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Peebles

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, 2002-2019.

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Peebles, a royal and police burgh, the county town of Peeblesshire, stands, 547 feet above sea-level, on the left bank of the Tweed, which here is joined from the N by Eddleston Water. It is 27 miles S of Edinburgh by the North British railway, 53¼ by the Caledonian, and 22 by road; 53¾ ESE of Glasgow by rail, and 47 by road; 15¾ E by N of Biggar by rail; 19 E by N of Symington Junction; 18½ WNW of Galashiels by rail, and 17½ by road; 19 NW of Selkirk by road; and 54 NNE of Dumfries by road. Peebles has 2 railway stations, one of which is on the North British line from Edinburgh to Galashiels by Leadburn Junction, and the other of which is the terminus of the Peebles Branch of the Caledonian railway. The section of the former, between Edinburgh and Peebles, was opened for traffic in 1855, and the part between Peebles and Galashiels in 1864, at which date was also opened the Caledonian Branch from Symington Junction to Peebles. A short line of railway connects the two systems-the North British and the Caledonian. Starting from the station of the latter, it runs along the right bank of the river, which it crosses by an iron bridge at the foot of Tweed-Green, and then joins the North British line. Omnibuses await the principal trains to take visitors to the Hydropathic Establishment and to the Tontine Hotel; and in the season a conveyance runs between Peebles and Neidpath Castle.

Peebles is built mainly on a peninsula formed by the river Tweed and Eddleston Water. The situation of the town is very beautiful, and at the same time somewhat secluded owing to the lofty hills which entirely surround it. Near the river, and on either side of it, lie stretches of flat meadow-land, from which the ground slopes upwards. Upon the N ascent, the New Town, as it is called, is partly built. It contains the chief street of Peebles-the High Street- which is about 1000 feet long. The New Town dates from the 16th century, when it was erected on a more secure site than that occupied by the Old Town. It was surrounded by a wall and defended by bastelhouses, but both the wall and the houses have now almost wholly disappeared. The names Northgate, Eastgate, Portbrae, however, still preserve the recollection of Peebles as a walled town. Beyond the western extremity of the High Street, numerous villas have been erected of late years, and the ground on the S bank of the Tweed has also been built upon to such an extent, that the collection of houses there has been called by Chambers 'a species of third town which promises to exceed the others in dimensions.' The Old Town lies chiefly on the right bank of Eddleston Water. At one time it must have been of considerable size and importance, as it contained the church of St Andrew and that of the Holy Cross, as well as the abodes of the clergy. Of late years, it too has been greatly enlarged by the erection of new houses. The chief streets in Peebles are the High Street, the Northgate, and the Portbrae. In addition to these, there are numerous 'closes' (i.e., narrow passages diverging from the main street), as well as a few smaller streets and a large number of fine villas standing in their own grounds. The town of Peebles' says the author of The Beauties of Scotland (1805), 'is, upon the whole, well built; its principal street is spacious and well paved, and terminates on the W in a stately church of modern architecture."The town of Peebles,' wrote Dorothy Wordsworth in l803, 'looks very pretty from the Neidpath road; it is an old town, built of grey stone."The climate of Peebles,' says a third account of 1881, 'is exceedingly healthy. Though the town is 550 feet above sea-level, the air is not so cold as might be expected. . . . The surrounding hills, which almost envelop the town, form a barrier to the winds, and the full force of a storm is thus seldom felt. Mists are rare. Few of the houses are much affected with damp, on account of the soil whereon they are built being principally composed of gravel and sand.' The Tweed, at Peebles, is crossed by a stone bridge of five arches, which seems to have been built about 1467. In 1834 it was widened, a change very necessary, since it was so narrow that foot passengers had to take refuge in recesses over the piers, when carriages, etc., were crossing over. There are several bridges over Eddleston Water and an iron bridge over the Tweed, by means of which the railway crosses the river.

The town of Peebles contains 6 places of worship. The parish church, built in 1779-83, and seating 750 worshippers, is a large but tasteless and heavy building, situated at the W end of High Street. Its steeple, with three bells and an illuminated clock, serves not only to intensify the inartistic character of the building, but is a source of actual discomfort, as it rises within the walls in a way that destroys the uniformity of the gallery. Three silver communion cups bear date 1684. In 1884 it was resolved to pull down this church, and erect another on the same site to hold 1200 people. The Free church, erected in 1871-72, is situated at the eastern extremity of the town. It is a handsome building in the Early Pointed style, with a spire 100 feet high. It contains sittings for 610 persons. The West U.P. church was erected about 1832. It was originally a Relief church. The East U.P. church, commonly known as the Leckie Memorial Church, was erected in 1875.76 from designs by Messrs Peddie & Kinnear. It is built in the Gothic style, in the form of a parallelogram, with a massive broach spire at one angle. It has a very fine situation, as it is built on the slope which rises from Tweed-Green to High Street, and in consequence looks directly upon the river. St Peter's Episcopal church contains 126 sittings. A new chancel was added in 1883, and the interior much improved by the removal of the old organ-loft, formerly above the entrance to the church. At the time when the improvements were effected, a new organ was added to the church. The pulpit is of beautiful marble, the font of Caen stone; and the stained-glass window in the chancel was presented by Colin Mackenzie, Esq. of Portmore, in memory of his uncle, Bishop. Mackenzie. The Roman Catholic church, St Joseph's, in Rosetta Road, replaced in l858 a chapel of much smaller dimensions. The present one has accommodation for 300 persons.

So early as 1464 the bailies appointed Sir William Blaklok schoolmaster of the burgh; and in 1555 they agreed to provide the master with an ` honest chamber, ' and also with the use of the tolbooth to teach his bairns reading and writing English. ` Latinists ' are mentioned in 1559; and in 1563 the council ordained the master to wait on the bairns, and not to go to hunting or other pleasures in time coming without licence of the aldermen. Education was made compulsory in 1637; and in 1688 the magistrates ordered the master to teach all children gratis whose parents were unable to pay the fees. The two burgh schools, which passed to the local school board in 1873, were a grammar school and an English school, the latter rebuilt in 1861 at a cost of £541. A residence erected in 1805 for the headmaster of the grammar school furnishes accommodation for 30 boarders. The following table shows the position of the schools in 1882-83:

Name Accommodation Average
Attendance
Grant.
1st English,. 300 219 £173, 9s
2nd English,.      
Halyrude, . 200 216 £189
St Josephs,. 74 27  

The school board consists of a chairman and 6 members. In addition to the above schools, there are the following: St Leonards and Beauthorne for the board and education of young ladies, and a boys' school called Bonnington Park Academy. There is also an adventure school in School Brae.

There are in Peebles few public buildings, and these, for the most part, are of plain and unadorned appearance. The most striking are the Hydropathic Establishment and the Chambers Institution. The Town-Hall, which stands in High Street, was built in 1753; and behind it is the Corn Exchange (l860). The County Hall is also in High Street. It was erected in 1844, is in the Tudor style, and has inferior accommodation. The prison beside it was legalised in 1844, but closed in 1878. The building in High Street, which forms the front of the Chambers Institution, has an interesting history connected with it. At one time the property of the Cross Church, it fell in 1624 into the hands of the Hays, Lords Yester. It next passed to the Queensberry family (1687), and was sold by the fourth Duke of Queensberry to Dr James Reid in 1781. Dr Chambers obtained possession of it in 1857, and ` for purposes of social improvement, presented it as a free gift to his native town. ' Dr Chambers made considerable alterations upon the building- chiefly inside-and erected on the S side of the quadrangle a large hall, which harmonises very well with the other buildings. In the centre of this quadrangle has been placed the old cross of Peebles, noticed below. The institution was opened 11 Aug. 1859. It embraces ` a public lending library with about 17, 000 volumes, a large reference library, a public reading room, and several rooms for private study, a gallery of art, a county museum, and a hall. It is maintained partly by endowment and partly by small fees, payable by visitors and others. ' The buildings were repaired in 1880 at a cost of £1000. The civic corporation act as trustees. The Museum contains some -fine copies of famous Egyptian antiquities, as well as collections of fossils, birds, casts, etc. The reading-room is very comfortable, and in the hall there has been placed a portrait of Dr W. Chambers, by Gordon, painted in 1858.

Peebles has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, insurance, and telegraph departments, agencies of 21 insurance companies, and branches of the Bank of Scotland, the Commercial Bank, and the British Linen Co.'s Bank. The premises of all three are in High Street. Those of the Bank of Scotland and of the British Linen Co. are handsome buildings the former erected in l860, the latter in 1883. There are numerous hotels in the town, as well as a Hydropathic Establishment. The chief hotels are the Tontine, the Commercial, and the Cross Keys. The first, as the name implies, was built by subscription, under the agreement ` that any age might be entered, and the longest liver should have the whole.' It was erected in 1808 at a cost of £4030. The Cross Keys Hotel is interesting, because it and a former landlady have been considered the originals of the ` Cleikum Inn ' and ` Meg Dodds ' in Scott's St Ronan's Well. Above the doorway is written The Original Cleikum Inn, underneath which is the date 1653, and, indeed the building has an antiquated appearance. It is approached from the Northgate through an arch, which leads into a courtyard, at the end of which the house-once known as the ` Yett ' (i.e., gate)-is situated. At one time, it was the town-house of the Williamsons of Cardrona, who appear to have risen from burgesses of Peebles to county gentle. men. The Hydropathic Establishment lies a little way E of the town on the slope of Ven Law (1066 feet). It was erected in 1878-81, at a cost of £70, 000, in the French Renaissance style. The building is extremely handsome, and the deep brown-red colour of the stone with which it has been built contrasts well with the dark green of the trees round about it. There are five floors and accommodation for 200 visitors. The public rooms are spacious and elaborately decorated; the bedrooms are more comfortably furnished than those of such establishments generally are; and the baths are of the most complete description. The grounds, 26 acres in extent, have been laid out with greens for lawn tennis, croquet, bowling; and there are ponds for curling and skating. Peebles has numerous clubs and societies. There are clubs for cricket, football, bowling, and curling, in addition to a Conservative Club, a Gutterbluid Club, an Incomers' Club, and a Leek Club. Among the societies are the Auxiliary to the National Bible Society, the Boys' and Girls' Religious Society, the Free Church Temperance and Band of Hope, the Parish Church Young Men's Union, the Peeblesshire Colportage Society, a Temperance Association, a Young Men's Christian Association. Besides these there are a Hammermen's Incorporation, a Guildry Corporation, an Independent Order of Good Templars, the Court Neidpath Ancient Order of Foresters, the Peebles Kilwinning Lodge of Freemasons, 2 companies of the 2d Midlothian and Peeblesshire Rifle Volunteers, and a Choral Union. A newspaper called the Peeblesshire Advertiser and County Newspaper (1845) is published every Saturday. A hiring fair-Fasten E'en Fair-is held on the first Tuesday of March, Beltane Fair and Siller Fair on the second Wednesday in May and on the Tuesday before 12 Dec. respectively.

The only industry, prosecuted with vigour in the town, is the manufacture of woollen goods. There are in Peebles one spinning-mill and two tweed-mills. The largest of these, in which both weaving and spinning are carried on, employs nearly 400 hands. Coachbuilding, tanning, and brewing are also engaged in. In addition to these, there is a large warehouse, in which ` tweeds ' are sold. About the beginning of the century the manufacture of cotton goods was introduced, but unsuccessfully, and this failure cannot but be contrasted with the success that has attended the woollen trade. Although the business done at Peebles cannot contrast with that of Galashiels and other Border towns, still it is large enough to be remunerative. The town possesses numerous shops for all kinds of goods, and trade has been greatly benefited by the increasing number of people, who-spend the summer at Peebles. The building trade alone must have derived great advantage from the many new villas erected of late years in the outskirts of the burgh.

The town of Peebles is governed by a provost, 2 bailies, and 7 councillors, with a dean of guild, a treasurer, and a town clerk. The sheriff court sits every Tuesday and Thursday during session, and the sheriff small debt court every Friday. Quarter sessions of the justices of the peace are held on the first Tuesday of March, May, and August, and the last Tuesday of October. From the Union till 1832 Peebles, like Rothesay, had a parliamentary representation; but now it votes only in the election of the member for Peebles and Selkirk shires. Municipal constituency (1884) 419, including 78 females. Corporation revenue (1874) £538, (1883) £697. Valuation (1875) £7544, (1884) £10, 112, plus £839 for railways. Pop. of royal burgh (1841) 1908, (1861) 2045, (1881) 2609; of town and police burgh (1861) 2045, (1871) 2631, (1881) 3495, of whom 1859 were females. Houses (1881) 677 inhabited, 60 uninhabited, 6 building.

In and about the town of Peebles there are several objects of antiquarian interest. Of the town wall, built about 1570, when the country was in a most distracted condition, only a few fragments now remain. To judge from the height and thickness of these, it could not have been, even at the best, a great defence. Beginning at the parish church-on whose site Peebles Castle formerly stood-it stretched along Tweed-green to its eastern boundary, then struck N to where the Free church now stands, and again E back to the parish church. The portions still extant are on the E side. In addition to the protection afforded by the town wall, the burgesses sought to defend themselves by erecting bastel-houses, which were three-storied buildings entered through a low doorway. The ground-floor, and occasionally the upper floors, were arched, and the roof covered with thatch, which, in an emergency, could be stripped off, set on fire, and thrown down upon the enemy outside. No vestiges now remain of the Castle of Peebles. Built, in all- likelihood, in the reign of David I., it was inhabited from time to time by Scottish kings (see under History), and must have existed as late as 1685, when it is mentioned for the last time in the rentalbook of the Earl of Tweeddale's estates. Although its size is not certainly known, still it probably was not of much greater extent than the ` Peel Houses ' of that period. Towards the close of the 17th or in the beginning of the 18th century, it had fallen into decay, and, doubtless, had come to be regarded, like many other ruins in Scotland, as nothing better than a quarry from which stones might be had for building with comparatively little trouble. When the prison was built, part of the foundations of the castle were laid bare. Neidpath Castle, situated 1 mile W of the town, and standing on the N bank of the Tweed, must have been one of the strongest fortresses in the district. It is separately described.

The ruins of the Cross Church and of the church of St Andrew are within the burgh. The former are situated in the old town, not far from the station of the North British Railway Company. The way in which the name of this church arose is thus described by Fordoun (the account is condensed): ` Upon the 9th May 1261, a magnificent and venerable cross was found at Peblis, which is supposed to have been buried at the time of Maximinian's persecution in Britain, about the year 296. Shortly afterwards, there was found about three or four paces distant from the spot where the glorious cross was discovered, a stone urn, containing the ashes and bones of a human body. These relics were thought by some to be the remains of the person whose name was engraven on the stone on which the cross lay; for on the upper side of the stone were these words, '` The place of St Nicholas, the bishop. " In this place, where the cross had been found, frequent miracles were wrought; on which account the King,-by the advice of the Bishop of Glasgow, caused a stately church to be erected there, in honour of God and of the Holy Rood.' This church was 102 feet in length, 32 in width, and 24 in height. At the back of the church was a convent, also erected by the King.- In the English invasion of 1548-49, when s - many abbeys and churches were burned, the Cross Church escaped uninjured. In 1560, the request of the magistrates, that it might be given to them for a parish church, was granted, and it served as such until 1784, when the present parish church was built. At that date nearly all the walls were pulled down to furnish material with which to build the new church, and now the remains of this once extensive building are very inconsiderable. On its N side a mound, overgrown with grass, marks the burial-place of the Earls of M arch. The burial-place of the Hays of Haystoun is on the S side, where there is also a part railed off, said to have been formerly the property of the Earls of Morton. The parish church of St Andrew lies about ¼ mile W of the Cross Church. It was founded, in 1195, by Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow, and, owing to the large endowments which it received, soon became important. In 1543 it was made a collegiate church; but in 1548 it was burned by the English, from which disaster it never recovered. When the Cross Church became the parish church at the Reformation, there was no object to be gained by restoring that of St Andrew, and accordingly it fell gradually into a ruin, the tower alone resisting successfully the action of wind and weather. In 1883 Dr William Chambers, for whom this old tower seems to have had an especial interest, restored it at his own expense; and his grave is beneath its shadow. The churchyard contains some curious old tombstones. The oldest -bears the date 1699. Another, dated 1704 and erected to the memory of three members of a family called Hope, has the following verse upon it:

' Here lie three Hopes enclosed within,
Death's prisoners by Adam's sin;
Yet rest in Hope that they shall be
Set by the Second Adam free.'

Another has:

My glass is run, and yours is running;
Repent in time, for judgment's coming.'

In the churchyard, a part set aside has been called the Stranger's Nook, and in it lie buried the remains of some French officers, who died at Peebles while living there on parole. Of the Chapel of the Virgin, which adjoined the Castle and stood across the head of High Street, no traces now remain. It is not known at what time it was erected, but of its extreme antiquity there can be no doubt. In appearance it was a long, narrow Gothic building. For years after the Reformation it was employed as the meeting-place of the kirk-session and presbytery, and was only removed to make way for the present parish church. The place where the Hospital of St Leonard once stood is marked by a single tree. The hospital (rather ` hospitium ') was designed for the relief -of the poor and the aged. It stood almost on the eastern boundary of the parish, on land which belongs now to the farm of Eshiels.

Other antiquities in the town and parish are the following. The ancient Cross of Peebles, first erected in he Old Town, and afterwards removed to the High Street, was given to Sir John Hay, Bart., in 1807, and set up by him at Kingsmeadows. In 1859 it was restored to the town, and stands now in the court of the Chambers Institution. According to the writer of the New Statistical Account of the parish, ` the cross was a work of great antiquity, having been erected by one of the Frasers of Neidpath Castle before the time of Robert the Bruce, and bears the arms of the Frasers.' It consisted of an octagonal column, 12 feet in height and 3¼ in circumference. A house in High Street, inhabited for generations by a family called Turnbull, bakers by business, bears a stone with implements used in baking carved upon it, and with the inscription, ` God provides a rich inheritans; 1717. W T. ' A small one-storied shop in the High Street, a few doors E of the Chambers Institution, was used by Mungo Park (1771-1805), the famous African traveller, as a surgery. He practised in Peebles during 1801-2, and was well received, but doubtless found existence in a Scotch country town rather dull after a life of adventure in Africa. This may explain why he gave up his profession to enter upon his second and fatal expedition to the Niger. Some of the names of streets and localities in Peebles are interesting on account of their associations. Such, for example, are Borthwick's Walls, Port - brae, Northgate, Eastgate, Bridgegate, which preserve the fact of Peebles having been at one time a walled town. Again, there are King's-house and King's-orchards, which call to remembrance the not unfrequent visits of royalty; and there is Dean's-gutter, which brings into recollection the old religious establishments, swept away at the Reformation. A house standing at the corner between High Street and Northgate bears the name ` Cunzie Neuk ' or ` Cunye Neuk.' It is said that it derived its name from a house, erected as early as 1473, on the same site, and so called, according to some, because money was coined there. It is more likely, however, that it obtained its name from the fact of its being a corner house. There are not fewer than seven hill forts in the parish, erected by the Britons as defences against their various foes. These forts are on Meldon Hill, Janet's Brae (2), Cardie Hill, Kittlegairy Hill, Cademuir Hill (2), Camp-law. The extent of these and their history have been carefully treated in the chapter entitled ` Early History and Antiquities, ' in Dr Chambers's History of Peeblesshire.

History.—When Peebles was first founded is not known, but that it must have been at a very early date is certain. Its name, which is spelt Peblis, Peeblis, Peebles, is derived, according to Chambers, from `pebyll, ' which means ` movable habitations, tents, or pavilions. ' If this derivation is correct, the word meaning tents has been transferred, by a common figure of speech, to the place where they were pitched. The natural surroundings of the town, which is well sheltered and amply supplied with water, make this far from unlikely. A tradition of the 6th century connects Peebles with the patron saint of Glasgow-St Mungo. According to it, he visited the town and planted a church there, and ` Saint Mungo's Well ' still calls to remembrance the visit of the bishop. It is not, however, before the 12th century that history takes the place of tradition. Although the view that Peebles was created a royal burgh by David I. is probably wrong, and that according to which it was created a royal burgh by David II. in 1367 correct, the town still had, even at the earlier date, a certain position in Scottish history. In the 12th century a rector of Peebles, afterwards Bishop of Glasgow, vindicated at Rome the resistance of the Church of Scotland to the claim of superiority over it, made by the Archbishop of York. At that time there were in the town a church, a mill, and a brewery.

Peebles stood in a country which then afforded good hunting, and, in consequence, its castle, which may have been built in the reign of David I., was used as a royal residence by various kings when residing in that part of the kingdom. David I. himself, Malcolm I V., his- son, William the Lyon, Alexander II., and Alexander III. may be mentioned. During one of his invasions of Scotland, Edward I. spent some time at Peebles, from whose castle he dated more than one charter. - In 1304, Peebles, with its mills, etc., was granted by him to Aymer de Valence, Warden of Scotland, and his heirs. The right to hold a fair was given to the town by King Robert the Bruce, but the charter which conveyed it has disappeared. In 1329 David II. visited Peebles, and in the Scottish Parliament, which met after the battle of Durham (1346) and during the King's captivity, to ratify the agreement entered into with England, two commissioners from Peebles took part. This, combined with the creation of Peebles into a royal burgh (1367), shows that, even at that early period, the town was regarded as important. In these unsettled times it suffered considerably, though not to the same extent as towns nearer the English border. In 1406, Sir Robert Umphraville, Vice-Admiral of England, made a raid upon Peebles, and, as Hardyng relates,.

Brent the town upon their market-day,
And mete their cloth with spears and bows sere
By his bidding without any nay.'

The next monarch whose name is connected with Peebles is James I. of Scotland. After his return from captivity in England, he visited the town on several occasions. There, it is almost certain, that he would see the sports of Beltane Day (May 1), which, in turn, might well suggest to him the idea of Peblis to the Play. According to Chambers, ` the festivities of Beltane originated in the ceremonial observances of the original British people, who lighted fires on the tops of hills and other places in honour of their deity Baal; hence Beltane or Beltien, signifying the fire of Baal. The superstitious usage disappeared,.. but certain festive customs on the occasion were confirmed and amplified, and the rural sports of Beltane at Peebles, including archery and horse-racing,.. drew crowds not only from the immediate neighbourhood, but from Edinburgh and other places at a distance.' Numerous local allusions and intimate acquaintance with the humours and customs of the age prove that the poe, was written by one who had witnessed the rejoicings of Beltane Day; and all that is known of King James I. makes it very likely that he was the author of Peblis to the Play. The poem opens with the following lines:

' At Beltane when ilk body bounds
To Peebles to the play,
To hear the singing and the sounds,
Their solace, sooth to say,
By firth and forest forth they found,
They graithit them full gay,
God wait that wold they do that stound,
For it was their feast day.
They said
Of Peebles to the play '

In the poem of Christ Kirk on the Green, which has been ascribed both to James I. and James V., the sports at Peebles are also alluded to:

'Was ne'er in Scotland heard nor seen
Sic dancing, nor deray,
Neither at Falkland on the Green,
Or Peebles at the Play.'

Chambers points out as evidencing the popularity of James I. that, after he had been murdered at Perth (1437), money was subscribed by the inhabitants, sufficient to have a mass said daily for the King's soul.

The reign of James II. is interesting in connection with Peebles, because in it begin the burgh records. The 4th October 1456 is the earliest date to which it is possible to go back. To the reign of his successor, James III., a poem called The Tales of the Thrie Priestis of Peebles must be referred. It is constructed, to a certain extent, on the same lines as the satirical poems of Sir David Lindsay, especially as regards the parts in which the faults and failings of the clergy are severely criticised. From James IV. the town obtained a charter of confirmation in 1506, and, during the greater part of his reign, was very prosperous. The quietness that had lasted during it served only to increase the disturbance and tumult that broke out after his death. The counties near the border were always liable to be attacked by the English, or to be ravaged in the destructive raid of some hostile clan, and hence the burgesses of Peebles did well to surround their town with a wall, even though that was not of the strongest. In 1547, an expedition set out from Peebles to besiege and recover the house of Langhup, held at that time by the English. In December 1565, Darnley visited Peebles. Different reasons are assigned for his sojourn in it. One account says that he was sent thither by the Queen; another, that he came seeking more congenial pleasures than those afforded by the capital; a third, that he came to it in order to have an interview with his father, the Earl of Lennox, unknown to the Queen. The next notice of interest with regard to the town occurs in 1604. In that year, there was, as Birrel relates in his Diary of Events in Scotland, ` ane grate fyre in Peibleis town. ' This destroyed a large part of what had been built again after 1545. In 1645, the plague, which had been causing terrible devastation elsewhere, reached Peebles, and created a panic among the inhabitants. One result was, that for a time, ` there was no meeting of the congregation for fear of the pestilence. ' While terror was thus inspired by the plague, anxiety, almost as great in extent, though different in cause, was occasioned by the victorious progress of the Marquis of Montrose. After having been defeated at Philiphaugh (13 Sept. 1645), he fled to Peebles, where he sought to gain the assistance of some of the neighbouring lairds, in which attempt, however, he was far from being successful. Five years later, a division of Cromwell's army was stationed at Peebles. It is said that the soldiers found stabling for their horses in the Church of St Andrew, while they were attempting to reduce Neidpath Castle, held by Lord Yester. Twenty years after the former visitation, Peebles was again full of terror lest the plague should break out among them. The ravages of this-the Great Plague-were confined to England and Ireland, and Scotland escaped unharmed.

In the struggles of the Covenanters after a simpler worship and a purer faith Peebles took a conspicuous part, and, at the battle of Bothwell Brig, many from the parish were present. The rebellion of 1715 had not affected Peebles, but in 1745, it had to receive a division of the Pretender's army, which was marching into England by way of Moffat. According to R. Chambers's account in the History of the Rebellion of 1745-6, the Highlanders showed a quite unlooked-for aspect of character, behaving with moderation, such as they were never expected to display.

In his history of the burgh, Chambers gives a most minute account of the way in which, on one pretence or on another, the property in land belonging to Peebles was frittered away, chiefly in the 18th century. Such property consisted for the most part of extensive commons in different parts of the parish. Of these, Caidmuir, Kings Muir, Glentress, Hamildean Hill, Eshiels, Venlaw, may be mentioned. For long it clung to the fragments that were left-Heathpool Common, a small piece of Glentress and the farm of Shielgreen, but these, too, eventually had to be parted with.

When the 'scare,' caused by the anticipated invasion of Britain by Buonaparte, was at its height, Peebles showed much patriotism, and a large number of the able-bodied among the inhabitants enrolled themselves in the volunteers and yeomanry, as well as in the militia. Three regiments of militia occupied Peebles in turn until 1814, when peace was concluded. The burgh served for a time as the place of residence of officers of different nationalities fighting under the French- flag, who were out on parole. They made themselves very agreeable, gave representations of stageplays, acted as surgeons, etc., and, by their manners, made a favourable impression upon the inhabitants. In 1846 great improvements were effected upon the town at the cost of £l000. ` The High Street was lowered two or three feet throughout its entire length; drains were built, unsightly- projecting buildings and stairs were removed, and the side-ways, so cleared, were laid with pavement. ' Since that date the history of the burgh has been uneventful. At the same time the town h-as gradually advanced to greater beauty than it once possessed, and now it is almost worthy of its nearly unique situation beside the waters of the ` silver Tweed.'

The following well-known Scotsmen have been connected by birth with Peebles. The fourth Duke of Queensberry (1725-1810) was born in the building now forming part of the Chambers Institution, but used at that time as a town house by the Queensberry family. His influence in all things pertaining to the burgh was immense, and was not always employed for the good of the town. Although most extravagant in his habits, ` Old Q, ' as he was called, possessed at his death personal property to the amount of a million pounds. Sir John Elliot (d. 1786), after a life of adventure at sea, began to practise as a doctor in London. He quickly gained great fame, whose extent is shown by his being appointed physician to the Prince of Wales, and by his being created a baronet (1778). William Chambers (18001883) and Robert Chambers (1802-1871) may be taken together, as their success in life was the result of their united efforts. They were born in a house in Biggiesknowe, in the Old Town, erected by their father in 1796. In company the two brothers started as publishers, and brought out Chambers's Journal (1832), an educational course embracing works in many departments of science, literature, etc.; an encyclopædia in 10 volumes, etc., etc. Both have also been authors. The writings of William Chambers are chiefly books of travel and papers on various questions, which as a rule appeared in the Magazine, besides a memoir of his brother (1872; new ed. 1883). Those of his brother are more ambitious and varied. They include, among others, Traditions of Edinburgh (1824), Popular Rhymes of Scotland (1826), Dictionary of Eminent Scotchmen (1835), Romantic Scottish Ballads (1859), Domestic Annals of Scotland (1856-61), Book of Days (l862-63), and Vestiges of Creation (anon. 1844; acknowledged 1884). Robert Chambers also composed songs and ballads. William Chambers is chiefly remembered for his gifts to Peebles and to Edinburgh, of which city he was Lord Provost in 1865. The Chambers Institution in his native town has been already described, and his restoration of St Andrews Tower referred to. During his tenure of office the capital underwent many improvements, of which the opening up of the spacious thoroughfare between the South Bridge and George IV. Bridge, called Chambers Street, was not the least important. In 1879 he offered to restore St Giles' Cathedral at his own cost if certain conditions were complied with. These were arranged, and St Giles' was reopened on 23 May 1883, just three days after his death. John Veitch, LL.D. (b. 1829), was educated at the Grammar School, Peebles, from which he passed to Edinburgh University. He was appointed Professor of Logic, Rhetoric, and Metaphysics in St Andrews University (1860), and four years later was invited to Glasgow University to lecture on the same subjects as Professor of Logic, etc. Dr Veitch has written and translated several philosophical works, and is the composer of numerous pieces of poetry, collected into two volumes called Hillside Rhymes (1872) and The Tweed and Other Poems (1875). Henry Calderwood, LL.D. (b. 1830), received his education at the High School, the Institution, and the University of Edinburgh, to the chair of Moral Philosophy in which he was appointed in 1868. His principal works are The Philosophy of the Infinite (1854), Handbook of Moral Philosophy (1872), and The Relations of Mind and Brain (1879).

The parish of Peebles is chiefly in Peeblesshire, only a small part of it being in Selkirkshire. It is bounded N by Eddleston, E by Innerleithen and Traquair -(detached), S by Yarrow (detached), Traquair, and Yarrow, SW by Manor, and W by Manor, Stobo, and Lyne. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 9 miles; its utmost breadth, from E to W, is 5¼ miles; and its area is 16, 686&1/1 acres, of which 13, 513¾ are in Peeblesshire and 31721/3 in Selkirkshire, whilst 89 are water. The Tweed divides the parish into two parts, of which the northern is the larger. Entering it on its W side, the river winds 1½ mile east-by-southward along the Manor boundary, next 35/8 miles eastward through the heart of the parish, and afterwards for ¾ mile on the boundary with Traquair. Thus if one follows its windings, the Tweed has a total course line of 57/8 miles, though a straight line, drawn between the points at which it enters and leaves the parish, does not measure more than 4½ miles. On the N bank it receives the tribute of Lyne Water, Eddleston Water, and Soonhope Burn. Meldon Burn runs 2½ miles south-by-westward along the boundary with part of Eddleston and the whole of Lyne parish, and falls into Lyne Water, which itself runs 3 furlongs south-south-eastward along all the Stobo boundary. Eddleston Water, flowing at right angles to the Tweed, divides the northern part into two sections, of which the eastern is the larger. It has a course of 27/8 miles within the parish, before it joins the Tweed at Peebles. Soonhope Burn, rising at an altitude of 1750 feet in the NE corner of the parish, flows 41/8 miles south-south-westward, and falls into the Tweed at Kerfield, ½ mile below the town. On the S bank the Tweed receives Manor Water, which flows for the last 5½ furlongs on the boundary with Manor, and Glesax Burn, rising at an altitude of 2100 feet in the southern extremity of the parish, and running 67/8 miles north-north-eastward for the last 1¼ furlong along the Traquair boundary. Besides these, there are numerous small streams, tributaries of the above; and both great and small afford good fishing. The vale of Tweed, in the neighbourhood of Peebles especially, expands to a considerable breadth, and contains scenery of great beauty. It has an altitude near the river of from 550 to 495 feet.

The following are the highest hills:—*Dunslair Heights (1975 feet), *Cardon Law (1928), *Makeness Kipps (1839), *Whiteside Edhge (1763), Meldon Hill (1401), Collie Law (1380), Heathpool Common (1516), and South Hill Head (1239), in the division N of the Tweed; Cademuir (1359), Preston Law (1863), *Hundleshope Heights (2249), and *Dun Rig (2433), in the part S of the Tweed, where asterisks mark those summits that culminate on the confines of the parish. These hills, generally speaking, are lowland in character, though those of the Selkirkshire portion are somewhat rugged and covered with heather.

Greywacke is the predominant rock, and has been largely employed for building purposes. A quarry of coarse limestone, on the Edinburgh road, 2 miles from the town, has long since been abandoned. In the bottom of the valleys the soil is clay mixed with sand; on the lower ascents it is loam on gravel; and on the sides of the hills it is rich earth. The parish is mainly pastoral, there being good feeding for sheep. About one sixth of the entire area is in tillage; and nearly one-tenth is under wood. The chief proprietors are the Earl of Wemyss and Sir Robert Hay of Haystoune, art., 6 others holding each an annual value of £500 and upwards. Mansions, noticed separately, are Kingsmeadows, Kerfield, Venlaw House, and Rosetta. The parish is traversed by two railway lines. of the North British and Caledonian, and by excellent roads which branch out from the town of Peebles in all directions. The former line approaches the town down the valley of Eddleston Water, and the latter down that of Tweed. Antiquities are described under the town, and in the articles Cademuir and Neidpath Castle.

Peebles is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. The living is worth £489, 17s. 10d., made up of stipend £424, 11s. 2d., communion elements £8, 6s. 8d., manse £35, glebe £22. Landward valuation (1855) £7299, 13s., (1884) £13,817, 9s. 10d., plus £2581 for the North British railway, and £1779 for the Caledonian railway. Pop. of entire parish (1801) 2088, (1831) 2750, (1861) 2850, (1871) 3172, (1881) 4059, of whom 4 were in the Selkirkshire portion.—Ord. Sur., sh. 24, 1864.

The presbytery of Peebles comprises the quoad civilia parishes of Drummelzier, Eddleston, Innerleithen, Kirkurd, West Linton, Lyne, Manor, Newlands, Peebles, Stobo, Traquair, and Tweedsmuir, with the quoad sacra parish of Walkerburn. Pop. (1871) 11,164, (1881) 12, 749, of whom 3189 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878. See Biggar.

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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