UK Genealogy Archives logo

Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

Historical Description

JEDBURGH, a burgh, market-town, and parish, in the district of Jedburgh, county of Roxburgh, of which it is the capital, 11 miles (S. W. by S.) from Kelso, and 49 (S. E. by S.) from the city of Edinburgh; containing, with the villages of Bongate, Bonjedward, Lanton, and Ulston, 5116 inhabitants, of whom 2697 are in the town. This place derives its name, originally Jedworth or Jedwood, from its situation on the river Jed, which rises on the north side of the Carlin Tooth, in the Cheviot range, and after flowing with considerable rapidity through nearly the whole length of the parish, and receiving in its course numerous tributary streams that descend from the higher lands into the vale of the Jed, falls into the river Teviot about two miles and a half to the north of Jedburgh. From the name of the river, in ancient records frequently called Ged or Gad, the place is thought to have been the principal seat of the Gadeni, who occupied the district lying between the county of Northumberland and the river Teviot. The ancient town, now called Old Jedworth in contradistinction to the present burgh, from which it is about four miles distant, appears to have originated in the foundation of a chapel by Ecgred, Bishop of Lindisfarn, who died in 845; and there are still some slight remains of the walls of the building, and of the tombstones in the cemetery, though scarcely above the level of the ground, and perfectly hidden by the grass by which they are overspread.

The present town owes its origin to the foundation of the magnificent abbey of Jedburgh. This establishment is, by some historians, said to have been founded in 1118, and by others in 1147; but from the great antiquity of some parts of the structure, and also from old documents in which St. Kennock is mentioned as abbot in the year 1000, it is supposed to have existed prior to the time of David I., by whom it was probably rebuilt or enlarged. From the situation of Jedburgh as a border town, it was exposed to continual depredations, and was frequently plundered and reduced to ashes. It suffered materially during the invasion of Scotland by Edward I., and subsequently by the incursions of hostile clans; the abbey was burnt and pillaged by the Earl of Surrey in 1523, and by the Earl of Hertford in 1545. In 1566, Mary, Queen of Scots, attended by an armed retinue, held a court of justice at this place, for the suppression of the turbulence of the borderers; and, being seized with a dangerous illness during her continuance here, resided in "the house of the Lord Compositor" till her recovery, when she returned along the eastern borders to Dunbar. In 1575, a severe affray, called the "Raid of the Reed Swire", happened here: it was the last of those hostile feuds which so frequently took place between the borderers of Scotland and England; and since its occurrence the only event deserving of historical notice, has been the temporary alarm created by the arrival of the Pretender and his Highland troops in 1745.

From its exposed situation, the town was strongly defended by castles, and numerous other fortifications; and the forest in its immediate vicinity was the rendezvous of armies. The Castle of Jedburgh was of great antiquity, though the precise time of its erection, and the name of its original founder, are unknown; it was a place of much strength, and the favourite seat of Malcolm IV., who died here in 1165. This castle was the frequent residence, likewise, of many others of the kings, among whom were William the Lion, Alexander II., and also Alexander III., whose son, Alexander, was born here in 1263, and who, after the death of his children, celebrated in the castle with unusual pomp his marriage with Jolande, daughter of the Count of Dreux. During the wars between the two kingdoms, it was often an object of contest: after the battle of Durham, it was taken by the English, who kept possession of the castle till 1409, when it was retaken by the Scots, by whom it was afterwards demolished. The Castle of Fernihirst, situated on the eastern bank of the river Jed, about two miles from Jedburgh, is supposed to have been founded by the ancestors of the Marquess of Lothian. It was taken in 1523, by the Earl of Surrey, and remained in the hands of the English till 1547, when, after an obstinate siege, it was retaken by the Scots, assisted by a party of French at that time stationed at Jedburgh. In 1569, the Earl of Westmorland, who had entered into a rebellion against Elizabeth, in favour of Mary, after the dispersion of his troops took refuge in the castle, where he remained in concealment till he finally effected his escape into the Netherlands. In the year following, the castle, in consequence of its owner having joined with others of the border chiefs, in an irruption into the English pale, was taken and demolished by the Earl of Sussex and Sir John Foster; but it was rebuilt in 1598, and part of it still remains entire. After the destruction of Jedburgh Castle, the town was defended by six towers, none of which, however, are remaining; and numerous other fortifications were scattered through the parish, of which the tower at Lanton, and the ruins of another at Timpandean, are still left.

The TOWN is pleasingly situated in the picturesque and fertile valley of the river Jed, over which, within the parish, are nine bridges. Of these, one at the foot of the Canongate, handsomely built of stone, and having three ribbed circular arches, is of great antiquity, supposed to be coeval with the abbey, and had formerly a gateway over the centre, long since removed. The bridge near Bongate is of modern erection; near it is a large stone, sculptured with representations of various animals, and inscribed with nearly obliterated characters, and which is supposed to have been the pedestal of the ancient cross of Bongate. The house in which Queen Mary resided during her illness is still entire; it is a spacious building with walls of great thickness, and some of the ancient tapestry is yet preserved: the house is at present the property of the Lindsay family, by whom it was purchased from the Scotts of Ancrura. The streets are spacious and regularly formed, the houses in general well built; and in the immediate neighbourhood of the town are many handsome villas. There are three public libraries, one of which, called the Company's Library, contains a very extensive collection; also a circulating library and a reading-room, and two public reading-rooms. The principal trade is the manufacture of blankets, flannels, tartans, shawls, plaidings, hosiery, woollen-yarn, and carpets, affording constant employment to nearly 400 persons. There are also foundries for brass and iron, and a manufactory for printing-presses, in which latter about twenty persons are engaged. Jedburgh has two branch banks, one a branch of the Linen Company, and the other of the National Bank; likewise a savings' bank for the district of Jedburgh, including the parishes of Jedburgh, Ancrum, Bedrule, Southdean, Hobkirk, Minto, Oxnam, and Crailing, established by Mr. Rutherford of Edgerston, in 1815, and the expenses of which are defrayed from a fund raised by subscription. The market is held weekly on Tuesday, for grain, which is sold by sample to a very considerable amount, and for other business. There is a market for cattle and sheep on the second Thursday of each month, from December until May, both inclusive. A market for the hiring of hinds is holden on the first Tuesday of March, and one for hiring servants on the Tuesday on or before the 16th of May. Whitsuntide fair, for cattle and horses, is held on the first Tuesday after the 26th of May; Lady-day fair, for cattle and horses, and for hiring shearers, on the Tuesday on or before the 20th of August; Rood-day fair, for cattle and horses, on the 25th of September, excepting when the 25th falls on the Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, in which case it is held on the Tuesday; and Rite or Martinmas fair, for cattle and horses, and for hiring servants, on the Tuesday before the 22nd of November. There are also large fairs for sheep, at Rink, in the parish, seven miles from the town, on July 12th and October 15th, which are numerously attended by farmers, and dealers in wool, both of Scotland and England. In 1846 an act was passed authorizing the construction of a branch railway from Roxburgh to the town of Jedburgh, in connexion with the Kelso branch (sanctioned by parliament the same year) of the Edinburgh and Hawick railway.

The various charters by which the BURGH was originally incorporated were all destroyed during the wars with England, in the course of which the town was frequently burned; but they were renewed and confirmed by Queen Mary, in 1556, when the magistrates were invested with the power of apprehending, and passing sentence upon, criminals guilty of capital offences. By another charter, James VI., in 1569, granted to the corporation all the revenues of the abbey of Jedburgh arising within the parish, for the purpose of erecting hospitals for the support of the poor and infirm, and for other pious uses. This gift was ratified by parliament in 1597; and a further charter was bestowed by Charles II., in 1641. By these charters, the government of the burgh is vested in a provost, four bailies, a dean of guild, and a number of councillors: the incorporated trades consist of the smiths, weavers, shoemakers, masons, tailors, wrights, butchers, and glovers. The revenues above-mentioned are not now held by the magistrates. Under the act for amending the representation, the burgh unites with Haddington, North Berwick, Lauder, and Dunbar, in returning one member to parliament. The original boundary has been changed by the inclusion of a considerable suburb on the south side of the river, and the exclusion of a few acres of uninhabited land: the number of houses of the value of £10 and upwards is 208, and of those above £5 and below £10, sixty-eight. In addition to their control within the burgh, the magistrates exercise jurisdiction over the great fair of St. James, near Kelso, where they preside at a court to take cognizance of offences during the fair. A bailie-court, and a court of the dean of guild, are held in Jedburgh; but since the small-debt sheriffs court, and that of the justices of peace, have been established, the burgh courts have greatly declined. The chief officer under the corporation is the town-clerk, who holds his office for life. The county-hall is a neat building of stone, containing the necessary apartments for transacting the public business of the county and the burgh. What is called the Castle, comprising the gaol and bridewell, is a handsome edifice, well arranged for classification, and containing day-rooms, airing-yards, and every requisite for the health, cleanliness, and comfort of the prisoners.

The PARISH, which is divided into two detached portions by the intervening parishes of Oxnam and Southdean, is bounded on the north by the parish of Ancrum, on the west by the parishes of Bedrule and Southdean, on the east by Oxnam, Crailing, and Eckford, and on the south by the county of Northumberland. The lower portion, in which the burgh is situated, is about seven miles in length and five in breadth, and the upper portion five miles in length and four in breadth, including together an area of about thirty-eight square miles. The eastern part of the lower portion is intersected by the river Oxnam, and the northern part bounded by the Teviot. The surface is pleasingly diversified with hills and valleys: the high grounds on the sides of the vale of Jed are penetrated by deep ravines, and in some places gradually attain an elevation of 300 feet above the level of the river. In the upper part of the parish are several green hills of conical form, two of which, rising to the height of 1021 feet, are apparently lessened from their proximity to Carter Fell, one of the Cheviot hills, which has an elevation of more than 2000 feet. The Dunian, the highest hill in the parish, but the summit of which is in the parish of Bedrule, attains an elevation of 1120 feet above the level of the sea. Some remains of the ancient forest of Jed, consisting of a few clusters of birch-trees, still exist near Fernihirst; and considerable plantations, which have now attained a luxuriant growth, add much to the beauty of the scenery. Two oaks, also, of the ancient forest are yet left, near the town: one, rising to the height of ninety-nine feet, measures fourteen feet in girth; and the other, which has less height, but branches out more widely, is twenty-one feet in girth at three feet from the ground. Forest-trees of every kind grow well in the lower lands; in the higher, Scotch fir and larch are the prevalent trees. From the old stocks in the forest, which was cut down in the last century, many new trees have arisen; and the whole district abounds in timber.

The SOIL is peculiarly favourable for the growth of fruit-trees; and pears in great variety, and of the finest quality, are produced in abundance. The land, especially in the lower districts, is fertile, and of good quality, and the system of agriculture is much improved; considerable tracts of waste have been reclaimed within the last thirty years, and at present the number of acres under tillage is 14,281, in pasture 6930, and in wood 2483. The prevailing plan of husbandry is the five-shift, consisting of two white and three green crops. The fences and inclosures are kept in excellent order, and the farm-buildings are commodious and in good repair. Many improvements have been made in draining and planting, and in the breed of stock, under an association called the Farmers' Club; and the Roxburgh Horticultural Society hold monthly meetings in the town from the beginning of April to the end of September, for the distribution of prizes to the most successful growers of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Limestone of excellent quality abounds in the southern parts of the parish; and near the town are several strata ranged above each other, one of which is nine inches in thickness. Coal exists, and there are appearances of its having been formerly worked; but some recent attempts to procure it have been discontinued. There are quarries of sandstone of a white, and of a reddish colour. Iron-ore is found in a bed three feet in thickness, occurring between the primary and secondary formations, which near the town are seen in combination; the strata of the former are vertical and in many places irregular, and of the latter horizontal, alternating with red freestone and soft sandstone of the same colour. Several of the hills are of whinstone, resting on sandstone. In this parish the chief seats are Edgerston, Mossburnford, Langlee, Lintalee, Hundalee, Glenburn Hall, Hunthill, Stewartfield, and Bonjedward. The annual value of real property in the parish of Jedburgh is £22,370.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Jedburgh, of which this is the seat, and of the synod of Merse and Teviotdale; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the incumbent averages about £300, with a manse, built in 1806; and the glebe comprises seven acres of arable land worth £5 per acre, and pasture land that lets for £13. 13. The church is part of the ancient abbey, of which the western portion of the nave has been fitted up for public worship, and affords accommodation to 910 persons. Of that stately and magnificent structure, situated on the sloping bank of the river Jed, near the southern extremity of the town, the only remains are the nave, the north transept, and the choir of the church, a cruciform building 230 feet in length, with a massive central tower rising to the height of 100 feet, and surmounted by a projecting battlement crowned with turrets and pinnacles. The western entrance is strikingly beautiful, consisting of a lofty Norman doorway of deeply-recessed arches, springing from slender clustered columns, richly moulded and elaborately ornamented. Above the doorway is a spacious window of three compartments, of which the central arch is circular, and the others finely pointed; and in the gable is a round window of very elegant design. The nave, 130 feet in length, is separated on each side from the aisles by a series of lofty arches supported on clustered columns with sculptured capitals: the triforium consists of semicircular arches richly moulded, circumscribing two pointed windows of elegant tracery; and the clerestory, of a range of pointed windows of graceful proportions. The choir, which is greatly dilapidated, is of more ancient character. Its roof is supported on massive pillars, from which spring broad circular arches of the earlier Norman style, ornamented with zigzag mouldings; the triforium is of similar character, surmounted by a range of sharply-pointed clerestory windows of later date. The north transept, which is still entire, is embellished with windows of elegant design, highly enriched with tracery; and the principal window is of lofty dimensions and of great beauty. The south transept, the cloisters, the chapter-house, and other conventual buildings, have all disappeared; but a doorway, forming the south entrance to the church from the cloisters, is still remaining, an almost unrivalled specimen of architectural beauty and elaborate decoration. On the south side of the choir is a chapel, formerly used as a grammar school. There are three neat places of worship in connexion with the United Presbyterian Church, a place of worship for members of the Free Church, and a particularly beautiful Episcopal chapel.

The United Schools of Jedburgh, consisting of the grammar-school and the burgh English school, united in 1804, contain about 150 children, and are under the superintendence of the heritors and the magistrates of the burgh, by whom the rector is appointed. The rector receives from the burgh £21. 6. 8., and £12 for the English school, for which he is bound to keep an assistant; also £8. 6. 8. from the heritors, making a total salary of £41. 13. 4. The school fees amount on the average to £120, and the offerings at Candlemas to nearly £30; the rector has also a commodious house and garden. Two parochial schools, at Lanton and Rink, are well attended; the masters are allowed by the heritors £11. 2. each. There is also an infants' school endowed by the Marquess of Lothian. The town has two religious societies, one for the diffusion of education, and the other for imparting religious knowledge; they are supported by subscriptions, amounting on an average to £15. A dispensary was founded in 1807, chiefly by donations from the Kerr family, and is maintained by annual subscriptions: a commodious house, with baths and other requisites, was erected in 1822, by the then Marquess of Lothian. The number of patients, who are received from the parishes of Jedburgh, Ancrum, Bedrule, Southdean, Hobkirk, Minto, Oxnam, and Crailing, amounts annually to about 220. A sum of money arising from accumulated legacies, chiefly by Lady Yester, a daughter of Ker of Fernihirst, produces an interest of £23, appropriated to the education of poor children, and to the relief of the poor, for whose benefit also about £40 are annually collected at the church. The poor are chiefly maintained by assessments.

A Roman road, crossing the Jed and the Teviot about half a mile above their junction, intersects the northern part of the parish within two miles of the town; it is paved with whinstone, and in a state of good preservation. There are also vestiges of an ancient road leading over the high ground from Ancrum bridge to the town. Near Mouklaw are the remains of a Roman camp about 160 yards square; and there are traces of camps at Howdean, Swinnie, Scraesburgh, Camptown, and Fernihirst, but nearly obliterated by the progress of cutivation. At Lintalee are the remains of an encampment formed by Douglas for the defence of the frontier, during the absence of Bruce in Ireland, and celebrated for a memorable engagement in which the Earl of Richmond, who had invaded Scotland at the head of 10,000 men, fell in a personal combat with Douglas: the double rampart by which it was defended is still remaining. In the face of the precipice below the camp, and now inaccessible, is a cavern dug in the rocky bank of the river Jed; and at Hundalee and Mossburnford are similar caverns, excavated in the rock as places of refuge, and for the concealment of property during the frequent irruptions of the English borderers. In the year 1827, many ancient coins of silver, chiefly of the reign of Ethelred, and one of the reign of Canute, were found in a field near Bongate, with a ring formed of silver wire; some of the coins are at present in the possession of Mr. Bainbridge, of Gattonside, but most of them are widely dispersed. A number of coins of the reigns of Edred, Edwy, Ethelred, Edward I. and III., and of Henry I. and II., have been also found, near the abbey bridge; and some Roman coins are said to have been discovered at Stewartfield. A horn was discovered near Swinnie within the last few years, containing silver coins of the reign of James V.; and in the year 1834, about 400 silver coins of the reigns of Henry VIII., James V., Robert III., and Mary, Queen of Scots, were ploughed up near the farm-house of that place. A silver coin, or medal, commemorating the marriage of Mary, with the Dauphin of France, was not long since found at Larkhall. On one side are combined the letters F. and M., surmounted by a crown, with the inscription Fecit utraque unum 1558; on the other are the arms of Scotland impaled with those of the Dauphin, and the inscription Fran, et Ma. D. G. R. R. Scotor. D. D. Vien. Arrow-heads of flint are occasionally dug up on Howdean moor, which is reported to have been the scene of a battle; and a camp-kettle, which was presented to the late Sir Walter Scott by Mr. Rutherford, was found at Edgerston.

In 1815, a sarcophagus of stone, formed of unhewn slabs, four feet six inches in length, and two feet six inches in breadth, containing a large urn and three of smaller size, one of which was full of pure water, was found in a garden on the west side of the High-street. The large urn, near which were parts of skulls, was of very elegant form; two of the smaller urns crumbled into dust on being touched. In the same garden, which is in some records called the Temple Garden, were discovered the foundations of ancient buildings, at a depth of six feet below the surface. A trophy taken from the English at the battle of Bannockburn, and another from the Highlanders at Killiecrankie, are in the possession of the corporate body of weavers; and another, taken from the English at the battle of Newburn, in that of the shoemakers. The inhabitants of Jedburgh, and of the forest, constantly accustomed to warfare, were a brave and hardy race; and their valour is recorded by the Earl of Surrey, in his despatches to Henry VIII. respecting the storming of Jedburgh. Their favourite weapon was the Jedworth axe, and their war-cry, "Jedworth's here". At Tudhope, about half a mile from the town, is a spring strongly impregnated with sulphur and iron, and found very ellicacious in scorbutic disorders: there are chalybeate springs in several parts of the parish, and at Gilliestongues is a petrifying spring.

Among the eminent persons of this place were numerous abbots of Jedburgh, successors to St. Kennock, who held various high offices of trust and importance under the kings of Scotland, and were greatly distinguished by their learning and talents. Adam Bell, a brother of the Carmelite convent, who died here, was the author of a history of Scotland from the earliest period to the year 1535, entitled Rota Temporum. John Rutherford, principal of St. Salvator's college, St. Andrew's, and author of a work on the Art of Reasoning, was a native of the town. Samuel Rutherford, principal of St. Mary's college, St. Andrew's, and author of the Letters, who was born in an adjoining parish, received his early education in the grammar school of Jedburgh; as did also the poet Thomson; and among distinguished natives may be named Andrew Young, regent of philosophy in the university of Edinburgh, and Sir David Brewster.

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