Kelso, pp.79-87.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   KELSO, a parish in the north-east division of Roxburghshire; bounded on the north by Nenthorn in Berwickshire; on the north-east by Ednam; on the east by Sprouston; on the south-east by Eckford; on the south-west by Roxburgh; and on the west by Makerston and Smailholm. Its extreme length, from a point where it is touched by Eden water on the north, to an angle a little south of West Softlaw on the south, is 4¾ miles; and its extreme breadth, from an angle on the Tweed below Sharpitlaw on the east, to an angle beyond Wester Moordean on the west, is 4¼ miles. But it is extremely irregular in outline, contracts to a point on the south, has an average breadth of not more than 2¼ miles, and measures, in superficial area, only about 4,400 imperial acres. The Tweed comes in on the west, forms for a mile the boundary with Roxburgh, makes large bends for 2 miles till it passes the town, and then goes away 1¼ mile north-eastward to the point of its leaving the parish. The Teviot, after tracing for ¾ of a mile the western boundary, comes in at a point only ¼ of a mile south of the Tweed, and, vying with it in the curving beauty of its course, and the sumptuous richness of its scenery, so coyly approaches as not to make a confluence till opposite the town, a mile below the point of entering. At the average distance of 1¾ or 2 miles from the Tweed, and nearly parallel with it, runs the Eden; but it merely touches a projecting angle, and passes on, serving chiefly to give the northern division of the parish a peninsular character. The Tweed, in its transit, averages about 440 or 450 feet in width, and the Teviot about 200. The two rivers are sometimes simultaneously flooded, and run together in headlong and riotous confluence, combining the might of their swollen and careering waters to introduce to the generally tranquil and smiling scene the elements of sublimity and terror. Immediately below their point of junction was recently an opulently wooded islet, which lay like an emerald gem on their bosom, and contributed a feature of striking interest to a sumptuously clothed landscape; and this, in spite of the efforts of the town’s people to bulwark it by rude masonry, they have at various periods torn up and dissevered, till only some tiny fragments remain, soon probably to follow the main body of the islet as trophies of the rivers’ prowess. The Teviot – more subject to floods than the Tweed, and nearer the mountain-land where its waters are gathered, and occasionally liable to rise with a suddenness which in 10 or 15 minutes will increase fourfold its volume – frequently comes down in red wrath upon the quiet Tweed, drives up its pellucid waters against the north side of their common channel, and for some distance pursues a distinct course along the south side before a commingling of waters is effected. The point of confluence, with its intervening peninsula, is one of the loveliest in Scotland; but is marred in its beauty by a mill-lead carrying off from the Teviot a considerable body of its wealth, just where all its opulence is most needed, to make a suitable approach to the magnificent monarch-river to which, it pays tribute. Half-a-mile south of the town, the Woodens, a rill of about a mile in length of course, joins the Tweed from the south, making at one point a tiny but very beautiful cascade, and flowing along a wooded and romantic ravine. Seen from the heights of Stitchel 3 miles to the north, the whole parish appears to be part of an extensive and picturesque strath, – a plain intersected by two rivers, and richly adorned with woods; but seen from the low grounds close upon the Tweed, near the town, it is a diversified basin, – a gently receding amphitheatre, – low where it is cut by the rivers, and cinctured in the distance by a boundary of sylvan heights. On the north side of the Tweed it slowly rises in successive wavy ridges, tier behind tier, till an inconsiderable summit-level is attained; and on the south side, while it generally makes a gradual rise, it is cut down on the west into a diverging stripe of lowland by the Teviot, ascends, in some places, in an almost acclivitous way from the banks, and sends up in the distance hilly and hard-featured elevations, which, though subject to the plough, are naturally pastoral. The whole district is surpassingly rich in the features of landscape which strictly constitute the beautiful, – unmixed with the grand, or, except in rare touches, with the romantic. The views presented from the knolly height of Roxburgh castle, and from the immediate vicinity of the Ducal mansion of Fleurs, are so luscious, so full and minute in feature, that they must be seen in order to be appreciated. The view from the bridge, a little below the confluence of the rivers, though greatly too rich to be depicted in words, and demanding consummate skill in order to be pencilled in colours, admits at least an easy enumeration of its leading features. Immediately on the north lies the town, with the majestic ruins of its ancient abbey, and the handsome fabric of Ednam-house; 1¼ mile to the north-west, rises the magnificent pile of Fleurs castle, amidst a profusion and an expanse coming down to the Tweed of wooded decorations; in front are two islets in the Tweed, and between that river and the Teviot the beautiful peninsula of Friar’s or St. James’ Green, with the fair green in its foreground, and the venerable and tufted ruins of Roxburgh castle, 1¼ mile distant; on the south-west, within a fine bend of the Teviot, are the mansion and demesne of Springwood, and away behind them, in far perspective, looking down the exulting vale of the Tweed, the Eildon hills lift up their triple summit; a little to the east, close upon the view, rises the fine form of Pinnacle-hill; away in the distance behind the town, rise the conspicuous ruin of Home castle, and the hills of Stitchel and Mellerstain, and, in addition, are the curvings and rippling currents of the rivers, – beltings and clumps and lines of plantation, – the steep precipices of Maxwell and Chalkheugh, – exuberant displays of agricultural wealth and social comfort, – and reminiscences, suggestible to even a tyro in history, of events in olden times which mingle delightfully in the thoughts with a contemplation of the landscape. Sir Walter Scott – who often revelled amidst this scenery in the latter years of his boyhood, – ascribes to its influence upon his mind the awakening within him of that “insatiable love of natural scenery, more especially when combined with ancient ruins or remains of our fathers’ piety or splendour,” which at once characterized and distinguished him as a writer, and imparted such a warmth and munificence of colouring to all his literary pictures. Leyden, too – who had around him in the vale of the Teviot, and the “dens” of its tributary rills in the immediate vicinity of his home at Denholm, quite enough to exhaust the efforts of a lesser poet – sung impassionedly the beauties of Kelso:- 

“Bosom’d in woods where mighty rivers run, 

Kelso’s fair vale expands before the sun; 

Its rising downs in vernal beauty swell, 

And, fringed with hazle, winds each flowery dell; 

Green spangled plains to dimpling lawns succeed, 

And Tempe rises on the banks of Tweed: 

Blue o’er the river Kelso’s shadow lies, 

And copse-clad isles amid the water rise.” 

                                                                           SCENES OF INFANCY. 

   About 19 parts in 22 of the parish are arable ground; and the rest of the surface is disposed in plantation, pasture, and the site of the town. On the banks of the rivers is a rich deep loam, on a subsoil of gravel; in the north-western division, it is a wet clay; and in the south, it is thin and wet, upon a red aluminous subsoil. Before the general manurial use of lime and marl, the district was remarkably poor, scarcely yielding to the farmer – especially on the wet soils – a compensation for his labour. So grossly was the land neglected, too, and so sluttishly were all the present meadows allowed to exist as marshes and stagnant pools, luxuriant only in reeds and flags, and the resort of the wild duck and the sea-mew, that the very climate was rendered pestilential, and laden with the fame of insalubriousness. But nowhere in Scotland does the practice of agriculture now exist in more skill, or achieve higher results proportionately to the capabilities of the soil. Farms are in general large, – a great proportion being upwards of 500 acres in extent. The cattle-stock is chiefly the short-horned or Teeswater breed. – The only village in the parish is MAXWELLHEUGH: which see. Besides the mansions incidentally noticed, are Pinnacle-hill on the south bank of the Tweed, seated, opposite the east end of Kelso, on the summit of the precipitous eminence from which it derives its names, and sending down its attendant woods to the edge of the river, – Wooden, within whose grounds is the exquisite scenery of Wooden-burn, – and Rosebank, on the north side of the Tweed, opposite Wooden. Turnpikes radiate in various directions from the town toward Edinburgh, Greenlaw, Leitholm, Coldstream, Sprouston, Yetholm, and Hawick, – two of these lines being part of the great road from Berwick up the Tweed and the Teviot leading onward to Carlisle. The bridges are substantial, and, in two instances, elegant. Twenty-three years ago, an act of parliament was obtained for a Kelso and Berwick railway; but, for some unexplained reason, it continues to this hour a dead letter. Among the various plans for completing a railway communication between London and Edinburgh, is Mr. Remington’s inland line from Newcastle, by Morpeth, Wooler, Kelso, and Dalkeith, an actual distance to Dalkeith of 104 miles 10 chains; the equivalent being 110 miles 18 chains. This line would enter Scotland at a point 59 miles distant from Newcastle; and cross the Tweed at Kelso between the 65th and 66th mile. – Population, in 1801, 4,196; in 1831, 4,939. Houses 618. Assessed property, in 1815, £15,619. 

   Kelso is the seat of a presbytery in the synod of Merse and Teviotdale. Patron, the Duke of Roxburgh. Stipend £320 13s. 6d.; glebe £54 15s. According to an ecclesiastical survey in November, 1835, the population then consisted of 2,670 churchmen, 2,042 dissenters, and 376 persons not known to belong to any religious denomination, – in all 5,088. The parish-church was built in 1773, altered in 1823, and enlarged in 1833. Sittings 1,314. A new church in connexion with the Establishment was begun in 1836, and finished in 1838, at a cost of upwards of £3,000, defrayed by subscription. Sittings 800. – There are in the parish – their places of worship all situated in the town – 5 dissenting congregations. The United Secession congregation was established in 1752. Their meeting-house was built in 1787-8, and, with its pertinents, is estimated in value at not less than £2,500. Sittings 955. Stipend £200, with a manse and garden worth £30. – The Relief congregation was established in 1792. Their place of worship was built in 1793, and is supposed to be now worth £1,050. Sittings 768. Stipend £160, with a manse and garden worth £45. – The Episcopalian congregation was regularly formed in 1757, but claims to have been continued from 1688. Their former chapel was built in 1763. Sittings 218; but a new and handsome chapel has recently been erected. Stipend fluctuating with the state of the funds. – The Reformed Presbyterian congregation has existed for more than 55 years. Their place of worship was built about 55 years ago, and is supposed to have cost about £300. Sittings 320. Stipend £84, with a house and garden worth £16. – The Original Seceder congregation was established and their meeting-house built in 1772. Sittings between 600 and 700. Stipend variable, with a manse and garden worth £10 to £12. – There are in the parish 12 schools, conducted by 15 teachers, and attended by a maximum of 765 scholars. One is a classical school, whose teacher employs an assistant, and has £34 4s. 9½d. of salary, with £80 fees, and £10 other emoluments; one is an English school, ranked, jointly with the former, as parochial, whose teacher has £5 11s. 6d. of salary with fees; two are boarding-schools for young ladies; one is the Friendly school, whose teacher is guaranteed £40 a-year by a voluntary association, and whose scholars, all boys and 113 in number, pay each 1d. per week; and two are schools whose teachers are provided with school-rooms and dwelling-houses, but have no other emolument than fees. – The present parish comprehends the ancient parishes of Kelso or St. Mary’s, Maxwell, and St. James. The first of these lay on the north side of the Tweed, and was within the diocese of St. Andrews, and the second and third lay on the south side, and were within that of Glasgow, the river being here the boundary. David I., at his accession to the throne, witnessed the existence of St. Mary’s church of Kelso; and, in 1128, with the consent of the bishop of St. Andrews, he transplanted to it the monks of Selkirk. The church became now identified with the monastery, and was henceforth called the church of St. Mary and St. John, – the Tyronensian monks being accustomed to dedicate their sacred edifices to the Virgin and the Evangelist. In the church were anciently several altars dedicated to various saints and endowed for the support of chaplains. When the Scoto-Saxon period began, the ancient parish of St. James, or of Old Roxburgh, was provided with two churches, – the one dedicated to St. James for the use of the town, and the other dedicated to St. John for the use of the castle. Malcolm IV. granted both churches and their appurtenances to Herbert, bishop of Glasgow. But the monks of Kelso – to whom David I. made mention of it in their charter – considered that of St. James as part of their property, and drew from it a considerable revenue; and, being little attentive to it except for its ministrations to their avarice, they, in 1433, received a mandate from the abbot of Dryburgh, as delegate of the Pope, commanding them to provide it with a chaplain. The parish of Maxwell, or according to its ancient orthography, Maccuswell, derived its name from the proprietor of the manor, Maccus, the son of Unwein, who witnessed many charters of David I. Herbert de Maccuswell gave the church to the monks of Kelso; and he built a chapel at Harlaw, about a mile from it, dedicated it to St. Thomas the martyr, and gave it also to the monks. – On the left bank of the Teviot stood anciently a Franciscan convent, consecrated by William, bishop of Glasgow, in the year 1235. Till near the end of last century, a fine arch of the church of the convent, and other parts of the building, were in preservation. On the right bank of the Teviot, nearly opposite to Roxburgh castle, stood a Maison Dieu, an asylum for pilgrims, and for the infirm and the aged. On the estate of Wooden were, till lately, vestiges of a Roman tumulus, consisting of vast layers of stone and moss, both of a different species from any now found in the parish; and near Wooden-burn stone-coffins were dug up which enclosed human skeletons. ROXBURGH CASTLE will be noticed in a separate article. The Castle of FLOORS or FLEURS has already been separately noticed. The Abbey occurs to be described in our account of the town. 

   Kelso, a burgh-of-barony, the largest town in the eastern border counties of Scotland, and, both in itself and in its environs, one of the most beautiful of its size in Europe, stands in 55° 36′ north latitude, and 1° 20′ west longitude from Greenwich; 42 miles south by east of Edinburgh; 23 miles west from Berwick-upon-Tweed; 10 miles north-east from Jedburgh; 9 miles south-west from Coldstream; and 4½ miles west from the boundary-line with England. It is delightfully situated at the confluence of the Tweed and the Teviot, on the left bank of the former; and stretches along a plain in the centre of the gently rising and magnificent amphitheatre formed by the basin-configuration of its parish, commanding from every opening of its streets bird’s-eye views of exquisitely lovely scenery, and constituting in the tracery of its own burghal landscape an object of high interest in the midst of its beautiful environs. The sumptuous architectural character of its venerable abbey, – the air of pretension worn by its public buildings, – the light-coloured stone and the blue slate roofs of its dwelling-houses, – the graceful sweep and the tidy cleanliness with which it winds along the river, – and the airiness and generally pleasing aspect of its streets, – all impress upon it, as seen either from without or from within, a city-like character, and combine with the teeming beauty of its encincturing landscapes to vindicate, in a degree, the enthusiasm of tasteful natives who exhaust their stock of superlatives in its praise. Patten, so far back as the reign of Edward VI., described it as “a pretty market-town,” – an eulogium of no mean measure in an age when most British towns were characterizeable only by their various degrees of meanness, lumpishness, and filth. 

   The town, in the style of German and Dutch towns – though the comparison, but for topographical accuracy, does it high discredit – consists of a central square or market-place, and divergent streets and alleys. The square is spacious and airy, very large to exist in a provincial town, presided over on the east side by the elegant Townhouse, and edificed with neat modern houses of three stories, some of which have on the ground-floor good and even elegant shops. From the square issue four thorough-fares – Roxburgh-street, Bridge-street, Mill-wynd, and the Horse and Wood markets. Roxburgh-street goes off from the end of the Townhouse, and runs sinuously parallel with the river, sending down its back-tenements on one side to the edge of the stream. Though irregular, and not anywhere elegant in its buildings, it has a pleasing appearance, and bears the palm of both healthiness and general favour. At present, it is upwards of ¼ of a mile in length; but formerly it reached to what is now the middle of the Duke of Roxburgh’s garden, having been curtailed and demolished at the farther end to make way for improvements on the pleasure-grounds. Bridge-street goes off from the square opposite to the exit of Roxburgh-street; and though inferior to it in length, is superior in general appearance, and contains many elegant houses. This street sends off Ovan-wynd, leading to Ednam-house, and the Abbey-close, anciently the thoroughfare to the old bridge. Mill-wynd leaves the square, and pursues a course parallel with Bridge-street. The street called the Horse and Wood markets goes off in a direction at right angles with the other thoroughfares, and points the way to Coldstream and Berwick. At one time it was, over part of its extent, very narrow and inconvenient; but about twenty years ago it was widened, and made to assume an appearance in keeping with the general airiness of the town. 

   The Townhouse is a large edifice of two stories; the ground-floor open in piazzas; the front adorned with a pediment supported by four Ionic pillars; the summit displaying a handsome balustrade, and sending aloft a conspicuous lanthorn and cupola, surmounted by a vane. – The bridge, leading off from the end of Bridge-street to the small suburb of Maxwellheugh, and carrying across the Tweed the Berwick and Carlisle highway, was commenced in 1800, and finished in 1803, at a cost of about £18,000. Its length, including the approaches, is 494 feet; its width between the parapets is 25 feet; and its height above the bed of the river 42 feet. It consists of 5 elliptical arches, each 72 feet in span, with intervening piers each 14 feet. The bridge is built of beautiful light-coloured polished stone, exhibits on each side six sets of handsome double columns, as well as ornamented parapets, and, for general elegance and effect, whether in itself or grouped with the rich picture in the core of which it stands, is unsurpassed by any structure of its class in Scotland. The design was furnished by the late Mr. Rennie, and was afterwards repeated or adopted by that distinguished artist as the design for Waterloo-bridge at London. – The dispensary occupies a healthy and airy site near the Tweed at the upper end of the town. It was founded in 1789, enlarged and provided with baths in 1818, and annually admits from 600 to 800 patients. – The parish-church is a large octagonal edifice nearly 90 feet in diameter within the walls, and built originally with a concave or cupola roof, for the accommodation of about 3,000 persons. – The new church in connexion with the Establishment stands in an open space on the north side of the town, and, surmounted by an elegant Gothic tower, is a conspicuous and pleasing object in the burghal landscape. The ground-floor is laid out in large airy school-rooms; and a circumjacent piece of ground is disposed in shrubberies and play-ground The United Secession chapel is a piece of architectural patchwork; yet, with the accompaniments of its neat large manse, and a fine open area, it makes an agreeable impression. – The Episcopalian chapel, though small, is a tasteful Gothic building, snugly ensconced on the skirt of the pleasure-grounds of Ednam-house, overlooking the Tweed. – The Relief and the Reformed Presbyterian chapels are simply stone-boxes bored with holes, huddled up in near vicinity to keep each other in countenance. The Original Seceder chapel is of the same class, and, if possible, still more plain. The grand architectural attraction of Kelso, and one which would be strongly felt and highly prized in any city, is the ruinous abbey. Viewed either as a single object or as a feature in the general landscape, the simply elegant, unique, tall, massive pile, presents an aspect too imposing and too untiringly interesting to be adequately depicted in description. Though built under the same auspices, and nearly about the same period as the abbeys of Melrose and Jedburgh, it totally differs from them in form and character, being in the shape of a Greek cross. “The architecture is Saxon or early Norman, with the exception of four magnificent central arches, which are decidedly Gothic; and is a beautiful specimen of this particular style, being regular and uniform in its structure. *   * The nave and choir are wholly demolished. The north and south aisles remain, and are each nearly 20 paces in length. False circular arches intersecting each other, ornament the walls round about. The ruins of the eastern end present part of a fine open gallery: the pillars are clustered, and the arches circular. Two sides of the central tower are still standing, to the height of about 70 feet; but they must have been originally much higher. There is an uniformity in the north and south ends each bearing two round towers, the centres of which sharpen towards the roof. The great doorway is formed by a circular arch, with several members falling in the rear of each other, and supported on fine pilasters. It is not certain when this abbey was first used as a parish-church after the Reformation; but the record informs us that it was repaired for the purpose in the year 1648, and that it is very little more than half-a-century since, on account of its dangerous state, public worship was discontinued in it.1 The buildings of the abbey must at one time have occupied a very considerable space of ground, as not many years ago they extended as far east as the present parish-school; and, from appearance, they must originally have reached a considerable way towards the banks of the Tweed, near which it is situated. In three upper windows were hung the same number of bells, which are now removed; and when the old Townhouse was taken down, the clock was put up in another window of this building, where it remained for several years; but is now also removed, and placed on the front of the new Townhouse. The ruins of the abbey were, till lately, greatly disfigured by several modern additions; but of these, part were removed by order of the late Duke William, in 1805, and the remainder were taken down by the last Duke, James, in 1816, by which the ruins were restored to their original simplicity. By the removal of these excrescences, the noble transept, together with several windows and side-arches which were by them hid, are now restored to view.” [Haig’s ‘ Account of the Town of Kelso.’ Edin. 1825.] – The establishment was originally settled in Selkirk for monks of the order of Tyrone; but after a few years, was, in 1128, removed by David I. to its site at Kelso, in the vicinity of the royal residence of Roxburgh-castle. David, and all his successors on the throne till James V., lavished upon it royal favours. Whether in wealth, in political influence, or in ecclesiastical status, it maintained an eminence of grandeur which dazzles and bewilders a student of history and of human nature. The convent of Lesmahago, with its valuable dependencies, – 33 parish-churches, with their tithes and other pertinents, in nearly every district, except Galloway and East-Lothian, south of the Clyde and the Forth, – the parish-church of Culter in Aberdeenshire, – all the forfeitures within the town and county of Berwick, – several manors and vast numbers of farms, granges, mills, fishings, and miscellaneous property athwart the Lowlands, – so swelled the revenue as to raise it above that of all the bishops in Scotland. The abbots were superiors of the regality of Kelso, Bolden, and Reverden, frequent ambassadors and special commissioners of the royal court, and the first ecclesiastics on the roll of parliament, taking precedence of all the other abbots in the kingdom. Herbert, the first abbot, was celebrated for his learning and talent, filled the office of chamberlain of Scotland, and in 1147 was removed to the see of Glasgow. Ernold or Arnold succeeded him; and in 1160, was made bishop of St. Andrews, and the following year the legate of the Pope in Scotland. In 1152, Henry, the only son of David, and the heir-apparent of the throne, died at Roxburgh-castle, and was, with pompous obsequies, interred in the abbey. In 1160, John, a canon of the monastery, was elected abbot, and, arriving in 1165 mitred from Rome, held the abbacy till his death in 1178 or 1180. Osbert, who succeeded him, and was in repute for his eloquence, was despatched at the head of several influential ecclesiastics and other parties, to negociate with the Pope in a quarrel between him and William the Lion, and succeeded in obtaining the removal of an excommunication which had been laid on the kingdom, and in procuring for the king expressions of papal favour. In 1208, a dispute between the abbeys of Kelso and Melrose respecting property, having excited sensations throughout the country, and drawn attention to the papal court, was by injunction of the Pope formally investigated and decided by the king. In 1215, the abbot Henry was summoned to Rome, along with the Scottish bishops, to attend a council held on the affairs of Scotland. In 1236, Herbert, who, a short time before, had succeeded to the abbacy, performed an act of abdication more rare by far among the wealthy wearers of mitres than among the harassed owners of diadem; and solemnly placing the insignia of his office on the great altar, he passed away into retirement. In 1253, the body of David of Bernham, bishop of St. Andrews, and lord-chancellor of Scotland, a man remarkable for his vices, was, in spite of the refusal and resistance of the monks, interred in the abbey. Edward I. of England having seized all ecclesiastical property in Scotland, received in 1296 the submission of the abbot of Kelso, and gave him letters ordering full restitution. In consequence of a treaty between Robert Bruce and Edward III., Kelso abbey shared, in 1328, mutual restitutions with the English monasteries of property which had changed owners during the international wars. In 1420, the abbots, having their right of superiority over all the other abbots of Scotland, which they had hitherto uniformly possessed, now contested by the abbots of St. Andrews, and brought to a formal adjudication before the King, were compelled to resign it, on the ground of the abbey of St. Andrews being the first established in the kingdom. In 1493, the abbot Robert was appointed by parliament one of the auditors of causes and complaints. On the night after the battle of Flodden, in 1513, an emissary of the Lord of Hume expelled the abbot, and took possession of the abbey. In 1517 and 1521, the abbot, Thomas, was a plenipotentiary to the court of England; and in 1526, he was commissioned to exchange with Henry or his commissioners ratifications of the peace of the previous year. In 1522, the English demolished the vaults of the abbey and its chapel or church of St. Mary, fired all the cells and dormitories, and unroofed all the other parts of the edifice. Other in-roads of the national foe, preventing immediate repair or re-edification, the abbey, for a time, crumbled toward total decay, and the monks, reduced to comparative poverty, skulked among the neighbouring villages. From 1537 till his death in 1558, James Stuart, the illegitimate son of James V., nominally filled the office of abbot, and was the last who bore the title. The abbeys of Melrose, Holyrood, St. Andrews, and Coldingham, were at the same date as the abbey of Kelso, bestowed on James’ illegitimate offspring, and, jointly with it, they brought the royal family an amount of revenue little inferior to that yielded by all the possessions and resources of the Crown. In 1542, under the Duke of Norfolk, and again in 1545, under the Earl of Hertford, the English renewed their spoliations on the abbey, and almost entirely destroyed it by fire. On the latter occasion, it was resolutely defended by about 300 men who had posted themselves in its interior, and was entered only after the corpses of a large proportion of them formed a rampart before its gates. In 1560, the monks were expelled in consequence of the Reformation; and both then and in 1580, the abbey was despoiled of many of its architectural decorations, and carried far down the decline of ruin. Its enormous possessions becoming now the property of the Crown, were, in 1594, distributed among the King’s favourites. 

   Kelso is as poor in the aggregate productiveness of its manufactures, as it is showily rich in their variety and extensiveness of range. The dressing of skins, the tanning of hides, the currying of leather, the weaving of flannel, woollen cloth, and linen, the making of hats and of stockings, the distillation of whisky, and the manufacture of candles, shoes, tobacco, and other produce, all have a place in the town; but they do not jointly employ 200 workmen, and are all, with the exception of currying, stationary or declining. The number of looms in 1828 was 70, and in 1838, it had become reduced to 41. Yet the place has a very important trade in corn, and cured pork. A weekly market, crowdedly attended from Roxburghshire and parts of Berwickshire, and Northumberland, is held on Friday for the sale of corn by sample. Twelve “high markets” are annually held on the day of the weekly market, for the hiring of servants and hinds, and for the sale or exchange of horses. A monthly market is held for cattle and sheep. Fairs are held on the second Friday of May, the second Friday in July, the 5th of August, and the 2d of November. That on the 5th of August is called St. James’ fair, and is the greatest in the Border-counties except that of St. Boswell’s. Originally it belonged to Roxburgh, but owing to the extinction of the burgh, it counts as a fair of Kelso. It is held on the site of the old town of Roxburgh, on the beautiful tongue of the peninsula below the ruined castle, about 2 miles south of Kelso, and, for some unascertainable reason, is presided over by the magistrates of the county-town: See JEDBURGH. A great show is made of cattle and horses, for feeding on after-grass and turnips; large transactions are effected in woollen and linen manufactures; and swarms of reapers are engaged for the approaching harvest. The town has three principal inns, and branch-offices of the Bank of Scotland, the Commercial bank of Scotland, the British Linen Company’s bank, and the National Bank of Scotland. Stage coaches run daily to Edinburgh, three times a-week to Berwick, and twice a-week to Jedburgh and Hawick; and a transit coach communicates daily with Edinburgh and Newcastle. 

   Kelso is distinguished much more by properties of quiet aristocracy, and snug contented competency, and tastes for literature and social refinement, than by any of the qualities which could impress upon it a commercial character. Proportionately to the bulk of its population, it is hence not a little wealthy in literary, social, patriotic, philanthropic, and religious institutions or societies. Kelso library, instituted in 1750, and comprising about 5,000 volumes, employs a salaried librarian, and occupies a handsome building on Chalk-heugh. The New library, and the Modern library, instituted respectively in 1778 and 1800, and jointly comprising about 3,500 volumes, belongs, as does also Kelso library, to limited bodies of subscribers. One news-room is enjoyed by a select society, and another by all persons who chose to subscribe. A school of arts was commenced in 1825, and during three years gave rise to interesting courses of lectures; but it eventually became inefficient and defunct. The Kelso physical and antiquarian society was instituted three or four years ago for the formation of a museum, and may probably widen its range of action, and exert its very respectable influence in some practical direction. The Kelso Mail newspaper, which originated in 1797, and the Kelso Chronicle, which originated in 1832, are published, the former twice a-week, and the latter once. A former Kelso Chronicle, started in 1783, was the earliest newspaper in the Border counties. From 1808 to 1829, existed the Kelso Weekly Journal. Kelso was the birth-place of the famous Ballantyne press, and the scene on which was printed the first edition of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; and, at various periods, it has displayed an energy and an amount of literary enterprise altogether beyond the proportion either of its population or of the advantageousness of its position. Kelso is the meeting-place and exhibition-scene of several associations for the encouragement of industry, and, in particular, of the Union Agricultural society, for the incitement and direction, by means of premiums and exhibitions, of improvements in tillage, cropping, and stock. The Dispensary – a very valuable philanthropic institution – has been already incidentally noticed. A Savings’ bank was established in 1815. 

   Kelso is, for some months in the year, the resort of the lovers of field-sports from a wide extent of country around it, including a portion of England. Races are run in spring and autumn on a course about a mile from the town, accommodated with a stand similar to that at Doncaster; and, for a long period, they were of great celebrity, and prompted much attention to the rearing of the most approved breeds of horses; but, during several years past, they have materially lost both their fame and their attractions. The country and rivers in the neighbourhood of the town offer plentiful facilities respectively for fox-hunting and angling, and are excitedly plied both by the Kelsonians themselves, and by temporary visiters. A pack of fox-hounds is maintained by the Duke of Roxburgh; and a coursing club devotes its attention to the turf. The Royal Caledonian Hunt occasionally excites revelry among the upper classes of a week’s continuance; and, once a-year the whipmen of the border, gaily attired, make sport for the population of youngsters and rustics. Games at foot-ball are a favourite amusement. A cricket-club meets once a-fortnight during summer; and a skaiting-club and parties of curlers avail themselves in winter of the freezing of the rivers. The society of the Bowmen of the Border, instituted in 1788, by a diploma from the royal company of archers of Scotland, hold eight meetings in the year. A small theatre was fitted up, at considerable expense, by the French prisoners during the last war, and, while they stayed, was conducted gratuitously by some of their own number; and, at their departure, it was left with all its appliances as an expression of delight with the Kelsonians on account of the facility with which many of them had imbibed the spirit of French levity and dissipation. But, in the aggregate, the town has of late assumed a more sedate character than belonged to it during years when it incurred some hazard of being distinguished chiefly by fashionable follies. 

   By a charter of James VI., dated 2d July, 1607, the abbacy of Kelso was erected into a temporal lordship and barony, called ‘the lordship and barony of Halidean,’ comprehending the town and lands of Kelso. The governing charter is considered to be one dated 8th November, 1634, by which the town is specially erected into a free burgh-of-barony, and the power of incorporating it is conferred on Robert, Earl of Roxburgh, and his heirs. The present government is in terms of regulations made on 3d December, 1757; and consists of a bailie named by the superior, and )5 stent-masters, popularly called the town-council, 8 of whom are nominated by the bailie, and 7 by the incorporated trades. The eight were formerly for life; but, according to the present practice, the senior one of the number annually retires. The bailie holds his office during the pleasure of the superior, and receives from him a salary of £50. A town-clerk, a procurator-fiscal, and a town-officer, are appointed by the bailie during pleasure. The office of the first yielding emoluments not exceeding £4 a-year, and that of the second no emoluments whatever, both are usually filled by one of the bailie’s own clerks. The. jurisdiction is that of an ordinary baron-bailie. There is no deputy; and the bailie holds a weekly court, before which both civil and criminal cases are tried. There has likewise been a practice of judging in possessory cases within burgh, and, until very lately, in sequestrations for rents owing to the vassals of the baron. The number of civil cases is annually about 52, and of criminal cases about 26. The stent-masters, under the approving warrant of the bailie, assess the inhabitants according to the rentals, and the supposed profits of their trades and occupations. The amount of stent varies considerably from year to year, but averages about £263. The property of the burgh consists of tenements, a reservoir, a field, and an interest in the stock of the Tweed bridge-trustees. The customs and market-dues belong to the superior. The revenue of the burgh, including stent, was, in 1833, £562 9s. 8d.; and the expenditure, £670 19s. 0½d. In 1839-40, it was £574 4s. 3d., besides £301 9s. 6d., arising from shares of Kelso bridge disposed of, and old debts, and a sum of miscellaneous receipts, amounting to £14 3s. 5d.; making in all with arrears £1,015 13s. 11d. The expenditure for the same year amounted to £1,060 2s. 4d., of which £312 was paid in reduction of old debts, and £107 9s. consisted of arrears. There is no local police statute. The cleaning, lighting, paving, and supply of water, are provided for by assessment, and managed by the stent-masters. No attempt has been made toward the introduction of regular watching. During the last few years, the town has been watched one night in the week, or on particular occasions. A person, to acquire the title of acting as either a merchant or a craftsman, must pay £1 16s. 8d. for the freedom of the town, and certain dues to the corporation of his craft. The corporations, with their numbers in 1833, and the aggregate amount of the dues levied by them during forty years preceding that year, are, merchants 305, £182 15s. 4d.; shoemakers 85, £104 9s.; tailors 28, £61 14s. 8d.; hammermen 158, £245 19s.; skinners 34, £47 1s. 11d.; weavers 54, £79 16s. 8d.; fleshers 19, £22. A justice-of-peace court is held once a-month. The number of proprietors and tenants in 1833, whose rents were £10 or upwards, was 256, – 44 of the former class being non-resident; and the number whose rents were between £5 and £10 was 81. The increase of the town in extent and population has been slow. Population, in 1833, 4,700. 

   Kelso was originally called, or rather had its modernized name originally written, Calchow, – a word identical in meaning with Chalkheugh, the existing designation of one of the most remarkable natural objects in its landscape. In its ancient history it figures as a rendezvous of armies, as a place of international negociation, as a scene of frequent conflict and havoc of war, and as a spot smiled upon by kings and other personages of note. Of events not identified with the history of its abbey, the earliest noticeable one on record occurred in 1209, when, on account of a Papal interdict being imposed on England, the Bishop of Rochester left his see, and took refuge in Kelso. Ten years later, William de Valomes, Lord-chamberlain of Scotland, died in the town. In 1255, Henry III. of England and his queen, during the visit which they made to their son-in-law and daughter, Alexander III. and his royal consort, at Roxburgh-castle, were introduced with great processional pomp to Kelso and its abbey, and entertained, with the chief nobility of both kingdoms, at a sumptuous royal banquet. In 1297, Edward I., at the head of his vast army of invasion, having entered Scotland, and relieved the siege of Roxburgh, passed the Tweed at Kelso, on his way to seize Berwick. Truces, in the years 1380 and 1391, were made at Kelso between the Scottish and the English kings. On the death of James II. by the bursting of a cannon at the siege of Roxburgh-castle, his infant son, James III., being then with his mother in the camp, was carried by the nobles, in presence of the assembled army, to the abbey, and there pompously crowned, and treated with royal honours. In 1487, commissioners met at Kelso to prolong a truce for the conservation of peace along the unsettled territory of the Borders, and to concoct measures preliminary to a treaty of marriage between the eldest son of James III. and the eldest daughter of Edward IV. The disastrous results of the battle of Flodden, in 1513, seem – in consequence of James IV. ‘s death, and of the loss of the protection which his authority and presence had given – to have, in some way, temporarily enthralled the town to the Lord of Hume, and occasioned, as we have already seen, the expulsion of the abbot from his monastery, – the first of a series of events which terminated in the ruin of the pile. In 1515, the Duke of Albany, acting as regent, visited Kelso in the course of a progress of civil pacification, and received onerous depositions respecting the oppressive conduct of Lord Hume, the Earl of Angus, and other barons. In 1520, Sir James Hamilton, marching with 400 men from the Merse, to the assistance of Andrew Kerr, baron of Fernihirst, in a dispute with the Earl of Angus, was overtaken at Kelso by the baron of Cessford, then warden of the marches, and defeated and broken in a brief and ill-contested battle. In 1522, Kelso and the country between it and the German ocean, received the first lashings of the scourge of war in the angry and powerful invasion of Scotland by the army of Henry VIII. One portion of the English forces having marched into the interior from their fleet in the Forth, and having formed a junction with another portion which hung on the Border under Lord Dacres, the united forces, among other devastations, destroyed one moiety of Kelso by fire, laid bare the other moiety by plundering, and inflicted merciless havoc upon not a few parts of the abbey. So nervidly arousing were their deeds, that the men of Merse and Teviotdale came headlong on them in a mass, and showed such inclination, accompanied with not a little power, to make reprisals, that the devastators prudently retreated within their own frontier. After the rupture between James V. and Henry VIII., the Earl of Huntley, who had been appointed guardian of the marches, garrisoned Kelso and Jedburgh, and, in August 1542, set out from these towns in search of an invading force of 3,000 men, under Sir Robert Bowes, fell in with them at Haldon-Rigg, and, after a hard contest, broke down their power and captured their chief officers. A more numerous army being sent northward by Henry, under the Duke of Norfolk, and James stationing himself with a main army of defence on Fala-moor, the Earl or Huntley, received detachments which augmented his force to 10,000 men, and so checked the invaders along the marches, as to preserve the open country from devastation. In spite of his strenuous efforts, Kelso, and some villages in its vicinity, were entered, plundered, and given up to the flames; and they were eventually delivered from an exterminating rage of spoliation, only by the foe being compelled by want of provision, and the inclemency of the season, to retreat into their own territory. When Henry VIII.’s fury against Scotland became rekindled about the affair of the proposed marriage of the infant Queen Mary and Prince Edward of England, an English army, in 1544, entered Scotland by the eastern marches, plundered and destroyed Kelso and Jedburgh, and ravaged and burned the villages and houses in their neighbourhood. This army having been dispersed, another, 12,000 strong, specially selected for their enterprise, and led on by the Earl of Hertford, next year trod the same path as the former invaders, and inflicted fearful devastation on Merse and Teviotdale. They plundered anew the towns of Kelso and Jedburgh, wasted their abbeys, and also those of Melrose and Jedburgh, and burnt 100 towns and villages. While Kelso was suffering the infliction of their rage, 300 men, as was mentioned in our notice of the abbey, made bold but vain resistance within the precincts of that pile. The Scottish army shortly after came up, and took post at Maxwell-heugh, the suburb of Kelso, intending to retaliate; but they were spared the horrors of inflicting or enduring further bloodshed, by the retreat of the invaders. In 1553, a resolution was suggested by the Queen Regent, adopted by parliament, and backed by the appointment of a tax of £20,000, leviable in equal parts from the spiritual and the temporal state, to build a fort at Kelso for the defence of the Borders; but it appears to have been soon dropped, or not even incipiently to have been carried into effect. In 1557, the Queen-Regent having wantonly, at the instigation of the King of France, provoked a war with Elizabeth, collected a numerous army for aggression and defence on the Border. Under the Earl of Arran, the army, joined by an auxiliary force from France, marched to Kelso, and encamped at Maxwell-heugh; but, having made some vain efforts to act efficiently on the offensive, was all withdrawn, except a detachment left in garrison at Kelso and Roxburgh to defend the Borders. Hostilities continuing sharp between the kingdoms, Lord James Stuart, the illegimate son of James V., built a house of defence at Kelso, and threw up some fortifications around the town. In 1557, the Lords Eure, Wharton, Huntley, Morton, and Argyle, resolving to disperse the army, met the Queen Dowager and the French general at Kelso; “and there the Dowager raged, and reprievid them of theire promises, whiche was to invade and annoye England. Theyre determnaycions to departe, and the consyderacions they tolde hir; and thereupone arguments grew great betwene them, wherewith she sorrowed, and wepp openlye; Doyce2 in gret hevynes; and with high words emongest them to thes effects, they departed. Doyce wished himself in Fraunce. The duke, wyth the others, passed to Jedworthe; and kepithe the chosen men on their borders. The others of theire great nombre passed to theire countreyes.” In 1558, the Scottish army stationed at Kelso, marched out to chastise an incursion, in the course of which the town of Dunse was burnt, came up with the English at Swinton, and were defeated. In 1561, Lord James Stuart was appointed by Queen Mary her lieutenant and judge for the suppression of banditti on the Borders, and brought upwards of 20 of the most daring freebooters to trial and execution; and, about the same time, he held a meeting at Kelso with Lord Gray of England, for pacificating the affairs of the Borders. In 1566, in the course of executing the magnanimous purpose of putting down by her personal presence the Border maraudings, from which she was wiled by her romantic and nearly fatal expedition to the Earl of Bothwell at Hermitage-castle, Queen Mary visited Kelso on her way from Jedburgh to Berwick, spent two nights in the town, and held a council for the settlement of some dispute. In 1569, the Earl of Murray spent five or six weeks in Kelso, in attempts to pacificate the Borders, and in the course of that period, had a meeting with Lord Hunsdon and Sir John Foster, on the part of England, and made concurrently with them arrangements for the attainment of his object. In 1570 an English army entered Scotland in revenge of an incursion of the Lords of Fairnihirst and Buccleuch into England, divided itself into two co-operating sections, scoured the whole of Teviotdale, levelled fifty castles and strengths, and upwards of 300 villages, and rendezvoused at Kelso preparatory to its retreat. The Earl of Bothwell, grandson to James V., and commendator of Kelso, made the town his home during the concocting of his foul and numerous treasons, and during 10 years succeeding 1584, deeply embroiled it in the marchings and military maneouvrings of the forces with which first his partisans, and next himself, personally attempted to damage the kingdom; and he eventually ceased to be a pest and a torment to it, only when, in guerdon of his crimes, he was denuded of his vast possessions, and driven an exile from gifts which only provoked his ingratitude, and from a fatherland on which he could look with only the feelings of a patricide. 

   Kelso, in 1639, made a prominent figure in one of the most interesting events in Scottish history, – the repulse of the armed attempt of Charles I. to force Episcopacy upon Scotland by the army of the Covenanters under General Lesley. This army, amounting to 17,000 or 18,000 men, rendezvoused at Dunse, and marching thence, established their quarters at Kelso. The king, personally at the head of his army of prelacy, got intelligence at Birks, near Berwick, of the position of the Covenanters, and despatched the Earl of Holland, with 1,000 cavalry and 3,000 infantry, to try their mettle. A letter from Sir Henry, who was with the king, to the Marquis of Hamilton, who had, as his majesty’s high commissioner for Scotland, made a vain attempt to effect a compromise between the Liturgy and the Covenant, will show the result:- 

   “MY LORD, – By the dispatch Sir James Hamilton brought your lordship from his majesty’s sacred pen, you were left at your liberty to commit any act of hostility upon the rebels when your lordship should find it most opportune. Since which, my Lord Holland, with 1,000 horse and 3,000 foot, marched towards Kelsey; himself advanced towards them with the horse (leaving the foot 3 miles behind), to a place called. Maxwell-heugh, a height above Kelsey: which, when the rebels discovered, they instantly marched out with 150 horse, and (as my Lord Holland says) eight or ten thousand foot; five or six thousand there might have been. He thereupon sent a trumpet, commanding them to retreat, according to what they had promised by the proclamation. They asked, whose trumpet he was. He said, my Lord Hollands. Their answer was, He were best be gone. And so my Lord Holland made his retreat, and waited on his majesty this night to give him this account. 

   “This morning advertisement is brought his majesty, that Lesley, with 12,000 men, is at Cockburnspath, that 5,000 men will be this night or to-morrow at Dunce, 6,000 at Kelsey; so his majesty’s opinion is, with many of his council, to keep himself upon a defensive, and make himself here as fast as he can; for his majesty doth now clearly see, and is fully satisfied in his own judgment, that what passed in the gallery betwixt his majesty, your lordship, and myself, hath bin but too much verified on this occasion;3 and therefore his majesty would not have you to begin with them, but to settle things with you in a safe and good posture, and yourself to come hither in person to consult what counsels are fit to be taken, as the affairs now hold. And so, wishing your lordship a speedy passage, I rest, 

“Your lordship’s 

                        “most humble servant, 

                                   “and faithful friend, 

“H. Vane.”    

“From the camp at Huntley-field, 

        this 4th of June, 1639.” 

Discordantly with the intelligence which this letter shows the king’s scouts to have brought him, General Lesley concentrated his whole forces, and next day, to the surprise of the royal camp, took up his station on Dunse-hill, interposing his arms between the king and the capital, and exhibiting his strength and his menaces in full view of the English forces. The king, now fully convinced of the impracticability of his attempt on the public conscience of Scotland, held a consultation two days after with the leaders of the Covenanters, made them such concessions as effected a reconciliation, and procuring the dispersion of their army, returned peacefully to England. The Covenanters of Scotland and the Parliamentarians of England having made common cause against Charles I., Kelso was made, in 1644, the depot of troops for re-inforcing General Lesley’s army in England. Next year the detachment under the Marquis of Douglas and Lord Ogilvie, sent by Montrose to oppose the operations of Lesley in the Merse, marched to Kelso, on their way to the battle-field at Selkirk, where they were cut down and broken by the Covenanters. Two years later, the town was the place of rendezvous to the whole Scottish army after their successes in England, and witnessed the disbandment of six regiments of cavalry after an oath having been exacted of continued fidelity to the covenant. 

   In 1645, Kelso was visited and ravaged by the plague intermediately between its appearance in Newcastle and in Edinburgh. In 1647, an hundred English officers arrived at Kelso and Peebles, in the expectation – which happily proved a vain one – of finding employment by the breaking out of another civil war. In 1684, the town was totally consumed by an accidental fire; and sixty years later it suffered in the same way to nearly the same extent. On the former occasion, a proclamation called upon the whole kingdom to make contributions to alleviate the sufferings of the unhoused inhabitants, and to aid the rebuilding of the town. However severe and awful the calamities were at the moment, they were the main, perhaps the sole, occasion of Kelso wearing that uniformly modern and neat aspect which so singularly distinguishes it from all other Scottish towns of its class. In 1715, the whole of the rebel forces of the Pretender, the Highlanders from the north, the Northumbrians from the south, and the men of Nithsdale and Galloway under Lord Kenmure, rendezvoused in Kelso, took full possession of the town, formally proclaimed James VIII., and remained several days making idle demonstrations till the approach of the royal troops under General Carpenter incited them to march on to Preston. In 1718, a general commission of Oyer and Terminer sat at Kelso, as in Perth, Cupar, and Dundee, for the trial of persons concerned in the rebellion; but here they had only one case; and even it they found irrelevant. So attached were the Kelsonians to the principles of the Revolution, that, though unable to make a show of resistance to the rebel occupation of their town, they, previous to that event, assembled in their church, unanimously subscribed a declaration of fidelity to the existing government, and offered themselves in such numbers, as military volunteers, that a sufficient quantity of arms could not be found for their equipment. In 1745, the left of the three columns of Charles Edward’s army, on their march from Edinburgh into England, – that column of nearly 4,000 men, which was headed by the Chevalier in person, spent two nights in Kelso, and, while here, suffered numerous desertions. In 1797, a flood, extraordinary both in bulk and duration, came down the Tweed and the Teviot, rose to so great a height as considerably to ascend the trees on the islet at the confluence of the rivers, and, in the view of a concourse of spectators who were attracted to gaze on its sublime movements, slowly undermined and then suddenly moved down the predecessor of the present bridge. From November, 1810, till June, 1814, Kelso was the abode of a body, never more than 230 in number, of French prisoners on parole, who, to a very noticeable degree, inoculated the place with their fashionable follies, and even, in some instances, tainted it with their laxity of morals. – Kelso counts, either as natives or as residents, very few eminent men. One of its monks called James, who lived in the 15th century, was one of the most celebrated Scottish writers of his very incelebrious age. Its prior Henry, who flourished about 1493, was the translator into Scottish verse of Palladius Rutilius on Rural Affairs, and the author of some literary performances. The chief names which have graced the town in modern times are those of Dr. Andrew Wilson, a distinguished physician, and the author of a Treatise on Morbid Sympathy, and the Rev. John Pitcairn, the Relief minister, celebrated for his eloquence, and for the arousing effects of his example in creating a general taste for some better modes of pulpit-oratory than the sing-song and mass-chaunting methods which, half-a-century ago, were so universal in Scotland.

1  Sir Walter Scott, speaking of Thomas the Rhymer, says: “Another memorable prophecy bore that the old kirk at Kelso, constructed out of the ruins of the abbey, should fall ‘when at the fullest.’ At a very crowded sermon about thirty years ago, a piece of lime fell from the roof of the church. The alarm for the fulfilment of the words of the seer became universal; and happy were they who were nearest the door of the predestined edifice. The church was in consequence deserted, and has never since had an opportunity of tumbling upon a full congregation. I hope, for the sake of a beautiful piece of Saxo-Gothic architecture, that the accomplishment of this prophecy is far distant.” – Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, vol. ii. p. 275. Edit. 1802. 

2  M. D’Oysel, the French general. 

3  “What passed in the gallery” was an opinion unfavourable to the invasion of Scotland by English forces, to impose a hated form of worship, at the expense of provoking antipathies and warfare. 

6 thoughts on “Kelso, pp.79-87.

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