TWEEDSMUIR PARISH HISTORY

12. Tweed's Cross.

Tweed's Cross was a  Pilgrim's Way Marker situated at an elevated position on the Peeblesshire/Dumfriesshire boundary at the south/west corner of the Parish of Tweedsmuir.  There were many such way markers on public roads before the reformation. 

The site however had previously been a place of druidical worship and was the site of the Wood of Calidon associated with Merlin Caledonius of the sixth century that was sited at the source of the rivers Clyde and Annan(4).  At this time the site could have been named crux caledonis - for more about this see page Crown of Scotland. 

The site was probably also the the  boundary between the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde and the Kingdom of Northumbria.  It was also the boundary between the Scottish Central and Western Border Marches of the 16th and 17th centuries - site marked by + on map on left. 

The site was looked at by the Royal Commission on the Ancient Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in 1957(1).  The RCAHMS also noted it on their online archive Canmore as ID 48484, and that no structural remains survive at the site, but noted that the tracks of the old highway from Dumfries to Edinburgh passed close to the cross site.  This section of the old Edinburgh road is easy to follow today.

The most useful information comes from Captain Mostyn Armstrong's map of 1775 and his associated narrative (2).   Armstrong said of Tweeds Cross - Tweeds Cross is generally thought to have been a place of druidal worship to the sun; and, it is more probable, that afterwards became a mark of direction on so precarious a pass, as well as a terminate point of division between the shires....Tweed's Cross, from its elevated situation, 1632 feet above the sea, antiquity, and public resort, claims a pre-eminence to every other human erection of the kind in the south of Scotland; for here the solitary traveller, after having gained the summit of a rugged path,  may "Rest and be thankful", contrast the distant prospect before, with the gloomy confines he has just left, and enjoy the salutary hope of proceeding on the descent to Moffat with more facility..."   Armstrong's distant prospect would be the spectacular - on a clear day - view over Annandale to the Solway.  Also a view to the early Christian Monastic Centres at Hoddam in Dumfriesshire and further west to Whithorn the Cradle of Christianity in Scotland.   Armstrong did not mention the material used for the cross but according to Chalmers it was stone(5).

Detail of Armstrong Map of Tweeddale of 1775 showing Tweeds Cross.

If the area had been a druidal place of worship to the sun this site would have been on the top of a hill to be closer to the sun.   The elevated nature of the area adjacent to the source of two rivers the Tweed and Annan would have made it a magical site for the ancients - the adjacent deep chasm of the Devil's Beeftub may also have been significant.   The adjacent hills here are Flecket Hill and Annanhead Hill and the near by Crown of Scotland hill.  However, the actual site of the Cross was on the pass between Flecket and Annanhead Hills and was patently a way marker.  On the near by hill named the Crown of Scotland Armstrong commented "for what reason I cannot conceive.  

From Armstrong's description of the cross it is not clear if the ediface was actually there at that time. However, as he gave the precise height above sea-level of the Cross ie 1632 feet it must have been there to make the measurement.    Armstrong shows the Cross on his map above adjacent on the west side of the Edinburgh road where it crossed the county boundary.  This road passing to the east of Flecket Hill and to the east of the source of the River Tweed.    

Armstrong's narrative and map does give us a problem as the height of the old Edinburgh road at the county boundary is approximately 440M - 1440 ft. some what lower than the 1632 feet quoted by Armstrong for the location of the Cross.   In 1860 (surveyed in 1856) the first OS map with contours was published. The surveyor for this had obviously put some thought into the location of the site of the Cross, bearing in mind Armstrong's findings but was hampered by the fact that the only countour was the 1500 ft contour in the area and he marked the site of the Cross on this contour on the county boundary to the east of the road. See map below.   At this location it could not have been a Way Marker for the Flecket/Annanhead pass and it is also well away from the source of the Cross Burn.  Hence I think that the 1860 map - below, is incorrect for the location for the site of Tweed's Cross and that Armstrong's figure of 1632 is incorrect that in turn led to the error on the 1860 map.  How did Armstrong get it wrong - transcription error from field notes - by a clerk - the correct reading being 1432 feet?  

 

So, if the Cross was there in 1775 it had obviously survived the Reformation - and it was possibly there after 1775 - what happend to it? 

The location of the Cross being at the Fleckett/Annanhead pass is confirmed on other maps namely Roy's military map of 1747-1755 where it is marked as Cross Dodd and also Thompsons map of 1821 where it marked as Tweeds Cross see this latter map at foot of page.

February 1831 was when two men the Guard and Driver of the Royal Mail coach died in a snowstorm.   They died closeby on the Old Edinburgh road but no mention is made of Tweed's Cross in the reports at the time.   Surely if the Cross had been there it would have been mentioned.   For more about this tragedy see page 13 - Postie Stone.

 

J. Walter Buchan in his 3 vol History of Peeblesshire published in 1924(3) states  "...Tweeds's Cross, near Tweedswell, had been raised on what was once a place of Druidal worship and became a holy wayside shrine". " He then went on to say ...there occured the meeting between Merlin and Kentigern(3). 

It is noted that the Cross Burn - obviously so named because of the proximity of Tweed's Cross - has its source close to the Old Edinburgh crossing of the County boundary.  This burn flows south/west and crosses under the A701 where the Postie Stone Memorial is located - see maps below. 

The Cor Water a long tributary of the Tweed had its source near to Tweeds Cross and hence Cor here is a corruption of Cross.   In fact, in earlier times the Cor may have been known as the Tweed.

 Portion of Thomsons map of 1821

  

 Portion of modern O.S. Pathfinder map.

 The Thomson map 0f 1821 clearly shows Tweed's Cross on the neck between the Flecket and Annanhead Hills on the Old Edinburgh Road.  The map also shows the road heading south to the west of Ericstane Brae which is indicated as a track on the modern map immediately above.  Also can be seen on  the 1820 map to the right the pathway between Tweedsmuir (just off top of map) and Corhead via Carterhope at Fruid.  The Druidical Temple indicated at Tweedsmuir is the present Standing Stones that infact predate the Druids by some 2,000 years!

This path has survived to the present day and became ScotWays Path No 17.   On the map the path is shown traversing the Fruid valley but since the construction of the Fruid Reservoir in 1966 the path is now routed round the head of the reservoir.  The path is part of the Pilgrims Way through Upper Tweed.  From the Devil's Beeftub to the south is the present day Annandale Way from the Devil's Beeftub to the Solway - see www.annandaleway.org.

Tweed's Cross was on the Old Edinburgh Road but south of this there were several different tracks traversing the Devil's Beeftub between Moffat and the top of the Beeftub.   

The lower map shows the Cross Burn but also Corse Dod to the north of the county boundary.   This Corse Dod must surely be the Cross Dod on Roy's map of 1750 mentioned above?

References.

1)  The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland;  Inventory for Peeblesshire, HMSO, Edinburgh, 1957. No 487, Vol 2, p216.

2)  Armstrong, John, Mostyn, Capt; A companion to the map pf the county of Peebles, or Tweeddale, W. Creech, Edinburgh, 1775. pp 108-109.

3) Buchan, J.W. and Paton, H, Rev; History of Peeblesshire, Jackson Wylie, Glasgow, 1927.  Vol 3, p370.

4) Clarkson, Tim; Scotland's Merlin A Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins, Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2016. pp60-61.

5)  Chalmers, George ; Caledonia, or an Account historical and topographic of North Britain from the most ancient to the present times, Cadell, London, 1810. Vol 2 p896.

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