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Eckford, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

ECKFORD, a parish, in the district of Kelso, county of Roxburgh; containing, with the villages of Caverton and Cessford, 1069 inhabitants, of whom 98 are in the village of Eckford, 5 miles (S. by W.) from Kelso, and 48 in that of Eckfordmoss, adjoining. This parish appears to have derived its name from a ford across the river Teviot near the village, and from the number of oak-trees with which the immediate neighbourhood anciently abounded. On account of its situation only a few miles from the border, the parish was frequently the scene of violence and devastation, and within its limits were several strongholds, such as Moss Tower, Ormiston Tower, and Eckford Tower, for defence against the incursions of the English, and as places of security for cattle and other property. Of these,' Moss Tower was the most important, both for its strength and for its position in a marsh near the village, and also from its being the residence of Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. This castle was assaulted in 1523 by a party of English led by Thomas, Lord Dacre, who, on the same day, demolished Ormiston Tower and numerous other places in the vicinity; and in 1544 it was burnt, together with the tower and church of Eckford, by a body of the English under Sir Ralph Eure, who put to death nearly fifty of the inhabitants. It appears to have been rebuilt, but was again destroyed by the Earl of Sussex, who, in 1 5/0, laid waste a large portion of the surrounding district. But the most famous fortress in the parish was Cessford Castle, the ancient manorial residence of Sir Robert Ker, ancestor of the Duke of Roxburghe's family, and warden of the Scottish middle marches. This fortress was of considerable importance, and in 1523 the Earl of Surrey in vain attempted to reduce it, but after a protracted siege obtained possession by capitulation. The ruins still in a great measure remain, and show it to have been of no ordinary strength. The chief building is a quadrangular pile sixty-seven feet long, sixty feet broad, and sixty-five feet high, with walls nearly thirteen feet in thickness; it was once surrounded by an inner and outer wall, part of the latter of which is still remaining, and the interval between them is supposed to have been appropriated to the keeping of cattle and other valuable property placed there for security in times of danger. Some traces of the moat by which the whole was inclosed may also be perceived. In 1553, the village of Eckford, which had been a town of no little importance, was burnt by the Marquess of Dorset. The PARISH, which is of triangular form, is about six miles in extreme length, and four and a half in extreme breadth, and comprises 9695 acres, whereof 7728 are arable, 813 woodland and plantations, and the remainder rough pasture, common, and waste. Its surface is generally undulated, rising towards the south into moderate elevations, the principal of which are Wooden hill and Caverton hill, commanding extensive and pleasinglyvaried prospects, embracing on the west the fertile vale of Teviot, with the beautiful scenery along the banks of that river; and the valley of the river Kale, with its picturesque ranges of hills. The Teviot has its source among the hills that separate the counties of Roxburgh and Dumfries, and, after flowing through the parish, falls into the Tweed near Kelso. The Kale, which rises in the Cheviot hills, in the county of Northumberland, after an impetuous course of about eighteen miles, falls into the Teviot to the north of the church; its banks in various parts are richly wooded. There is a lake situated near the village, at the base of Wooden hill; it occupies the bed of an extensive marl- pit which was formerly wrought, and in some places the waters are thirty feet in depth. In the slimy bottom of this lake, medicinal leeches of excellent quality used to be found in considerable numbers; but no traces of such are now to be found, probably from the quantity of water it contains. The scenery throughout Eckford is of pleasing character, and the prospects are enriched with the flourishing plantations that prevail in most parts of the parish. The SOIL is various; in the lower grounds, and more especially on the banks of the Teviot, a light friable loam; on the higher grounds, partaking more of the nature of clay. It is generally fertile, and by good management rendered highly productive: the crops are oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, turnips, peas, and beans. The system of agriculture is in a very improved state, and the five-shift rotation of husbandry usually practised; the lands are well drained, and inclosed chiefly with hedges of thorn. Much waste has been reclaimed and brought into profitable cultivation. Attention is paid to the improvement of live stock; the sheep are mostly of the Leicestershire breed, and the cattle pastured in the parish of the short-horned breed. The annual value of real property in Eckford is £SS37. The woods comprise all the varieties of forest-trees, and flourish greatly; the plantations are chiefly of Scotch, spruce, and silver firs, of which there is a tract of nearly 360 acres at Caverton-Edge, where formerly the Kelso races were held, and which, from one of the titles of its proprietor, the Duke of Roxburghe, is called Beaumont Forest. There are many specimens of ancient timber of stately growth in various parts of the parish. The principal substrata are whinstoue and sandstone, which are both occasionally quarried for building and other purposes. A small seam of coal was discovered many years since at Caverton-Edge, but it was not wrought with sufficient spirit to produce any beneficial result. The manufacture of agricultural implements is carried on at Kalemouth; and there are mills for grinding corn at Ormiston, Eckford, and Caverton. Marlefield House, the property of the Marquess of Tweeddale, is a spacious mansion pleasantly situated in a demesne richly planted, and tastefully laid out; in front of the house is an extensive lawn, and the grounds are in some parts embellished with avenues of lime-trees. It was the birthplace of Sir William Bennet, the intimate friend of Ramsay, whose pastoral of the Gentle Shepherd was first represented in the presence of the families of Marlefield and Clifton, at the residence of the latter, in the neighbouring parish of Linton: the scenery of the pastoral is thought to have been descriptive of the vicinity of Marlefield. The poet Thomson, also, spent much of his time with Sir William Bennet at this place, and he is supposed to have composed the "Winter" of Jiis Seasons within four miles of Marlefield, on a hill in the adjoining parish of Morebattle, to which he frequently resorted. Sir William lived during the greater period of his life in the parish; and in an aisle adjoining the church, which was the place of sepulture of the family, his remains were interred. The ancient mansionhouse of Haughhead is on the south bank of the river Kale, near Eckford mill, and is still in a tolerable state of repair. At a short distance from it is an artificial mound of earth and stones intermixed, surrounded with clumps of old fir-trees; on the summit is a stone commemorating the result of a dispute between Hall, the original proprietor of Haughhead, and his neighbour, Ker of Cessford, whom he defeated in an attempt to take possession of his estate. The villages have facility of intercourse with Kelso and other towns in the district by good roads, and by two bridges over the Teviot and Kale, both of one arch, and neatly built of stone. An elegant chain-bridge, also, was thrown across the Teviot, near its confluence with the Kale, by the late Wilham Mein, Esq., of Ormiston; it is 180 feet in length, and sixteen feet in breadth, and forms an interesting feature in the landscape. The Hawick and Kelso turnpike-road passes through the parish in its western portion. Eckford is ecclesiastically in the presbytery of Jedburgh, synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and in the patronage of the Crown; the minister's stipend is about £220, with a manse, and glebe valued at £1'2. 5. per annum. The church, which was dependent on the abbey of Jedburgh, is a substantial edifice finely situated on the south bank of the river Teviot, and is adapted for a congregation of 300 persons. There are two parochial schools, affording together instruction to about ]'20 scholars. Of that in the village of Eckford the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and fees averaging about £21 per annum; the master of the parochial school at Caverton mill has a salary of £17, a house and garden, and fees averaging £17, with the interest of a bequest of £40. There is also a school at Cessford, attended by about forty scholars; the master has a schoolroom rent-free, in addition to the fees, which amount to £'20. A little to the north of the castle, and near Cessford burn, is a cavern of considerable size, called Hobbie Ker's Cave; and about three miles further to the north, on the farm of Grahamslaw, are several other caves of artificial construction, which in perilous times formed places of refuge for the Covenanters, who had one of their two great conventicles in this quarter, the other being at Maybole, in Ayrshire. Stone coffins have been frequently met with; and in one, discovered on the farm of Eckford-Eastmains in 1831, were found a few human bones, and a small Roman jar filled with black dust. To the west of Caverton hill are the remains of a tumulus, called the Black dyke, now nearly on a level with the contiguous field. On the farm of Moss Tower, a coin or medal of the Empress Faustina has been found in the peat-moss, of which the inscription was quite legible. Near Caverton was an ancient chapel founded by Walter Ker of Cessford; but there are no vestiges of it: close to it is a well, for many years called Priest's well, but now almost undistinguished.

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