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Castleton, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

CASTLETON, a parish, in the district of MELROSE, county of ROXBURGH; containing 2135 inhabitants, of whom 1030 are in the village of New Castleton, 9 miles (E. by N.) from Langholm. This place derived its name from an ancient castle here, which stood on the east bank of the Liddel, upon a perpendicular precipice upwards of 100 feet in height, and was defended on the west and south by two strong ramparts, and a deep fosse, which are still entire. The parish was anciently denominated Liddesdale, from the river, which runs through it from the north-east to the south. Camps, forts, cairns, and castles remain in various places, and on account of its situation directly along the English border, it was formerly the scene of violent contentions. Hermitage Castle, a building about 100 feet square, protected by a strong rampart and ditch, and standing on the bank of a river of the same name, is said to have been built by Sir Ranulph de Soules, warden of the Border in the reign of David l. One of his descendants, Lord Soules, and also governor of the castle, according to the current tradition, was burnt near the site of a Druidical temple, on a hill here, called Nine-Stone Ridge; and in 1342, Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie was starved to death in the castle by Sir William Douglas, lord of Liddesdale. The castle was visited in 1561 by Mary, Queen of Scots, who travelled from, and returned to, Jedburgh in the same day, over mountains, and through marshes almost impassable. Near it stood the chapel of Hermitage, now a ruin, in the middle of a burying-ground, which is still in use, and in the wall of which is fixed the ancient font. The lands of Liddesdale were annexed to the crown in 1540, by act of parliament, and in 1648 were granted to Francis, Earl of Buccleuch, whose descendant, in 1747, upon the abolition of heritable jurisdictions, was allowed £600 as a compensation for the regality. ln January 1649 Castleton kirk sustained considerable injury from the adherents of Cromwell.

The PARISH is the largest and most southern in the county, measuring about eighteen miles long and twelve broad, and containing 65,200 acres. It is bounded on the east by Northumberland, and on the south-east by Cumberland: the southern extremity is nearly of triangular form. The surface is diversified in a high degree; the lower part of the parish is hilly, and in the upper part the country is entirely mountainous, rising abruptly in many instances to a great elevation, and affording excellent pasture for numerous flocks of sheep. The principal mountains are Greatmoor, Millenwood Fell, Tudhope, Windhead, and Tinnis Hill, which last is seen as a landmark from the Solway Firth and Irish Sea: some of these rise as much as 2000 feet above the level of the sea, and give a wild and romantic appearance to parts of the parish. The part inhabited consists of two valleys, one of which, bordering on the river Hermitage, is about ten miles long, from the source of that stream until it loses itself in the Liddel, the banks of the water are clothed with natural wood, which, with the scenery generally, enlivened by the beautiful current, exhibits a rural picture of the most attractive kind. The other valley is that lying along the sides of the Liddel, which river, as well as the Tyne, rises near the head of the parish, on the north-east. The Liddel runs directly west for a few miles, after which it turns to the south; the Tyne takes its course to the east, slowly winding through Northumberland. The country through which the former passes is wild, bleak, and mountainous, and for ten miles the banks are entirely naked; where it is joined by the Hermitage, however, they are covered with trees, and flourishing plantations there constitute prominent features in the improving and beautiful landscape. In addition to these streams are the Tinnis, Blackburn, Tweeden, Kershope (which divides the two kingdoms), and several others, all famed for their supply of trout. There are numerous mineral springs, and several beautiful cascades and waterfalls on the various streams.

The SOIL varies considerably, that in the neighbourhood of the rivers being soft and rich, while the higher grounds exhibit a poorer mould; in some parts it is of a mossy character. Most of the arable land lies on the banks of the rivers, wheat of average quality has been produced, but the ordinary crops are barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips. The mossy ground is esteemed for pasturing black-cattle and sheep; the cattle are chiefly of the Galloway, Dutch, and Highland kinds, many of which last are brought by the farmers from the Falkirk and Doune markets, and supported during the winter upon coarse hay and other fodder, then fattened on the pastures, and sold towards the end of summer. The annual value of real property in the parish is £12,126. Several plantations have been made of Scotch fir, spruce, larch, oak, ash, and beech, which are for the most part in a flourishing condition; and the natural wood consists of some of the same species, with a considerable quantity of alder. There is a large supply of limestone of various qualities, which is wrought to a great extent on the estates of Lariston and Thorlieshope: coal is obtained on the estate of Liddelbank, and there are quarries of freestone in every direction, except at the head of Hermitage, where is nothing but blue whinstone.

The village, the building of which was commenced in 1793, by the Duke of Buccleuch, consists principally of two streets, named the Liddel and the Hermitage. Several other streets cross these at right angles, and in the centre is a market-place called Douglas-square, the buildings round which consist of two stories. There are also smaller squares near each extremity of the main street. Fairs for the sale of sheep are held twice a year, and three for hiring servants in April, May, and November, respectively; and the Eskdale and Liddesdale Farmers' Association meet once in every three years at Castleton. Sheriff circuit small-debt courts, for the recovery of sums not exceeding £8. 6. 8., are holden in the village on the first Tuesday of April, of August, and November. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Langholm, synod of Dumfries, and the patronage is exercised by the Duke of Buccleuch, the minister's stipend is £250, with a good manse, and a glebe of twenty-five acres. Castleton church, built in 1808, accommodates between 600 and 700 persons, and occupies a convenient situation, at the junction of the Liddel and the Hermitage. The United Presbyterian Synod have a place of worship. There is one principal parochial school, with three auxiliaries: the salaries of the masters amount to £51, of which the head master receives £30, leaving the remaining sum to be equally divided among the other teachers; the fees of the four schools are about £70. A good subscription library has also been established in the village. Dr. Armstrong, author of the Art of Preserving Health, was a native of Castleton.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis