Swinton and Simprim


Swinton and Simprim
   SWINTON and SIMPRIM, a parish, in the county of Berwick, 5 miles (N.) from Coldstream; containing 1095 inhabitants. This parish comprehends the old parishes of Swinton and Simprim, which were united in 1761. The name of the latter is of very uncertain derivation; that of the former place, which is of great antiquity, is vulgarly said to have been derived from the number of wild boars with which the lands were anciently infested. During the heptarchy, Swinton constituted part of the kingdom of Northumbria, and on its separation was granted, about the year 1060, by Malcolm Canmore to Edulph de Swinton, who had materially assisted that monarch in his efforts to recover the Scottish throne. From its exposed and defenceless situation, it became the frequent scene of devastation and predatory incursion during the period of border warfare; and soon after its incorporation with Scotland, it appears to have fallen from a state of tillage and fertility into a dreary and unproductive desert. It was probably with a view to its restoration that the lands were granted by Edgar, son of Malcolm Canmore, to the Abbey of Coldingham, together with cattle to be employed in their cultivation. This gift was confirmed by Alexander, the brother and successor of Edgar; but the lands were afterwards restored to the family of Swinton by David, the youngest son of Malcolm, who bestowed on them all the privileges of a free baronial tenure.
   The family of Swinton is one of the most ancient in the country, and many of the barons were distinguished by acts of heroism during some of the most important events recorded in Scottish history. Allan de Swinton, the fifth baron, was especially eminent for his military prowess; and his name appears as a subscribing witness to several deeds executed by William the Lion. To the valour and conduct of his descendant, Sir John, is attributed the victory obtained by the Scots at Otterburn; and his heroic death at the battle of Homelden, after having vainly endeavoured to rally the Scottish forces, is recorded by Sir Walter Scott in his poem of Hallidon Hill. He had married a daughter of Robert II., King of Scotland, by whom he had a son, who distinguished himself in the wars with France during the reign of Henry V. of England. Sir John Swinton, another descendant of the family, was a zealous adherent to the party of his lawful sovereign in the rebellion of Bothwell and Home. During the usurpation of Cromwell the proprietor of Swinton, having embraced the cause of the parliament, was made a member of the privy council, and appointed one of the commissioners for the administration of justice in the arrangement of Scottish affairs. After the Restoration, he was arraigned for treason in having borne arms against his sovereign at the battle of Worcester; his estates were forfeited to the crown, and himself and family driven into exile; but his son returned to England after the Revolution, and succeeded in obtaining an act of parliament, by which the attainder was taken off, and the family estates restored. Since that time the lands have remained in the uninterrupted possession of his descendants, having during a period of 700 years continued in one regular descent from father to son, till 1830, when John Swinton, grandson of Lord Swinton, died, and a younger brother succeeded. The only memorable event connected with this parish, since the earlier periods of border warfare, is the battle that occurred here between the Scottish troops and Sir Henry Percy, brother of the Earl of Northumberland, who, in 1558, accompanied by the Marshal of Berwick, with 8000 foot and 200 horse, made an irruption into the Merse, and burnt the towns of Dunse and Langton. On their return from that district, they were overtaken at this place by the Scottish forces under Lord Keith, and the French troops stationed at Kelso and Eyemouth for the defence of the marches; and after an obstinate and sanguinary conflict, the latter were defeated with great loss, and the English quietly retreated with all their plunder.
   The parish is about four miles in length, and rather less than three miles in average breadth, and of very irregular form. The surface is varied only by gentle undulations, rising in no part into eminences of any great elevation; and in the intervals the grounds are flat, forming plains of considerable extent. The scenery is generally pleasing, and is embellished with wood, which, being planted chiefly in hedge-rows and diffused over the surface, has a very good effect. The only stream of any importance is the small river Leet, which has its source in the parish of Whitsome, and flowing through this parish in a western direction, falls into the Tweed at Coldstream: much benefit has arisen from the recent improvement of this river by deepening its channel, and thus preventing the inundations to which it was liable. There are but few springs; and unless sunk to a very considerable depth, the wells are frequently dry during the summer months: the only lake, called Loch Swinton, and which was of very great extent, has been drained, and now is under profitable culture. The soil is deep, and generally rich. The number of acres is estimated at about 5450, of which, with the exception of thirty acres in plantations, the whole is arable. The crops are, oats, wheat, barley, beans, turnips, &c.; the system of agriculture is in an improved state; the lands are inclosed, and the farm houses and offices substantially built and well arranged.
   The plantations consist of oak, ash, elm, and firs, for all of which the soil is adapted; they are comparatively of recent growth, but are well managed and in a prosperous condition. The more ancient timber appears to have been destroyed during the short time the lands were in the possession of the Duke of Lauderdale, on whom they were conferred by Charles II. The substrata are chiefly of the old red sandstone formation, alternated with a white sandstone and a dark-coloured sandstone-slate, with occasional beds of indurated marl; a red micaceous sandstone also occurs in some parts, and is quarried for various uses. Boulders of sandstone, greywacke, transition granite, and greenstone are frequently found in the fields. The rateable annual value of the parish is £8494. Swinton House, the seat of Mr. Swinton, is a handsome mansion situated in a richly cultivated demesne, embellished with some stately timber. The village stands pleasantly on the turnpike-road to Berwick, and is very neatly built, containing many good houses; it is mostly inhabited by persons carrying on the handicraft trades requisite for the supply of the neighbourhood, and contains several shops and a comfortable inn. Fairs are held here in June and October; formerly they were great markets for cattle and agricultural produce, but at present they retain little of that character, and are chiefly for pleasure. Facility of communication is maintained with the neighbouring towns by good turnpike-roads, of which more than eight miles pass through the parish, and by convenient bridges, of which one was recently built. A sub-post is established under Coldstream.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Chirnside and synod of Merse and Teviotdale. The stipend of the incumbent is £270: the manse, an old building repaired and enlarged in 1833, is a comfortable residence; and the glebe, including the glebe land of the old parish of Simprim, comprises twenty-one acres, valued at £70 per annum. The church, erected in 1729, and enlarged and repaired in 1837, is a neat edifice adapted for a congregation of 500 persons: in an arched niche in the south wall, is a statue of Allan Swinton, the fifth baron of Swinton. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school affords a liberal course of instruction, and is well attended; the master has a salary of £34. 4., with a house built in 1816, a garden, and the school fees, averaging about £27. 10. annually. There is also a school of which the master derives his income exclusively from the fees. A friendly society has been for many years established, which is under good regulations, and has contributed materially to diminish the number of applications for parochial aid.
   John Swinton, Esq., who was sheriff of Perthshire, and afterwards one of the senators of the college of justice, a zealous advocate for the introduction into Scotland of trial by jury in civil causes, and at whose suggestion the court of session was divided into two separate chambers, was a native of this place; he was the author of An Abridgement of the British Statutes since the Union, and of an elaborate treatise on weights and measures, which formed the basis of the act of parliament for reducing them to one general standard throughout the United Kingdom. There are some very slight remains of the ancient church of Simprim, which has long been in ruins. It appears to have been a small building of some strength, surrounded by a fosse, vestiges of which may still be traced; and in times of danger was resorted to as a place of safety, where the inhabitants took shelter till the population of the adjacent district, apprized by certain signals, came to their assistance. It is a fact worth recording, that the Rev. Thomas Boston, author of the well-known work Human Nature in its Fourfold State, was at one time minister of the now suppressed parish of Simprim, being ordained there in the year 1699.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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