Historical description of Roxburghshire, Scotland

ROXBURGHSHIRE, an inland county, in the south of Scotland, bounded on the north by Berwickshire, on the east by Berwickshire and the English county of Northumberland, on the south by Dumfries-shire and the counties of Cumberland and Northumberland, and on the west by Dumfries-shire, Selkirk, and Edinburgh or Mid-Lothian. It lies between 55° 6' 40" and 55° 42' 52" (N. Lat.), and 1° 39' and 2° 36' (W. Long.), and is thirty-eight miles in length and twenty-eight miles in breadth; comprising an area of 696 square miles, or 445,440 acres; and containing 9019 houses, of which number 8661 are inhabited; and a population of 46,025, of whom 21,941 are males and 24,084 females. This county, including Teviotdale and Liddesdale, was originally inhabited by the Gadeni and Ottadini, of whom the former possessed the western portion, and the latter the eastern, which was of inferior extent. Of the numerous fortresses erected by those warlike tribes on the heights, the chief, on the Eildon hills towards the north, was subsequently converted by the Romans into a station near the line of their military road, which passed along the eastern base of these hills to the river Tweed. During the border warfare, the county participated greatly in the frequent hostilities that took place, and was alternately in the possession of the English and the Scots; and the continued battles in which they were engaged appear to have fostered a warlike spirit in the inhabitants, many of whom fought under the banner of David I. in 1138 at the battle of the Standard, in which the men of Teviotdale were distinguished for their valour. The county was anciently included in the diocese of Lindisfarne, and subsequently in that of Glasgow; it is at present mostly in the synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and comprises several presbyteries, and thirty-two parishes. For civil purposes, it is divided into the four districts of Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, and Hawick, in each of which the magistrates hold courts quarterly, or oftener, as occasion may require. It contains the royal burgh of Jedburgh, which is the county town; the market-towns of Hawick, Kelso, and Melrose, and part of the town of Galashiels. Under the act of the 2nd William IV., the shire returns a member to the imperial parliament; the number of persons qualified to vote is about 2000.

The SURFACE, though comprising some fine tracts of level land, is mountainous towards the south, and is throughout strikingly diversified with hills, generally of pleasing aspect, and covered with verdure to their summits. In the north and centre the principal heights are, Ruberslaw, which has an elevation of 1419 feet; the Eildon hills, terminating in three conical summits, the highest of which has an elevation of 1330 feet; the Dunian hills, which rise to the height of 1021 feet; the Minto, of which the two summits are flat, and 858 feet high; and various other hills of inferior height. The Carter Fell, on the confines of Northumberland, has an elevation of 1602; and the Millenwood Fell and the Windhead rise to 2000, feet. About two-fifths of the land are arable and the remainder chiefly sheep-pasture; with about 8000 acres in woodland and plantations. Among the rivers are the Tweed and the Teviot. Of these the Tweed enters the county at Faldanside, and flows along the vale of Melrose, then forms part of the northern boundary of Roxburghshire, and afterwards runs through the north-eastern part of the county, which it leaves at Redden; it receives the streams of the Gala, the Liddel, the Allan, the Eden, and the Ettrick. The Teviot, after winding along richly cultivated valleys for nearly fifty-four miles, falls into the Tweed between Roxburgh Castle and Kelso; it receives the streams of the Ale, the Slitrig, the Borthwick, the Kale, the Oxnam, the Rule, the Allan, and the Jed. The Hermitage, which has its source near the Millenwood Fell, flows into the Liddel near Castleton. There are no minerals peculiar to the county; the substrata are mainly greywacke, the coal formation, red sandstone, and trap. Greywacke and greywacke-slate prevail in the whole of the western portion except Liddesdale, and form most of the hills in that district; the coal formation occupies all Liddesdale. The red sandstone is found in the middle and northern parts of the county; sandstone, also, of white colour, occurs in some places: both are extensively quarried. The trap rocks, which form the higher hills, consist of greenstone, basalt, trap-tuffa, amygdaloid, and porphyries of various kinds, of which the felspar, usually of a reddish brown colour, is the most prevalent. The principal manufactures are those of woollen cloth, flannels, blankets, and stockings and worsted pieces; employing a large number of persons: tanning and skinning are carried on to some extent, and there is a manufacture of coloured thread. The annual value of the real property in the county, as assessed to the income-tax, is £284,204, of which £235,041 are returned for lands, £48,684 for houses, £298 for quarries, and the remainder for fisheries. Facility of communication is maintained by the Edinburgh and Hawick railway and the Kelso and Berwick railway, and by good roads, which have been much improved, and are kept in excellent repair. British forts and Roman camps are numerous in various parts of the county, which is intersected from north to south by the Roman road into North Britain, called the Watling-street. Roxburghshire contains the ruins of some important castles, and is still more remarkable for its monastic structures: the abbeys of Jedburgh and Melrose stood at the head of their class, both for wealth and architectural grandeur, and the abbey of Kelso was an institution of almost equal dignity.

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