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Peebles and Selkirk
Antiquities - Pre-historic, British, Roman


In pre-historic days, the Neolithic men buried their dead in long barrows or mounds, while the later Celts buried in round barrows. Long barrows contain no metal weapons; round barrows have bronze weapons and ornaments as well as stone. In the bronze age, gold ornaments are also found. The sepulchral cairn, however, is commoner in Peebles and Selkirk than the barrow. Tombs of the ancient Celts have been occasionally discovered in almost every parish in Peehlesshire; but most frequently in the west, especially in the Lyne valley.

The ancient Britons have also left numerous hill-forts, their houses or defences, which existed before, during, or after the Roman occupation. No fewer than 83 of these hill-forts have been surveyed in Peeblesshire. They are most numerous in the west and north-west of the county, rare in Tweedsmuir, in the Quair and in the Leithen valleys, unknown on the slopes of the Pentlands and in the valley between these hills and the Southern Uplands.

In Selkirk they are not to be found in the middle valleys of Ettrick and Yarrow; and only nine in all exist in the eastern part of Selkirk, the most important being the Rink. The forts are usually situated, at an elevation ranging from 1000 to 1400 feet, on terminal spurs, as East Cademuir; on isolated hills, as Macbeth’s Castle on the slopes of valleys, as Harehope; or in the valley itself, as Stirkfield, Broughton. Two-thirds of them have been constructed entirely of stone, the rest of earth, or of earth and stone. Their general form is curvilinear, modified to suit the outline of the surface. But it is not possible to say whether the walls were built, or simply piled up. In the fort at Dreva, however, traces of building have been seen. Some forts, as Upper Cademuir, have treble rings; some, as Cardrona, double; and some, as East Cademuir, single rings. The circumference varies, roughly from 150 yards at East Cademuir to 600 yards at Upper Cademuir. Two stone forts, West Cademuir and Dreva, are defended by groups of stones at a lower level than the camp, forming a sort of chevaux defrise, a feature found nowhere else in Scotland.

None of these forts equals in interest that on Torwoodlee hill a few miles from Galashiels, 300 feet above Gala Water and situated within the area of a British camp on Crossleehill. It belongs to the type of fort known as a broch. Brochs are dry-built circular castles. They are characteristic of the Celtic area, outside of which they have never been found. They belong to post-Roman times; their relics are Celtic, Roman, and post-Roman. The remains of the Torwoodlee broch measure 75 feet, and the enclosed court 40 feet in diameter, the height of the walls being about three feet. The entrance passage is on the east side and must have been closed by a door. At the main entrance was a guard room within the thickness of the wall, and on the south-west side there are the remains of a staircase which would lead to the upper galleries of the tower, sometimes five or six in number, the floor of one forming the roof of the other. The broch of Torwoodlee is thus larger than that of Mousa. The relics of the brochs show that their occupants hunted in the forests; kept flocks and herds; cultivated grain; fished rivers and seas; and were acquainted with the arts of weaving and pottery, metal, wood, and stone work. The relics of Torwoodlee broch consist mainly of pottery, glass, enamels, and iron implements.

The broch of Torwoodlee seems to be the terminus of the Catrail, one of the most wonderful monuments of antiquity in the south of Scotland. It consists of a ditch with a double mound, one on each side, obliterated in many places, in others, distinct. Even where no trench or mound exists, its course can often be traced by the lighter shade of the grass, by the darker green of the young corn, or in winter, by the longer-lying snow. Its course, as it halves Selkirkshire in two, stretches over Tweed, Yarrow and Ettrick for 50 miles from Torwoodlee camp in the north-east of Selkirkshire to the slopes of Peel Fell in the Cheviots. Where it is perfect the width of the fosse from the summit of one mound to another, varies from 23½, feet to 18½ feet; the width of the bottom of the ditch is on an average six feet; and the distance from the summit of the slope to the bottom is 10 feet. Three theories have been advanced to explain the Catrail: (1) a line of defence by the Britons against the English; (2) a territorial boundary between Anglian Bernicia on the east and British Cumbria on the west; (3) and best, a strategic road between the greater forts constructed by the Romanized Britons to check the English invasion.

Lyne Camp was a castellum or fortified camp, probably on a Roman road leading to Antonine’s Wall. It is situated on the plateau of a moraine about 100 feet above Lyne Water, towards which it slopes on the west and south. The north and east sides of the camp were protected by a morass, the west and south by the river and its sloping banks, and the east by a natural mound, now covered with trees. Two annexes, one on the northwest angle, the other on the south-west, filled up the vacant spaces between the edge of the marsh on the north and the slope on the south sides. On the east, towards which the camp faced, there were three lines of defence 140 feet in width; on the south the breadth of the fortifications was reduced to 120 feet, on the north-east (where the mounds are most clearly marked) to 85 feet; on the north-west to 45 feet; while on the south-west there was only one rampart with its trench. The variation in the width of the defences was dependent, of course, on the amount of natural protection afforded by the slope or by the marsh. There were no gates or barricades on the east, but there were gates on the north and south. The south entrance opened into the annex, from which there must have been a bridge. A short portion of a road remains leading north-east and then south-east from the eastern wall of the camp. In a pit in the courtyard of the annex to the south, were found the few relics that were discovered: some Samian ware, glass, nails, and two coins, a denarius of Titus (A.D. 79) and a brass sestertius of Trajan (A.D. 104—110).

Standing stones or megaliths, of great antiquity, are found in Manor (a cup-marked stone); at Lour, also cup-marked; at Dollar Law, Tweedsmuir, Sherifimuir (Lyne), Cardrona, "Warrior’s Rest" (Yarrow). Some of these are no doubt monumental. The eleven stones, eight of which are standing and three lying down, on Blackhouse Heights, said to mark the "Douglas Tragedy," are according to Professor Veitch older than feudal times. The stones at "Warrior’s Rest" were boldly, but without warrant, linked by Sir Walter Scott with the legend of the "Dowie Dens."

Flint arrows, stone axes and hammers, mostly of other stone than flint; bronze axes, flat, flanged, and socketed— the three stages of their evolution—have been found at various places, but mainly in the west. A food urn of rare and elegant design was found at Darnhall, a bronze caldron at Hattonknowe, a Roman patella at Stanhope, and gold ornaments at Shawhill.


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