MELROSE, a market-town and parish, and anciently a burgh of barony, in the district of Melrose, county of Roxburgh; including the villages of Buckholmside, Darlingshaugh, Darnick, Gattonside, Newstead, and Newtown; and containing 5331 inhabitants, of whom 893 are in the town, 7 miles (N. W. by N.) from Jedburgh, and 36 (S. E. by S.) from Edinburgh. This place derived its ancient name, Mullross, of which its present is only a slight modification, from the Gaelic words Mull or Moel, bare, and Ross, a promontory, descriptive of its position on a peninsula formed by the river Tweed, and which at that remote period was literally a barren and rugged rock. In the beginning of the 7th century, a society of Culdees established themselves here from Iona, and a monastery was founded on a commodious site, which is now, in contradistinction to the present town, called Old Melrose. A monastery of greater extent was subsequently built in a more convenient part of the parish, to which were transferred the remains of the former establishment, and where are yet preserved the beautiful ruins of the venerable abbey. During the 7th century, Oswald, the Saxon king of Northumbria, at that time an exile among the Picts, who occupied the district to the north of the river Forth, was converted to Christianity by the Culdees of this place, and on his restoration to his kingdom prevailed upon certain of the monks to visit his dominions for the conversion of his subjects; he appointed Aidan to the bishopric of Lindisfarn, and built churches and planted missionaries in this parish and in various other parts of his territories. The church at Old Melrose, over which was placed one of Aidan's disciples, flourished in peace and security for more than two centuries, and produced many eminent characters, of whom St. Cuthbert, who was afterwards Bishop of Lindisfarn, and St. Boswell, who gave his name to a neighbouring parish, were the chief. In 839, the peninsula of Old Melrose was taken by Kenneth II., who laid waste the country as far south as the river Tweed; and the monastery, which was then destroyed, was never afterwards restored. It became the temporary residence of a few monks from Girwy, and ultimately was only a chapel dedicated to St. Cuthbert, having attached to it the privileges of a sanctuary, the road to which, called the Girthgate, may be traced over the moorlands. During the interval between the decay of the Old and the foundation of the New Melrose, a religious establishment was formed on a site nearly central to both: this, from the colour of the stone with which the church was built, was termed the Red Abbey, and the field where it stood is still called the Red Abbey stead.
   In 1136, the magnificent abbey referred to above, and of which the ruins are so celebrated for their beauty, was founded by David I., in honour of the Virgin, for monks of the Cistercian order brought from Rivaulx, and then first introduced into Scotland. It appears to have been progressively enriched, and the character of the buildings to have been improved into a height of elegance and magnificence to which, at the time of its foundation, it had no pretensions; but there are no records of its history to show by what means, or under whose auspices, it attained that perfection in its architectural character which has rendered it celebrated as one of the most splendid ecclesiastical remains in the kingdom. Notwithstanding, however, that it made this progress during the whole period in which it flourished, it suffered very severely at different times. The English army, in its retreat under Edward II. in 1322, plundered and despoiled it to so great an extent that Robert Bruce felt compelled, four years afterwards, to grant the sum of £2000 sterling for restoring it and rebuilding those parts which had been destroyed. In 1384 it was burnt by the English under Richard II.; Evers and Layton sacked it in 1545; and again, in the same year, the structure fell a prey to the Earl of Hertford, while Queen Mary was an infant. It was sadly defaced in 1560, at the period of the Reformation; and, lastly, it was ruthlessly bombarded by Cromwell from the Gattonside hills. On its dissolution at the introduction of the Reformed religion, the abbey was annexed to the crown by a statute which provided that the sovereign should not have power to alienate it; but this was rendered nugatory by subsequent acts of parliament, and grants of different portions of the property were made to individuals favoured by the court. The whole, however, is now the property of the Duke of Buccleuch. The revenue of the establishment was stated in 1561 at £1758 Scots, and nearly 200 chalders of wheat, barley, oats, and meal, besides payments in capons, poultry, butter, salt, peat, and other articles. The monks received annually for their own consumption sixty bolls of wheat and 300 casks of ale; while for the service of the mass eighteen casks of wine were allotted; for the entertaiment of strangers, thirty bolls of wheat, forty casks of ale, and twenty casks of wine; and a considerable sum was set aside for the nourishment of the sick and infirm. The number of monks seems latterly to have varied from sixty to 100, with an equal number of lay brethren: in 1520 there were eighty monks; in 1540, seventy, and sixty lay brethren; and in 1542 the number of monks was 100.
   The remains of Melrose Abbey, consisting chiefly of the ruins of the church, a stately cruciform structure measuring 258 feet in length and 130 feet in breadth, with part of a central tower eighty-four feet high, are situated about three miles to the west of the peninsula on which the old church was built, and in the most picturesque part of the vale between the Eildon hills and the heights of Gattonside, a quarter of a mile to the south of the Tweed. The nave, choir, and transepts, with a part of the cloisters, are still remaining, and exhibit a gradation of style from early to later English, but are principally decorated English; the conventual buildings have totally disappeared, and slight traces only of their extent and situation are perceived. The nave is separated from the aisles by elegant ranges of columns, supporting deeply-moulded and richly-sculptured arches in the most finished style; and the transepts and choir are of the same character, elaborately embellished, and lighted by windows enriched with tracery, of which the principal are of lofty dimensions. The grand east window has been particularly admired for its surpassing elegance, and is in the later English style, fifty-seven feet in extreme height, and twenty-eight in breadth; the south transept window is also remarkable, but is characterised rather by majesty than by the light elegance of the east window, than which it is rather loftier, though rather narrower. The principal buttresses terminate with pinnacles of the finest tabernacle work, and these, as well as the windows ranged along the sides of the edifice, are ornamented with figures admirably carved, and with niches highly sculptured; but the statues placed in the niches were demolished in the year 1649. The interior has some good ancient monuments. Under the east window stood the high altar, beneath which Alexander II., who died at Kerrera, upon an expedition to the Western Isles, in 1249, was buried; and a large marble stone is pointed out as the monarch's tomb, though some suppose it to be that of St. Waldave, the second abbot of Melrose, whose death occurred in 1158. Here, also, according to the best historians, was deposited the heart of the great king Robert Bruce, after an unsuccessful attempt to carry it to the Holy Land; the body having been interred in the abbey of Dunfermline. Michael Scott, who flourished in the 13th century, and whose discoveries in chemistry and other sciences led to the belief that he was a wizard, was buried in this monastery; as were, too, many of the renowned family of Douglas, after they became lords of Liddesdale. Among these may be named William Douglas, knight of Liddesdale, for his valour called the "Flower of Chivalry," who barbarously murdered the gallant Sir Alexander Ramsay, and was himself killed while hunting in Ettrick Forest, in 1353; William, first earl of Douglas, who was wounded at the battle of Poitiers in 1356, and who died in 1384; and James, second earl of Douglas, who fell at the battle of Otterburn. Their tombs, occupying two crypts near the high altar, were defaced by Sir Ralph Evers and Sir Bryan Layton, when they made their incursion into this part of the country, which has been already referred to; but the sixth earl of Angus, descendant of the Douglases, amply revenged this insult at the battle of Ancrum-Moor, when both the English leaders were slain, and their forces totally routed. In conclusion, the remarkable fact may be mentioned, with regard to these far-famed remains, that they were but little known as an object of interest to the tourist until the publication of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, which caused numbers to resort to them; while the prominent figure they occupy in The Monastery and The Abbot, in which the abbey is designated "St. Mary's" and the town of Melrose "Kennaquhair," gave additional charms to the district, previously described by Scott only in poetry.
   The town is pleasantly situated on the banks of the Tweed, over which is a handsome suspension-bridge for foot passengers and single horses; but it is not remarkable for any peculiarity of character distinguishing it from a large rural village. It is in the form of a triangle, with small streets leading out at the corners, and contains several elegant modern houses; but many are of early date, and evidently built in part of materials from the abbey. The bridge leads to the antique and rustic village of Gattonside, surrounded by gardens and orchards; and the scenery generally near the town is of the most beautiful description, and attracts numberless visiters during the summer. The inhabitants are principally employed in trades requisite for the supply of the district, and in agricultural pursuits: the manufacture of linen formerly occupied a considerable number of persons in connexion with the commercial establishments of Galashiels, but has long since declined. In the centre of the town is an ancient cross, near the south entrance to the abbey, for the maintenance of which cross half an acre of land is appropriated; but the chief object of attraction is, of course, the ruin of the monastery. A subscription library, containing a good selection of books, is supported; and there are smaller libraries in the adjacent villages; also two branch banks established in the town, a few minor associations, and a couple of excellent inns. The market-day is Saturday, and three fairs are held, one in the begining of June, called, from the old style, the May fair, one at Lammas, and one at Martinmas; they are all great cattle-markets, and are numerously attended, and the Lammas fair has attained such celebrity for its sheep, as to rival the celebrated fair of St. Boswell's, in the adjoining parish. The regality of the burgh is vested in the ducal family of Buccleuch, whose bailie is the principal officer, and exercises jurisdiction in various matters originating in the fairs of Melrose and St. Boswell's, over both which parishes his jurisdiction as a bailie of the barony extends. No record of criminal cases has been preserved; the only delinquencies cognizable by the bailie or his deputy have been such as subject the offender to a fine of five shillings. Melrose is the head of the district, and has a fiscal, acting under the justices of the peace, who hold a court here on the first Saturday in the month.
   The parish, which is one of the largest in the county, extends for ten miles in length, from the summit of the central of the Eildon hills to Upper Blainslie, and for four miles and a half in breadth, from the river Gala to the Leader; comprising an area of forty-five square miles. It is bounded on the north by the parish of Lauder, on the east by the parishes of Mertoun and Earlstoun, on the south by those of St. Boswell's and Bowden, and on the west by Galashiels and Stow. The Tweed enters the parish from the south-west, forming a boundary between it and the parish of Galashiels for more than two miles, and in its course receives the streams of the Gala, the Allan, and the Leader. The Allan, a beautiful stream, issues from an opening in the Langlee hills, and flows for five miles through the parish, in many parts concealed by overhanging woods. The surface is boldly diversified by the Eildon hills, which are partly within the parish, and by the heights of Gattonside, which, with the Langlee and Ladhope hills, form a ridge extending from the Leader to the Gala river. The Eildon hills are seen from the north with peculiar effect; the two highest summits alone are then visible, and appear with majestic grandeur, towering above the level of the adjacent country. The view from them is magnificent, commanding the windings of the Tweed through the vale of Melrose, with its banks thickly studded with villas, and the south front of the venerable abbey embosomed in woods: to the south is seen the whole of Teviotdale, bounded by the range of the Cheviot mountains, at the eastern extremity of which are Flodden hill and two other eminences of conical form. The valley of Melrose is supposed at some remote period to have been a lake, and the substratum of water-sand is still found by digging a few feet below the surface; the climate of the vale, sheltered by surrounding heights, is extremely mild, but the upland parts of the parish are exposed to severe northern gales. The soil is various. In the south a strong clay adapted to the growth of wheat is prevalent; on the banks of the river the land is light and dry, favourable to all kinds of grain; in the northern parts it is generally mixed with sand, resting on a substratum of gravel, but in some places clayey and wet, and in others a moss, under which marl is found. Fogs are very prevalent, and frequently assume a variety of picturesque forms: from the south of the Eildon hills, the whole vale of Teviot appears one continuous sheet of mist, above which are seen only the summit of Ruberslaw and the shaft of the Waterloo pillar. Of the land, about 11,500 acres on the north side of the Tweed are in tillage, and 7600 in pasture; and on the south side of the river the lands, consisting of one third of the parish, are wholly under cultivation. About 1200 acres are in plantations, mostly of modern date; the only natural wood is a few scattered trees, chiefly birch, on the banks of the river Allan. The system of agriculture is improved, and the crops in general favourable; the farm-buildings are substantial, commodious, and in good repair, and the inclosures and fences kept in proper order. Considerable advances have been made in draining and planting, and a large portion of waste land has been reclaimed and brought under profitable cultivation. The principal breeds of sheep are the Leicestershire, the Cheviot, and the half-bred and black-faced; the common breeds of cattle are the Teeswater, the Ayrshire, and the Highland, with an occasional admixture of other kinds. The salmon-fisheries of the Tweed, formerly very lucrative, are much reduced; the fish appear to be intercepted by the fishermen of Berwick, and few are taken in this parish. The chief fuel is, coal brought from the Lothians and Northumberland, the thinnings of the plantations, and peat from the mossy districts. The rateable annual value of Melrose is £20,671.
   The parish is divided among numerous proprietors, of whom fifty hold lands each to the annual value of £50 and above; and within its boundaries, and chiefly near the Tweed, are numerous villas and handsome mansion-houses, among which is Abbotsford, the seat of the late Sir Walter Scott, whose memory will ever be cherished by his country, and by the admirers of literary genius. These residences are principally built of sandstone, of coarse pudding-stone from the neighbouring quarry-hill, and of greywacke, which abounds in the parish. The far-famed mansion of Abbotsford, "a romance in stone and lime," occupies a slip of level ground at the foot of an overhanging bank on the right side of the river, and looks out upon a beautiful haugh on the opposite bank, backed with the green hills of Ettrick Forest. It is in the south-western part of the parish, and about a couple of miles distant from the town of Galashiels. The house, garden, pleasure-grounds, and woods, were all the creation of the immortal proprietor; and thousands of the trees which adorn the demesne, and appear in beautiful clusters around the mansion, were planted by his own hands: the name, also, is recent, having been adopted by Sir Walter from an adjoining ford over the river. Resembling no other building in the kingdom, the house has a peculiar but picturesque and imposing appearance; and its walls have been enriched with many an antique carved stone, procured from old churches, castles, and seats in different parts of Scotland, in the course of their demolition or decay. The interior contains the innumerable curiosities in the collection of which the novelist displayed so refined a taste; and even were Abbotsford destitute of attractions in respect of scenery, there would be sufficient in the relics here arranged, the armour, the paintings, the books, and the furniture, to demand the prolonged visit of the tourist. But the rarities and the architecture of the mansion are not more worthy of the notice of the stranger than the beautiful features of nature which the spot presents to his view. The sweeping amphitheatre of wood in which the house is seated, the banks of the meandering Tweed graced for miles with ranges of forest-trees, the numberless serpentine walks through the woods, and the ravines, bowers, waterfalls, and mountain lakes, that enrich the vicinity, all unite to form a scene of surpassing loveliness. Nor does Abbotsford possess slight interest for those who can regard with feelings akin to veneration the abode of one of the master-spirits of our literature. There are, in addition to the town of Melrose, seven villages within the limits of the parish, of which Darnick, Gattonside, and Newstead are less than a mile from the town. Newtown about three miles to the south-east, and Darlingshaugh upon the river Gala, four miles to the west: Buckholmside is, like Darlingshaugh, an appendage of Galashiels, in the trade of which its inhabitants are engaged.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Selkirk and synod of Merse and Teviotdale. The stipend of the incumbent is £234; the manse was built in 1813, and is in good repair, and the glebe comprises four acres of land, worth about £10 or £12 per annum. The church, erected in 1810, is situated on Wear hill, a little to the west of the town. John Knox, nephew of the celebrated reformer, was the second incumbent after the Reformation. There are a Free church, and two places of worship for the United Associate Synod, one of them in the town, and the other in a romantic dell through which the Bowden rivulet flows into the Tweed. The parochial school affords an excellent education to nearly eighty children; the salary of the master is £30 per annum, with a house and garden, and the fees amount to about £44. The school-house was built with money arising from funds bequeathed by Bishop Fletcher, to whose memory is a tablet in the wall of the edifice. At Langshaw, is a small school with an endowment of £3 per annum; and there are six schools in the villages, for each of which a comfortable house has been built by the villagers. On the side of the Eildon hills is a tumulus of artificial construction and of large dimensions, supposed to have been the site of a pagan altar; the road leading to it, through a ravine named the Haxalgate heugh, is called the Haxalgate. A stone appearing to be part of a Roman altar was dug up lately in the parish, and is now in the possession of the Drygrange family; it is inscribed to the god "Silvanus," by Curius Domitianus, of the XX. legion, "pro salute sua et suorum." In the walls of several houses in the town are inserted stones sculptured with different religious devices, and the letters J. H. S., thought to have been removed from the ruins of the old abbey.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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