loses sight of both rivers, and is ingulfed among wood in a hollow of the way. Speedily emerging from the gloom, he looks upon one of the fairest prospects in the world-the ducal castle and park of Floors, the splendid mansion and grounds of Springwood Park, the Tweed and the Teviot, each spanned by an elegant bridge, and, right before him, Kelso and its immediate environs in all their glory. From a spot in the village of Roxburgh, you look, on the one hand, along a valley 8 or 10 miles long, apparently all of it covered with trees, or but thinly diversified with glade and dwelling; whilst, on the other hand, is an open and very diversified prospect of double the distance, away to the summits of the Cheviot Hills. From a rising-ground near the southern boundary, the Teviot, after moving awhile in concealment behind overshadowing banks, rolls romantically into view, and instantly passes again into concealment. The summit of Dunse Law, anciently a station of strength, commands by far the most extensive and interesting of the local prospects-one so large, so rich, so crowded with objects, including all the elements of rural landscape, three renowned castles, and a peep at the German Ocean, as to defy succinct description. Caves of considerable extent and of curious forms, once used as places of concealment, occur on the banks of the Teviot. An immense natural dam, called the Trow Craigs, consisting of trap rock, lies across the Tweed, but has been worn by the river into four slits, which, when there is no flood, admit in separated currents the entire volume of water. Two of these slits are 34 feet deep, and so narrow that a person may bestride them; and they and the other gullets have a length of 450 and a descent of 16 feet. They form eddies and rapids, and offer to the current alternate accelerations and obstructions, which all seasons occasion a loud noise, and, at the breaking up of the ice, create a tremendous roar, resembling the cry of the tempest-lashed sea. The principal rocks are traps and sandstones, little suited for building purposes. Two springs near the Tweed have a remarkable petrifying power. Much of the peninsula between the Tweed and the Teviot is so stony as to have given rise to a tradition, that it was once all covered with town. The soil of the parish is in some parts a mossy mould, in some a gravelly or sandy alluvium, in some a fine fertile loam. About 1750 acres are in pasture; nearly 230 acres are under wood; and almost all the remainder is in tillage. The great Roman road, called Watling Street, runs 1¼ mile along all the Ancrum boundary, and was used here till comparatively recent times as a drove road for cattle. The strongly- vaulted basement-story of a fortalice, variously called Roxburgh, Sunlaws, and Wallace Tower, the subject of many legends, and seemingly one of a chain of strengths between Roxburgh Castle and Upper Teviotdale, stands between the village of Roxburgh and the Teviot. Vestiges of camps and trenches appear in several localities; and traces of villages and malt steeps, with other memorials of inhabitation, indicate the population to have formerly been very considerable. Mansions are Sunlaws and Fairnington; and there are five proprietors besides the Duke of Roxburghe, who holds fully one- half of the entire rental. Roxburgh is in the presbytery of Kelso and the synod of Merse and Teviotdale; the living is worth £370. The parish church, at the village, was built in 1752, and contains 400 sittings. In the churchyard is the grave of Andrew Gemmels, the 'Blue gown, Edie Ochiltree,' of Sir Walter Scott's Antiquary, who 'died at Roxburgh Newtown in 1793, aged 106 years.' Three public schools-Fairnington, Heiton, and Roxburgh-with respective accommodation for 83, 78, and 123 children, had (1884) an average attendance of 26, 60, and 73, and grants of £27, 17s., £47, 7s., and £52, 11s. Valuation (1864) £10, 441, 3s. 8d., (1885) £13, 364, 3s. 8d., plus £2948 for railway. Pop. (1801) 949, (1831) 962, (l 861) 1178, (1871) 1053, (1881) 1012.—Ord. Sur., sh. 25, 1865.

Old Roxburgh stood over against Kelso, on a rising- ground at the W end of the low fertile peninsula between the Teviot and the Tweed, 2 miles NNE of the village of Roxburgh, from which one approaches it by a beautiful walk by the side of the Teviot. It is now quite extinct. Brief and obscure notices by various historians indicate that it was a place of considerable note long before the 12th century; but they fail to throw light on its condition, and do not furnish any certain facts in its history. While David I., who mounted the throne in 1124, was yet only Earl of Northumberland, the town, as well as the castle, belonged to him as an appanage of his earldom, and appears to have been so flourishing that it could not accommodate the crowds who pressed into it to enrol themselves its citizens. An overflow of its population was the occasion of the crection of the new town, the original of the present village. Whether the new town was founded by David or at a period even more remote is uncertain; but the fact of its being so early an offshoot strikingly evinces how great a seat of population was the district at the mouth of the Teviot in even rude and semi-barbarous times. Among other elements of the old town's importance in the first half of the 12th century, it possessed an encincturing fortification of wall and ditch, and had its three churches and schools, which David gave to the monks of Kelso Abbey. When he ascended the throne, it became, as a matter of course, a royal burgh-one of those 'Four Burghs' (the others being Edinburgh, Berwick, and Stirling) whose burghal par- liament still exists as the Convention of Royal Burghs. But its main feature was its ancient castle, supposed to have been built by the Saxons while they held their sovereignty of the Northumbrian kingdom, and long a most important fortress, a royal residence, a centre of strife, an eyesore to every great party who had not possession of it, and at once the political glory and the social bane of Teviotdale. Only a few fragments of some of its outer walls remain-on a tabular rock which rises about 40 feet perpendicular from the level of the plain; but these distinctly indicate it to have been a place of great strength. It was for ages a focus off intrigue and pomp and battle; it witnessed a profusion of the vicissitudes of siege and strife, of pillage and fire and slaughter; but now-

'Roxburgh! how fallen, since first, in Gothic pride,
Thy frowning battlements the war defied,
Called the bold chief to race thy blazoned halls,
And bade the rivers gird thy solid walls!
Fallen are thy towers; and where the palace stood,
In gloomy grandeur waves yon hanging wood.
Crushed are thy halls, save where the peasant sees
One moss-clad ruin rise bctween the trees,
The still green trees, whose mournful branches wave,
In solemn cadence o'er the hapless grave.
Proud castle d fancy still beholds thee stand.
The curb, the guardian, of this Border land,
As when the signal flame that blazed afar,
And bloody flag, proclaimed impending war,
While in the lion's place the leopard frowned.
And marshall'd armies hemmed thy bulwarks round.'

Old Roxburgh was governed by a provost and bailies; it had a burgh or city seal; and it was the seat of a royal mint, at least in the reigns of William the Lyon and James II. It also very early had a weekly market and an annual fair -the latter the original of the great fair of St James which continues to be held on its site, and now belongs to Kelso. In 1368 it was subject to Edward III. of England, and received from that monarch a confirmation of its privileges as a burgh; and in 1460, having again come under the power of the Scottish crown, it was, in punishment of its disloyalty, denuded of its honours, and struck from the list of Scottish burghs. It was, as a town, more or less affected by nearly all the vicissitudes which befell its castle; and at many periods, particularly in the years 1369 and 1460, it was burned by hostile armies. It is said to have been, for some time, the fourth town in Scotland in both population and general importance. Near it, on the Teviot side, at a place which still bears the name of Friars, is the site of a convent of Franciscan monks. In the vicinity stood also a Maison Dieu or hospital, for the reception of pilgrims, and of the diseased and the indigent. David I. spent much time at the town and castle of Roxburgh, partly in the way of ordinary residence, and partly in the way of conducting hostilities with England. William the Lyon, under the misfortunes of war, delivered up the castle of Roxburgh to Henry II. of England (1174), but received it back from Richard I.; and he afterwards held his court here, and sent forth forces hence to quell insurrections among his subjects so far N as the province of Moray. Alexander II. resided much at Roxburgh; and was married here in 1239. Alexander III. was born at Roxburgh two years later, and afterwards, at two periods, was shut up in it by turbulences amongst his nobles; and here in 1255 he welcomed his father-in-law, Henry III. of England. Roxburgh Castle was affected by the first movements of Edward- I. against Scotland, and continued to figure prominently in most of the leading events throughout the Wars of the Succession. During the interregnum, the public writings and records had been transmitted from Edinburgh to Roxburgh, where the auditors appointed for Scottish affairs by Edward I. held their assemblies. In 1295 John Baliol consented that Roxburgh, with Berwick and Jedburgh, should be delivered to the Bishop of Carlisle, as a pledge of adherence to the interests of Edward. In September 1292 Edward himself resided at Roxburgh; and four years afterwards, in punishment of some resistance to his claims, he took formal military possession of the castle. In 1297 an unsuccessful attempt was made by the Scots to retake it; but on Shrove-Tuesday 1313, the castle was surprised and captured by Sir James Douglas, while the garrison were indulging in riot. In 1332 Edward Baliol got possession of the castle of Roxburgh, and here acknowledged Edward III. of England as his liege lord, surrendering to him the independence of Scotland, and alienating the town, castle, and county of Roxburgh as an annexation to the crown of England. Edward III. spent some time in Roxburgh Castle, and twice celebrated his birthday here. On Easter Day, 1342, Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie took the castle by escalade (see Hermitage Castle); but in 1346 the English regained possession of it after the battle of Hex- ham. In 1355 Edward III. of England again resided here; and Edward Baliol, who attended him as a vassal, made here a formal and more absolute surrender to him than before of the crown rights of Scotland, degrading himself so far as, in token of submission, to present him with the Scottish crown and with a portion of the Scottish soil. In 1398, during a truce, the Earl of Douglas' son, with Sir William Stewart and others, taking advantage of the critical situation of Richard II., broke down the bridge at Roxburgh, plundered the town, and ravaged the adjacent lands. In 1411 Douglas of Drumlanrig and Gavin Dunbar adopted the same course of hostility; for they broke down the bridge of Roxburgh, and set fire to the town. James I.'s vain attempt to recover this fortress in 1435 is naively described by Bellenden:-' The king past with an army to sege the castell of Marchmond, that is to say Roxburgh. The Scottis war nowmerit in this army to II. C.M. men, by [besides] futmen and caragemen. At last quhen the kyng had lyne at the sege foresaid xv. dayis and waistit all his munitioun and powder, he returnit haim, but [without] ony mair felicité succeeding to his army.' In 1460 James II.-perhaps from the thought of its shaming the Scottish crown, that Berwick and Roxburgh should continue so long under English dominion-laid siege to the latter, with a numerous army, well-furnished with artillery and war- like machinery. He had taken the town, and levelled it to the ground; but on 3 Aug., during the siege of the castle, while he was watching the discharge of a cannon, of so great a calibre, that it was called the' Lion,, it burst, and the king was almost instantaneously struck dead. A yew tree, planted by the late Duke of Roxburghe, marks the spot where he fell. On receiving the mournful tidings the Queen, Mary of Gueldres, hurried to the camp with her eldest son, a boy of eight years of age. She conducted herself with such heroism as to inspire the troops with redoubled energy; and the garrison, finding themselves reduced to extremities, surrendered the fortress. 'That the place,' says Ridpath, ' which the English had held for more than a hundred years, might thenceforth cease to be a centre of rapine and violence, or a cause of future strife between the nations, the victors reduced it to a heap of ruins., In this dismantled state did it remain till the English army, in 1547, under the Protector Somerset, encamped on the plain between the ruins of Roxburgh Castle and the confluence of Tweed and Teviot. Observing the strength and convenience of the situation, he resolved to make the fortress tenable. This he did, and left in it a garrison of 300 soldiers and 200 pioneers, under Sir Ralph Bulmer. While the English were at Roxburgh, a great number of the Scottish gentry in this district came into the camp, and made their submission to Somerset, swearing fealty to the King of England. In 1499 Walter Ker of Cessford obtained from James IV. a grant of the site of the ruined town and castle. Robert, his fifth descendant, received the title of Baron Roxburghe in 1600, and of Earl of Roxburghe in 1616; and in 1707 the fifth Earl was created Duke of Rox- burghe. See Floors Castle, Kelso, and works cited under the latter article.

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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