Westruther


Westruther
   WESTRUTHER, a parish, in the county of Berwick, 5½ miles (E. by N.) from Lauder; containing 829 inhabitants. This place was perhaps originally called Wolfstruther, from the number of wolves with which it was infested, but subsequently, on their disappearance, was styled Westruther, to distinguish it from an extensive morass to the east of it, now called Dogden Moss. The term Struther signifies "a marsh." The lands anciently formed part of the parish of Home, from which they were separated at the time of the Reformation, and annexed to the parish of Gordon; and owing to the distance of the church of Gordon, the remains of an old chapel in the village of Bassendean were fitted up as a place of public worship for the inhabitants. This place of worship, however, being eventually found inconvenient for the population of the northern parts of Westruther, a church was erected in the village of Westruther in 1649; and the adjacent lands being severed from Gordon, were erected into an independent parish by act of the General Assembly. A battle is said to have taken place on the northern heights of the parish between the Anglo-Saxons and the Scots, who had previously been engaged in frequent wars. On this occasion, a challenge given by one of the Saxon chieftains to decide the contest by single combat, was accepted by Edgar, the only son of an aged Scottish warrior, and whose twin-brother had been carried off captive in his infancy by the Saxons in a former battle. The Saxon chieftain was killed, and Edgar himself severely wounded. After the combat, an aged Saxon, lamenting the death of the chieftain, whom he eulogised as the bravest of the Edgars, and bewailed as his adopted son, betrayed the secret of his Scottish birth; and Edgar, frantic with remorse, tore the bandages from his wounds, and expired on the corpse of his long-lost brother. Two large piles of stones, now called the Twinlaw Cairns, were raised by the soldiers of both armies to commemorate this melancholy event, for which purpose, suspending all hostilities, and ranging themselves in one continued line, they passed the stones from the brook at the base of the acclivity, from hand to hand, to the summit, till the monuments of their fallen and lamented leaders were completed.
   The parish is of elliptical form; nearly seven miles in extreme length from north to south, and from three to five miles in breadth from east to west; comprising about 13,000 acres, of which 11,000 are arable, 850 woodland and plantations, and the remainder moorland, moss, and waste. The surface is varied, and terminates towards the north in one continuous ridge of hills of bleak and barren appearance, attaining an elevation of 1260 feet above the level of the sea, and commanding extensive prospects over the fertile vales of Merse and Teviotdale, which abound with picturesque and romantic scenery. Towards the south, the lands by a gradual descent expand into a spacious and undulating valley, which intersects the parish from east to west throughout its whole breadth, but, though of wavy appearance, without exhibiting any ground that deserves the name of a hill. The only stream of importance is the Blackadder, which has its source near Wedderlie, in this parish, through which it flows for very nearly three miles in a winding course: afterwards, taking a south-eastern direction, and forming a boundary between the parish and Greenlaw, it falls into the Whiteadder at Allanton. Several rivulets also intersect the grounds in various directions, constituting tributaries to the Leader and the Tweed: of these, the Eden, celebrated for the size and quality of its trout, affords excellent amusement to the anglers whom it attracts from all parts of the circumjacent country. Numerous perennial springs afford an ample supply of pure water; and on Harelaw moor is a chalybeate spring which, from the efficacy of its water in scorbutic complaints, was formerly frequented by numbers of invalids, who took lodgings in the neighbourhood, but which has of late years fallen into neglect.
   The soil is generally light, resting on a rocky or gravelly subsoil; in the higher lands, a deep tenacious clay well adapted for wheat; and in some other parts, a black sandy loam. The crops include oats, barley, a little wheat, potatoes, and turnips, with the usual grasses. The husbandry is greatly improved; the lands are well drained, and inclosed with hedges of thorn and dykes of stone: and considerable breadths of waste land have been reclaimed and brought into profitable cultivation. The farms, which were formerly of very small extent, have been much enlarged; the farm houses generally are now substantial, and the offices also well built. Lime, though brought from a distance of twenty miles, is liberally used for the improvement of the lands, and bonedust has been likewise introduced; threshing-mills have been erected on all the larger farms; and under the encouragement afforded by the proprietors, every recent alteration in the construction of agricultural implements has been adopted. The greatest attention is paid to the management of live-stock. The cattle, which are of various breeds, have been much improved by a cross with Teeswater bulls; the sheep are of the Cheviot, Leicestershire, and black-faced breeds; and of all, the number has been for the last twenty years gradually increasing. The produce of the parish, both in grain and cattle, is sent to the market of Dalkeith. Forests of natural wood formerly overspread nearly the whole of the surface, and in the mosses are still found numerous trunks of trees; but the only portion of the woods now remaining is on the lands of Flass, where are some large trees of very ancient growth. The plantations originally formed on the lands of Spottiswoode, by the grandfather of the present proprietor, have been greatly extended, and the whole are generally in a thriving state; they consist of larch, which seems best adapted to the soil, and of firs, interspersed with all the various kinds of forest-trees. At Bruntaburn, one of the highest and most exposed situations on the brow of Lammermoor, and where it was thought no timber would grow, are numerous trees of luxuriant growth. The principal substrata are, greywacke, sandstone, and slate. Near Hounslow, freestone of a reddish tinge, and of good quality for building, is quarried; and from the quarry were taken the materials for the houses of that village, and for part of the new mansion of Spottiswoode. A slate-quarry was formerly wrought at Bruntaburn; but the quality of the slate being very inferior, the works were soon abandoned. The rateable annual value of the parish is £5339.
   Spottiswoode House, the seat of John Spottiswoode, Esq., is a stately and elegant edifice in the old English style of architecture, with a tower in the centre, and is surrounded by a handsome terrace 300 yards in length; it is crowned by an open balustrade ornamented with pedestals and vases. The house contains a good suite of rooms, and includes the old family mansion, which has been restored, and incorporated into the present structure. Bassendean, the seat of Colonel Home, is an ancient mansion recently modernised, and is finely situated in a demesne tastefully laid out, and embellished with thriving plantations. Wedderlie, the property of Lord Blantyre, is also an ancient mansion, which has been suffered to fall into neglect, and is seldom inhabited by the family, who reside here only for a few weeks during the shooting season. The village of Wedderlie has been gradually decreasing for many years, and is now extinct; the only villages in the parish are the small ones of Hounslow and Westruther. Facility of communication is maintained by good turnpike-roads, which intersect the parish for nearly fifteen miles, and of which the principal are those from Edinburgh to Kelso and to Dunse, and the road to London through Coldstream. There are good bridges over the various streams.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Lauder and synod of Merse and Teviotdale. The minister's stipend is £158. 6. 8., of which about one-third is paid from the exchequer; with a manse, and a glebe valued at £25 per annum: patron, the Crown. The old church, erected on the separation of the parish from that of Gordon in 1649, has, after undergoing several alterations and repairs, been abandoned; and a new church, well adapted to the accommodation of the people, has been erected: it was opened in 1840. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship. The parochial school is attended by about 80 children; the master has a salary of £25. 13. 3., with a house and garden, and the fees average £10 annually. The school-house, which is spacious and well suited to the purpose, is situated in the village of Westruther. A library of standard works, purchased by means of subscriptions, is open to the parishioners; and a savings' bank has been established, in which are deposits to the amount of £1300. There are still some remains of the chapel at Bassendean, used as a burying-place by the family there. Of the chapel at Wedderlie, the only portion left is a vault into which, at the Reformation, the monks removed their most valuable effects, and which just serves to mark out the site. The last vestiges of the chapel of Spottiswoode, founded in the reign of David II., have disappeared; and the only relic of it is the baptismal font, which has been preserved. There are some traces of an ancient road called Harits dyke, which extended from Berwick through the county, and passed by the village of Westruther; and there are also remaining, but in a dilapidated state, the walls of a castellated building called Evelaw, which was one of the border fortresses. Several stone coffins, containing skeletons in good preservation, have been discovered by the plough on lands that have been for ages in pasture; they were composed of large broad stones, and were arranged with the greatest regularity. The situation of these graves, together with the circumstance of many similar relics having been found in the adjoining parish of Lauder, appears to strengthen the tradition, already referred to, that a battle occurred in the northern part of Westruther.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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