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Hobkirk or Hopekirk, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

HOBKIRK, or HOPEKIRK, a parish, in the district of Jedburgh, county of Roxburgh, 8 miles (E. S. E.) from Hawick; containing 776 inhabitants. This parish appears to have derived its name from the situation of its church in a hope, or narrow dale. It is eleven miles in length from north to south, and three miles in breadth; and is bounded on the north by the parishes of Cavers and Bedrule, on the east by the parish of Southdean and a small part of that of Jedburgh, on the south by Castleton, and on the west by Cavers and Kirkton. The surface is strikingly varied. In the southern extremity is a chain of hills forming part of the Cheviot range, and on the northern boundary is the Rubberslaw hill, which has an elevation of 1420 feet above the level of the sea. Between this hill and the southern range is the level valley of the river Rule, on the eastern bank of which is the beautiful hill of Bonchester, rising in a spherical form to a height of 1260 feet, and covered with rich verdure to its summit. The river Rule rises in the southern range of hills, flows northward through the whole length of the parish, and two miles beyond falls into the Teviot, after having been augmented in its course by many springs of salubrious water, and many streams from the surrounding heights. This stream, with its valley, is one of the prettiest and most sequestered in the south of Scotland. It abounds with excellent trout, and affords capital sport to the angler, though the shallows are too often swept by the net.

In general the SOIL is a red tenacious clay, presenting numerous boulders, frequently of greenstone. The greenstone rock forms caps to certain of the hills; red sandstone pervades the northern and eastern, and greywacke the western division of the parish, while a bed of limestone encroaches on its south-western border. A little northward of this, at Robertslin, occurs a stratum of agate or coarse jasper, from which brooches, seals, and other ornaments are made. The sandstone is freely employed for building purposes, and the limestone, when burnt, offers to the enterprising husbandman a proper application to the stiff clay of the district. The cultivated lands stretch along the valley: in the higher grounds heath or spongy moss prevails, except upon the limestone bottom around Langburnshiels, which yields perhaps the best pasturage of all unimproved farms in the country. The whole number of acres in the parish may be estimated at 19,000, of which 3500 are under the plough, 900 in woods or plantations, and the remainder in meadow, pasture, and waste land. The crops are principally oats and turnips, with potatoes, barley, peas, wheat, and grasses: the system of agriculture is improved; the lands have been drained and partly inclosed, and a considerable portion of waste has been reclaimed and brought into cultivation. On the lower grounds the fences are chiefly of thorn, sometimes of whin raised upon mounds, of paling, or of reiss, for which the thinnings of the woods afford ample materials; on the higher or pasture grounds, stone walls are maintained. The old farmhouses or onsteads are indifferent, but improvement is rapidly advancing, and all the buildings of modern erection are substantial and commodious. Much attention is paid to the rearing of live stock. About 10,000 sheep, of the Cheviot breed, or with a cross of the Leicestershire, called half-bred, are pastured in the parish; and nearly 1500 stones of wool are annually produced, all pure white, that is, unlaid. Upwards of 300 young cattle, principally of the shorthorned breed, are grazed here, and either fitted for the butcher, or prepared for being fattened off upon turnip. The parish is highly ornamented with trees. The older woods consist of birch, hazel, alder, which are natural, and Scotch fir, beech, oak, and elm; on some estates regularly thinned; on others so much neglected that large quantities of valuable timber might be cut with obvious advantage to the remainder. The newer plantations, of larch and Scotch fir, with oaks, ashes, and spruces interspersed, are extensive, and thriving vigorously. The annual value of real property in the parish is £6269. There are no villages, and but two small hamlets, each of six or eight dwellings. Facility of communication is afforded with the neighbouring markettowns by roads kept in excellent order, and by the turnpike-road from Hawick to Newcastle, and that from Jedburgh to Castleton, which pass nearly at right angles for several miles through the parish.

For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Jedburgh, synod of Merse and Teviotdale; and the patronage is in the Crown. The stipend of the incumbent is £206; the manse, which has been repaired within the last few years, is a comfortable dwelling so far as its accommodation extends, and the glebe, with half the glebe of the suppressed parish of Abbotrule, is valued at £40 per annum. The church, erected in 1700, and repaired in 1777 and in other years, is well situated, but a damp uncomfortable edifice, capable of accommodating a congregation of 400 persons: the floor, as in most ancient churches, is below the level of the churchyard. The parochial school, which is yet more incommodious, affords education to 80 or 90 children; the master has a house, with a salary of £32. 10., including an allowance in lieu of a garden, while the school-fees average £24 per annum. A subscription library has been established, and meets with due encouragement. A bequest of £100 was made some time since by Lady Yester; the interest is divided between the heritors (for charitable purposes) and the schoolmaster.

On Bonchester hill are considerable remains of ancient fortifications, some of which are square, and others of circular form, intersected also by lines of more modern construction. This hill, which is admirably adapted for the site of a camp, is supposed to have derived its name from its having been occupied by the Romans for that purpose. Querns, arrow-heads, and various other relics of antiquity have been found here. On Rubberslaw and other heights are also traces of camps. Two cairns were lately removed, which are thought to have been raised over the remains of warriors slain in some battle that occurred near the spot; one of these was situated on the eastern side of Rubberslaw, and the other at Fodderlee. Of a battle at the latter place, there are some traditionary records; but nothing is recorded respecting the former. At Langraw, a great quantity of burnt bones and ashes have been discovered, within a circular inclosure about eighteen feet in diameter. On their removal, there were found, in the sandstone underneath, four holes, in which upright poles had been fixed, and secured by stones wedged in from above; but of the purpose of the erection of these, or the use to which they were applied, nothing is known. Several urns have been dug up in different situations. Mary, Queen of Scots, passed through this parish on her route from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle, and, near its extremity, was obstructed by a bog, which has been ever since called the "Queen's Mire". Thomson the poet resided, or frequently visited, here, and wrote his first sketch of Winter from the view of Rubberslaw.

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