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Cavers, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

CAVERS, a parish, in the district of HAWICK, county of ROXBURGH, 2 miles (N. E. by E.) from Hawick, containing, with the village of Denholm, 1709 inhabitants. The name of this place is supposed to be derived from a compound British word signifying "a short field" or "inclosure," applied originally to a part of the parish. There are several camps of Roman and Saxon origin, and also a defence-ditch, about seven miles long, constructed by the Picts, all indicating the character of those who in remote antiquity occupied or visited the locality; but no information remains as to any transactions of so distant a period. The lands were granted in 1398 with the sheriffdom of Roxburghshire to George, Earl of Angus, and in 1402 came to Isabel, Countess of Mar, who, without consent of the king, transferred them to the Earl of Douglas, then a prisoner in England. This neglect of the royal consent appears to have vitiated the assignment, and the property consequently escheated to the king, Robert III., who in 1405 gave it to Sir David Fleming, of Biggar, as a reward for his loyalty and eminent services. Sir David, a short time afterwards, was assassinated by James, son of Archibald, Earl of Douglas; after which, the lands, with the sheriffdom of Roxburghshire, remained in the family of Douglas till the abolition of heritable jurisdictions. The town of Cavers was taken and laid waste by the English in 1596, and appears not to have been rebuilt. The advowson of the church once belonged to Melrose Abbey, having been granted to that establishment by William, first Earl of Douglas, who was interred at Melrose in 1384.

The PARISH is about twenty-four miles long, and from two to eight miles in breadth, containing about 76,000 acres. Its outline, like its surface, is altogether irregular, intersecting, and being intersected by, several other parishes. The scenery comprises hill and dale, pasture and arable land, wood and water, all uniting to produce an agreeable landscape. The lower part of the district consists of a series of continuous undulations, well cultivated, inclosed with neatly-trained hedge-rows, and occasionally ornamented with choice plantations; the upper division is of a different character, being altogether pastoral, and diversified chiefly with verdant hills and woody brakes, which relieve the uniformity of its wild and spreading tracts of grazing land. The numerous hills, the peculiar features of which are their graceful and well-rounded summits, are covered in summer with a rich verdure, and embrace some very fine views. The loftiest mountain is the Wisp, which rises 1830 feet above the level of the sea, and commands a prospect, eastward, of the sea at Berwick-upon-Tweed; and to the south and west, of the Solway Firth, and, in a clear day, the Isle of Man. There are several other mountains of nearly the same elevation, which exhibit almost every diversity of position, form, and surface, and combine to produce a powerful impression on the admirer of this description of scenery. The principal river is the Teviot, which rises in the parish, and forms its north-western boundary; the Slitrige also rises in the parish, and after winding through a great variety of interesting scenery, is lost in the Teviot at Hawick. All the streams in these parts abound in trout, and are annually visited, in the principal spawning season, about Martinmas, by salmon from the sea.

The SOIL is very various; rich and fertile near the confluence of the Teviot and Rule; in the lower division, generally a good productive mould; but in the more elevated lands, of inferior character, and occasionally bare and rocky. The higher grounds are employed chiefly for the pasturage of sheep, the total number of which is about 11,500, all of the pure Cheviot breed: the cattle are chiefly the Teeswater. The annual value of real property in the parish is £12,493. The principal mansions are, Cavers House, the seat of the Douglas family; and Stobs Castle, the property of Sir William F. Eliott, Bart.: Lord Heathfield, the gallant defender of Gibraltar, was sprung from the family of Stobs, where he was born in 1718. There are several good turnpike-roads, of which that between Edinburgh and Carlisle passes through the upper part of the parish; another runs through the lower part to Jedburgh, Kelso, and other places, and a third, along the Slitrige, communicates with the English border counties.

Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Jedburgh, synod of Morse and Teviotdale, patron, James Douglas, Esq. The stipend of the minister is £250, with a manse, built in 1813. Cavers church is an elegant and substantial edifice, situated in the lower division of the parish; it was built in 1821, with sittings for about 400 persons, and is in very good repair. There is also a chapel at Caerlanrig, in the upper part of the parish, erected by the inhabitants about forty or fifty years ago, and supposed to have succeeded several others, which stood on the same site: the Duke of Buccleuch, who supplied the ground, and materials for the building, allows £25 per annum to the minister, who receives several other contributions, making up a sum of about £50 as a salary, and also has a manse. There are three parochial schools, situated at Denholm, Stobs, and Caerlanrig, the master at Denholm has a salary of £30, with about £25 fees, and the other masters each receive from £12 to £15 salary, and about £20 fees. Some time ago, a large stock of gold coins was found at Priest-haugh, supposed to have been hidden by the attendants of Queen Mary, when she visited Bothwell at Hermitage Castle, in Liddesdale, in 1561. At Caerlanrig, the celebrated border robber, Johnnie Armstrong of Gilknockie, with several of his companions, was executed by order of King James V.

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