Earlstoun

   EARLSTOUN, a parish, in the county of Berwick; including the villages of Fans, Mellerstain, and Redpath, and containing 1756 inhabitants, of whom 927 are in the village of Earlstoun, 4 miles (N. by E.) from Melrose. The name of this parish, anciently Ersildun or Ersildon, which appears to have been gradually changed into Earlstoun, is traced by some antiquaries to the Cambo-British word Arcwl-dun, signifying "the prospect hill," from a commanding eminence on the south of the village and church. It is, however, perhaps more correctly derived from the name Earl, with the common termination of don, ton, or town, on account of its having belonged to the earls of March, who were seated here from the 12th century till 1453, when they incurred a forfeiture. David I. occasionally resided in this part, and James IV., in the year 1506, granted the barony to Mungo Home, whose family had previously established their residence at Cowdenknows, on the Leader, about three-quarters of a mile below the village of Earlstoun. This village, on the 1st of February, 1590–1, was made a burgh of barony by James VI., in favour of John Home, of Cowdenknows, the great grandson of Mungo; and the grant was confirmed in 1592. In 1636, Sir James Home, the lineal descendant of this family, succeeded to the earldom of Home, Earl James having died without issue. The parish lies in the south-western extremity of the county, and is about six miles in length, from east to west, and about four and a half in breadth, and is bounded on the north by the parishes of Gordon and Legerwood, on the south by Mertoun, on the east by Smailholm and Nenthorn, and on the west by Melrose, in Roxburghshire. The surface in the vicinity of most of the streams is tolerably even, but in the western quarter it is more hilly, though there is no remarkable eminence, except in one place, about a mile south of the village, where the ground attains an elevation of 1000 feet above the level of the sea. There are two considerable rivers, the Eden on the east, and the Leader on the west, both of which rise in Lammermoor, and flow into the Tweed, and are celebrated for their fine trout. The scenery of the latter is in some parts extremely beautiful; and its windings between the hills of Carolside, and through the classic grounds of Cowdenknows, have been the inspiring theme of Scottish song.
   The soil is of different varieties; that of the arable land is generally dry, and in some parts a rich fertile loam. In the eastern quarter is a considerable extent of marshy ground; barren heath is met with in many places, and in the northern district is a moss consisting of several hundreds of acres. About 5600 acres are cultivated or occasionally in tillage, and 2118 are waste or in pasture; the wood covers 915 acres, and on the Mellerstain estate, where timber is regularly cut for sale, a large extent of waste has been planted with Scotch fir. Grain of all kinds is raised, but the quantity, especially of wheat, has been small, the soil being chiefly suited to turnips, large crops of which are produced. The five years' rotation system? is usually followed, consisting of two years' grass; oats; turnips; and, lastly, oats or barley, with grass seeds. The sheep mostly bred are the Leicesters, and the cattle are the short-horned, to the rearing of which much attention is paid. Many improvements have been effected in the culture of the lands; and although great losses have been sustained in some cases by the reclaiming of waste, yet considerable progress has been made in this respect, and the extensive tract of moss before named, having been redeemed at an expense of from £1200 to £1400, now affords tolerable pasture for cattle. On the estate of Cowdenknows much benefit has been derived from laying out plantations, which greatly ornament the vicinity of the Leader as well as the village of Earlstoun. The rateable annual value of the parish is £8533.
   At Mellerstain, the seat of the ancient family of Baillie, is a large and elegant mansion, built by the grandfather of the present owner, George Baillie, Esq.; it is embosomed in a forest of noble trees, which cover and adorn a wide extent of country. Cowdenknows, now the property of James Gilfillan, Esq., stands on the Leader, amid scenery which has for hundreds of years been celebrated for its beauty; and Carolside, belonging to Alexander Mitchel, Esq., is also seated on the banks of the river, in a delightfully secluded vale surrounded by hills, and is remarkable for the variety of the attractions in its vicinity. The village of Earlstoun is situated on the Leader, near the new line of road from Jedburgh to Edinburgh; and the road from Kelso passes through it. There are two manufactures carried on in the parish; one is that of ginghams, merinos, shawls, muslins, shirtings, and furniture stripes; and the other of plaidings, blankets, flannels, and other woollens. In the former, which is wholly pursued by hand-loom weavers, about eighty persons are employed; in the latter the number of hands is about forty. Two fairs of considerable importance are held yearly at Earlstoun, principally for horses and cattle, one on the 29th of June, and the other on the third Thursday in October. The ecclesiastical affairs are subject to the presbytery of Lauder and synod of Merse and Teviotdale; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the minister is £218, and there is a manse, erected in 1814, and repaired in 1824, to which is attached a glebe valued at £37 per annum. The church, built in 1736, and enlarged and thoroughly repaired in 1832, is situated in the village, nearly at one extremity of the parish; it formerly accommodated only 450 persons, but on account of its recent enlargement it is now capable of holding nearly 200 more. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship, and there are also meeting-houses for Antiburghers and the Relief body. In the parochial school, the classics, French, mathematics, and all the usual branches of education are taught; the salary of the master is £28, with £32 from fees, and the interest of £550 bequeathed partly by the Rev. Robert Young, and partly by the late Dr. James Wilson, who was educated in the school, and long resident in India. A school at Mellerstain is partly supported by the Baillie family; and at Fans and Redpath are other schools. At Cowdenknows is an ancient tower in a state of good preservation, bearing on its walls the date 1573; but the chief relic of antiquity is part of a tower standing at the west end of the village, called Rhymer's Tower, the ancient residence of Sir Thomas Learmont, or Thomas of Ercildoune, commonly called Thomas the Rhymer, the earliest, and in some respects the most remarkable, poet of Scotland. His predictions respecting many families of importance, and with regard to the ruin of his own family, and the union of the British dominions under one monarch, are all particularly noticed by Sir Walter Scott in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. He lived about the end of the 13th century, and held a considerable portion of the lands of the parish. On the summit of Blackhill is a vitrified fort, and in various parts of the parish are circular encampments of the primitive inhabitants. Near the western extremity of the village there existed some years ago an ancient thorn-tree, to which the older people attached the magic power of sustaining the fortunes of the place, so long as it remained untouched.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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