- SELKIRK, a burgh, market-town, and parish, partly in the district of Hawick, county of Roxburgh, and partly in the county of Selkirk, of which it is the chief town, 22 miles (S. E. by E.) from Peebles, and 38 (S. E. by S.) from Edinburgh; containing 3484 inhabitants, of whom 2500 are in the burgh, and the remainder in the rural districts of the parish. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, derives its name, in the Celtic tongue signifying "the Church in the forest," from the ancient state of the surrounding district, which was thickly covered with wood and appropriated as a royal chase. From its proximity to the border, it was frequently the scene of hostile incursions, and intricately involved in all the ferocious and sanguinary wars of the rival kingdoms, during the mutual efforts of their monarchs to obtain the ascendancy. In the 12th century it appears to have been regarded as a place of importance; and David I. founded near the site of the present town a monastery, which was, however, subsequently for greater security removed to Kelso. The castle seems to have been a fortress of considerable note, and is enumerated by Edward II., King of England, as one of the strongholds in possession of his party. The inhabitants furnished a quota of one hundred men who accompanied James IV. to the battle of Flodden Field; and such was their zealous attachment to their sovereign, and such their heroic courage, that only four of their number returned from that fatal conflict, in which the rest of the body fell. The survivors brought with them a standard taken from the enemy, part of which is still preserved in the hall of the company of weavers, by one of whom it was captured. The town was subsequently burnt by the English during one of the wars of the border, to compensate for which injury, a grant of one thousand acres of the adjoining lands was made by the crown to the citizens and their posterity for ever. At Philiphaugh, within a mile of the town, a battle took place between the forces of the Marquess of Montrose and a body of Covenanters under General Leslie, in which the former were defeated; and a field on the Yarrow, where it is said the latter put many of their prisoners to death after the battle, is still called the Slain Men's Lee.The town is pleasantly situated on a rising ground commanding a fine view of the river Ettrick, over which is a neat bridge; and is well built, containing several streets with many handsome houses, inhabited by persons employed in trade and the manufactures carried on in the neighbourhood. The streets are lighted with gas, and cleansed by the corporation; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. A public library is supported by subscription, in which is an extensive collection of standard works; a mechanics' institution, in which lectures are delivered on various branches of science, has also an extensive library; and a news-room has been established, which is well furnished with newspapers and periodicals. A new line of road has been opened, forming an easier approach from Galashiels, by which the environs have been greatly improved in appearance, and which is one of the most pleasant drives in this part of the country, embracing many fine views and much interesting scenery. The woollen manufacture is carried on here to a considerable extent, there being three large mills affording employment to 500 persons; and several of the inhabitants are engaged in stocking-weaving: there are also a tannery, some gasworks, a fulling-mill, and some extensive corn-mills. The post-office has two deliveries daily; and every facility of intercourse with the neighbouring towns is afforded by roads kept in excellent order. The market is on Wednesday, and very much business is transacted: fairs are held on the first Wednesday in March, the 5th of April, the 15th of July, the 31st of October, and the 19th of December. The date of the earliest charter of incorporation is, from the loss of the original records, not precisely known; but the town is noticed as a royal Burgh in a charter of William the Lion, and the various privileges and immunities enjoyed by the inhabitants during previous reigns are fully set forth and confirmed by charter of James V., granted in the year 1535, during his minority, and renewed, with a gift of lands, by the monarch after he had attained his majority. All the charters were ratified by an act of the Scottish parliament, obtained in favour of the burgh in 1633. The government is vested in two bailies, a treasurer, and a council of twenty-nine burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk, procurator-fiscal, and other officers, all of whom are appointed by the council: no provost has been chosen for many years. The bailies and council are now elected under the authority, and subject to the provisions, of the act of the 3rd and 4th of William IV. The freedom may be obtained by six years' apprenticeship to a freeman of the fleshers' or the shoemakers' company, or four years' apprenticeship to a freeman of any of the other companies, of which there are three duly incorporated, viz., the hammermen, weavers, and tailors. All the companies retain and enforce their exclusive privileges; and the freedom may also be obtained by purchase, for which the fee paid by a stranger varies from £5 to £15, according to the company he joins. The bailies are ex officio justices of the peace within the burgh and county, and have power to hold courts for the determination of civil pleas, and for the trial of criminal offences, which are chiefly confined to cases of assault or petty thefts. A court is also held by the dean of guild, assisted by the junior bailie and a deputation of the town-council, for the adjudication of infringements of the privileges of the burgh. In the bailies' court, one civil action and three criminal causes were tried in a recent year; and in the court of the dean of guild, two cases of infringement were decided. The town-hall is a handsome and well-arranged building, with a lofty and elegant spire rising to the height of 110 feet, and forming a conspicuous object in the view of Selkirk; it contains the requisite halls and court-rooms for the transaction of the public business of the burgh and of the county. There is likewise in the town a prison which is both well adapted for classification and for the security of prisoners.The parish is bounded on the north by the river Tweed, and is of very irregular form, comprising several detached portions, of which some are in the county of Roxburgh; it is about seven miles and a half in length, and of unequal breadth, and, including the detached portions, comprises 6300 acres, of which 3000 are arable, 1000 woodland and plantations, and 2300 meadow and pasture. The surface, which is generally elevated, is diversified by numerous hills; the principal are the Three Brethren Cairn and the Peat, which are situated between the Ettrick and the Tweed, the former having an elevation of 1978, and the latter of 1964, feet above the level of the sea. The scenery is richly varied; and though the old forests have disappeared, there are some extensive and beautiful plantations, which contribute greatly to its embellishment. The rivers are, the Ettrick, the Tweed, and the Yarrow, which intersect the parish from west to east, and in their course, flowing between wooded banks, display much picturesque and truly romantic scenery. The soil is generally of a light and dry quality, and the chief crops are, oats, barley, wheat, potatoes, and turnips: the system of agriculture is in a highly improved state. The lands are well drained, and inclosed partly with dykes of stone and hedges of thorn; the farm houses and offices are handsomely built and commodiously arranged; and all the more recent improvements in implements have been adopted. Considerable attention is paid to the live-stock, which have been much improved by the influence of a pastoral society established under the patronage of Lord Napier: the sheep are principally of the white-faced breed, which thrives well in these pastures. The plantations, chiefly of oak, pine, birch, and fir, are well managed, and the annual thinnings afford a supply of timber for various uses. In the rural districts of the parish the general fuel is peat, and in the town and immediate vicinity, coal, brought from Mid Lothian. The principal substrata are greywacke, and greywacke and clay-slate, but no quarries are wrought to any extent. Bowhill, a seat of the Duke of Buccleuch, is a magnificent mansion situated in an extensive and richly-wooded demesne; Haining, Yair, Philiphaugh, Broadmeadows, and Sunderland Hall, are also handsome modern mansions in grounds embellished with thriving plantations. The rateable annual value of the parish is £14,703 for the Selkirkshire portion, and £989 for the Roxburghshire portion.Selkirk is the seat of the presbytery of Selkirk, synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and is in the patronage of the Duke of Roxburghe: the minister's stipend is £275. 5. 9., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £21 per annum. The church, built in 1784, and thoroughly repaired in 1829, is a plain neat edifice adapted for a congregation of 800 persons; it is situated in the centre of the town, and at an inconvenient distance from some parts of the parish. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the United Secession. The parochial school affords a liberal and extensive course of instruction to about seventy scholars, and has long maintained an eminent degree of reputation; the master has a salary of £50 per annum, including an allowance in lieu of house and garden, and the fees average about £80. The burgh school, of which the master is appointed by the magistrates, affords instruction to about sixty scholars, and is supported by the corporation, who pay the master a salary of £30 per annum, and maintain the school buildings, from the common fund; the course comprises the English language, writing, arithmetic, mathematics, and drawing. There was once a female school under the patronage of the corporation, who allowed the mistress £30; and a school at Newark is supported by the Duke of Buccleuch, who gives the master £15 per annum, with a house and coal. A parochial library is established, which has a good collection of volumes; and there are a missionary and a friendly society in the town, and a savings' bank for some years established, which has tended to diminish the number of applications to the poor's fund. At Newark are the remains of the ancient castle, previously noticed, and formerly the residence of Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, after the decapitation of her husband in the reign of James VI.; it is the property of the Duke of Buccleuch. At Oakwood are the remains of another, the property of the Scotts, of Harden, celebrated as the abode of the noted wizard, Michael Scott, of whom many legendary traditions are still current. About two miles to the west of Philiphaugh may be traced the lines of an intrenchment thrown up by the Marquess of Montrose, on an eminence overhanging the Yarrow; and the house in the town in which he spent the night previous to the battle is still pointed out. Coins, apparently Roman, have been found at various times, but in a state of almost complete obliteration; and skulls of the wild ox, and a Roman spear, were dug up some years since in a moss. Of the eminent characters connected with this place were, Andrew Pringle, Lord Alemoor, lord of session in the last century, celebrated for his learning and eloquence; Mungo Park, the African traveller, who was born at Fowlshiels, where one of his brothers at present resides; and Sir Walter Scott, who was for many years sheriff of the county, and of whom a statue was lately erected in the market-place by the inhabitants. Selkirk gives the title of earl to a branch of the family of Douglas.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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