*Innerleithen *Contents

Innerleithen (parish)

The following lengthy account of the parish was printed in the Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by John Marius Wilson and published by A. Fullarton & Co. in 1868.

Innerleithen, a parish partly in Selkirkshire, but chiefly in Peebles-shire; and containing in the latter section, a post-office village of its own name.  It is bounded, on the north-east, by Edinburghshire and the Selkirkshire part of Stow; on the south, by the Tweed, which divides it from Yarrow parish in Selkirkshire and Traquair parish in Peebles-shire; and on the west, by the parishes of Peebles and Eddlestone.  It has a somewhat triangular outline; and measures, along the northeast side, 11 1/4 miles,--along the south side, 7 1/4 miles,--and, along the west side, 6 miles.  The Selkirkshire section is a stripe on the south-east side, ascending 5 1/2 miles from the Tweed, with a breadth of from 7 furlongs to 2 1/2 miles.  The surface of the entire parish gradually rises from the Tweed to the northern extremity, and has, in general, a broken, rugged, and precipitous appearance.  Hills, forming part of the broad range which diverges at an acute angle from the central chain of the southern Highlands at the Hartfell group, and runs northeastward to St. Abb's head, and attaining here, in many of their summits, the elevation of about 1,000 feet above sea-level, crowd nearly the whole area, and, in some places, leave, in their interstices, scarcely sufficient space for the breadth of a road.  The highest ground is Windlestrae-law, 1 3/4 mile from the boundary with Edinburghshire, and 3/4 from the nearest point of the north-east boundary of the parish, yet standing on the boundary line between Peebles-shire and Selkirkshire.  The hills are cloven asunder from north to south by several deep glens, each bringing down the tribute of a crystal stream to the Tweed.  The largest of the rivulets is the Leithen, which, rising within 3/4 of a mile of the north-west angle, and running 5 1/2 miles south-eastward, and 3 1/2 miles southward, cuts the parish into two not very unequal parts, and contributes the main quota of its name.  Craighope-burn, 1 1/2 mile in length of course, Woolandslee-burn, 2 3/4 miles in length, all rising close on the north-eastern boundary, come down in a south-westerly direction upon the Leithen in the upper or south-easterly part of the course, and, in common with their mimic tributaries, find their way along cleughs or glens.  Spittlehope-burn rises on the side of Carcsman hill, and after a course of 3/4 of a mile in the parish, forms, for 1 3/4 mile, the boundary with Peebles, and then falls into the Tweed.  Another streamlet, parallel to this, 1 1/2 mile eastward of it, and 2 3/4 miles in length of course; Walker's burn, 1 1/2 mile eastward of the Leithen, and 3 miles in length; and Gatehope-burn, 1 3/4 mile farther to the east, and 3 3/4 miles in length,--all pursue a southerly course to the Tweed, and, along with Leithen water and Spittlehope-burn, cleave the lower part of the parish into nearly regular sections, divided from one another by parallel glens.  The course of the Tweed, in majestic sweeps along the southern boundary, especially for 3 1/2 miles above the influx of the Leithen, and over some distance below it, is exquisitely beautiful.  Along its 4 miles above the  confluence of the rivers, are level stripes of very rich haugh; behind these are narrow borders of gravelly loam, skirting the foot of the hills; and farther back, gentle ascents, waving with corn or covered with plantation, lead the eye gradually upward to an array of rocky or heath-clad summits, chequered and patched on their sides with verdure.  Though, in passing along the Tweed from Kelso to Peebles, a stranger might suppose the interior to be a hilly wilderness of rocks and desolation, yet the southern exposure of the general surface occasions the growth of much excellent sheep-pasturage.  Estimating the whole area at somewhat more than 30,000 acres, nearly 26,000 are enclosed and constant sheepwalk, about 2,500 have been occasionally in tillage, nearly 550 are under wood, chiefly plantations of oak, larch, and elm, and about 1,500 are in a waste condition, or carelessly open for sheep.

All the farms of the parish, with two exceptions, are pastoral, having either limited scope or none for the use of the plough; and, for the most part, are of large extent.  About 16,000 black-faced and Cheviot sheep, much improved in the breed, and nearly 400 black cattle, feed upon the pastures.  The sheep-walks, though elevated, are much valued by the farmer as sure spring-ground, and produce a vegetation, which, both for its earliness and its succulency, gives sustenance to the sheep just at the time when they most need to be rallied from the wasting effects of the winter, and when the dam needs nourishment for her tender brood.  In the arable parts of the parish the most fertile soil is that part of the haughs formed by the subsidence of the Tweed and the Leithen; and, in consequence of this being occasionally flooded by the rivers, the most manageable is the gravelly loam on the hanging plains behind, formed, in the course of ages, by the decomposing action of the atmosphere on the rocks and the decay of vegetable substances, but obstructed at intervals by blocks of stone, and curiously traversed by what are called 'blind springs' bursting from fissures in the subjacent rocks.  A quarry of pavement slate, which finely combines with the Arbroath stone to form a tesselated stone floor, was wrought for some time at Holylee; and a quarry of clay-slate for roofing was wrought at the eastern angular extremity below New Thornylee.  Peat is abundant at the north-west angle, and occurs in smaller patches on Windlestrae-law; but is so difficult of access as not to prevent a demand on the Lothian coal-mines for fuel.  At the mouth of almost every defile tower-houses are met with in a ruinous condition; and if similar scenes of iniquity were practised in all of them to some which the archives of the presbytery of Peebles ascribe to one of their number, they have deservedly become the habitation of owls.  On a rising ground in the immediate vicinity of the village, are vestiges of the fossum and the circumvallating lines of a strong fortification.  The lines appear to have been formed without cement by a compact masonry of a vast mass of stones, fetched from a distance; and the third of them encloses a space of rather more than an English acre.  Horsburgh castle, the property of the Horsburgh family, about the origin of whose possessions in the parish a gossiping tradition points to a romantic hawking expedition of a king of Scotland, is an ancient-ediface on the Tweed, near the mouth of Spittlehope-burn.  The most noticeable modern mansions are Glen-Ormiston and Holylee, both on the Tweed, the former near the village.  The principal landowners are Chambers of Glen-Ormiston, Ballantyne of Holylee, Horsburgh of Horsburgh, and the Earl of Traquair.  The valued rental is £7,298.  The yearly value of raw produce was estimated in 1834 at £14,653.  Assessed property in 1860, £9,616.  Population in 1831, 810; in 1861, 1,823.  Houses, 232.  Population of the Selkirkshire section in 1831, 64: in 1861, 73.  Houses, 9.

This parish is in the presbytery of Peebles, and synod of Lothian and Tweedale.  Patron, Patrick Booth.  Stipend, £289 11s. 9d.; glebe, £20.  Unappropriated teinds, £113 12s. 7d.  Schoolmaster's salary is now £70, with about £40 fees.  The parish church was built in 1786, and contains 350 sittings.  There is a Free church, with an attendance of 130; and the sum raised in connexion with it in 1865 was £46 17s. 4d.  There is an United Presbyterian church, with an attendance of 140.  There is also an Independent chapel.  In 1674, the parish of Innerleithen was enlarged by the annexation to it of about one-third of the old parish of Kailzie.  See KAILZIE.  The church of Innerleithen was given by Malcolm IV. to the monks of Kelso, and endowed with a power of giving refuge to persons fleeing from justice; but, as the village and the circumjacent district continued to be a part of the royal demesne during the reign of Alexander II., it must have been given to them without its appurtenances.  A natural son of Malcolm IV. was drowned in a pool near the mouth of the Leithen; and his body, during the first night after his decease, was deposited in the church.  William, an ancient parson of the parish, was one of the witnesses to a charter of William Morville, who was constable of Scotland from 1189 to 1190.

The VILLAGE OF INNERLEITHEN stands on the road from Kelso to Glasgow, on the haugh-ground of Leithen water, about 1/2 a mile above the influx of that stream to the Tweed, 6 miles east-south-east of Peebles, and 28 south-south-east of Edinburgh.  Till toward the close of last century, it was a tiny sequestered hamlet, comprising only a few thatched houses, a mill, and a church; but it acquired importance, first, by the erection in it of a large woollen factory, and next by the attraction of visitors from a distance to drink the waters of a spa in its vicinity.  Three other factories have been erected in the vicinity within the last 9 years, and another 2 miles to the east; so that the place is now a well-famed seat of the same kinds of manufactures which have in recent years brought such large well-being to Hawick and Galashiels.  The spa does not appear to have been remarked for its medicinal properties till about the commencement of the present century.  Till then it was noted chiefly or altogether as the resort of pigeons from the circumjacent country, and bore the name of the Doo-well.  Had any saint in the Romish calendar been acquainted with it, the priests of the age preceding the Reformation would have pictured him to their gullible flocks as performing a far different exploit in connexion with its waters, than that which Meg Dods ascribes to the patron saint of 'the Aulton' in reference to St. Ronan's Well, and would hardly have failed to send down to posterity the fame of miracles achieved by the naturally salutiferous properties of its waters.  Even after it came into late notice, the well was a trivial, repulsive-looking fountain, bubbling up amidst a little marsh; and had no better appliance than a rude bench placed at its side for the accommodation of the infirm invalids who crept or were carried to it in quest of health.  A simple pump afterwards rose gauntly from its mouth, amidst the wet miry puddle around it.  But about 35 years ago, or not much earlier, the spa, with remarkable suddenness, and in a way nearly unaccountable, became celebritous among valetudinarians of all classes in Edinburgh and throughout the south of Scotland.  The well, in the decorations built over and around it, in the character assigned it by popular opinion, and in the influence it exerted on the village in its vicinity, now rose, as if by magic, from the status of a watery hole in a quagmire, to that of an infant competitor with the proud spas of England.  In 1824, the publication of Sir Walter Scott's tale of St. Ronan's Well, greatly enhanced its celebrity, and poured down upon it some rays of that lustre which popular opinion then assigned to 'the Great Unknown;' for nearly all the readers of light literature, in spite of the utter difficulty which a topographist would have felt to discover resemblances, unhesitatingly identified the Marchthorn and the St. Ronan's of the tale with Peebles and Innerleithen.  The well springs up at the base of the Lee-pen, about 200 feet above the village.  In its original state, it issued in small quantities, and at only one spring; but, when the ground was dug to its source, in order to clear away admixtures near the surface, it became emitted in two streams of different strength.  On analysis, a quart of the less impregnated stream was found to contain 5.3 grains of carbonate of magnesia, 9.5 grains of muriate of lime, 21.2 grains of muriate of soda,--in all, 36 grains; and a quart of the other stream, 10.2 grains of carbonate of magnesia, 19.4 of muriate of lime, and 31 of muriate of soda,--in all. 60.6 grains.  The waters, jointly with the salubrious influence of the fine climate, are efficacious chiefly in cases of ophthalmic complaints, old wounds, and dyspeptic and bilious disorders.

The village is overlooked on the east and the west by high and partially wooded hills, and commands especially toward the south, a limited but delightful prospect.  It stands partly on the estate of Pirn, on the east side of the Leithen, but chiefly on the estate of the Earl of Traquair, on the west side of the stream.  It consists principally of one neatly edificed street along the public road, winged with detached buildings, and little clusters of houses.  Most of the structures have been erected as accommodation for summer-rusticators and invalid visitors to the spa, and are not unworthy to receive as inmates the persons to whom mainly the village looks for support,--those accustomed to the delightful city-homes of the metropolis of Scotland.  In the village are some good shops,--two large and commodious inns,--one inn of secondary spaciousness,--a circulating library, with an attached reading-room,--and appliances for concerts, balls, public recitations, and occasional histrionic exhibitions.  Over the medicinal well is an elegant structure erected by the late Earl of Traquair; and the pump-room combines with its proper character that of a public news-room.  Across the Leithen is a stone-bridge, connecting the two parts of the village, and carrying over the Glasgow and Kelso turnpike.  Over the Tweed, in the immediate vicinity, is a beautiful wooden bridge, affording a ready communication with the grounds of Traquair, and with the northern section of Ettrick Forest.  A club, formed in 1827 by upwards of forty noblemen and landed proprietors, managed under the auspices of the most distinguished individuals connected with Tweeddale, Selkirkshire, and the Border districts, and bearing the name of the St. Ronan's club, patronized for some time at Innerleithen a great annual celebration of athletic sports, called "the Border games;" and though the club no longer exists, and the interest which it excited has in a very great degree subsided, yet the games on a diminished scale are still held.  The village altogether, when viewed in connexion with its environs, is well worthy of all the fame it has acquired as a retreat for fashionable rusticators and for invalids.  To persons who are fond of the Leithen and the Tweed, and is within an easy distance of the Quair, St. Mary's loch, and various other trouting waters.  To lovers of ease and quiet, who, while they enjoy the luxuries of rustication, deprecate the toils of travelling, and the dulness of far removal from the busy scenes of life, it presents, at the distance of a comfortable ride from Edinburgh, a retirement almost Arcadian, stilly and delightful in pastoral repose, where walks at will and solitary rambles are liable to hardly an intrusion.  To persons who luxuriate in drives or pedestrian incursions among the beauties of landscape, it offers in profusion the romantic dells and softly highland expanses of green Tweeddale,--a gorgeous stretch westward to Peebles, and eastward to Abbotsford and Melrose, of the magnificent Tweed,--the retreats of Elibank and Horsburgh wood,--the classic scenes of 'the bush aboon Traquair,'--and, above all, at no great distance, those thrilling charms of the braes and waters and 'dowy dells' of Yarrow, which have drawn melodious numbers from so many of Britain's poets.  To invalids it presents a dry and healthy climate,--the medicinal properties of its well, in various appliances expressly framed to bear salutiferously upon visitors,--and, what persons who are really or judiciously in quest of health will highly prize, comparative freedom from the fashionable dissipation which absurdity has contrived to make ascendant in some watering-places of Britain.  Even to men of intellectual pursuits or of a literary taste, it possesses a sufficient character for attracting persons of their class, to afford a hope that they will not want suitable society; and it offers, on the spot, enough of books and periodical literature to prevent habits from becoming rusted; and everywhere in its vicinity, it holds out objects of antiquarian and scientific research.  Population in 1861, 1,130.



Annette Peebles
Last updated Monday, 17-Jul-2000 22:10:37 MDT