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Galashiels, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

GALASHIELS, a manufacturing town and a burgh of barony, partly in the parish of Galashiels, county of Selkirk, and partly in the parish of Melrose, county of Roxburgh, 4 miles (N. by W.) from Melrose, 6 miles (N. by E.) from Selkirk, and 33 (S. S. E.) from Edinburgh; the whole town containing 4536 inhabitants, of whom 2061 are in Selkirkshire, and 2475 in Roxburghshire. It is of remote antiquity, and derives its name, signifying in the British language "a full stream", from its situation on the river Gala, which flows through part of it, and by which, in former times, it was frequently inundated. This evil is now effectually checked, and the river is spanned by four bridges. In the reign of David II., the Scottish army was quartered in the immediate neighbourhood, after the battle of Crichtondean, in which the English, being taken by surprise, had been defeated, and compelled to cross the Tweed near the town. About a mile distant, on the road to Abbotsford, is a tract formerly a marsh, but now in a state of cultivation, where some of the English forces were slain in a skirmish, and in which, while draining the land, were found several implements of war. In 1599, Galashiels was erected into a burgh of barony; and in 1622, from a report of the lords commissioners, it appears that it had become of some importance, and contained not less than 400 inhabitants. The town is of very pleasing appearance, consisting chiefly of houses built within the last fifty or sixty years in a neat and handsome manner; the streets are partially lighted with gas, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A public library, supported by subscription, forms a collection of 5000 volumes of general literature. Galashiels also possesses a most respectable circulating library and two reading or news rooms, and libraries are attached to some of the places of worship.

The principal trade carried on here, and to which the town owes its importance and rapid increase, is the woollen manufacture, which has been brought to a very high state of perfection. The articles produced are, narrow fancy cloths of various quality known in the market as "tweeds", 6/4 Saxony-wool tartan, shawls, and plaids. The narrow cloths vary in price from twenty to eighty pence per yard, the 6/4 tartan cloakings from two to nine shillings per yard, and the shawls from three to thirty shillings each. These articles of dress are in high esteem for their texture and for the richness and variety of their colouring. There are eleven factories in the town, and a twelfth is about to be erected; they are all dependent on water-power, except two which have the aid of steam, and the spindles now number 17,000, and the looms 563, affording together employment to 1400 persons. The quantity of wool annually used is estimated at full 1,000,000 lb., value £80,000, principally from Australasia, Germany, and other foreign countries, the use of wool of home growth being nearly superseded: the yearly value of finished goods is £200,000. The great increase of the trade of Galashiels may be understood from the statement of the fact that, seventy or eighty years ago, only 722 stone of wool were used by the clothiers, and scarcely as much more could be manufactured by private persons. In the year 1790, it appears that 243 packs of wool, each pack containing twelve stone of twenty-four lb., were purchased by the manufacturers; besides which, they received from different quarters wool, yarn, and weaved cloth, to a considerable amount, to be dyed and dressed. At that period, about 250 women were constantly engaged in spinning wool; there were also occasional spinners; and three machines, having each thirty or thirty-six spindles, were employed two or three days in the week: the number of looms was only forty-three. Hosiery goods are made to a small extent; there are likewise a tannery, two skinneries, several forges for the manufacture of machinery required for the factories, and a thriving brewery. Three banks have branches here. The market, held on Monday, was formerly of considerable note, but has now unaccountably fallen into disuse, and the fairs are very indifferently attended. The post-office has two deliveries a day; and facility of communication is afforded by the Edinburgh and Hawick railway, lately opened, and by excellent roads in every direction. The burgh is governed by a bailie, appointed by Hugh Scott, Esq., of Gala, the lord of the manor; but though he has the right of jurisdiction common to burghs of barony, he now holds no courts either civil or criminal, and the police of the town is managed principally by the two counties in which Galashiels is situated.

The PARISH consists of the old parishes of Galashiels and Lindean, the former situated in Selkirkshire, and the latter in Roxburghshire. No part of the town is in Lindean. The parish is nearly eight miles in length, about three miles in average breadth, and is bounded by the parishes of Melrose, Bowden, Selkirk, and Stow: the rivers Tweed, Ettrick, and Gala either skirt or flow through it, and the banks of the two first are richly clothed with wood, and display much beautiful scenery. It comprises more than 10,000 acres, of which about one-half are arable, 500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder hill-pasture. The surface is diversified with hills and narrow winding glens, and some of the former have a considerable elevation, the highest being the Meigle, anciently Amulet Megs, which commands the town, and is nearly 1500 feet above the level of the sea: the loftier lands embrace interesting views of the mansions and grounds of Abbotsford, Torwoodlee, Yair, and Sunderland, the vale and abbey of Melrose, and the rivers above mentioned. The chief lake is Loch Cauldshiels, which is about a mile and a half in circumference, of great depth, and well stocked with perch and pike; it is greatly adorned on one side by the woods of Abbotsford. The rivers abound with salmon and trout; the fishery on the Tweed has for some years been placed under salutary regulations, and at present does not commence till the 15th of February.

The SOIL of the parish is various; in some places a rich black loam, in others a stiff retentive clay, and on the banks of the rivers of a very sandy quality. The crops are oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips. Generally the cultivated lauds have been well drained and inclosed; and bone-dust, guano, and other foreign manures are much in use: the farm-houses and offices are commodious, and all the more recent improvements in husbandry have been adopted. Great attention is paid to live stock; the breed of cattle has been much improved, and the sheep in the low grounds are the Leicester, and in the high grounds Cheviot and half-bred. The annual value of real property in the parish is £9649, including £2215 for the Roxburghshire portion. The plantations are of Scotch, spruce, and larch firs, intermixed with oak, ash, elm, beech, and sycamore; they are well managed, and in a very thriving condition. In this parish the substrata are greywacke, clay-slate, and ironstone. The seats are. Gala House, a handsome mansion in a well-planted demesne, ornamented with ancient trees of stately growth; and Faldonside, a very neat modern erection. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Selkirk, synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and in the patronage of Hugh Scott, Esq., of Gala: the minister's stipend is £211. 11., with a manse, garden, and glebe, valued at £40 per annum. Galashiels church, erected in 1813, is a good structure in the later English style of architecture, with a square embattled tower. There are places of worship in the parish for the United Presbyterian Synod, members of the Free Church, Baptists, and Independents. The parochial school affords a liberal course of instruction, and is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with about £70 fees, and a house and garden. There are two schools in the rural districts; the master of one has a salary of £8, and of the other £5, in addition to the fees. Societies of various descriptions exist which afford relief to their members in cases of distress. Vestiges of two encampments, both supposed to be of Roman origin, may be traced on the estates of Faldonside and Fairnilee. Nothing is left of the church of Lindean, which was abandoned, on account of extreme dilapidation, nearly forty years before the two parishes were united.

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