26. Hopecarton & Carterhope - The Valleys of the Carts - Monks of Melrose.

David 1 King of Scots (1124-1153) is credited with bringing Scotland into line with the rest of Europe by the forming of a central feudal state by elaborating the administration machinery.  He did this by putting tax and justice systems on a sounder footing.   Included in this was the formalising of land boundaries land ownership and the introduction of the requirement for surnames.   This King David accomplished by importing the required expertise from Northern Europe.

King David set about constructing a line of magnificent abbeys in the Border country namely at Melrose, Kelso, Dryburgh and Jedburgh.   For Melrose King David imported Cistercian Monks, an Order with emphasis on manual labour and self sufficiency, and who supported themselves through activities such as agriculture and brewing ale.  Melrose administrated large tracts of land and the monks involved themselves in sheep and cattle farming and got involved in the management of the local wool trade.  The market for wool was at Roxburgh a town beside the river Tweed near Kelso.   The site is in the grounds of the present day Floors Castle.  The wool was sent from there and exported from the port of Berwick where Flemish merchants were based in the town to oversee the preparation and shipment of the wool to northern Europe.   This was big business. 

Cosmos Innes in his commentary in The Liber Melrose(1) noted "From the nature of the country, and perhaps from the imperfect state of agriculture, the revenues of the Abbey were chiefly derived from the pasturage of cattle and sheep.    Of the latter there appears to have been a much greater number than had hitherto believed... and the minute and careful arrangements for their folds, their attendants, and the separation of the pastures, shows how early the attention to this kind of stock commenced in the district which is now distinguished by the perfection to which it has arrived.   The high value set upon pasturage, whether for sheep or cattle, is shown by the frequent clashing with the rights of game and forest, and by the strict prohibitation against tillage."

To expand their activities the Melrose Monks eyed an expansion of the existing facility that they had in the Upper Tweed Valley that they probably had named themselves as Hopecarton. (A hope was the Borders name for a narrow enclosed valley).  What the monks lacked was good road communications, for the transport of the fleeces/hides, required to maximise their enterprise.  In addition to fleeces and hides the Monks would also be making butter/cheese from ewes/cows milk.  The location at Hopecaton was ideal as apart from the hills and hopes for the sheep there were pastures beside the river Tweed for cattle.   There was also an abundant supply of fresh water required for watering large flocks of animals but also for the important washing of the fleeces.    The Monks obtained charters to proceed with rights of way communications to their lands of Hopecarton from initially King Alexander 11 that was augmented subsequently by a charter from the Frasers, the Lairds of the Barony of Oliver.

Hopecarton at this time would also have included the present day farms of Stanhope, Patervan and North Kingledores.  The charter from King Alexander(1)(2) gave the monks a right of way through the lands of Mosphenno (Mossfennan) to their lands of Hopecarthen on the other side of the Tweed.  (It is of interest that to the present day that access to Stanhope is still through Mossfennan lands.)  This charter also allowed for the access of cattle and carriages (latin-cariagia).  The charter from the Frasers(1)(2) confirmed the free passage through their lands of Haprew for the monks four wheeled waggons (plauftris) and carts (carectis)(6).  The charter also specified the road that they are to take, which extends beyond the moor of Haprew - Viz., from the burn which is called Merburn to the Royal Road (viam regalem) below the land of Edwylston.  This can only mean what is now the road through the Meldon glen(6).  At Edelston was the farm of Harhope (Hairhope) that also belonged to the Monks of Melrose by a charter in the Reign of King William the Lion and was granted by Elene de Morville between the years of 1196 and 1214.(1)(2).   Hence the route of the carts from Hopecarton north of Haprew was to pass through land very conveniently also held by the Monks of Melrose - a very handy resting spot to change horses etc.    The road via Haprew was of Roman origin but beyond Harhope the road was probably constructed by the monks themselves (8).   The Rev. Boreland in 1910 noted "The earlier roads in Scotland that deserved the name were made by the monks and their dependents; and were intended to connect the religious houses as trading societies with the capital or nearest seaport.  .... and a considerable portion of the trade of the country was in the hands of the religious orders... The monks of Melrose sent wool to the Netherlands."    

The mention of the waggons, carts etc in the charters does emphasise the importance of reliable transport to the wool and hide business at that time.  As mentioned above the monks must have named Hopecarton - the valley of the carts themselves - being French they put the noun first.  Further up the Tweed is the farm of Carterhope at the head of the Fruid valley.  Although Carterhope is not mentioned in the surviving charters it was part of the Barony of Oliver and undoubtedly was also named as the valley of the carts and was probably under the influence of the Monks of Melrose.   There was a chapel at Carterhope that the Monks would have appreciated.   Also near Carterhope farm was the Fraser stronghold of Fruid castle.  For more about this castle see page 5.2. Fruid Castle of the Frasers.  Carterhope farm also had a strong connection with the Covenanters.   For about this see page 9. Covenanters in Upper Tweed.

Apart from the sites being staging/loading posts for the waggons etc there would also have been workshops for the repair and maintenance of the waggons.   The pastures apart from being used for cattle would also provide grazing for the change horses that pulled the waggons.

The concept of Hopecarton and Carterhope being named valleys of the carts is enhanced by another valley named Wynhope (Wainhope) in the Keilder valley in Northumbria - see section 2.2.2. Extract from the Calendar of the Close Rolls of Edward 111. (3).   Wain is an English name for a cart and we know what it looks like - at least what it looked like in the early nineteenth century - thanks to Constable's famous painting the Hay Wain.  Image can be viewed at National Gallery.  Scroll on image to expand.

The Constable painting shows a four wheeled waggon with smaller front steerable wheels and with three horses.  One can imagine that the waggons of the Melrose Monks would be similar in style but larger with perhaps four horses.

There are several surnames associated with waggons etc such as Carter, Driver, Carthen, Wheelwright, Cartwright and Wainwright etc.   It is probable that the surname of Wannop is a corruption of Wainhope

One would have thought that all this activity at Hopecarton would have left some evidence on the present day landscape.  The RCAHMS(4) in their survey of sites in Peeblesshire did identify a site, at Hopecarton that they classified as Indeterminate Remains.   This site has now been classified as a Farmstead, probably a Medieval Farmstead.   This is on Canmore as ID 49901 including an aerial photograph.   I believe that these remains are the remnants of the quarters and workshops of the Monks of Melrose.  This was also touched on by Buchan(9) who noted "The other chapel stood by the Kingledores burn.   There may also have been an Ecclesiastical building at Hopecarton." 

It is unfortunate that the farm of Carterhope is now under the waters of the Fruid Reservoir.  More about Carterhope on page 5.2. Frasers of Fruid Castle and on page 11.1. Fruid Chapel

Under Alexander 111 King of Scots (1249-1286) Scotland with a population of around 400,000, enjoyed a golden age of prosperity.   The noted historian Simon Schama (5)  describes " Scotland during Alexander 111 reign as a flourishing Kingdom.   The prosperous maritime port cities from Aberdeen in the north to Berwick in the south, shipped hides and wool and housed the same mix of local artisans and foreign merchants and bankers - especially the Hansa Germans and the ubiquitous Flemish - and had established a place in the dynamic trading economy of the North Sea" 

However, in 1275 Margaret the wife of Alexanders 111 died and soon after by their three children, leaving their granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, as heir apparent.  In the hope of producing a male heir Alexander took a second wife, Yolande de Dreux, in 1285.   That year he was riding to Kinghorn in Fife one stormy night to be with his new wife when his horse stumbled and threw him over a cliff to his death.    Hence, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, aged three, became Margaret ,Queen of Scots.   King Edward 1 (Longshanks) of England took advantage of the situation by arranging a marriage between the Maid and his son, the heir Edward - the future Edward 11.   This was not to be for Margaret died in Orkney, on the voyage from Norway.(7)  

The golden age was over and Scotland braced for what Edward 1 would do next.  Edward frustrated by his failed plan of the annexation of Scotland by the marriage of his son to the Maid of Norway realised that to take over Scotland would now have to be by force of arms.   The First War of Independence was now on the horizon.  

One of the first actions that Edward took was the annexation of the town/port of Berwick  This deprived the Scots of access to the port for their exports.   The town of Roxburgh was now without a port and went into decline to such an extent that there is little on the ground now to indicate where this thriving community once was.   Leith, the port of Edinburgh took over as the southerly port of Scotland.  

The golden age for Hopecarton/Carterhope was coming to an end.   Leith was quite a distance away particularly as there was no direct communication from Hopecarton northwards.   And, because of its location, Melrose Abbey the headquarters of the Cistercian Monks, suffered badly from attack by successive English armies thus limiting the control by the Monks over their outlying facilities.  

The Monks would have been amazed and also gratified, if they had known, that over seven hundred years later in the twentyfirst century that one of the worlds largest annual ram sale takes place in Kelso! 

The numbers of sheep in the Upper Tweed reduced over the years but even by the end of the nineteenth century there were significant numbers.   Their impact can be ascertained by the number of sheep crossings that had to be incorporated into the construction of the Talla railway that was built as part of the Talla Reservoir project.   More about the crossings with images on page 18.  Talla Railway and Reservoir.


It is a pity that the Monks of Melrose were into brewing ale and not into making a liquor in a similar manner to other Monastries in Europe.   For instance similar to Benedictine and Chartreuse etc.  Or perhaps they could have made a fortified wine such as mead.   What name would the Monks have used for their drinks - Melrosia Mead does have a certain ring to it.   What would have been the flavourings - apart from the usual herbs from the Monastry gardens they could have added wild plants from the Border hills such as juniper, mountain tyme, heather and blaeberries? 


1)  Innes, Cosmo, Editor/Translator; Liber Sancte Marie de Melrose, Munimenta Vesustiora Monasterii Cisterciensis de Melros, 1837. Vol 1, No 356, p319.

2)  Renwick, Robert; Historical Notes on Peeblesshire Localities, Watson & Smyth, Peebles, 1897. For Hairhope pp51-52,  for Hopecarton pp301-303

3)  Calendar of the Close Rolls of Edward 111 A.D. 1330-1333, HMSO, London, 1898.  August 7th 1330 at King's Cliffe, p51. 

4) Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland; Inventory for Peeblesshire, HMSO, Edinburgh, 1967. Vol 2, No 679 p360.  

5)  Schama, Simon; A History of Britain, At the edge of the World, 300 BC - A.D. 1603, Bodley Head, London, 2009, p163.

6)  Veitch, John, Prof; The History and Poetry of the Scottish Border, Blackwood, Edinburgh, 1893. Vol 1, Second Edition, p309.

7)  Bold, Alan; Scotland's Kings and Queens, Pitkin, 2000. p8.

8)  Borland, R. Rev; Border Raids and Reivers, Thomas Fraser, Glasgow, 1910. p34.

9)  Buchan, J.W. and Paton, H, Rev.; History of Peeblesshire, Jackson Wylie, Glasgow, 1927. Vol III, p419.



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