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Yetholm Scotland

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Information on the village of Yetholm, near Kelso in Scotland.

History of Industry & Employment in the Parish

Kirk Yetholm Old Mill 1933

Walter Elliot notes in a chapter of Omand's 'The Borders Book', that there were recorded in Yetholm in 1776, no fewer than 35 looms used for the production of woollen cloth, which was five more than Galashiels.

Jeffrey states:

'There is a manufactory here, driven by the waters of the Beaumont, confined exclusively to the working up of pure Cheviot wool into Tweeds etc, in which a considerable trade is carried on. It was originally a fulling mill, of which there are notices extending back several centuries. The same stream drives a corn and flour mill of nearly equal antiquity'.

There are at least three sites within the main centres of population where, in former times, mills used the water of the Bowmont as the power for their working. In Kirk Yetholm, the first building on the left as you enter from the Town was a corn mill. It is now used as a garage. George Whitelaw owned it in 1866. Blunty's Mill, however, was a major manufacturer of blankets well into the twentieth century. It is recorded, in 1866, as being owned by Peter Govenlock. After this use, it was used as boarding kennels, owned and run by Jack and Evelyn Robb, before being bought in the 1990's and converted to its present use. In Rutherford's Register there were recorded, in addition, a corn and flour mill at Duncanhaugh, owned by John Govenlock, and the Co-operative saw-mill operated by George Hogg and Co.

Yetholm Mill, the corn mill, is described by Hume as:

'A 2-storey and attic harled rubble building on an L-plan. Now gutted and used in part as a garage.'

In the listings of the occupations of residents compiled by Rutherford, in Town-Yetholm there were four joiners, a mill-wright, three blacksmiths, two saddlers, four grocers, five dressmakers, four masons, two straw hat makers, three tailors, two bakers, a cooper, a flesher, a skinner, an egg dealer and carrier, five shoemakers, a watchmaker, five farmers and the proprietors of the three inns, the Nag's Head (Temperance) Inn, the Plough Inn and the Swan Inn.

In Kirk-Yetholm there were six grocers, a tailor, a wool merchant and skinner, a flesher, a thatcher, a baker, and the proprietors of the four inns, the Cross Keys Inn, The Gray Horse Inn, the Plough Inn and the Shepherd's Arms.

In the country there are also two blacksmiths, one at Thirlstane and one at Primside Mill.

Bridge to Blunty's Mill

Markets: There is a weekly market at Yetholm on Wednesday. The market at Yetholm is rather insignificant.

Brewers and Maltsters: There are brewers and a maltster at Yetholm.

MacFadden, writing in 1952, records that the majority of the young people travel out of the parish to work in Kelso. About 30 people went to Kelso to work every day. The two bakers, being manufacturers, supplied the surrounding area. They employed nine people and covered a wide area with their vans.

There were also nine rabbit trappers in the parish, as there was a demand then, in the Midlands of England, for rabbit meat and skins. They worked on the farms at lambing and clipping times, too. The demand for rabbits has gone and with it the jobs.


Rutherford lists farmer/occupiers in Yetholm Mains, Lochtower, Hayhope, Kirk-Yetholm and Town-Yetholm.

'The whole territory of Kirk Yetham with the exception of the vale of Beaumont, and part lying near Shotton, is mountainous, affording fine pasture for sheep. Many of these hills bear marks of having been cultivated, at a former period, to near their summits. All the accessible lands on the slopes of the hills is being brought under the influence of the plough.'

Rev William Blackie, in the 1790's, writes:

'About 1170 English acres are actually under tillage, and though there be some wheat sown, yet the greatest part is laid out in raising barley and oats, and turnips. Even the small tenants, who have from 1 and 2 to 10 and 15 acres, from Mr Wauchope and the marquis of Tweeddale, have their turnip quarter, for which, on account of their vicinity to Northumberland, they find a ready market, getting, when a good crop, some years 3 and others 5, to be eaten upon the ground with sheep. Much more land could be made arable.

The sheep maintained in summer are about 4800. They are generally the largest of the Cheviot breed, and if a period of 10 years is taken, it will be found upon an average, that the best prices in this country have been got for wool growing in this parish. A good many years ago, a trial was made in a neighbouring parish, farther up the Bowmont water, of crossing with the Bakewell breed; but it was found far from being an improvement, that they sold them off as speedily as possible.

The number of black cattle, except cows for milk, are comparatively small. The number of farmers horses, both for working and riding is 39; and of farmers and hinds or herds cows, is 50. For some time past only 12 oxen have been reared; 40 Highland cattle have been bought in and fed off. Among the small tenants, and inhabitants who have no land at all, are kept 76 horses. The number of their milk cows may be about 64.'

Fairs: In June there is a fair at Town Yetholm for lambs, and another at Kirk Yetholm for young and old sheep. In October there is a fair at Kirk Yetholm for draught or cast ewes.

In 1841, Rev John Baird records that

'There are nearly 6000 acres in the parish: of which more than 2600 are arable, and more than 3000 remain in permanent pasture. In addition there is a common of 200 acres, called Yetholm Common, on which the inhabitants of Kirk Yetholm have the privilege of cutting turf and grazing their cattle: it is a wild moorish piece of ground, upon the borders, claimed I believe, by both kingdoms.'

He also bemoans the lack of trees and the fact that local landowners have made little or no effort to plant any.

Yetholm Mill

Length of Leases: In sheep pastures which admit of little improvement except open drains, the length of leases is of less consequence than on cultivated or arable ground where it may take three or more rotations to gain any improvement to the crop, worthy of the expense laid out. At least twenty years is needed to recoup the expense, and at the end of the lease, the landowner has a better piece of land to offer for a new lease, probably at a higher rent because of the efforts made by the previous tenant.

The 450 acres round the villages, farmed by the inhabitants in lots, varying from 2 to 30 acres, are held from year to year, and, provided they are able to pay their rents, they are rarely disturbed.

The other farms in the parish are from 400 to 1800 acres, with leases of from sixteen to twenty one years.

'The older cultivated lands are enclosed with hedges; the more lately enclosed lands with dry stone walls. The mode of cultivation adopted in this parish is usually what is called the four and five-shift rotation; the former being practised on the village lands, the latter on the larger farms. This mode of husbandry consists of taking a crop of turnips the first year; a crop of wheat or barley, sown with grass, the second year; a crop of hay the third year; and a crop of oats the fourth year. According to the five-shift rotation, the ground is allowed to lie in pasture the fourth year, and on the fifth it is ploughed up and sown with oats. One fifth nearly of the arable land of the parish is annually sown off with turnips.'

About one third of the oats and two-thirds of the barley was sold and exported, all the rest of the various harvested crops was for use at home.

By 1841, there had been a major introduction of Leicester sheep, for stocking the lower and cultivated parts of the parish. As Rev Baird records:

'The number of sheep in the parish may be about 4800: of these about 1800 may be Leicester, 1000 Cheviot, and 2000 half-bred, or a cross between the other two. The cattle preferred are the short-horned or Teesdale, both for giving milk and for fattening.'

Writing in 1952, the Rev Kenneth MacFadden records that there are only seven farms with an annual rateable value of 100 or over viz Yetholm Mains and Halterburn, Kirk Yetholm Mill, Cherrytrees, Halterburnhead, Hayhope, Venchen and Wideopen, and Lochtower. Of the 5961 acres which make up the parish, 940 acres were under cultivation, 2413 acres were grass and 2050 acres were rough grazing.

He also records that all the farm cottages had been modernised in the period between the wars, had water piped in and some even had electricity. He adds:

'A fairly large grant was made available for this object by the Government and the farmers took full advantage of the offer.'

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