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Hawick, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

HAWICK, a burgh of barony and a parish, in the district of Hawick, county of Roxburgh, 10 miles (W. S. W.) from Jedburgh, and 53 (S. S. E.) from Edinburgh; containing about 8000 inhabitants, of whom about 7000 are in the burgh. This place, the name of which simply denotes "a village or town in the bend of a river", is of remote antiquity, and is generally supposed to have been originally of Saxon foundation; but very little of its history is known prior to the commencement of the fourteenth century. The first authentic notice of the burgh occurs in a charter granted by Robert Bruce; and the barony, together with that of Sprouston, appears to have been conferred by David II. on Thomas de Murray, from whom it descended, during that king's reign, to Maurice, Earl of Strathearn. In the early part of the fifteenth century, it became the property of Sir William Douglas, who, for his gallant services in the wars of the border, obtained from James I. a charter, confirming to him the lands of Hawick, and bestowing also those of Selkirk and Drumlanrig. The barony remained for many generations in the possession of his descendants, of whom Sir William Douglas was in 1639 created Earl of Queensberry, Viscount Drumlanrig, and Lord Hawick. It subsequently became the property of the Scott family, who continued to exercise lordly authority over their feudatories till the year 1747, when, on the final abolition of heritable jurisdictions, the Duke of Buccleuch received from parliament the sum of £400, as a compensation.

During the border warfare, the town suffered repeated devastation. In 1418 it was burnt by the forces under Sir Robert Umfraville, governor of Berwick, and in 1544 was laid waste by the troops of Sir Ralph Evers and Sir Brian Latoun. In 1570, to prevent its occupation by the English under the Earl of Surrey, the inhabitants themselves set fire to the town, which, with the exception of the ancient castle, called the Black Tower, was wholly destroyed. On rebuilding the town after these calamities, the dangers to which it was exposed led to the adoption of a peculiar style of architecture; the houses were built of rough whinstone, with walls of massive thickness, and without any entrance except from a court-yard in the rear. Of these buildings, each of which was well calculated for defence, there are still some few specimens remaining. From its situation near the confluence of two rivers, the town is exposed to inundations; and in 1767, after a heavy fall of rain, the Slitrig, in the course of two hours, rose twenty feet above its ordinary level, and carried away the garden wall of the manse, the parish schoolroom, a corn-mill, and the whole of the houses in one street.

The TOWN is pleasantly seated on the south-east bank of the Teviot, and is divided into two parts by the river Slitrig, which flows through it into the former stream. It consists of one principal street, and of several smaller streets and lanes diverging from the main thoroughfare on both sides; some new streets have been formed, and two handsome ranges of buildings erected called Slitrig-crescent and Teviot-crescent. The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water, conveyed by pipes. Connecting the opposite sides of the town are two bridges over the Slitrig, one of which is of antique character; and towards the eastern extremity, an elegant bridge has been erected across the Teviot. The approach to the town, both from the east and west, derives great beauty from the nursery grounds and gardens in those directions; the surrounding scenery, also, is very pleasing. A public subscription library, established in 1762, is supported by a proprietary of shareholders, and forms a collection of 3500 volumes; the trades' library, opened in 1802, consists of 1200 volumes; and there are several smaller libraries. In the town are also three reading and news rooms, as well as subscription assembly-rooms, which are used occasionally for public meetings.

The staple TRADE is the woollen manufacture, which of late has been rapidly increasing, and is carried on to a very considerable extent. The weaving of coarse woollen stockings was first introduced in 1771, by Mr. John Hardie, and, on his retiring from the concern in 1780, was continued on a much larger scale by Mr. John Nixon. Still comparatively little was done previously to the adoption of machinery for the spinning of yarn, which took place about the commencement of the present century. Since that period the woollen manufacture has greatly increased in variety and extent; and there are now eleven factories belonging to the manufacturers of the place, some of them situated within the limits of the adjoining parish of Wilton. In all of these, machinery on the most approved principles is employed; four of the factories are partly driven by water and partly by steam, and the others by water only. The principal articles are under-clothing, flannels, plaidings, shawls, tweeds, tartans, druggets, and woollen cloths of every description, lambs'-wool hosiery of the finest texture, and Scottish and English blankets. The production of these affords occupation, including women and children, to nearly 3000 persons. There are also many persons employed in the making of thongs, gloves, candles, and in the tanning of leather and dressing of sheepskins; the manufacture of machinery of all kinds is considerable, and there are numerous masons, carpenters, smiths, millwrights, and others occupied in handicraft trades. The post-office has a good delivery; and previously to the alteration in the rates of postage the revenue amounted to £1000. There are three branch banks, and a savings' bank, in which latter the deposits are nearly £7000. The market is on Thursday, and is amply supplied with grain and with all kinds of provisions. Fairs are held on the 17th of May, for cattle and the hiring of servants; on the 20th and 21st of September, for sheep; on the third Tuesday in October, for cattle and horses; and on the 8th of November, for cattle and for hiring servants. Facility of communication is afforded by the Edinburgh and Hawick railway, formed under an act of parliament passed in 1845; by turnpike and statute-labour roads, which have been greatly improved, and by bridges over the rivers, kept in excellent repair.

The more ancient records of the BURGH were lost in the destruction of the town during the border wars; and the oldest charter now extant is that granted by James Douglas of Drumlanrig, baron of Hawick, and dated in 1537. Under this charter, ratified and extended in 1545 by Mary, Queen of Scots, the inhabitants exercise all the privileges of a royal burgh, with the exception of sending a member to parliament. There are two bailies, elected annually, a treasurer, and a council of thirty-one members, of whom fifteen are appointed as vacancies occur, and hold their seats for life, and fourteen are chosen every year by the seven incorporated trades, each of which returns two. The fees for admission as a burgess are, for strangers £4, for the sons-in-law of burgesses £2, and for sons £1. In Hawick the incorporated trades are, the weavers, tailors, hammermen, skinners, shoemakers, butchers, and bakers, the highest fee for admission into which is ten shillings. The magistrates hold courts when requisite, both for civil and criminal cases within the burgh, in which they are assisted by the town-clerk, who acts as assessor; in civil pleas their jurisdiction extends to sums of any amount, but in criminal cases is confined to petty misdemeanors. The corporation possess a property near the town, of nearly 1200 acres, granted to them by Douglas of Drumlanrig, in 1537, it is believed, as a reward for the valour of the inhabitants at the battle of Flodden-Field in 1513. The income of the burgh, derived almost exclusively from land, and which is rapidly increasing, exceeds £600 per annum: the debits amount to £3000. Annually, on the last Friday in May, O. S., a procession of the magistrates on horseback occurs, which is called the riding of the marches; and on this occasion, a standard taken in 1514, the year after that on which the battle of Flodden Field was fought, is carried before them. There is a town-hall, in which the courts are held; and a gaol has been erected for the town and district.

The PARISH is situated in the western part of the county, and is about fifteen miles and a half in length, and rather more than a mile and a half in average breadth, comprising an area of 15,360 acres, of which 4100 are arable, 160 woodland and plantations, and 11,100 meadow and pasture. Its surface is beautifully diversified. A sinuous valley, watered by the river Teviot, intersects the parish nearly through the whole length, and is bounded on either side by ranges of hills, clothed with verdure to their summits, and several of which have a considerable elevation. The vale of the Slitrig, intersecting the parish towards the east, forms also a rich pastoral district, but of more wild and secluded aspect. The scenery is greatly enlivened by the windings of the two rivers, which unite at the town; and the hills command a varied prospect over the adjacent country. Along the banks of the streams the soil is in general gravelly, and on the other arable lands a light loam. The system of agriculture has much improved within the last few years; a considerable quantity of waste land has been drained, and rendered profitable, and the breed of stock has been improved. The usual crops are, grain of every kind, with potatoes and turnips. The farm-buildings are commodiously arranged; all the various improvements in agricultural implements have been adopted; and great attention is paid to the breeds of cattle and sheep, numbers of which are reared in the pastoral districts. In this parish the plantations are well managed, and in a thriving state. The rocks are composed chiefly of greywacke; and there are some quarries of stone of good quality for building purposes, and for the roads. The annual value of real property in the parish is £12,923.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Jedburgh, synod of Merse and Teviotdale. The minister's stipend is £278, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £56 per annum; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. The parish church, erected in 1764, on rising ground in the centre of the town, is a plain structure containing 704 sittings, a number totally inadequate to the population. An elegant new church has been erected by the duke, which, in consequence of the decayed state of the parish church, is occupied by the congregation of the Establishment: it contains upwards of 1500 sittings. The members of the Free Church have also a place of worship; and there are places of worship for the United Presbyterian Church, Independents, Roman Catholics, and Society of Friends. The parochial school is under the management of a rector and his assistant, who divide between them a salary of £33 paid by the heritors, £19 the proceeds of a bequest by the Rev. Alexander Orrock in 1711, and fees averaging £106; of all which the rector has three-fifths, with an allowance of £17 in lieu of a dwelling-house, and the assistant two-fifths. This school is attended by about 220 children, who are instructed in the Latin, Greek, and French languages, the mathematics, &c. An infants' school was lately opened; and there is a school in the hamlet of Newmill, endowed by the heritors with a salary of £12 to the master, in addition to his fees, which average £18 per annum. At the upper extremity of the town are the remains of a moat, supposed to have been a place of sepulture, and afterwards for administering justice; and in various parts of the parish are vestiges of border fortresses, the most remarkable of which is that called the Black Tower, the baronial seat of the lords of Drumlanrig, subsequently the residence of Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, and now forming part of the Tower inn. Another is attached to the castle of Branxholme, the ancient residence of the Buccleuch family, and celebrated by Sir Walter Scott in his Lay of the Last Minstrel. This castle was burnt by the Earl of Northumberland, in 1532, and blown up with gunpowder during the invasion of the Earl of Surrey, in 1570; but was partly rebuilt, according to an inscription on the walls, by "Sir W. Scott, of Branxheim, Knyte," in 1574, and completed by "Dame Margaret Douglas, his spous," in 1576. On the brow of a hill at Goldielands, about two miles distant, is a third border fortress, which retains much of its original character, and is said to have been the residence of the Goldie family. An ancient vessel of bronze, with a handle and spout, and standing on three feet, which is supposed to have been used by the Romans for sacrifice, was dug up a few years since at Reasknow, and now belongs to James Grieve, Esq., of Branxholme Braes, who has also in his possession a coin of Alexander III., discovered in the moss at Hislop, and in a very perfect state. On the removal of a cairn near the town, about 1809, several large stones placed edgewise, and inclosing a human skull and bones of large size, were found; and sepulchral urns of rude workmanship have been discovered at various times.

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