- MAXTON, a parish, in the district of Melrose, county of Roxburgh; containing, with the village of Rutherford, 459 inhabitants, of whom 110 are in the village, 7 miles (N. N. W.) from Jedburgh, and at an equal distance from Kelso and Melrose. This place appears to have derived its name from its proprietor, Maccus, who in the early part of the 12th century possessed the manor, which in ancient records is called Maccuston and Mackiston. A carucate of land in the parish was granted to Melrose abbey, about the beginning of the 13th century, by Robert de Berkely, whose daughter, Alice, was married to Hugh de Normanville; but the barony, being subsequently forfeited by William de Soulis, was granted by Robert I. to Walter, Lord Steward of Scotland, who gave the patronage of the church, with some contiguous lands, to the abbey of Dryburgh, to which, till the Reformation, the church seems to have been an appendage. The ancient village of Maxton is said by some to have been very populous prior to the Union, and to have been able to furnish many armed men; but with greater probability it is supposed to have been only the occasional rendezvous of the numerous troops which subsisted on the borders by continual depredations on their southern neighbours. That it was, however, of much greater extent and importance than it is at present, is evident from the foundations of buildings which are frequently discovered in the progress of cultivation; and the shaft of the ancient cross still marks the site of what was perhaps the principal street, though now containing only a few miserable cabins.The parish is pleasantly situated on the bank of the river Tweed, which forms its northern boundary for more than three miles; it is four miles in length, and nearly three in breadth in the broadest part, diminishing in other parts to about one half, and comprises 4514 acres, of which 3836 are arable, 668 woodland and plantations, and ten an irreclaimable bog. The surface is undulating, and rises in a gentle acclivity from the river; it is diversified with numerous flourishing trees, and the country around commands much interesting scenery. The soil in the southern and higher parts is thin and wet, but in the north of better quality, consisting of a light and dry earth resting on freestone and gravel, and a rich loam on a substratum of clay, and bearing heavy crops of wheat, barley, and oats, with peas, beans, turnips, and clover. The bed of the Tweed is a reddish sandstone, which is quarried also in the steepest of its banks, and is of good quality for building; masses of whinstone are likewise found on the banks of the river, and in other parts of the parish, of great hardness, and well adapted to the formation and repair of roads. The four, five, and six shift courses of husbandry prevail, according to the several qualities of the soil; and agriculture in general is in a very improved state. The plantations consist principally of ash, elm, larch, and oak, which thrive exceedingly well, and Scotch fir, which thrives for a short time, but seldom forms profitable timber. Great improvements have taken place in draining, inclosing, and fencing the lands; lime and bone-dust are much used for manure, and considerable facilities for obtaining the former have been afforded by the improvement of the roads. The farm houses and offices, also, are substantially built and commodious. The chief fuel is coal, brought from Northumberland at a great expense, the thinnings of the plantations affording only a very scanty supply. Considerable advantage is derived to Maxton from its proximity to the several markets of Jedburgh, Kelso, and Melrose, and from the facility of intercourse with those towns by the turnpikeroads which lead through the parish. The cattle are chiefly the short-horned breed, and the sheep the Leicestershire, with a few of the Cheviot, and a cross between both; much attention is paid to their management, and to the improvement of the stock. The rateable annual value of the parish is £4256.Maxton is in the presbytery of Selkirk and synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and patronage of Sir W. H. Don, Bart.: the minister's stipend is £211. 15. 10., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £10 per annum. The church, romantically overhanging the Tweed, is part of a very ancient structure dedicated to St. Cuthbert; the time of its original foundation is unknown, but it was modernised and repaired in 1812, and gives accommodation to a congregation of 150 persons. The parochial school affords a useful education, but the children of the peasantry, from the early age at which they are employed in agriculture, derive but partial benefit from it; the master has a salary of £30 a year, with a house and garden. The poor receive the interest of a sum bequeathed for charitable uses, amounting to about 30s. per annum. In the north-east of the parish are the remains of an ancient fortification of semicircular form, 160 feet in diameter, and situated on the summit of a cliff impending over the Tweed, by which it is defended on that side, being secured on the others by deep trenches and ramparts; it is called Ringly Hall, but the origin of the name is unknown, neither has it been ascertained by whom it was made. On the east side was an entrance; and at no great distance, but in the parish of Roxburgh, is a tumulus with which it appears to have been connected. The English, in one of the border skirmishes, are said to have occupied this station, while the Scots took up their position in a deep ravine on the other side of the Tweed; and the former, having forded the river to attack the latter, sustained a signal defeat, and many of them were slain. The spot where they were buried was the cemetery of the church of Rutherford, a small parish which, after the dissolution of its church, was annexed to Maxton. There was also an hospital connected with the church of Rutherford, for the reception of strangers and the maintenance of infirm poor; it was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, and was granted by Robert I. to the canons of Jedburgh, which grant was confirmed to that body by Robert II. No remains exist of any of the buildings; the site has been ploughed up, and the grave stones in the cemetery have been broken, and used as materials in the construction of drains. Vestiges of a Roman camp, on the west side of which are the remains of a Roman road, are still to be traced on the declivity of a hill near Lilliards Edge: the road, in some parts tolerably perfect, passes by the western boundary of the parish, and crosses the river Teviot near the mouth of the Jed, and the river Tweed near Melrose. Not far from Maxton was fought the battle of Ancrum-Muir, in which the Scots under the Earls of Arran and Angus defeated the forces of Henry VIII. under the command of Sir Ralph Evers and Sir Bryan Layton. About a mile westward of the site of the ancient village of Rutherford are the ruins of Littledean Tower, once a place of great strength, and the residence of the Kerrs, of Littledean, by whom it was finally deserted during the last century; they occupy an elevated site on the bank of the Tweed, but are rapidly disappearing.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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