Mertoun


Mertoun
   MERTOUN, a parish, in the county of Berwick, 4½ miles (E. S. E.) from Melrose; containing 722 inhabitants. This parish is about six miles long and between two and three broad, and comprises 7000 acres; it is situated in the south-western extremity of the county, and bounded on the south and west by the river Tweed, on the north by Earlstoun parish, and on the east by Smailholm and Makerstoun. The surface embraces several fine slopes and undulations, especially in the western quarter, where the scenery is extremely picturesque and beautiful: the prospect from Bemersyde hill, over which passes one of the public roads, is striking and magnificent, comprising wood, water, hills, and fertile fields. In the south, also, the lands are diversified by good inclosures, verdant hedge-rows, and flourishing plantations. The venerable ruin of the abbey of Dryburgh, viewed from the opposite side of the Tweed, whose banks are of red earth and unusually steep, is a fine object in the scenery; and a suspension-bridge here, a colossal statue of Sir William Wallace on a neighbouring hill, and the Temple of the Muses, a circular building erected by the Earl of Buchan on an eminence near the end of the bridge, also enliven and beautify the district in a very interesting manner. The windings of the Tweed add peculiar force to the general impression of the scenery; but there are no lakes and scarcely any springs, and the farmers are therefore occasionally much inconvenienced from a want of water for their cattle.
   The soil bordering on the Tweed is a sharp loam, resting upon gravel; in the other parts of the parish, with few exceptions, it is a stiff clay, having a cold tilly subsoil. About 500 acres are under wood, and 3460 are sown with wheat, oats, barley, and peas, of which the barley is the most considerable in quantity; turnips are also produced, and, since the introduction of bonedust manure, have been of very fine growth. There is no common land; and it is supposed that of what is in pasture 300 acres might be cultivated with a profitable application of capital. Improvements to some extent have been made within the last few years, consisting principally in draining and liming; but the surfacewater is not so regularly and completely removed as good husbandry requires, some of the farmers neglecting to cleanse the ditches and to keep them in a fit state to receive the drainage. The farm houses and offices are generally convenient buildings; and a corn-mill upon an extensive scale has been erected, the machinery of which is of a superior kind, and suited to every description of grain. The sheep are the best Leicesters; the cattle are the short-horned breed, and great attention is paid to their improvement by annual purchases from the breeders in the south. The rocks on the banks of the Tweed consist of freestone of a reddish colour, very durable, and taking a fine polish; but, although the quality is so choice and the supply inexhaustible, no quarry has been wrought for many years, owing to the great expense necessary for this purpose. The rateable annual value of Mertoun is £6429.
   The chief mansions of this delightful parish are, Mertoun House, an elegant residence near the church, the seat of Lord Polwarth; Dryburgh House, the seat of Sir David Erskine, a plain old mansion in the immediate vicinity of the abbey, and having excellent orchards and woods; and Bemersyde, an ancient but pleasant house belonging to the Haig family, three-quarters of a mile to the south of Old Melrose, in the adjoining parish. There are two small villages, Bemersyde and Dryburgh; but the parish is not intersected by any turnpike-road. The parish roads are for the most part good, and adapted for local convenience; and over the Tweed is the suspension-bridge already referred to, from which there is a direct road to the village of Lessudden, south of the river, where a post-office has been established; but this bridge is only constructed for foot passengers and single horses, and there is still a great want of a bridge for carriages in the southern part of the parish. The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Lauder and synod of Merse and Teviotdale; patron, Hugh Scott, Esq., of Harden. The stipend of the minister is £252, with a manse, built in 1767, and a glebe of fourteen acres, valued at £14 per annum. The church of Mertoun belonged to the canons of Dryburgh till the Reformation. The present building, erected in 1658, and repaired in 1820, is pleasantly situated in the midst of a grove, but stands inconveniently both for the minister and parishioners, being a mile from the manse and about the same distance from the centre of the parish. It is in good repair and well fitted up, with a pew assigned to every tenant. There is a parochial school, in which are taught the classics, the mathematics, and the usual branches of education; the master has a salary of £30, with about £9 fees, and the allowance of house and garden. The chief relic of antiquity is the abbey; but the remains, though deeply interesting, are not extensive. The nave of its church is nearly demolished, nothing being left but the foundations of the pillars; the most considerable part is the north transept, attached to one of the pillars that supported the tower. The refectory has fallen down, and the gable ends alone are now to be seen: in one of these is a curious radiated window, almost enveloped and obscured by ivy. The statue of Wallace, also, though not an antiquity, is yet worthy of notice on account of its being the workmanship of a common stone-mason who had never learned sculpture.
   See Dryburgh.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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