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Hounam, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

HOUNAM, a parish, in the district of Kelso, county of Roxburgh, 11 miles (S. S. E.) from Kelso; containing 280 inhabitants, of whom about 45 are in the village, and the remainder in the rural districts of the parish. This place, the name of which is of doubtful origin, is not distinguished by any events of historical importance, though, from its situation on the confines of England, and the remains of numerous forts, it probably participated in the frequent hostilities of the border warfare. It measures about eight miles in length and six in mean breadth, and is bounded on the south-east by the English county of Northumberland. The surface is almost one continued series of hills, forming part of the Cheviot range, and is diversified with gentle undulations in some parts, and in others with small valleys and narrow glens intervening between the bolder hills. Through these valleys the waters of the Kale and Capehope wind for several miles, along the banks of which are some small tracts of level land. The highest of the hills is Hounam Law, which has an elevation of 1464 feet above the level of the sea; it is of conical form, easy of ascent, and is about nine miles in circumference at the base. The lower hills vary from 900 to between 1200 and 1300 feet. The Kale water has its source in the hills in the parish of Oxnam, and taking a northern course, divides the parish into two nearly equal parts, and after a very circuitous progress, unites with the Capehope at the village, a little to the west of which it forms a picturesque cascade, falling from a rocky precipice. These, and various smaller streams which flow through the parish, abound with excellent trout. There are also numerous springs of excellent water, and one of medicinal properties westward of the village, which is in some repute as a gentle diuretic.

In this parish the soil varies greatly in different parts, but is notwithstanding tolerably fertile, and in the valleys and lower grounds extremely rich; in the higher lands it is a sandy gravel, and in some places moss and heath. The whole number of acres is estimated at 14,458; of these, about 13,540 are hilly pasture and sheep-walks, 816 acres arable, and 102 in wood and plantations. The crops are oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips: the system of agriculture is advanced; the lands have been drained, and considerable portions of waste reclaimed. The farm-houses, most of which have been rebuilt, are substantial and commodiously arranged; those of modern erection are of stone, and roofed with slate. All the more recent improvements in agricultural implements have been generally adopted. The number of sheep fed on the pastures is about 13,000. They are principally of the Cheviot breed, to the improvement of which much attention is paid; those on the lower pastures are of a mixed breed between the Cheviot and the Leicestershire. Above 1600 stones of wool are annually produced for sale. About seventy cows are kept in the parish, and 120 head of young cattle: a few horses are reared for agricultural purposes. The annual value of real property in the parish is £5171. Wood formerly abounded in some parts, and there are still scattered remains of ancient forests; but the woods have been nearly all cut down, and very few trees, if any, have been planted in their place. The plantations are chiefly of recent formation: those of Chester House have attained considerable growth; and the younger plantations at Greenhill, and in the vicinity of the village, are in a thriving state, and, when mature, will add greatly to the beauty of the scenery. There are also some well-grown trees in the hedge-rows, including oak, ash, elm, and beech; and birch, hazel, alder, and mountain-ash appear to be indigenous to the soil. The plantations are mostly plane, Scotch fir, and larch. In this district the rocks are principally of porphyry formation, and in the cavities are found grey amethyst, rock-crystal, calcareous spar, quartz, agates, and jasper; the two last afford some very beautiful specimens. The substrata in the lower parts are chiefly clay, gravel, and sand. Greenhill, a seat of the Duke of Roxburghe's, is a handsome and spacious mansion, beautifully situated in grounds tastefully laid out, and embellished with shrubberies and ornamental plantations.

The village, which is of considerable antiquity, is pleasingly seated on the eastern bank of the Kale water, and at the base of a gently rising ground, which gradually terminates in a hill of considerable height. It consists of a substantial inn, and a few dwelling-houses, each of two stories, and all lately rebuilt. Almost adjoining it, is a neat range of houses which may be regarded as a continuation of the hamlet. Fairs are held on the Oxnam side of the parish, on the 31st July and 15th October, for lambs and ewes, and they are well attended. Facility of intercourse with the market-towns is afforded by various good roads that pass through the parish, and by handsome and substantial bridges lately erected over the different streams, and all of which are kept in excellent repair. For ecclesiastical purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Jedburgh, synod of Merse and Teviotdale: patron, Sir George Warrender, Bart. The stipend of the incumbent is about £206; the manse, erected in 1776, and enlarged and repaired in 1832, is a tolerably comfortable residence, and the glebe comprises about nine acres, valued at £11 per annum. Hounam church is very ancient, and was formerly a cruciform structure; but it has been curtailed in its proportions, and is at present a plain rectangular building, adapted for a congregation of not more than 200 persons. The parochial school affords education to about thirty children; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average £11. There are traces of ancient camps in various parts: the Roman road called the "Street" passes through the parish; and on some rising ground near the village, overlooking the Kale water, are the remains of an old fort, which has given the name of Chester House to the lands on which it is situated. On Hounam-Mains farm are distinct traces of a very extensive circular intrenchment called the Rings; likewise part of a circle of upright stones, supposed to be Druidical; and in several parts of the parish are similar stones, of large dimensions, in detached situations. There are also some cairns, which are thought to have been raised over the tombs of warriors killed in battle.

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