TWEEDSMUIR PARISH HISTORY.

 

2. Early Peoples.

2a. 4000BC Longbow.

In 1991 a hill walker walking near the source of the Gameshope burn in the moorlands towards the far east of Tweedsmuir parish on the Tweedsmuir/Moffat Parish boundary in the Scottish Borders found a broken longbow in a peat bog known as Rotten Bottom (1).  The walker kept it in his garage for quite a while before taking it to an expert.   The subsequuent calibrated radiocarbon dating indicated that the bow, made of yew, dated to 4040 BC to 3640 BC.   The RCAHMS have it recorded on Canmore as ID 71910.   This dating makes the bow the oldest one in existence.   The bow was displayed in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh but has now - 2014 - been loaned to the Moffat Museums where it it is nicely displayed in the refurbished museum.    To view the display go to the Moffat Museums website http://www.moffatmuseum.co.uk.. It can be found on the main gallery section of the Exhibition Areas.  The museum from 2017 is also hosting an exhibition on the Life and Times of Merlin(7) also see page Merlin Caledonius.

The findspot of the bow is adjacent to the Carrifran Wildwood Project(8) master minded by the Borders Woodland Trust.  The Trust has recently acquired - 2013- the Talla and Gameshope estate.  The development here will follow on from the adjacent Carrifran Project with the planting planting of woodland trees that would have been around c4000 BC.   The mix of trees had been dictated by pollen records from core sampling and other data mainly includes alder, ash, aspen, elm, cherry, birch, hazel, holly, oak, thorn, rowan, willows and juniper.   You will note that yew is not included in this list(8) but a few yews have been included in the planting - maybe becasue of the ye bow?  Oak is included in the list which may be significant in connection with the Druids who revered the oak and who have an association with the Standing Stones and Chapel Knowe in Tweedsmuir.

More information on Wildwood sites at www.bordersforesttrust.org.

More information on yew bows on page 5.1. Yew Trees of Neidpath.

The above yew bow is the earliest evidence of the early inhabitants of the Upper Tweed valley.  The hunter who dropped his broken bow left no other mark on the landscape.   However, c2000 the valley had a substantial population evidenced by the large number of Iron-Age and Bronze-age sites.   The Iron-Age sites being associated with the Selgovae tribe - a name that translates as the Forest Hunters(5) or Hunters (6) - who were in evidence when the Romans arrived c100 AD.   The sites include Standing Stones, Cremation Cemeteries, Enclosures, Platform and other Settlements and Cultivation Terraces.   More about the Standing Stones of this period in Section 3 - Standing Stones.  Some of these standing stones are within the bounds of Cremation Cemeteries.

The RCAHMS(4) Map of Peeblesshire below shows the significant concentration of bronze age sites in the lower part of the Upper Tweed Valley around the confluence of the Talla Water with the River Tweed and also in the Fingland Burn area.   At the Confluence of the Talla and Tweed is Chapel Knowe the enigmatic mound on which the present Tweedsmuir Kirk stands.   This perhaps indicating that the mound had considerable significance at that time?   Some interesting examples of these bronze age sites near the village of Tweedsmuir and its mound follow.  The archaeolgy content of these sites are condensed versions of those in The RCAHMS Inventory for Peeblesshire (4).  Further information is on the Standing Stone circles and Standing Stone Features pages.

 

 

2. Platform Settlements on Grange Hill.  (Grid Ref NT 7019 21801).

This is a Scottish Scheduled Monument No 3688.  Site noted by the RCAHMS in 1960(4).

The monument comprises a group of five unenclosed hut platforms, housesstances dating from the later prehistoric period.   The platforms are clustered on the lower NW facing slope of Grange Hill, overlooking the valley of the River Tweed at its junction with the Fingland Burn.  

The reason for this scheduling is that the monument is of national importance as a fine example of a platform settlement which has the potential to provide important information about the settlement and economy of the Bronze Age.                   

2b Platform Settlement on Quarter Hill.  (Grid Ref NT 096221 and  NT 103231)

There are more than fifteen platforms on this amazing site.  At Grid Ref 1 there are six platforms in line on the SW flank of Quarter Hill; one 40ft wide, two 45ft, one each 50ft, 55ft, and 60ft.   Secondary rectangular turf foundations occupy four of the platforms.   At Grid Ref 2 there are nine platforms, including two pairs, in line on the NE flank of Quarter Hill; one 35ft wide, one 40ft, five 50ft, one 55ft and one 60ft.  A few more platforms lie in the plantation immediatly south of the line lying in dense undergrowth. Noted by the RCAHMS(4).   It is difficult to imagine how these important platforms will survive the clear felling of the trees in and around the sites.  These sites can be accessed by descent from the Jubilee Road.

2.c. Whiteside Rig, Fort and Enclosure.

(Grid Ref NT 112248)

(Scheduled Monument)

This prehistoric site is situated to the east of the River Tweed on the summit of Hog Hill near Hearthstanes and  is surrounded by modern afforestation.  It is noted by the RCAHMS(4) and is on Canmore ID 709778 and also ID49800 - RCAHMS have aerial mages of the site.   On the site are the remains of a fort and later enclosure.   In its day the site would have been virtually impregnable to attack on three sides owing to the steep fall of the ground to the River Tweed and to the Moat and Glenrusco burns, but was more easily accessible from the narrow col that links it to Manyleith Head on the SE.  Access from all sides is presently available to the intrepid walker/dog.

The fort is the second largest in Peeblesshire, measuring 1160ft by 330ft covering 6 1/2 acres.  The site is covered in long grass, peat and heather and exhibits no surface trace of dwellings.   

2.d.  Enclosure "The Chester" Glenrusco

(Grid Ref NT 107251)

(Scheduled Monument)

The word Chester one would think would indicate a Roman connection.   However the site predates the Romans and why it is named Chester is unclear.   The site is on gently sloping ground at the foot of Whiteside Rig, close to the right bank of the River Tweed.  There is an oval enclosure measuring 170ft by 125ft within a ruined boulder-faced rubble wall originally 15ft to 20ft in thickness.    On image on the left the herd of cows are grazing in the enclosure. The site is noted by the RCAHMS(4).

 2.e. Enclosue, Cockieland Hill. (Grid Ref NT 101240)

The enclosure is situated on a level shelf between the foot of Cockieland Hill and the right bank of the Talla Water.   Oval, it measures about 180ft by 90ft within an extrememly dilapidated stone wall.  The interior is occupied by several grass-covered mounds.   Dykehead/Tallahaugh residences upper right in image. The site is noted by the RCAHMS(4)

2.f. Cockieland Cultivation Terraces. (Grid Ref NT 104239-106235)

There are two cultivation terraces one above the other on the SW flank of Cockieland Hill.  The site is noted by the RCAHMS(4) and is on the online archive Canmore as ID49801 and ID49804.   The heritage of the site is unknown.   The site must have been impressive in its day but modern afforestation has taken its toll.

2.g. Scooped Settlement Glenveg  (Grid Ref NT 104255)

This scooped homestead is situated on the broad shelf between the steep east face of Oliver Dod and the haugh of the River Tweed, 400yds SW of Glenveg House.  It is directly opposite 2.2. Whiteside Rig on the west bank of the Tweed.  It measures 110ft by 90ft within a wasted remains of a wall, the upper (NW) stretch of which has been removed by stone-robbers, thus exposing the ledge that was cut to receive it.   The entrance, in the E leads into one of two scooped courts which together occupy the lower part of the interior.   The site is noted by RCAHMS(4) and is recorded on Canmore as ID49768.

2.h. Oliver Fort. (Grid Ref NT 099250).

(Scheduled Monument)

The fragmentary remains of a fort are situated on a low knoll on the SE end of Nether Oliver Dod, 220yds NE of Oliver House at a height of 900ft.  The site is also the site of the Medieval Oliver Castle - see page 5. Frasers of Oliver Castle.  The fort had two lines of defence which enclose an area measuring about 200ft by 180ft.   They now appear at best as grass covered banks, the stony nature of which, coupled with the absence of quarry ditches, suggests that they were originally walls.   On the E side of the interior, fronting to the inner line of defence, there are three concentric scarps which may mark the sites of timber houses contemporary with the fort.   The site is amongst the clump of trees, centre right of image - Oliver House in centre of picture.  The picture was taken from the Whiteside Rig area - 2.c. above.  The site is noted by the RCAHMS(4).  It is on Canmore ID48510.

2.i. Nether Oliver Fort. (Grid Ref NT 101251)

(Scheduled Monument)

This fort occupies a low rocky knoll on the SE flank of Nether Oliver Dod.   It measures 140ft by 60ft within a boulder-faced rubble wall 6ft thick, which now appears for the most part as a stony bank in which a few facing stones are visible.   On the E. an outer wall runs from the crest of the N. flank of the knoll to marshy ground on the S.  The upper W. portion of the interior, is separated from the lower part by a scarp 2ft in hight; neither division shows any sign of dwellings.   Fort site in centre foreground of image.  In centre of image is the Chester Enclosure  2.d. above.  Site Noted by RCAHMS(4).  On Canmore ID48510.

2.j.  Oliver Cist (Grid Ref NT c0924)

In 1887 while building dykes round young woods behind the house of Oliver workmen unearthed a cist containing an earthenware beaker urn - image on left.   In 1923 it was presented to then Musuem of Antiquities in Edinburgh.   One must presume that it is now in the National Museums of Scotland collection.   The find is noted by the RCAHMS(4).  It is recorded on Canmore as ID 48526.

2.k. Cairn Tweedsmuir.  (Grid Ref NT 097242.)

This cairn is situated at a height of 850ft immediately NW of the road leading to Fruid, at a point 100yds SW of the cross-roads at Dykehead.   It measures 30 ft in diameter and stands 1ft 3ins in maximum height.  These dimensions of the cairn are those recorded by the RCAHMS in March 1963(4).   One wonders if there was any connection between this cairn and the cairn with similar dimensions at the site of the Tweedsmuir Standing Stones?   However by the time of the Millenniun there was nothing showing on the surface where this cairn of 30ft in diameter had at one time stood.  Poking around with a walking stick indicates that the foundations of the cairn are still there indicating hopefully that anything below the cairn such as a burial chamber/cist might still be there.  Image shows this site in the foreground with the site of the Giant's Grave - section 2.m. below - in the clump of pine trees towards the centre background.   I believe that the remains of the Tweedsmuir Cairn recorded by the RCAHMS formed the bed for the raising of the Fruid road through the Standing Stones  - section 3.1. on page 3. Standing Stones - during the construction of the Fruid Reservoir in the nineteen sixties.

2.l. Polmood Long Cists.  (Grid Refs (i) NT12 110272 & (ii) 112279.

(i)  In September 1939, a long cist aligned from SW to NE was found in a grave knoll 100 yds SE of Polmood Post Office (Quilt Burn).  The cist varied in width  from 1' to 1'6", but owing to the absence of the NE end-slab and, possibly of some of the slabs composing the long sides, the length could not be determined accurately.  Nevertheless, six close-set slabs forming the floor indicated an original length of almost 6'.   The cist contained an extended male skeleton buried on its back with the head at the SW end.  The cist was dated between the 6th and 8th centuries(4).   The site is covered on Canmore as ID 49751.

(ii) In June 1958 a long cist was found during road-widening operations in a gravel terrace 390yds SSE of Polmood Post Office and immediately opposite the entrance of the drive to Polmood House.  It was aligned from WSW to ENE and measured 5ft 6in in length; the width is not recorded.   The long sides were each composed of three slabs eked out with cobbles, and the ends of single slabs 1ft 6in wide.  Of the four or five overlapping cover-stones found, that at the head lay 2ft 3in below the surface of the ground.   The cist contained an extended male skeleton buried on its back and with the head at the WSW end.   Site noted by RCAHMS(4).

2.m. Giant's Grave. (Grid Ref NT 092241)

The site is on the west bank of the Tweed and the story goes that a giant of a man was shot dead by an archer sited by the Giant's Stone on the east bank.  see page 3 Standing Stones.

Alexander Pennecuik (2) writing in 1715 stated that "Over against the foot of the Hawkshaw burn in a Kairn beside the high road is the Giant's Grave, so called from a huge and mighty fellow, that robbed all on the way, but was at length from a Mount in the other side of the river surprised and shot to death as tradition goes."

The Rev. George Burns of Tweedsmuir writing in the Statistical Account for 1834(3) stated that from behind the Standing Stone  "a person of diminutive stature, known by the name of Little John, discharged an arrow at the head of a freebooter of formidable dimensions who greatly annoyed the peaceful inhabitants, and who, though on the opposite side of the Tweed, was unable to elude the deadly stroke.   A tumulous at the spot where he fell is still pointed out as the giant's grave; and certain it is that sixteen years years ago a labourer, in removing the stones of a cairn at the spot, found the grave of some ancient hero.   The sides of it says the late incumbent of this parish, were all regularly lined with smooth thin stones, and the top well covered with a large flaf of full length.   Fragments of an urn of strong earthen-ware were found within, a piece of which was brought to the minister at that time."

The 1865 OS map shows a "Tumulous" at the supposed spot but earlier maps, for instance Ainslie's map of 1745/1828 show it as Giants Grave - see below. 

 

The RCAHMS in their 1956 survey(4) noted the following "21. Cairn, Giants Grave, Tweedsmuir (Site).   "It is recorded that in 1818 a labourer uncovered a cist containing fragments of an "urn" in a cairn situated 100 yds from the left bank of the Tweed.   No remains of the cairn can now be seen."

The Story does seem to be a mixture of fact and fiction.   The fact that the RCAHMS bothered to record the site indicates that at least the cist site is fact and that it is  an iron age site.   However the story of the archer and the giant may be based on a old factual story but it had nothing to do with this iron-age cairn site.

References.

1) Scottish Borders Council; Early Settlers in the Borders, Kelso Graphics, 1997, p26 & Plate 4.

2) Pennecuik, Alexander, A Geographical, Historical Description of the Shire of Tweeddale, John Moncur, Edinburgh, 1715.

3) Statistical Account for 1834 Parish of Tweedsmuir, p63.

4) Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland, Inventory for Peeblesshire, HMSO, Edinburgh. Vol 1, 1967. For Peeblesshire Map p16,  for Giant's Grave No 21 p54, for Tweedsmuir Cairn No 62 p58, for Oliver Cist No 93 p62, for Grange Hill Settlement No. 159, p72. For Quarter Hill Platforms Nos 177 and 178 p73, for Nether Oliver Fort No 308 p135-136, for Oliver Fort No 310 p137, for Whiteside Rig No 332 and Fig no 145 p153-154, for Glenveg Scooped Settlement No 345 p160, for Polmood Long Cists No 375 p176, for Cockieland Cultivation Terraces No 391 p180, for the Chester Enclosure No 424 p183, for Enclosure Cockieland Hill No 426 p183.

5) Moffat, Alisdair; Arthur And The Lost Kingdoms, Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2012. pp65-70 

6) Branigan, Keith; Oxford Companion to British History (2nd Ed), Oxford University Press, 2002.

7) Crichton, Robin; On the Trail of Merlin in a Dark Age, Edinburgh Film Production, 2017. p108.

8)  Ashmole, Myrtle and Philip; The Carrifran Wildwood Story, BFT, Ancrum, 2009. Appx B for trees, Appx C for shrubs planted.

TOP

Return to Tweedsmuir Parish History page