[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]
CHIRNSIDE,1 a parish in the county of Berwick, district of the Merse. It is bounded by Coldingham on the north; by Ayton and Foulden on the east; by Hutton and Edrom on the south; and by Buncle on the west. The Whitadder separates it from Edrom and Hutton parishes; and a deep ditch which has been executed for the purpose of draining the Billymire morass, separates it from Buncle and Coldingham. The extent of this parish is about 3½ by 3 miles; superficial area, upwards of 5,000 acres. Assessed property, in 1815, £9,667. Among the several eminences which project from the Lammermoor hills into the low country of Berwickshire, Chirnside hill is a remarkable one. It is distinguished by its elevation and semicircular aspect to the south, joined with the great expansion of its summit, and its gradual declination to the Whitadder. It commands the view of a country, the richest perhaps in soil – with the exception of the Carses – of any in Scotland. The landscape is that of a plain, waved with long ridges, running chiefly in one direction, and of more than 25 miles extent, from the bay of Berwick to the Teviotdale hills, on the west; while directly south, and at almost the same distance, the famed hills and chaces of Cheviot form a very striking boundary. “About 60 or 70 years ago,” says the writer of the Old Statistical Account, in 1794, “this prospect, although striking and noble, was a naked one, and had little or nothing of the beauty arising from extensive agriculture, enclosed fields, or plantations. If some groves or strips of trees marked, here and there, the seats of the gentry or nobles, besides these, and a few enclosures joined with them, hardly any thing but waste land, or the poorest culture, was discoverable. Nature, indeed, wore a robe that indicated a deep soil. The uncultivated grounds produced immense tracks of heath, overspread with thick furze, or tall whins, and, in some drier places, with broom; which, in the spring, and through the summer, shed the golden gleam of their flowers, and their fragrance, all around. The eye of a spectator, on Chirnside hill, now has in prospect a country, of the extent described, all of it in remarkable cultivation; the corn-fields and pasture-lands, almost everywhere, enclosed and divided by hedges and ditches. Large plantations not only appear around the gentlemen’s seats, but reach, in several places, to the extremities of their lands; so that they seem to be conjoined to each other.” The progress of agriculture has added greatly to this richness of prospect since the commencement of the present century. The writer of the Old Statistical Account justly thought that a rise from 3s. to 12s. per acre in the rent of some lands within the parish, and from 5s. to 20s. of others, within a period of 45 years, indicated a vast improvement; but these rents have within the like space of the last 45 years, been again trebled, and, in some instances, quadrupled. Population, in 1801, 1,147; in 1831, 1.248; in 1835, 1,200; of whom 800 belonged to the Established church, and 380 to other denominations. Houses, in 1831, 219. – The village of Chirnside is 9 miles north-west of Berwick, and 6 east of Dunse; on the road from Dunse to Ayton. It consists of two streets nearly in the form of the letter T; the longer of which runs from west to east, about three quarters of a mile. At the junction of the two streets is an open space, called the Cross-hill, where a fair is held, chiefly for the sale of sack-cloth and linen yarn, on the last Thursday of November. It contains upwards of 600 inhabitants. – This parish is in the presbytery of Chirnside, and synod of Merse and Teviotdale. Stipend £247 8s. 6d.; glebe £29 8s. Unappropriated teinds £509 2s. 3d. Patron, Sir John Hall, Baronet. The church is a very old building; sittings 359. – There is a Reformed Presbyterian congregation. Church built in 1781; sittings 500. Minister’s stipend £105, with a manse and a garden. – A United Secession church was recently built in the village Schoolmaster’s salary £34 4s. 4½d., with £30 fees. There are 2 private schools. – The Rev. Henry Erskine, father of the well-known founders of the Secession, was the first minister of this parish after the Revolution. He died in 1696. In 1586, the Earl of Dunbar and March, along with Lord Douglas, met the English warden of the marches, Lord Neville, at Billymire, for the purpose of concluding a truce. The fact, as recorded in Border history, “gives occasion to observe why the place of a bog was appointed for such a meeting. It is accounted for, by considering the violent and particular animosity with which the parties at war in the borders were inflamed against each other. Their constant and mutual defiances and incursions kept up resentment; so that when the wardens were to meet for negociating a truce, infraction of it among their armed trains was always to be apprehended. To prevent their coming to blows or scuffles, they were kept at some distance from each other by a slough or intersection of the ground chosen for their meeting, until at least all the preliminaries were settled between the wardens. Hence, Hauden-stank and the Bounden-road are often mentioned as the places of conventions for treaties; and yet, even those precautions did not always insure their peaceable termination.”
1 In discussing the etymology of this name, the writer of the Old Statistical Account – who derives it from chern, ‘a cairn,’ with the Saxon adjunct side – says that the common people of the district universally pronounce ch as sh. Thus they pronounce Chirnside, Shirnside.