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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Lauder, a town and parish in the district of Lauderdale, Berwickshire. The town is a royal and parliamentary burgh, a post-town, and the capital of Lauderdale. It stands on the right bank of Leader Water, 6 miles ENE of Stow railway station, 7 NNW of Earlston, and 25 SE of Edinburgh. Communication is maintained with Stow by means of daily omnibus and carrier's cart; but a new branch line of railway to Lauder has been projected (see below). The town consists chiefly of one long plain irregular street, stretching NW and S E along the highway. At one end this thoroughfare is split into two by a row of houses; and diagonally across its NW end runs another street from E to W, about 350 yards long. Describing the segment of a circle on the SW side of the main street, and running nearly parallel with it on the NE side, are the two thoroughfares of Upper and Under Backside. The park wall of Thirlestane Castle screens the whole of the NE side of these thoroughfares, and forms on that side the boundary of the burgh. Though Lauder contains some neat and well-built houses, and has its suburbs adorned with a few neat villas, it presents on the whole a plain and dull aspect. The town-hall stands at the NW end of the intersecting line of houses in the main street, overlooking a radiated pavement that marks the site of an ancient cross. The parish church, a cruciform edifice of quite unimposing appearance, stands a little off the street line immediately SW of the town-hall. Erected in 1673, it was repaired in 1820, and contains 773 sittings. Lauder also contains a Free church with 450 sittings, a U.P. with 600, and a Roman Catholic meeting-house. Its school, which is contained in a good building, is noted under the parish. Lauder has a head post office with the usual departments, a branch of the Bank of Scotland, and offices or agents of 4 insurance companies. It has also a public reading-room and library, agricultural, horticultural, total abstinence, and clothing societies, a gas company (1842), a water company (1830), etc. There is a good inn. Some little trade with the surrounding country districts is carried on, but the commercial importance of Lauder is of the slightest description. It maintains its communication with the world at large, chiefly in virtue of its being a convenient centre for trout-fishers. Besides daily communication with Stow, there is a carrier from Lauder to Dalkeith every Monday, and to Galashiels every Saturday. Fairs are held on the first Tuesday in March for hinds and herds; on the sixth Tuesday thereafter, and on the fourth Friday in October, for servants; and on the Friday before the 12th of August for lambs.

The burgh is governed by 2 bailies and 7 councillors. The municipal and the parliamentary constituency numbered 183 and 143 in 1883, whilst the corporation revenue was £485 in 1882. The burgh is proprietor of Lauder Common, a stretch of 1700 acres. Sheriff small-debt courts are held on the last Wednesday of February, first Wednesday of July, and first Monday of October. A justice of peace court meets on the fourth Wednesday of every second month, beginning with January. Lauder unites with Haddington, Jedburgh, Dunbar, and North Berwick in returning a member to parliament. Valuation (1883) £2410. Pop. of royal burgh (1841) 1148, (1861) 1121, (1881) 1014, of whom 964 were in the parliamentary burgh.

Lauder is said to have been made a royal burgh in the reign of William the Lyon, but its present charter dates merely from 1502. In 1483 Lauder church-now demolished-was the scene of the meeting of Scottish nobles to take measures against the low-born favourites of James III. Under the Earl of Angus (Bell-the-Cat), the lords, in the words of Pitscottie, ` laid handis on all servandis, and tuik them and hanged them over the Bridge of Lother befoir the king's eyes. 'This historic bridge has quite disappeared. The strong tower, known as Lauder Fort, said to have been built by Edward I. of England, and repaired under James VI., is now incorporated with Thirlestane Castle, whose fine grounds and park are in immediate proximity to the town.

Lauder parish consists of a main body, and a small detached portion. The former is bounded N by Haddingtonshire, NE by Longformacus and a detached section of Cranshaws, E by Westruther, SE by Legerwood, S by Roxburghshire, and W by Edinburghshire and Channelkirk. Its length, from N to S is 11 miles; and its greatest breadth is 7 miles. The detached section lies 1½ mile S of the nearest part of the main body, and 31/3 miles of the town of Lauder. It is bounded on the E by Legerwood and Earlston, and on all other sides by Roxburghshire. The total area of the parish, which is the largest in Berwickshire, is 34,898 acres, of which 1-302¾ acres belong to the detached part. The boundary line along the N and N E, to the extent of 8 miles, is the watershed of the Lammermuir Hills, and stretches to the slopes of Lammer Law (1733 feet), which gives name to the whole range. The highest of the peaks that rise within the parish are Crib Law (1670 feet), Seenes Law (1683), and Huntlaw (1625). For some 5 or 6 miles S of the N border, the surface is occupied by offshoots of the Lammermuir Hills, intersected with glens and corries. The aspect is generally bleak and the soil moorish, but gradually becomes more fertile as it approaches the S. The valleys through which the various streams flow are fresh and verdant. The vale of the Leader in particular has a low open bottom, with a width varying from 1 to 2 miles, which it retains throughout its course. The streams of the parish are fairly numerous. Leader Water, the name of which is merely a variety of Lauder, is the chief. Rising in the extreme NW corner of the parish, it flows for 5½ miles along the W boundary; runs for 4½ miles SSE through the interior; forms, for ¾ mile, the boundary with Legerwood; and, after traversing the intermediate space, traces all the E boundary of the detached district. Numerous burns rise on the borders, and run right and left to the Leader; one of the largest of these, the Brunta Burn, for 6 ½ miles bounds Westruther and Legerwood. One of the smallest, called Lauderburn, runs NE to the S vicinity of the town. There is good trout-fishing in the Leader. Perennial springs are both numerous and copious. The predominant rocks are eruptive, Silurian, and Devonian, and yield abundant material for local building. On much of the arable land the soil is clayey, in some parts rich loam over a gravelly and sandy bottom; but, over the greatest proportion, it is of a light dry character, specially suitable for turnips. The greater part of the hills affords excellent pasturage for sheep. Agriculture and sheep-farming are the only industries of importance.

The parish of Lauder has at present no direct railway connection with the rest of the country, but the beginning of 1884 is expected to see the commencement of a new line of railway from Fountainhall station, on the Waverley route of the North British, to Lauder. Owing to the necessary curve of the line to the N of Oxton, its length will be about 10½ miles. The estimated cost is £43,000. The terminus will be near the N end of the burgh of Lauder. As all the proprietors through whose lands the line would pass are favourable to its construction no act of parliament will be necessary; and the work will be carried on under the Railway Powers Construction Acts, 1864-70. There will be a station between Oxton and Carfrae Mill.

The chief landholders are the Earl of Lauderdale and the Marquis of Tweeddale. The parish contains the burgh of Lauder. The chief seats are Thirlestane Castle, Chapel-on-Leader, and Allenbank.

The parish belongs to the presbytery of Earlston and to the synod of Merse and Teviotdale. The stipend is £401, including the manse and glebe. The Free Church of Lauder is in the F. C. presbytery of Selkirk; and the U.P. church in the U.P. presbytery of Melrose. The board school at Lauder had, in 1881, accommodation for 437 pupils, an average attendance of 252, and government grant of £261, 3s. Cleikimin school had 64, 33, and £38, 9s. as the figures for these particulars. Valuation (1865) £17,531, 11s. 3d., (1882) £20,925, 9s. 3d. Pop. of civil parish (1801) 1760, (1841) 2198, (1861) 2198, (1871) 2120, (1881) 1940. Houses, 375 inhabited, 32 vacant.—Ord. Sur., sh. 25, 1865.

The ancient parish church appears to have been endowed with a considerable living. The advowson was given in the reign of David I. to Sir Hugh Morville, constable of Scotland; and it afterwards passed into the possession of Devorgilla, wife of John Baliol, by whom it was given to the monks of Dryburgh, who retained it as a vicarage till the Reformation. Subordinate to the church were 2 chapels-one at Redslie, in the detached part of the parish, and one, dedicated to St Leonard, at the extreme S point of the main body. Beside the latter stood a hospital dedicated to the same saint. The chief antiquities, besides Thirlestane Castle, are various tumuli, several Caledonian and Pictish camps, and some remains of circular stone huts, discovered in 1872, and supposed to be the relics of a Caledonian town. Various fragments of swords, bones, flint-arrow heads, etc., have been discovered.

Lauder was the birthplace of Sir John Maitland, Lord Thirlestane, who in the reign of James VI. was lord privy seal, secretary of state, and chancellor of Scotland. The Rev. James Guthrie, first Scottish martyr after the Reformation, was minister for a short time here.

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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