Lauder, pp.229-232.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   LAUDER, a parish consisting of a large main body and a small detached section, in the district of Lauderdale, Berwickshire. The detached section is nearly a square, 1½ mile deep, lies 1¼ south of the nearest point of the main body, and is bounded on the east by Legerwood and Earlston; partly on the south by the latter parish; and on all other sides by Melrose in Roxburghshire. The main body is nearly a parallelogram, stretching from north-east to south-west, with an isosceles triangle attached to it on the north-west; – the parallelogram measuring 9¾ miles by 4½, and the triangle 3¾ on its short side, and 5¾ on each of its equal sides; and it is bounded on the north-east by Haddingtonshire, Longformacus, and a detached part of Cranshaw; on the south-east by Westruther and Legerwood; on the south and south-west by Melrose in Roxburghshire; and on the west by Stow in Mid Lothian and by Channelkirk. The area of the whole parish is about 58 square miles. Leader-water rises in the extreme north-west corner, flows 5½ miles along the boundary with Channelkirk, runs 4½ miles south-eastward through the interior, forms for ¾ of a mile the boundary with Legerwood, and after traversing the intermediate space, traces the whole eastern boundary of the detached section, and passes away from the parish. Whaplaw-burn, 5¾ miles long, Earnscleuch-water, 6½ or 7 miles long, and Blythe-water 7½ or 8 miles long, all rise in various head-waters very near the north-east boundary, and flow south-westward to the Leader. The last of these streams – Blythe-water – jointly with its main tributary, traces for 6¼ miles the south-east boundary. Perennial springs, both many and copious, well up from sand or gravel, or from whinstone rock, and give an abundant supply of prime water. The surface along the north-east extremity, an extent of 8 miles, is the water-shedding line of the Lammermoor hills, and includes Lammerlaw, the summit which gives name to the broad and far-stretching range. For some way into the interior it has the bleak aspect and russet dress by which the higher grounds of the Lammermoors are distinguished; but as it becomes furrowed and watered by the streams, it becomes verdant and even beautiful, the hills moderate in height, mostly green, and at last, in many instances, ploughed to the summit. From the southern extremity upward extends the vale of the Leader, varying, for a long way, from 2 miles to 1 mile in breadth, and not yielding dominion to the hills till it has traversed two-thirds the length of the parish. All this vale, as well as much of the slope which forms its screens, is beautifully-cultivated, and has a fine appearance. Depressions in the hilly ranges form openings from its side, and pleasingly diversify the landscape. About one-third of the entire area of the parish is arable; carpeted with a soil, in general light and dry, – in many instances clayey, – and over a considerable extent richly loamy and superincumbent on sand or gravel. Though only about 200 acres of matured wood beautifies the district, a large amount of young plantation is thrivingly on the growth. The uplands are, for the most part, excellent sheep-walks, and maintain numerous flocks of Cheviots, and a few of the black-faced breed. Whinstone rock, of a kind excellent both as building material and for road-metal, is abundant. Slate occurs, but of inferior quality. Copper-ore likewise exists, but not plentifully enough to compensate mining. There are in the parish several hamlets, the largest containing, in 1837, only 69 persons. Many Pictish and Scottish encampments, either round or oval, are in the parish and its neighbourhood; and many tumuli exist on Lauder-moor, on the old road to Melrose. Fragments of swords, bows, and arrows, found on the moor – the arrows pointed with flint-stone – indicate the place to have been the scene of ancient though unrecorded and forgotten battles. Between the burgh and the Leader stands, on a beautiful lawn, Lauder fort, now called THIRLESTANE CASTLE: which see. Lauder was the birth-place of Sir John Maitland, Lord Thirlestane, who, in the reign of James VI., filled the offices successively of lord-privy-seal, secretary-of-state, and chancellor of Scotland; and it enjoyed, for a brief period, the ministry of the Rev. James Guthrie, the first of the Scottish martyrs after the Restoration. The chief landed proprietors are the Earl of Lauderdale, the Marquis of Tweeddale, and Lord Maitland. The parish is traversed down the vale of the Leader, and then eastward by the eastern mail-road between Edinburgh and London, and has a turnpike on the other side of the Leader. Population, in 1801, 1,760; in 1831, 2,063. Houses 356. Assessed property, in 1815, £12,621. 

   Lauder gives name to a presbytery in the synod of Merse and Teviotdale. Patron, the Earl of Lauderdale. Stipend £272 1s. 7d.; glebe £18. Unappropriated teinds £181 2s. 2d. The church was built in 1673, and repaired in 1820. Sittings 773. – In the parish are two dissenting congregations. The United Secession one was established, and built their chapel, of 432 sittings, in 1794. Stipend £100; with the interest of £100, a piece of land worth £1 10s., and a house, garden, and stable, worth about £20. The Relief congregation was established in 1836, and their place of worship built next year at a cost of £500. Sittings 320, with space for enlargement. The population was stated by the parish-minister, in 1837, to consist of 1,516 churchmen, 518 dissenters, and 34 nondescripts, – in all, 2,068 persons. – The parish-school is attended by a maximum of 120 scholars, and 3 private schools, by a maximum of 128. All are situated in the burgh. Parish-schoolmaster’s salary, who employs an assistant, £30, with £70 fees, and £7 15s. of other emoluments. – The presbytery of Lauder is of later date than the regimen of the Reformation, having been formed only in 1768; and includes 7 parishes in Berwickshire, and 2 in Roxburghshire. The ancient parish-church appears to have early been of great value; and in the ancient Taxatio was appreciated at 90 marks, while that of Channelkirk was appreciated at only 40. In the reign of David I., the advowson, along with almost the whole of Lauderdale, was given to Sir Hugh Morville, constable of Scotland; and through many a changeful age it continued an appurtenant of the manor, till it passed into the possession of Devorgillar, the wife of the first John Baliol. By this lady, the church, with its pertinents, was given to the monks of Dryburgh; and it continued to be a vicarage under them till the Reformation. The parish-church, which preceded the present structure, stood on the north side of the town opposite Thirlestane-castle, and was, in July, 1482, the scene of the meeting of the Scottish nobles which issued in the murder of James the Third’s menials on Lauder bridge, and in the capture and imprisonment of the king. The house in Lauder in which the king was seized was not long ago standing. Subordinate to the parish or mother church were anciently two chapels. One stood at Redslie in the detached part of the parish, and is commemorated in the name Chapel, borne by a farm in its vicinity; and the other stood on the right bank of the Leader at the southern extremity of the main body of the parish, and dedicated to St. Leonard’s. The former was confirmed by Malcolm IV., and the latter given by Sir Richard Morville, who died in 1189, to the monks of Dryburgh. Contiguous to St. Leonard’s chapel stood an hospital, dedicated to the same saint, and founded, during the Scoto-Saxon period, probably by Sir Hugh Morville. Both structures are commemorated in the name St. Leonard’s, borne by a mansion near their site. ‘St. Leonard’s banks’ are celebrated in Scottish song. 

   LAUDER, an ancient town, a royal burgh, the seat of a presbytery, and the capital of Lauderdale, runs along the turnpike between Edinburgh and Kelso, parallel with the river Leader, at the distance of nearly half-a-mile from that stream; and is distant 7 miles from Earlston, 12 from Greenlaw, 17 from Kelso, 18 from Dunse, 21 from Coldstream, 21 from Jedburgh, 25 from Edinburgh, and 32 from Berwick. It is a very inconsiderable burgh, situated in a thinly peopled district, – a place of no trade but what is strictly local, – a town, in all respects stationary, having had no extension of its buildings for a great period of years, and giving no prospect of future extension either immediate or remote. The main part of the town is a single street, 700 yards long, of very various width, and not quite straight, stretching from north-west to south-east along the highway: upwards of 400 yards from its north-west end, the street attains its greatest width, and begins to be split over the distance of about 110 yards into two thoroughfares, by a line of buildings running along its middle. The north-west end of the bisecting line is the town-house, with the jail, dingy, and of very unburghal appearance. The jail may be used as a temporary lock-up-house for petty brawlers, or for persons not committed for trial; but it has no suitable accommodation as a place of prolonged confinement for either criminals or debtors. The parish-church stands a little off the street-line, immediately south-west of the town-house; and, though cruciform and pretending, is a poor unimposing edifice. The site of an ancient cross in front of the town-house, is marked – as in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and some other places – by a radiated pavement. Diagonally across the north-west end of the main street, stretching nearly east and west, is another street, partly one-sided, and altogether 350 yards long. Describing the segment of a circle on the south-west side of the main street, and running nearly parallel to it on the north-east side, are two thoroughfares, almost altogether unedificed, and bearing the absurd names of the Upper and the Under Backsides. The park wall of Thirlestane-castle screens the whole of the north-eastern of these thoroughfares, and forms on that side the boundary of the burgh; and the lawn and other grounds of the noble residence occupy all the space thence to the Leader. The whole town is plain and irregular in its bouses, desolate and chilly in the aspect of its streets, cold and stagnant in the seeming animus of its people’s occupations, and, in general, just as dull a place as can well be conceived. Yet it has a tiny sort of importance as the scene of a small weekly corn-market, and as the residence of mechanics and small retailers. In the town are a branch-office of the bank of Scotland, a subscription library, a mechanic’s library, two Sabbath school libraries, a friendly society, a free-mason’s society, and a bible and missionary society. The Lauderdale agricultural society, under the patronage of the Earl of Lauderdale, also holds its meetings in the town. Annual fairs are held in the beginning of March for selling seed-corn, and hiring hands; in April and October for hiring half-yearly farm-servants; in June for milk-cows; and in July for lambs. Four coaches daily pass through the town, between Edinburgh on one side, and Dunse, Kelso, and Newcastle, on the other Lauder is the only royal burgh in Berwickshire, and unites with Haddington, North Berwick, Dunbar, and Jedburgh, in sending a member to parliament. Constituency, in 1832, 34; of whom only 21 were resident burgesses; in 1840, 56. Municipal constituency in 1840, 52. The burgh is believed to have been erected during the reign of William the Lion. The early charters having been lost amid the anarchy and violence of the Border wars, a charter of novo dumus was given by James IV. in 1502, and ratified next year by parliament. As defined under the Reform act, the burgh excludes the town’s common, and a considerable landward district, comprehended in the old royalty, but includes a small portion of formerly uncomprehended kirk-lands to the south-west of the town. The burgh property is of very considerable value, lies under peculiar circumstances, and consists mainly of a common upwards of 1,700 acres in extent, and having 895 of its acres arable. The common is said to have been possessed for a long period by the burgesses as their private property, and the rights of possession are also said to have been anciently regulated by certain rules, varying as the burgesses were resident or non-resident within the town. The arable land, consisting chiefly of the three hills of Scaralawhill, Staunchlawhill, and Chesterhill, is said to have been cropped in rotation; and the proceeds of the portion under tillage were equally distributed by lot among the whole of the burgesses, while the resident burgesses alone possessed a right to the pasturage upon which each was entitled to graze a certain number of cattle. The debt of the town having accumulated to an inconvenient amount, the magistrates, about the year 1814, enclosed a part of the common with the view of letting it as an arable farm to the best bidder, and disposing of the rents for the purposes of the burgh. This enclosure, however, was resisted by some of the burgesses, who, in virtue of a clause in the charter of James IV., claimed a feudal title to the common. A long and keen litigation now ensued before the court-of-session, and, in 1825, ended in favour of the magistrates and town-council. The common is much more valuable than might be supposed from the rents or grass-mails stated in the accounts. Every resident burgess is accustomed to send so many cattle, horses, and sheep, to pasture on the common, for small rents nearly elusory. There is also a part of the common each year in tillage, which, in like manner, is given to such persons, whether resident or not, as may possess burgess acres in lease and otherwise, and may choose to take part of it for nominal rents. These portions for tillage are given by lot, and the extent of land assigned to each is proportioned to the number of burgess acres which the party drawing the lot possesses, and that whether he be entered a burgess or not. These lots are drawn for periodically, according to the course of cropping thought suitable for each division of the common, to be thrown into tillage. The magistrates and council fix the rents both of the pasture and tillage, and also lay down the course of cropping. The regulations are always entered in the minutes of council. As the possession stands at present, however, comparatively few inhabitants or proprietors within burgh derive any benefit from this common, which is appropriated and divided among those who have been enabled to purchase the privilege of burgesses on the high terms prescribed by the corporation. In this manner a few make a monopoly of the whole common property of the burgh, and this, too, at a time when it is difficult to raise funds for completing important public works necessary in the burgh for the comfort and health of the inhabitants. In 1833, the revenue of the burgh was £307 7s. 9d.; its expenditure £326 18s. 11½d.; the revenue from its property included in the total revenue, £264 15s. 3d.; debts due to it, £341 19s. 9¾d.; debts due by it, £2,913 19s. 7¾d. In 1839-40, the revenue was £280. Among charges of expenditure are some curious ones for a burgh, – such as for tar and butter, for rams, for grazing rams, and for tavern-bills. There are no incorporated trades, the burgesses forming the only public body. By the regulations of the town-council, alleged to have been confirmed by usage, the right of being entered burgesses is made dependent on the possession of a small portion of a tract of land situated between the town and the common, which is termed ‘a burgess acre.’ No party is made a burgess who has not one of these burgess acres; and an entrant is, moreover, made to pay the comparatively larger entrance-fine of £30. The ground in question was in early times divided into 315 burgess acres; but in consequence of the reduced number of burgesses, and the difficulties attending the allocation of the town’s common, a new division took place in 1744, and the number of burgess acres is said to have been then fixed at 105. The size of the burgess acre, therefore, now became enlarged, and was made to consist of a lot varying from an acre-and-a-half to three acres Scots. These lots were at one time of great value, from the privilege which they conferred, or at least enabled the proprietors to acquire; and it is still of considerable value. Hence, although really not worth more than £60, each of these burgess acres, or lots, at one time was sold for £250; and though the value is considerably fallen since the decision of the case in 1825, in favour of the magistrates, these lots still bring prices varying from £150 to £200. There has been no change in the sett of the burgh for a very long period. The number of the council is 17, consisting of 2 bailies and 15 councillors, of whom 4 annually retired prior to the Reform act. As there were in 1832 no more than 21 resident burgesses, and as the terms of admission to the rights of a burgess are so exceedingly high, a monopoly of a very severe and exclusive description in such a community as that of Lauder has evidently been established in the persons of those who have latterly obtained the privilege of burgesses, and the 17 councillors are obviously chosen by 21 individuals who seem to possess, or at least to claim, a personal interest in the property of the town adverse to the rest of the community. The magistrates appoint their town-clerk, treasurer, and 2 town-officers, – one of whom acts as drummer, and the other as jailer, and they have a voice in the election of the burgh-schoolmaster; but they possess no other patronage; nor have they, so far back as the records extend, exercised civil jurisdiction of any importance. There is no established police, and the streets are not lighted or watched. A subscription was commenced about ten years ago to bring the town, what it greatly needed, a supply of water; but, at the date of the commissioner’s visit in 1833, it was stated to be insufficient. Population of the burgh, in 1837, 1,043.