Hawick (surveyed in 1857)


Hawick is situated in the old county of Roxburghshire, alongside the River Teviot after its confluence with the smaller River Slitrig or Slitridge. In the mid-nineteenth century, the main part of the town lay on the south side of the river. A considerable suburb, named Wilton, lay to the north of the river. The name 'Hawick' means 'Hedged enclosure settlement', and is derived from the Old English words haga or 'hedge' and wic meaning 'settlement' or 'farm'. It was recorded as Hawic in the twelfth century. The status of the town has varied over the years. It appears to have originally been established as a burgh of barony and was certainly regarded as such in a charter of Robert I. Charters of James I and of Queen Mary confirmed the town as a free burgh of barony, with independence from the feudal superior. This was in reward for the support given to the Crown at the battle of Flodden, when many townsmen lost their lives.As a border town, Hawick was vulnerable to attack and was burnt down on several occasions.

The population of the town, including Wilton, rose dramatically from 5770 in 1841 to 6683 in 1851. By the date of the survey Wilson (1857) estimated the population as around 10,000.

Town Planning

In the mid-nineteenth century the main part of the town comprised a principal street running almost parallel to the south side of the River Teviot, with a crescent extending from it to the south, parallel to the River Slitrig. This area of the town appears to have been quite built up by the time of the survey, with considerable building in the back yards of the main properties. The suburb of Wilton was laid out parallel to the north bank of the river. The railway ran along the east side of the town, with the station to the north.


Few buildings of any note are recorded, indeed Wilson (1857) goes so far as to say, 'Excepting the handsome bridge which carries the Edinburgh road across the Teviot, the elegant new parish church, the Catholic chapel and the recently improved townhouse, it contains not one public edifice on which the eye can rest with satisfaction.' However there was the Tower Inn, formerly the sixteenth-century tower house of the Douglases of Drumlanrig. This was one of the very few buildings to have survived the burning of the town by the English in 1570. A moat or early castle site can be seen on the map (sheet xxv.7.13). Wilson (1857) considered this to be the burial place of a druid.

Trade and Industry

The prosperity and increasing population of the town in the nineteenth century was based on the wool industry and its related trades. There were at this period some eleven factories engaged in the manufacture of yarn, flannel, plaid, shawls, blankets etc. With the exception of one, which was steam powered, all the rest were based on water power and they can be seen along the riverside (for example sheet xxv.3.24). As Hawick is over 40 miles from the sea, communications were difficult before the coming of the railway in 1850.


The land around the town was predominantly sheep pasture, providing some of the wool for the weaving and manufacture.

Religious Life

In the mid-nineteenth century there was a parish church, a Free church, three United Presyterian churches, an Independent chapel, a Baptist meeting house, a Roman Catholic church built in 1843 and a chapel of the Morrisonian sect. The Quaker meeting house had fallen out of use at this time.


There was a parish school and twelve other smaller schools, including some for girls. The town also had a School of Arts where people could attend lectures, and there were two reading rooms.

Culture and Society

The main big event at Hawick was the annual Riding of the Marches. This took place in May each year when the town magistrates rode around the marches or boundary stones of the burgh.