JEDBURGH (surveyed in 1858)
The name Jedburgh has had many spelling variations over the years – the most interesting having been recorded in the tenth century as ‘Iudanbyrig’. The origins of the name are greatly contested but there are two main schools of thought - the first, that the name refers to the Dark Age people called the Gadeni who occupied this area and the second, that the parts are of Welsh origin which translate as ‘twisted’ or ‘twisty open plain’. The local pronunciation of the name, however, has remained ‘Jeddart’. The town was first referred to in 845 AD, when Bishop Ecred of Lindisfarne sent communities to settle on the River Jed. Between 1137, with the foundation of the abbey community, and 1544, when the abbey was destroyed during English raids, the area was one of the most powerful religious centres in the country. Originally a royal burgh, Jedburgh also became the county town of Roxburghshire. In 1851, the population of the parish was 5,746.
Not particularly typical for an established medieval town, the layout of Jedburgh at this time was cruciform, which followed the undulating contours of the landscape. There were three main roads in and out of the town, with the main one being a thoroughfare over the border into England. The width of the town at its greatest point was 380 yards and the length just over half a mile. The three main streets were known as Canongate, the High Street and Townhead, which terminated in the area of the same name to the south. There were two castles in the town – Jedburgh and Ferniehurst – although neither of them functioned as centres of power at this time.
The manufacturing of wool and woollen garments had always been the mainstay of the town’s economy, but this was in severe decline by the 1830s. The one exception was the production of stockings, for which the area was starting to build a reputation. The gap in the local economy, however, was quickly filled with the advent of mechanisation and the town’s textile history stood it in good stead for the opening of new textile mills. This enhanced the town’s reputation, still valid today, for woollen products, especially tweed. Bread, unusually, was a profitable Jedburgh export. There were many mills in the area and bakers in the town and most of their produce was exported across the border into England. Across the north of England, Jedburgh bread gained an outstanding reputation. Jedburgh was the only market town in the parish, which increased its already important status as a royal burgh, county town and circuit court station. Weekly markets were held on Tuesdays and Fridays with larger, quarterly fairs being organised during the year.
Jedburgh was a town situated in the heart of a rural community. It was noted during the nineteenth century, however, that the number of farming families in the area was gradually diminishing, but not the area of land farmed. This was due to the increase in large farms as neighbouring property was bought up with the profits from successful trade. The only effect this had on the parish was to decrease the population slightly. It was thought in 1845 that 14,481 acres of land were cultivated, with a further 990 acres given over for pasture. Most of the area’s revenue from agriculture was in the production of grains for sale.
Jedburgh’s most famous religious building is its Augustinian Abbey, the ruins of which were and still are some of the best preserved Romanesque architectural remains. The western half of the remains served the community as their parish church, seating about 900 worshippers. The town, compared to others in Scotland at the time, displayed a fairly united religious front. Most citizens were members of the Established church, which used the abbey as its place of worship, and there were only two other denominations represented in the town – the Relief Church and the United Secession Church. There were total of 14 schools across the parish at any given time and they served around 1,000 pupils. About 20 percent of these pupils attended schools for girls or night classes.
A local company opened a railway line between Roxburgh and Jedburgh in 1856. This experiment proved so successful that the North British Railway quickly opened a line into the town as well. This had the long-term effect of greatly stimulating industry and trade. The town also had a jail, lodged in the old Jedburgh Castle, and two banks. Berwick, Lauder, Dunbar and Jedburgh all returned one MP between them at this time.
The chief landowners and socialites in the area at this time were the Marquis of Lothian and the Earl of Minto. Other notable landowners were Mr Rutherford, Mr Miller, Mr Jerdon and Mr Ormiston, who had the estates of Edgerston, Stewartfield, Bonjedward and Glenburn, respectively. The town was and still is renowned for its annual game of ‘handball’, which is played through the streets just after Candlemas (at the beginning of February). Two opposing teams, formed from each end of the town, have to score points by hitting a ball through a hoop with the flats of their hands!
A view from the Rev. John Marius Wilson , 1856
‘The proud war cry of the burghers, “Jeddart’s here!” and their recorded dexterity in wielding a dangerous tool of strife which earned the designation of “the Jeddart staff”, are no mean evidences of their general prowess.’