Historical description of Peeblesshire, Scotland

PEEBLESSHIRE, or TWEEDDALE, an inland county, in the southern part of Scotland, bounded on the north by Edinburghshire, on the east by Selkirkshire and Edinburghshire, on the south by the county of Dumfries, and on the west by Lanarkshire. It lies between 55° 24' and 55° 50' (N. Lat.) and 2° 45' and 3° 23' (W. Long.), and is thirty miles in length and twenty-two miles in extreme breadth; comprising an area of about 360 square miles, or 234,400 acres; 2275 houses, of which 2118 are inhabited; and containing a population of 10,499, of whom 5118 are males and 5381 females. This county takes the name of Peebles from its principal town, and the name of Tweeddale, the more ancient and descriptive, from its chief river, the Tweed, which divides it into two nearly equal parts, flowing in a winding course along an ample vale of great fertility and beauty. It appears to have been originally inhabited by the Gadeni, a British tribe, who maintained their independence against the attempts of the Romans to reduce them under their authority; and who, after the abdication of the Roman government, associated themselves with the Britons of Strathclyde, descendants of the ancient Damnii. During the frequent aggressions of the Picts they continued to retain their distinction as a people; and, secured by their extensive forests, they maintained their power against the invasion of the Saxons of the south, long after the conquest of the Picts by the Scottish kings, till they became identified with the emigrants from the coasts of Ireland, who, settling in the peninsula of Cantyre, were soon mingled with the native inhabitants.

Afterwards, a party of Anglo-Saxons, under Eadulph, who had settled in Lothian, established themselves in the valley of Eddlestone, where they obtained a permanent settlement, and built a town to which they gave the name of their chieftain; and from these are descended many of the most ancient families in the county. During the wars consequent on the disputed succession to the Scottish throne on the death of Alexander III., the county became subject to Edward I. of England; but being rescued from the English yoke by the valour and intrepidity of Sir William Douglas, it maintained its independence till it again submitted to the English after the battle of Neville's Cross. Upon the restoration of David II., however, its independence was finally secured. For many years this part of the country suffered from incursions during the border warfare; and many of its gentry who attended James IV. to the battle of Flodden Field, fell in that disastrous conflict. Prior to the abolition of episcopacy, the county formed part of the diocese of Glasgow; it has since been included in the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and comprises the presbytery of Peebles, and fourteen parishes. For civil purposes the county was originally under the jurisdiction of two sheriffs, one of whom resided at Traquair, and the other at Peebles; but since the abolition of heritable jurisdictions, it has been under one sheriff only, by whom a sheriff-substitute is appointed, and who holds his several courts at Peebles, which is the shire town. Besides Peebles, the only royal burgh in the county, it contains Linton, a burgh of barony; the villages of Innerleithen, Carlops, Eddlestone, Skirling, and Broughton, and a few inconsiderable hamlets. By the act of the 2nd of William IV., it returns one member to the imperial parliament.

In general the surface is hilly and mountainous, with intervening tracts of level and fertile land. The most mountainous district is on the south side of the Tweed, towards the source of which the hills are usually covered with verdure, but towards the confines of Selkirk are of bleak and barren aspect. Most of the hills in the other parts of the county are easy of ascent, and afford good pasturage for cattle and sheep; they are chiefly of conical form, and several of them are cultivated to a considerable height above the base. The principal rivers are the Tweed, the Lyne, the Peebles or Eddlestone, and the Leithen. Of these the Tweed has its source in a spring in Tweedsmuir, towards the western extremity of the county, which has an elevation of 1500 feet above the level of the sea; it takes a winding course eastward between banks richly wooded, and, flowing through the most romantic parts of the county into that of Selkirk, ultimately falls into the German Ocean at Berwick. The Lyne has its source near the western extremity of the Pentland hills, on the northern confines of the county; taking a direction southward, it passes the village of Linton, to which it gives name, and, after a course of about fifteen miles, joins the Tweed about three miles above Peebles, the county town. The Peebles or Eddlestone water rises near the south-west boundary of Edinburghshire, and after a rapid course, in which it turns several mills, falls into the Tweed at Peebles. The Leithen water has its source in the north-east of the county; flows through the village of Innerleithen, to which it gives its name; and falls into the Tweed opposite to Traquair House. Of several smaller streams tributary to the Tweed, the Manor and the Quair are the principal; and the Megget water, flowing through the district of that name, falls into St. Mary's loch, in the county of Selkirk. There are some lakes, but none of sufficient importance to require particular notice, except the lake of Eddlestone, as being the source of the river South Esk, which flows into the North Esk at Dalkeith, in the county of Edinburgh.

Not more than 35,000 acres are arable, about 8000 meadow and pasture, and the remainder moorland, hill pasture, woodland, plantations, and waste. The soil on the level lands is chiefly a sandy loam, interspersed with tracts of richer loam resting on a gravelly bottom; on the skirts and acclivities of the hills, a loose friable earth, with a mixture of clay in some parts; and in other places, unprofitable moss and moor. The crops are barky, oats, potatoes, turnips, and a small quantity of wheat. In the level districts the farms have a larger proportion of arable land, and those in the hilly districts a larger proportion of pasture. The system of agriculture is in an improved state; the lower lands have been well drained, and are inclosed partly with fences of stone and Galloway dykes, but chiefly with hedges of thorn and ditches, and the plantations with mounds of earth. The farm houses and offices of the larger tenants are substantial and commodious, the former roofed with slate, and the latter with tiles. Lime is found only in the northern part of the county, and is but little employed in farming, for which purpose farm-dung and various composts are used. Few cattle are pastured, the hill pastures being chiefly appropriated to sheep, of which more than 100,000 are reared; they are chiefly of the Cheviot breed, and great numbers are sent to the English markets. Though anciently abounding with timber, and celebrated as the resort of the Scottish kings for hunting in the forests, there are now scarcely more than twenty acres of natural wood in the county. Within the last thirty or forty years, however, extensive plantations have been every where made; many of the hills, formerly of barren aspect, are now crowned with thriving trees, and the banks of the rivers richly wooded. The plantations are of oak, ash, elm, beech, and Scotch, silver, and spruce firs; but of the firs the Scotch only, of which there are very large tracts, appears to thrive well.

In this county the principal substrata are whinstone and freestone, of which the former is by far the more abundant, and of which most of the houses are built: coal is found towards the north-east extremity of the county, but not under circumstances favourable to the working of it. At Stobo is a quarry of blue slate of fine quality, which is extensively wrought, and the produce sent to Edinburgh and other parts of the country. The seats are Traquair House, Cardrona, Kailzie, Cringletie, King's Meadows, Hallyards, Darnhall, Pirn, Scotstown, Romanno, the Whim, La Mancha, Stobo Castle, New Posso, Quarter, Polmood, Portmore, Callends, Castle-Craig, Cairnmuir, Mossfennan, Rachan, Broughton Place, the Glen, and various other residences. The chief manufactures are, those of carpets, serge, and coarse woollen-cloths, to a very limited extent; and the weaving of linen and cotton for the manufacturers of Glasgow. In general the population is pastoral and agricultural, and very little attention has been paid to any other pursuits, though the county possesses many requisites for the establishment of various branches of manufacture. Facility of communication is afforded by roads kept in good repair. The annual value of real property in the county is £74,810, of which £67,675 are returned for lands, £6247 for houses, £628 for quarries, and the rest for mines. Among the antiquities are the remains of numerous peel-houses, of which in some instances several are found within the limits of a single parish. There are considerable remains of baronial castles, the most important of which are those of Neidpath, Oliver Castle, Henderland, and Drochil; the sites of camps, chiefly of Danish origin, and of one thought to be Roman, near which a handsome vase of bronze was discovered; a few slight Druidical remains; and some tumuli. Stone coffins containing human bones have been found; also battle-axes and other military weapons; some Roman coins; and, near Cairnmuir, a chain of twisted gold with some gold-beads, supposed to have been worn by the Celtic chieftains. Remains exist of ancient religious houses; and other monuments of antiquity are noticed under the names of the several parishes in which they occur.

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