Ferniehirst Castle

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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Fernieherst Castle, a Border stronghold in Jedburgh parish, Roxburghshire, on the right bank of Jed Water, 2½ miles S by E of Jedburgh town. It was the ancient seat of the Kerrs of the Lothian line, as Cessford was that of the Roxburghe Kers-offshoots both of the same Anglo-Norman stock, but wrangling ever as to seniority. Ralph Kerr about 1350 settled in Teviotdale, and his seventh descendant is designated of Fernieherst in the parliament records of 1476. To this date, then, or somewhat earlier, belonged the original castle, where Sir Andrew or ` Dand ' Kerr was taken prisoner by the English under Lord Dacre, after a valiant defence, 24 Sept. 1523. With the aid of D'Essé's French auxiliaries, his son, Sir John, retook the castle in 1549; and his son, Sir Thomas, on 22 Jan. 1570, the day after Moray's murder at Linlithgow, swept over the Border with fire and sword, hoping to kindle a war that might lead to Queen Mary's release. For this, in the following April, the Earl of Sussex demolished Fernieherst, which was not rebuilt till 1598. Sir Thomas's fourth son was Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, Sir Thomas Overbury's murderer; whilst the eldest son, Andrew, was also ennobled as Lord Jedburgh in 1622. The third Lord Jedburgh, Ralph Kerr's twelfth descendant, died without issue in 1692, when the representation of the family in the male line devolved on his second cousin once removed, Robert, fourth Earl of Lothian, who in 1701 was created Marquis of Lothian. (See Newbattle.) Not the least interesting of Fernieherst's many memories is the visit paid to it on 21 Sept. 1803 by Scott and Wordsworth, whose sister writes: ` Walked up to Fernieherst, an old hall in a secluded situation, now inhabited by farmers; the neighbouring ground had the wildness of a forest, being irregularly scattered over with fine old trees. The wind was tossing their branches, and sunshine dancing among the leaves, and I happened to exclaim, " What a life there is in trees! " on which Mr Scott observed that the words reminded him of a young lady who had been born and educated on an island of the Orcades, and came to spend a summer at Kelso and in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. She used to say that in the new world into which she was come nothing had disappointed her so much as trees and woods; she complained that they were lifeless, silent, and, compared with the grandeur of the ever-changing ocean, even insipid. At first I was surprised, but the next moment I felt that the impression was natural.. The valley of the Jed is very solitary immediately under Fernieherst; we walked down to the river, wading almost up to the knees in fern, which in many parts overspread the forest ground. It made me think of our walks at Allfoxden, and of our own park-though at Fernieherst is no park at present-and the slim fawns that we used to startle from their couching-places among the fern at the top of the hill. We were accompanied on our walk by a young man from the Braes of Yarrow, William Laidlaw, an acquaintance of Mr Scott's, who, having been much delighted with some of William's poems which he had chanced to see in a newspaper, had wished to be introduced to him; he lived in the most retired part of the dale of Yarrow, where he had a farm; he was fond of reading and well informed, but at first meeting as shy as any of our Grasmere lads, and not less rustic in his appearance.' See pp. 265-267 of Dorothy Wordsworth's Tour in Scotland (ed. by Princ. Shairp, 1874).—Ord. Sur., sh. 17, 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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