The earliest church buildings in Scotland were usually
of wood and clay, resting upon stone foundations. Church settlements of a
very early date existed in Peeblesshire at Stobo, Kingledoors, Glenholm
and Drummelzier. Kingledoors Chapel in Tweedsmuir was either founded by St
Cuthbert or, like the last two, dedicated to him soon after his death in
687 A.D. Churches in the twelfth century existed at Peebles and Traquair;
and, if Selkirk means "Kirk of the Shiels," in Ettrick Forest long before
the twelfth century. But the remains of ancient churches within the shires
are singularly rare and of little architectural interest.
The Church of St Andrew in Peebles was founded by
Bishop Jocelin of Glasgow in 1195, in the reign of William the Lyon, and
therefore belongs to the transition period of Norman to Early English. The
walls were built of undressed whinstone; and a tall square tower,
"restored" by Sir William Chambers, at the
west end of what must have been a spacious building, is all that now
remains of the structure. In 1406 it
was burned by Umfraville, "Robin Mend the Market," and nearly one hundred
and fifty years afterwards it
suffered when Hertford destroyed the town by fire. At the Reformation in
1560 it was abandoned; and there is a tradition that Lambert, when
besieging Neidpath Castle, stabled his horses in the church, which by that
time had fallen into ruins.
The Church of the Holy Cross was founded by Alexander III in
1261. In that year, says John of Fordun,
a cross was found at Peebles, and near the cross an urn, with the relics
of the martyr St Nicholas, supposed to have been massacred in the reign of
Diocletian. Crowds of people flocked to the spot, and many miracles were
performed. More than 200 years after, in the reign of James II, a
monastery was added to the church. The unusual position of the monastery
on the north side of the church, Dr
Gunn supposes to be due to the fact that the niche containing the relics
of St Nicholas was on the south wall of the church. The space opposite
this side of the church would naturally be the resort of the crowds of
pilgrims who resorted thither twice a year, at the Feast of the Exaltation
of the Cross, and again at the Feast of the Finding of the Cross (which
had been grafted on to the old pagan Beltane). The south side would
therefore have been an inconvenient site for the monastery. Indeed, the
practice of veneration continued long after the Reformation, and as late
as 1601 the Minister and Bailies of Peebles report to the Presbytery that
at this Beltane "there was no resorting of the people into the Cross
Church to commit any sign of superstition there." At the Reformation the
monastery was dissolved; and the
Cross Church, in succession to that of St Andrew, became the parish
church. It was abandoned in 1783 for a new church, built on the Castle
Hill at the west end of the High Street. Connected with the monastery was
an almshouse and chapel of the Virgin. This almshouse formed a branch
establishment of the principal hostel at Eshiels, near Horsburgh
Castle—the Hospital of SS. Leonard and Lawrence, which provided for the
pilgrims who journeyed to Peebles from the east.
Dr Gunn, author of the
Books of the Church,
has supplied the following useful summary:
Early Church of St Mungo unrecorded.
St Andrew’s 1195. Burned 1549.
Cross Church. Founded 1261. Its
Monastery 1473. Dissolved 1560. Parish Church in succession to St Andrew’s
St Mary’s. Founded 1363. Used as an
Occasional Chapel of the Reformed Faith 1560—1780 (St Mary’s stood west of
Chapel of the Castle of Peebles,
c. 1153 to 1305.
Chapel and Hospice of SS. Leonard
and Lawrence at Eshiels, c. 1300-1560.
Lyne Church, still in use, is
situated on a gravel moraine east of the Roman Camp. The building measures
only 47+ feet by 15 feet, and was built in 1644 by the Hay of Yester who
was the first Earl of Tweed-dale, on the site of an earlier church.
Stobo Parish Church, a Norman
structure, consisting of three parts—tower, nave, chancel—the work of
different periods, had considerable alterations made upon it in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The most serious injury inflicted on
it was the entire destruction of the Norman chancel arch by the
substitution of a modern pointed one when the building was restored in
1868. The sixteenth- and seventeenth-century features consist of a south
porch, and a north aisle, which was barrel-vaulted, but is now in ruins.
The belfry is of late design, as is also the roof. After the Reformation
some of the doors and windows were built up, and the walls plastered. In
1868 an old monumental tomb with canopy was removed, and two Norman
windows were discovered.
The Chapel of St Mary’s, in Yarrow,
situated on a terrace of rock south of Copper Law, about 200 feet above
the level of the loch, has left no traces except a small mound, not over
20 feet square, in the north angle of an enclosure. The oldest name of the
church was St Marie of Fairmainshope, and in later times, St Marie of the
Lowes, i.e. Lochs. According to the ballad The Douglas Tragedy,
Lord William and Lady Margaret were buried in the church; and
according to the ballad The Gay Goshawk, another Lord
William in this church roused his lady love from her death-like slumber on
her bier. In 1559 the church was attacked by 200 men of the clan Scott, in
search of their enemy Sir Peter Cranston, an incident commemorated in
Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel.
The site of the primitive church of
Selkirk is unknown; the Abbey, however, begun by David I, is supposed to
have been at the corner of High Street and Tower Street. A church was
built in Selkirk in 1511—12, and another in its place in 1747. It was in
the latter church, now a ruin, that the panels of the front gallery were
ornamented with pictorial emblems of the various crafts of the burgh,
whose deacons and quartermasters occupied the front seats of the gallery.
The figure of Justice blind-folded with scales in her hand, and the motto
"A false balance is an abomination to the Lord," advertised the piety and
the integrity of the Merchant Company. The Tailors represented our first
parents making clothes for themselves; the Souters showed a fellow of the
order of St Crispin measuring a lady’s foot, the explanatory legend being:
"How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O Prince’s daughter."