Hawick, Roxburghshire, Scotland


Slitrig Bridge
Today Hawick is the largest town in the Scottish Borders and the most urban-feeling of them; in the 18th century this was not so. One visitor to the town in the 1820s described it as a sort of "Glasgow in miniature", a comparison that today would probably not be appreciated by either. Pronounced "Hoyk," its name is said to come from the Anglo Saxon "haga wic," the settlement, or wick, surrounded by the hawthorn hedge. Hawick lies on the River Teviot where it is joined by the Slitrig Water: and the power its rivers provided was central to the growth of the town. Hawick, being the centre of a great pastoral region, and having a number of waterfalls on the Teviot and Slitrig, and a people characterised by much intelligence and enterprise. The town is in a basin, the principal streets being built on the level land on both sides of the rivers, from which other streets ascend the slopes, and above these are the mansions and villas of the principal inhabitants overlooking the town, and commanding extensive views of the surrounding region.

The first people known to have lived there were the Angles in the 600s, who forced out the earlier inhabitants and made a settlement where two rivers met and gave some protection. The Hawick slogan 'Tyribus ye Tyr ye Odin' may be a corruption of their war cry, calling for the help of Thor and Odin to defeat their enemies. Those born in Hawick are known as Teris. The history of Hawick shows that the people have been distinguished for intelligence, enterprise, courage, and a love of political freedom.

Motte on which the old wooden castle was build
View of Hawick from the Motte
In the 1100s the Lovells, a Norman family, were granted Hawick by King David I. For their safety, they built a large earthen mound ("motte") and bailey as the base for their wooden castle/fort in which they lived, so they could watch out for attackers and pull up the drawbridge before they had time to gallop the last half mile. The motte is the classic shape, the bailey lies uphill and has lost its shape. Excavations found a wide ditch around the motte and a coin of Henry II. The motte still gives a good view of Hawick, especially High Street. The Moat or Moot hill at the south end of the town - an earthen mound 30 ft. high and 300 ft. in circumference - is conjectured to have been the place where formerly the court of the manor met; though some authorities think it was a primitive form of fortification.

Like all of Roxburghshire, this was a turbulent area, due to its proximity to the English border. The whole area around was a scene of bloody feuds for hundreds of years in the middle ages, with various families fighting the English, the Scots, each other and anyone else they could find, and many switching sides whenever it seemed like a good idea. To keep things fully stirred, various English and Scots kings made grants of land. The town later suffered significantly in the cross border wars between England and Scotland in the 1300s, 1400s and 1500s. On 9 September 1513 most of the town's men of fighting age were killed at the Battle of Flodden.

1921 Callants monument on High Street
'The Horse' at the end of the High Street commemorates the victory of local youths ("Callants") over English invaders at nearby Hornshole in 1514, barely a year after the disaster at Flodden. During the skirmish, the Abbot's banner was taken and triumphantly carried back to Hawick. One of the oldest Border Common Ridings, held in early summer, honours this event where 'The Horse' becomes the centrepiece for this symbolic festival each June in which several hundred riders gather to ride around the boundaries of the burgh.

Drumlanrig's Tower (now Museum)
Hawick's oldest building is a fortified tower of the 1500s enveloped inside an 18th Century town house in the center of town. Drumlanrig's Tower is a romantic monument revealing a dark history of cross-border warfare from the middle ages to the Tower's eventual conversion into a hotel in the 1930s. Built as a Peel Tower House and home of the Douglas family, and later the home of Anne, Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch, Drumlanrig's Tower consists of an altered and extended 16th-century L-plan tower house, once surrounded by a moat. It was the only building left unburnt after the torching of Hawick by the English in 1570. From the 17th century, part of the basement was used as prison, this becoming the wine-cellar on its conversion to a coaching inn. The hotel was closed in 1970, and the tower was restored to house an exhibition, with 10 galleries covering 800 years of Border history.The Douglases of Drumlanrig built the tower in the 16th century to dominate the crossing of the Slitrig Water, but subsequently lost it to the Scotts of Buccleuch. It played a part in the Ango-Scottish wars and was seized by Covenanters during the "Killing Times" of King ChCharles II's reign. At the end of the 17th century Ann, Duchess of Buccleuch, extended the tower to form her town house, which became a coaching inn and a focus for political meetings around 1773. The old architecture of the town, remarkable chiefly for its houses vaulted below with stone stairs outside projecting into the streets, has now almost entirely disappeared; and much of the town is new and elegant, much is renovated and neat, and all, in a general view, is pleasing . many old tenements with their thatched roofs or thick walls, and clumsy donjon-looking exterior, have been substituted by airy and neat buildings, accordant in their aspect with modern taste. Villas also are springing up in the vicinity. In the unrenovated parts the town still presents a rough and clownish exterior; but as a whole, it cannot offend even a fastidious eye. All its edifices are constructed with a hard bluish-coloured stone, which does not admit of polish or minute adorning, yet pleases by its suggestions of chasteness and its indications of durability and strength. But though lighted up at night with gas, and always clean and airy, and in other respects tasteful, the town utterly disappoints stranger by its poverty in suitable public buildings.

St. Mary's Church - rebuilt in 1763
The original building of St Mary's Church was dedicated in 1214 by Adam, Bishop of Caithness. This is the Heart of Hawick. Location at a bridge over the Slitrig Water was more important than a crossing of the marshy and malarial Teviot. Here the importance of the bridges becomes apparent, with three crossing the Slitrig. The middle one - the auld brig o' Hawick - was the most important, and is the hardest to find: nowadays just a roadway leading towards Drumlanrig's Tower and High Street from the bottom of the church steps. The only church of historical interest is that of St Mary's, the third of the name, built in 1763 St Mary's was the parish church till 1844, the tower is the only surviving part of teh 1763 building. For many years the church clock was the only means of telling time in the town. The original church is St Mary's, which dates from 1214, was rebuilt in 1763, and having been much damaged by fire in 1880, was restored It was from St Mary's that Sir Alex. Ramsay of Dalhousie, a noble and patriotic knight, while holding a court of justice, was dragged by Douglas to Hermitage Castle, and in the dungeon there was starved to death.

The Rev. William Fowler, parson of Hawick, was celebrated as a poet and a scholar. Several of his pieces in MS. are preserved in the library of the University of Edinburgh. The Rev. Alexander Orrok, who died in 1711, a profound divine and one of the leaders of the Church of Scotland, was a man of warm and extensive charity, and a promoter of higher education, leaving a large part of his property for an endowment to the Grammar School. The Rev. William Crawford, minister of Wilton, who died in 1742, was the author of several religious works of a high order, eminently practical, and much read throughout the country. Dr Thomas Somerville, for nearly 60 years minister of Jedburgh, and celebrated for his history of the reign of Queen Anne, was born in the parish manse, and was the son of the minister. The Rev. Dr John Young, minister of the first antiburgher congregation, a man of powerful ability, was the author of various works, and, among them, of a work in explanation and defence of the British Constitution, a book written to expose and counteract the revolutionary sentiments which spread in many parts of the country after the French Revolution.

bridge over the Teviot
The village remained small for centuries, overshadowed by the settlement at Cavers a few miles east, which was owned by more influential families - the Baliols, the Earl of Mar, and the Douglases. However in 1537, Hawick's lord, Sir James Douglas, Baron Drumlanrig, gave a charter to the little town which allowed it to hold markets, and this encouraged growth. Until about a century ago, the town appears to have had little traffic of any importance. In 1752, however, the manufacture of carpets was commenced, and from that time the town dates the commencement of its prosperity and extension. The limits of the town until the 18th Century were marked by the four 'Ports' or gates, and these are still marked by plaques which give a measure of the small size of the settlement. The beginnings of the hosiery or knitwear industry in 1771 led to rapid growth, with Pringle being founded in 1815. The railway line reached Hawick from Edinburgh in 1849 (and from Carlisle in 1862), more and more factories were built, and by 1891 there were 19500 inhabitants.

Hawick Town Hall with Albert Bridge
.Continue along High Street to the Scottish baronial style Town Hall. Here the Mercat Cross at one time stood, and at this point the visitor can almost extend arms across the street to touch both of the plaques for North Port and South Port. Only a little further along, above the Waverley Bar, can be seen the South Port plaque. This was a narrow town, with its focus for centuries around the St Mary's and Tower area, and this is still the scene for many of the ceremonials linked with the annual Common Riding celebrations in May and June. The Common Riding commemorates an event in Hawick history when a band of local youths came upon a party of English raiders and 'routed them and took their colour' at Hornshole a few miles beyond the town, in 1514 the year after the battle of Flodden, when 'all were sunk in deep dejection'. A series of ride-outs take place when townsfolk visit outlying areas, reminiscent of confirming that the boundaries of the 'common land' had not been encroached on.

monument closeup

monument closeup

monument closeup
Sir Walter Scott's Courtroom (14 km) - Built in 1803-4 as a sheriff court and town hall this is where the famous novelist, Sir Walter Scott dispensed justice when he was Sheriff of Selkirkshire from 1804-1832. Displays tell of Scott's time as Sheriff, and of his place as a novelist as well as Hermitage Castle Hermitage Castle, a few miles south of Hawick, which once belonged to Mary Queen of ScotsĘ lover town an area dominated by sheep farming, and the wool trade. Hawick's story for the last few hundred years has revolved around textiles. This started with hand knitting of hose (socks) in the 1600s: spun wool and linen was also produced at an early date. In the 1700s hand power was largely replaced by water power and a complex arrangement of sluices and lades (culverts) was constructed to provide the town's 50 textile mills with enough water to keep them working. The scale of the industry in Hawick was huge. By 1870 well over a million pounds weight (perhaps ½ million kg) of wool was being turned each year into a range of goods including underwear and socks. Supporting this growth in the industry were improvements made to the road network in the 1700s, and the coming of the railway in the 1800s. The line from Edinburgh reached Hawick in 1849, and in 1862 the link was completed to Carlisle By 1800 up to 3000 people were employed in Hawick producing hosiery, carpets and other linen and woollen goods. During the second half of the 1800s steam power began to replace water power and the size and number of mills grew. Amongst those to set up in Hawick during this period were John and Robert Pringle, whose name is now recognised across the globe: as is that of Lyle & Scott, who appeared on the Hawick scene in 1874. Frequent winner of national floral awards, Hawick is internationally famous for fine quality knitwear. Today Hawick is part of the Cashmere Trail and the major centre for the industry in the Scottish Borders. The town therefore has many shops with a large selection of knitwear and cashmere.

Hawick town
The Scottish Borders is an area famed worldwide for its fine knitwear - and especially its cashmere - but one which has not been slow to embrace new technologies; for side by side with the traditional industries you will find the very newest concepts in operation. In addition, the towns of the Borders are now geared as never before to catering for the people from all areas who visit our towns.


1791-99 14-page Statistical Account.

Nearby Hawick:

Fatlips Castle -- of the Turnbulls of Barnhill
7 miles to the north-east is Fatlips Castle. Fatlips Castle is a 16th century stone rectangular tower house, of three storeys and a garret, founded by the Turnbulls of Barnhill. The entrance leads to a vaulted basement, with a spiral stair in one corner, which gives access to all the floors. At the garret, a round caphouse leads to an impressive corbelled parapet, which is rounded on the angles. In the 19th century, the tower was restored and renovated to be used as a shooting box and a private museum but sadly it is now once again ruinous. Nearby is Barnhills Tower and 4 miles east is Jedburgh Castle.

Barnhills Tower
Barnhills Tower is a 16th century stone rectangular tower house, founded by the Turnbulls. The tower is ruinous and now only stands to the height of the first floor, the vaulted basement is pierced by gunloops and there are traces of a spiral stair in one corner. Built against the north bank of a small burn and over looked by Fatlips Castle, its dense cover of trees, makes it best viewed in winter. 8 miles south-west is Hawick Castle and 10 miles north is the Commendator's House.

The Douglas' Hermitage Castle, 16 miles south of Hawick
Bleak and imposing, sitting on the Hermitage Water, surrounded by open moorland but at the heart of the bloodiest events in the Borders' history. is the Castle Hermitage -- the best of the surviving medieval border castles. A vast, eerie ruin of the 14th and 15th centuries, it is a stone multi-towered castle; the bleak surroundings give it an extraordinary atmosphere. Fragments of the early castle lie at the centre of the building, round arched doorways, large ashlar blocks in the spiral stairs give its position away. Built up to become the main central keep, with towers added at each corner, it became the largest and strongest castle on the Border. The east and west sides of the towers are joined at the top, by an arched curtain, so that a wooden hoarding could encompass the castle. For 400 years Hermitage served as the "guardhouse of the bloodiest valley in Britain"; its proximity to the English border made it a particular prize for both countries. This can be seen in the great strength of the castle, which reflects both the wealth of its owners and its strategic position. Its history has sufficient intrigue, romance and violence. It is unknown if it ever was a retreat of a holy man/men as the name suggests. Possession passed back and forward between Scots and English. The families of De Soules, Bruce, Douglas, Nevill, Dacre, Hepburn, Stewart and Scott have all held Hermitage at various times. The first Castle on the site existed in 1296 and from there on it has been added to or rebuilt many times. Violent history recalls stories of death by boiling, drowning and starvation. The castle is steeped in folklore and legend and there have been reports of strange phenomena in recent years.

Hermitage Castle has a long and colourful history, the castle was a bastion of power in the 'debatable land', land that was exchanged between English and Scottish hands during the border wars and skirmishes. The castle is steeped in folklore and legend and there have been reports of strange phenomena. There is a small mound next to the ruined chapel 1/4 mile NW of the castle, supposed to be the grave of the giant "Cout o' Keilder" who terrorised the area wearing magical impervious chainmail.

The first castle was built by the King's butler, Nicholas De Soulis in the 1240s, and just its construction almost brought the nations to the brink of war. When Soulis was accused of conspiring to kill the King of Scotland Robert the Bruce; the castle and lands were taken in forfeit in 1332. Folklore surroungs "Bad Lord Soulis" who supposed was a practitioner in Black magic and responsible for the disappearance of local children. To help him in his nefarious dealings he had an assistant familiar called Robin Red Cap who has some similarities to the Red Caps who haunt the border regions. Until 1338 the castle was owned by English Sir Ralph De Neville, then besieged by William Douglas the knight of Liddesdale (who starved to death a local sheriff in the castle, wanting his job). In 1353 William was killed in revenge after he defected to the English side. The next owner Hugh De Dacre rebuilt the castle in stone -- whose ground floor and courtyard still exist. From Dacre's hand's the castle passed on to the Douglases who continued to build and refortify the castle in those turbulent times. In the late 1400's the 5th Earl Douglas sided with the English; he was ordered to exchange castles, giving Hermitage to the Earl's of Bothwell who could be better trusted not to defect to the English side, and receiving a less important castle.

In 1566 the castle Mary Queen of Scots visited James Hepburn her third husband at Hermitage. She did not stay for long and her return journey to Jedburgh was nearly the end of her. The castle became less important strategically from the 1600's and by the 18th century the castle had become a romantic ruin. The castle was rebuilt in the late 1800's mainly because of the interest generated by Sir Walter Scot and his contemporaries who wrote about the castles legends. Cavers, nearer Hawick, was once the home of a branch of the Douglases, and it is said that in Cavers House are still preserved the pennon that was borne before the Douglas at the battle of Otterburn (Chevy Chase), and the gauntlets that were then taken from the Percy (1388).(1388).

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LOOK UP ------ Mr Robert Wilson, a native of the town, and devoted to its interests, published his history of Hawick in 1825.