Eccles

   ECCLES, a parish, in the county of Berwick, 6 miles (W. by N.) from Coldstream; containing, with the villages of Leitholm and Birgham, 1946 inhabitants. The name of this parish is derived from the classical word signifying a church, supposed to be applied on account of the number of churches or chapels at one time situated here. It is remarkable as containing the ancient village of Birgham, celebrated for the meeting, in 1188, between Hugh, Bishop of Durham, and William the Lion, at the instance of Henry II. of England, for the purpose of laying a tax upon the Scots towards the support of the war in the Holy Land. At that place, also, was convened, in 1290, an august assembly, for the settlement of the marriage of Prince Edward, son of Edward I., with Margaret of Scotland, a union afterwards prevented by the death of the young princess, in one of the Orkneys. The parish was anciently the seat of Bernardine or Cistercian nuns, for whom a convent was founded by Cospatrick, Earl of Dunbar; but the building has entirely disappeared, with the exception of two vaults, now converted into cellars for the mansion-house of one of the landed proprietors. There is much obscurity in ancient documents respecting the date of this religious house, Hoveden and the Melrose Chronicle representing it as founded a second time by the earl, in 1154, and Cowpar fixing the event in 1155, while the Scoto-Chronicon annexed to Fordun asserts it to have been established by his countess. In 1296, during the interregnum in Scotland, Ada de Fraser, the prioress, obtained a letter of restitution, in consequence of the fealty sworn to Edward I. by the Scots; and in 1333, Edward III., after taking Berwick, also received the homage of the convent. It was visited in 1523, on the 13th of November, by the Duke of Albany when retreating from Wark Castle; he stayed till midnight, and then marched to Lauder. In 1545, the abbey and town, with the tower of Mersington, were destroyed by the Earl of Hertford on his memorable inroad into Merse and Teviotdale, when he ravaged and burned the whole country without opposition. In 1569, Marieta Hamilton, then prioress of the establishment, granted the village and lands of Eccles, by charter, to Sir Alexander Hamilton, of Innerwick; and the charter was confirmed by Queen Mary at Edinburgh, on the 11th of May, in the same year. In the 17th century the village was erected into a burgh of barony in favour of George Home, Earl of Dunbar.
   The parish is nearly seven miles long, and five and a half broad, and contains 11,000 acres. With the exception of the slight elevations of Cotchet Ridge, Hardacres, Eccles, Brae-Dunstan, and Bartlehill, the surface is level throughout; and consists of arable land, well cultivated and fenced, and studded with numerous plantations. The climate, however, is somewhat damp, and to a slight extent unhealthy, arising from the prevalence of a rainy atmosphere. The scenery is much enlivened by the course of the Tweed, which runs on the southern boundary of the parish, and separates it from Northumberland; its banks rise about fifty feet above the water, and harbour large numbers of foxes, weasels, and rabbits. The soil near the river is in general light; in the middle and northern parts of the parish clay and loam predominate, and in the south-east quarter is a portion of moor. Nearly the whole is arable, producing excellent crops of all kinds of grain, and turnips and potatoes: the rotation here followed is the four or the five years' shift, which is considered well suited to the district. Sheep are kept on most of the larger farms, and consist mainly of the Cheviot and Leicestershire breeds, the former of which, on account of their being more hardy, are preferred for the clayey lands. Rapid advances have been made in agricultural improvement, and the rateable annual value of the parish now amounts to as large a sum as £19,441. The prevailing rock is the red sandstone, which exists in a great variety of forms and admixtures. At Birgham Haugh, magnesian limestone, with red hornstone and crystals of calcareous spar, is found; and on the southern bank of the river, in addition to the above, are considerable quantities of claystone porphyry. Near Kennetside head, the large proportion of siliceous material gives the sandstone almost the appearance of a quartz rock; and in the marly sandstone on the banks of the small river Leet are thin beds of gypsum. Among the mansions in the parish are Purves Hall, Kames, Antonshill, Belchester, Stoneridge, and Eccles House, and in the plantations of the last-mentioned are several fine old trees, chiefly elm and ash. There are four villages, Eccles, Leitholm, Birgham, and Hassington; Leitholm is the largest, and has a bye-post to Coldstream. The London and Edinburgh road, by Greenlaw, traverses the parish from south-east to north-west; and that by Kelso, and the road from Kelso to Berwick, also cross it.
   The Ecclesiastical affairs are governed by the presbytery of Dunse and synod of Merse and Teviotdale; patron, the Crown. The stipend of the minister is £246, and there is a manse, with a glebe of twenty acres of good land. The first church was dedicated to St. Cuthbert, but the next, built about the year 1250, was in honour of St. Andrew; the present church was erected in 1774, at an expense of £1000. It is after the model of St. Cuthbert's chapel-of-ease at Edinburgh, and is an elegant building seventy-eight feet long and thirty-four feet broad, and ornamented with a handsome spire; it is situated about a mile from the western boundary of the parish, and contains 1000 sittings. The Relief Congregation have a place of worship, and there is a parochial school, in which the classics, mathematics, and all the usual branches of education are taught; the salary of the master is £34, with the fees, and a house. A friendly society for the relief of the sick and superannuated has also been established. The chief relic of antiquity is a monument of white sandstone, in the form of a cross, without any inscription, situated at Crosshall, about a mile to the north of the village of Eccles. The pedestal is a solid block of stone, two and a half feet high, three feet square on its upper surface, and raised a little above the ground; the column is ten feet high, one and a half foot broad on the west and east sides, and one foot on the north and south, at the bottom. On its north face is sculptured a Calvary cross, surmounted by a shield; at the summit of the west side is a cross, with an escutcheon below having chevrons in the dexter and sinister chiefs and the base, and a St. John's cross. The south side has an escutcheon like that on the west, and beneath an ancient double-handed sword; the east has a cross, and, below, the naked figure of a man and a greyhound. Many conjectures have been made respecting its origin and design; the most probable is that it was erected after the second crusade, in 1114, in honour of the father of Sir John de Soules, lieutenant or viceroy to John Baliol. On Hardacres hill, about a mile to the west of the monument, are traces of intrenchments. Eccles was the birthplace of Henry Home, Lord Kames, in 1696; and it was here that he entertained Dr. Franklin and his son in 1759, and composed many of his philosophical works.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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