*Traquair *Contents

Traquair (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.

TRAQUAIR, a parish, containing a post-office village of its own name, on the south-east border of Peebles-shire.  It is bounded on the north by the Tweed, which divides it from Peebles and Innerleithen; on the west by Peebles and Selkirkshire; and on the sides by Selkirkshire.  But it is so intersected by Selkirkshire as to have a large wing on the west entirely cut off, to the distance of 3 furlongs,--another wing on the east, smaller but still considerable, cut off with the exception of a connecting belt of a furlong or two broad along the Tweed,--and the intermediate district split asunder by a cuneiform insertion down one-half of its length.  These interferences render the boundaries intricate, but do not disturb the conveniences of parochial arrangement.  The greatest length of the parish, in a straight line east and west, is 7 1/2 miles, but by the road is 10; its greatest breadth, in a straight line, is 5 1/2 miles, and by the road nearly 7; and its superficial extent is nearly 30 square miles.  Except at the indentations, the boundary all round with Selkirkshire is high mountain water-shed, among whose summits are GUMSCLEUCH and MINCH-MOOR [which see], as well as several others of an altitude exceeding 2,000 feet above sea-level.  The surface of the interior diminishes from mountain to hill as it recedes from the water-shed and approaches the Tweed; yet is, for the most part, upland, rocky, and bleak.  The heights are of a cumbrous, lumpish form,--generally green on the south side, but heathy and of dark complexion on the north.  Glendean's banks, immediately south of Gumscleuch, exhibit a tremendous chasm, upwards of half-a-mile in length, faced with sheer precipices from 200 to 300 feet in height.  The haughs on the Tweed are not extensive; they lie from 400 to 500 feet above sea-level; and they have a soil of fine loam of considerable depth.  The other low grounds, though possessed of but a stony, shallow soil, are, in general, fertile.  The upload pastures maintain fine flocks of Cheviot sheep.  Quair-water rises at the south-west extremity of the parish, and runs through its centre to the Tweed.  Several large burns rise also on the margins of the parish, and run to the Quair.  The Kirk-burn drains the west wing of the parish, and finds its way into the Tweed.  Greywacke, of various quality for building purposes, is the predominant rock.  A kind of slate was at one time quarried for roofing purposes, but did not prove to be of durable consistence.  A dike of porphyry crosses the ridges of some of the hills, and has long been in high request as a material for curling stones.  About 3,000 imperial acres in the parish are in tillage; about 14,000 have never been cultivated; and about 600 are under wood.  Extensive reclamations and agricultural improvements have been made.  About three-fourths of the parish belong to the Earl of Traquair; a small part belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch; and the rest is divided among three proprietors.  The estimated yearly value of raw produce in 1834 was £11,250; assessed property in 1860, £6,071; real rental in 1857, £5,623 5s. 8d.  The parish has about 15 miles of turnpike, but no part of any great thoroughfare.  It communicates by a substantial timber bridge with Innerleithen, and has access thence, at a distance of 6 miles, to the Peebles railway.  Population in 1831, 643; in 1861, 687.  Houses, 129.

The village of Traquair is a scattered assemblage of only about 20 or 30 houses, standing in different groups, and bearing different names.  It is situated in the vale of the Quair, 3/4 of a mile from the Tweed, and 1 3/4 mile south of Innerleithen.  The "Bush aboon Traquair," so celebrated in song, was a grove of natural birches, s little south-west of the village; but it fell a sacrifice, partly to ordinary innovation, partly to its own celebrity.  Burns, we are informed, visited the Bush in the year 1787, when he made a pilgrimage to various places celebrated in story and in song; and found it composed of eight or nine ragged birches.  It afterwards paid a heavy tax to human curiosity, and supplied nobles and princes with specimens, in the shape of snuff-boxes and other toys.  A grove called 'The New Bush' was early planted by an Earl of Traquair, but never became famous; and the site of the old Bush has been replanted and enclosed by the present Earl, with the view of restoring its fame.  "The Bush aboon Traquair," says the Old Statistical Account, "which in former times might be a considerable thicket of birch-trees, the indigens of the soil, is now reduced to five lonely trees, which solitarily point out the spot where love and its attendant poetry once probably had their origin."  The grove must have been considered a remarkable object at latest two centuries ago; for it is laid down in Pont's maps under the designation of "Troquair Birks."  A mansion-house seems to have anciently stood adjacent to it, but has long ago disappeared.  The present mansion-house of Traquair is about a mile distant.  The other existing mansions in the parish are Cardrona-house, Kailzie, and Glen.  A chain of towers or peel-houses is traditionally asserted to have been drawn at brief intervals across the parish; but, if it ever existed, it is now represented only by the ancient part of Traquair-house, and by a ruinous tower at Cardrona.  Traquair-house, the seat of the Earl of Traquair, stands on the left bank of the Quair immediately above its confluence with the Tweed.  The oldest part is a tower of very remote but unascertained antiquity; which was so built as to be defended on one side by the Tweed, and probably was, in hostile times, fortified on other sides.  The newer parts were added chiefly in the reign of Charles I.  The interior is fitted up partly in ancient and partly in modern style.  An avenue leads from the south front to a gateway, decorated with sculptured forms of the bear, the cognizance of the family.  James Stuart, a natural son of the Earl of Buchan, obtained, in 1491, an act of legitimation, and a grant of the lands of Traquair.  Sir John Stuart, the fifth in descent form him, was lord-high-treasurer of Scotland under Charles I.; and, in 1628, he was ennobled as Baron Stuart of Traquair, and, in 1633, was created Earl of Traquair, and Baron Linton and Caberston.  This nobleman suffered greatly in the cause of fallen royalty, and, in 1659, died in great poverty; but, not having suffered attainder, he bequeathed at once his titles, his property, and his Roman Catholic predilections to his descendants.  Traquair-house was the first place at which the Marquis of Montrose rested, and that in which he spent the night, after his signal defeat at Philiphaugh.  Dr. Pennecuick celebrates the beauties of Traquair in the following terms:--"Then follows the pleasant place or rather palace of Traquair, situate in a large and fertile plain, betwixt the river Tweed and water of Quair; and these two join and mingle waters a little below the noble itself, of which take the following distichs:--

On fair Tweed-side, from Berwick to the Bield,
Traquair for beauty fairly wins the field;
So many charms, by nature and by art,
Do there combine to captivate the heart,
And please the eye, with what is fine and rare,
So that few seats can match with sweet Traquair."

The parish of Traquair is in the presbytery of Peebles, and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale.  Patron, the Crown.  Stipend, £276 15s. 2d.; glebe, £20.  Unappropriated teinds, £321 16s. 2d.  School-master's salary, £50, with about £18 fees, and £13 other emoluments.  The parish church was built in 1778, and altered in 1821, and contains 350 sittings.  One of the wings of Traquair-house is used as a Roman Catholic place of worship.  The present parish of Traquair comprehends all the ancient parish of Traquair and that part of the ancient parish of Kailzie which lay on the south bank of the Tweed.  The latter now forms the west wing of the united district; and it contained the church of Kailzie,--whence arose the name of Kirk-burn.  The ancient church of Traquair was dedicated to St Bride of Bridget, and hence was commonly called Kirkbride.  The old parish occasionally figures in documents as Strathquair; and it was of so much more comparative importance than at present, as to be for a time a distinct sheriffdom.


Annette Peebles
Last updated Monday, 17-Jul-2000 22:21:54 MDT