Near Kelso Scotland | scottish borders |
Villages near Kelso Scotland

Yetholm Scotland

Near Kelso Scotland UK
  |   HOME   |   LOCATION   |   HISTORY   |   FACILITIES   |   CONTACT   |  

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

The History of the Parish of Yetholm

Mrs Jessie MacDonald in her excellent book on 'The Place-Names of Roxburghshire' gives the origin of the name as follows:

'The name of this ancient place is thought to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon Zete, gait or road, and ham, a dwelling. At present there are two towns bearing the name of Yetholm; the one at which the church is situated is called Kirk Yetholm, and the other Town Yetholm. Originally there was only one village, that which is known as Kirk Yetholm; and Town Yetholm is not seen till near the middle of the 15th century. The prefix Kirk does not appear on record till the beginning of the 15th century.'

So there we have it. There was only one Yetholm until the middle of the fifteenth century, and it was on the site of the present Kirk Yetholm.

Barrow, writing in his 'The Kingdom of the Scots' raises the distinct possibility of there having been, from about the seventh century onwards, a 'shire' based on Kirk Yetholm. This shire was a pre-border unit, which seems to have included twelve 'vills' or farm-steads, ten of which have been identified, viz: Sourhope, Staerough, Wackerage, Clifton, Shereburgh, 'Colewell', Halterburn, Shotton, Yetholm and Mindrum. This unit was given by King Oswy of Northumbria to the church, either Holy Island or Melrose, in the seventh century. Of the above some were in the defunct Parish of Mow, some in Kirk Yetholm Parish and the rest in Kirknewton, Kilham or Carham Parishes, now in England. By the twelfth century, some of the names have disappeared, but most reappear in the lands granted to Walter Corbet as part of his lordship of Yetholm by King David I. These seventh century 'vills' 'lay to' Yetholm, and what was granted to Corbet was the remains of a decayed shire based on the double 'vill' of Yetholm.

As Barrow states:

'The apparent fact that King Oswy's twelve-vill estate preserved its unity long after it had been lost by the church and even survived the establishment of the Anglo-Scottish border by some two hundred years would point to a shire of great antiquity.'

Tait, writing in 1889 says:

'In the ages long ago it was the village on the 'yet' or 'gait', or road leading through mountain passes into England. Strictly speaking, it was a point whence roads diverged in different directions. One led southward, up the valley of the Bowmont, past the ancient township of Mow, and over the pass of Cocklaw, where the Scots had a little fortress very remote and easily defensible. Eastward the English border was very near, and the two kingdoms were separated only by a narrow stream. Remains of old civilisation are here abundant; and the foundations of houses are distinctly visible close to the border line on either side, showing plainly that subjects of different monarchs can live in peaceful neighbourhood if only the exigencies of rulers will permit.'

Variations upon the spelling of the name throughout the years are relatively numerous, which is not surprising, as it is phonetically rather obscure. Yetham (from 1165 until the sixteenth century), Yhetam, Jetam, Jetham (1165 - 1230), Zedon (c1388), Yettam (c1545), Yetholme ( after the sixteenth century), Yetholm (since c1797 until today).

Rutherford in his 'Southern Counties' Register', published in 1866, describes the climate as:

'clear, healthy and milder than, from its elevation, might be supposed, and has become noted in the district as a rural sanatorium; and considering the size of the village a considerable amount of accommodation can be had in it by visitors.'

The early history of this area is, as one would expect, rather hazy.

Amongst the earliest references to named people in the area are those to Ralph Nanus who granted to the monks of Kelso three acres of land in 'Yhetam', opposite the lands which the monks already held in Colpinhopes, and near to the stream dividing Scotland from England, with the right to build houses for themselves, their men and cattle from the lands of Colpinhopes to the lands of Yetholm.

Jeffrey, writing in 1836, states that:

'This property is thought to be the same as that called by the name of the Half-husbandlands at the present day, and on which there are houses still named the Halfland Houses.'

'The monks also had the right of common pasture in Yetholm, and which they let to the miller of Colpinhopes.'

Colpinhopes lay within the English border, and was granted by Walter Corbet, the laird of Makerston, to the convent. William, the son of Patrick, earl of Dunbar, with the consent of his wife, Christian, daughter of Walter Corbet, confirmed the grant, and added the mill of Colpinhopes.

In the chartulary of Kelso Abbey, the boundaries of the grant are said to be:

'from Edredsete to Greengare under Edredesete, and to the bridge at the head of the brook which divides England from Scotland, and down this brook towards the chapel of St Edeldrida the virgin, to another brook which runs down by Homildun, and then up this brook to a glen which comes from Jetam and along this way to two great stones.'

The grant also specified that no person was to plough on the west side of Homildun.

'The monks laboured the grange of Colpinhopes in winter with two ploughs, and they had there pasture for 20 oxen, 20 cows, 500 ewes and 200 other sheep. They had also five acres of land in Shotton, which lay on the west side of the road beside the burn which divides England from Scotland with pasture for forty sheep and forty cows everywhere in Shotton excepting in the cornfields and meadows. They had also common pasture and fuel, and a right to grind without paying multure at the mill of Schotton.'

In 1296, William of Yetham swore fealty to Edward I, as did Mestre Walran, the parson of Yetholm.

On 23rd August 1296, Edward I arrived at Yetham and stayed for two days.

In 1304, Edward arrived at Yetholm with Earls and Barons.

In 1320, William of Yetham, Sir William de Soulis, and Sir Robert de Keith, received a safe-conduct from Edward II to enter England.

In 1375, Edward III gave Parkfield, with other lands to Thomas Archer, for good service done to England on the Scottish border, for a payment of 4 per annum.

In 1379 Robert II granted the barony of Yetham to Fergus McDougal on the resignation of his mother, Margaret Fraser.

About 1390, Robert III granted to Archibald McDougal, Yetham, Mackerston and Elystoun, and these he held into the next century.

Records exist of a very important meeting which took place in Kirk Yetholm in October 1401. As a result of the breakdown of the truce of November 1400, there had been cross-border problems, and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and his son Harry Hotspur who was Warden of the English East March arranged a meeting with Archbald, Earl of Douglas, the Warden on the Scots side. Henry, hoped to promote recognition for the claim of the English King Henry IV to lordship over the realm of Scotland. This claim to Scotland became the main topic of discussion at the meeting, but the only outcome was that there was a major fall out between the two sides, and even the request for a resumption of the current armistice was refused. Douglas accused Percy of reneging on a day of march for the redressing of wrongs. Henry IV held Douglas responsible for the breakdown of relations, which is not really surprising, as Henry chose to believe his own man rather than the opposition. The result was that before long Douglas was once again involved in raid and counter-raid across the border. The whole sorry episode came to a head with the Battle of Homildon Hill in September 1402.

In 1407, the manor of Yetham passed into the hands of William de Hawden, by grant of the Duke of Albany.

Before 1432, Andrew Ker got a gift of the lands from the governor but this was rescinded by the Estates of Parliament.

In 1491, James IV granted the superiority of the tenandry of the lands of Kirk Yethame to Sir Robert Ker.

A charter of the 'ten-pound lands' of Yetham and Hayhope was granted, in 1523, to George Rutherford, son and heir of John Rutherford of Hundolee.

Also in 1523, the Earl of Surrey, while on his way to destroy Linton and Cessford, razed Lochtour, near where he had lodged for the night.

In the Protocol Books of John Brydin et al, there are various legal transactions recorded in late 1531 which refer to an 'Andrew Ker of Prumsydloch'. Many of these involve members of the 'Vaych' family. ( Veitch today).

The rental for the year 1539-40 of the Knights of St John includes an entry:

'In Kirkzettam a land'.

Although there is no indication of the actual rent, and whether this was a piece of land or a house, as the word has both meanings at this time, it does show that the influence of the Knights of St John had reached Kirk Yetholm at this period.

In 1545, Hertford in his great purge of the Borders destroyed both Yethams, with Cherrytrees, Barears, the Bogge, Longhouse, Fowmerdon and Hayhope.

About 1600, the lands to the north of the Bowmont were erected into a barony in favour of the Earl of Bothwell, and named the barony of Town Yetholm.

The lands and mill of Kirk Yetholm were held by Andrew, Lord Jedburgh in 1629.

In 1647, the lands of Kirk Yetholm was annexed to the barony of Grubet, and in the possession of William Bennet, rector of Ancrum.

The Nisbet family of Dirleton next possessed the barony.

In 1745, a party of Highlanders marched through the village of Yetholm, up the Beaumont Water, to receive money remitted from France, and entrusted to the care of Charles Selby of Earl.

By the early 1800's the lands were mainly in the ownership of the Marquis of Tweeddale.

William Blackie, writing his Statistical Account of 1791, notes within his agricultural report that:

'there is a common in this parish of about 200 acres in extent, of which 40 or 50 are thought improvable. There is very little wood, and the gentlemen deem not disposed to plant any, although there is abundance of land fit for no other use.'

Under his comments on the population of the parish, Blackie makes the following interesting statement:

This parish has, I suppose, more than doubled its population in this century, because many villages in the neighbouring parishes of Hounam, Morbottle, and Linton, have been totally razed since the memory of people now living, and many of the inhabitants have withdrawn into the towns of Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm.'

Well do I remember the concerns over exactly the same happening to Yetholm and Morebattle in the 1970's when the relatively high wages in the new industries in Kelso were thought likely to denude the surrounding area of people, particularly the young ones, who would be drawn to the bright lights, seven miles down the road.

The population of the parish, as recorded by Rev John Baird as:

'In 1755 - 699. In 1786 - 1070. In 1801 - 1011. In 1811 - 1138. In 1821 - 1280. In 1831 - 1289.'

He adds, regarding the increase in numbers:

'Another probable cause might be the practice of uniting many small farms into one large one. The increase in the country parts of the parish is owing entirely, of course, to the great improvements in the system of agriculture, and the consequent greater demand for labourers: the quantity of land now under cultivation in the parish being more than doubled since the end of the last century. The same cause has also affected the population of the two villages, the greater part of which depends for employment on the farmers.
Other subordinate causes might be mentioned, as the great temptation to, and prevalence of, smuggling, from the vicinity of the villages to England, - an occupation from which a fifth or sixth of the population some years ago derived their means of subsistence; and the facility of persons in decayed circumstances procuring a room or lodging in the villages, where, after a residence of three, they very frequently become burdens on the parish.'

The population of the parish, in 1786 was 'Town Yetholm 539, Kirk Yetholm 323 and in the rest of the parish 208, making 1070 souls. There were 491 males, 579 females .'

By 1797, 'I found in Town Yetholm 490 souls, in Kirk Yetholm 305, and in the rest of the parish 181, in all 976.'

Blackie explains the disparity in the numbers of males and females as follows:

'The reason why the number of females exceeds that of the males must be, that for about 30 or 40 years past the country about being greatly depopulated, single women unfit for farmers' service, or an old widow with a daughter or two, most of them equally unfit, took refuge in these villages, and earned their livelihood by spinning, perhaps some one of the family by hoeing turnips by the day, and hiring themselves in harvest; whilst the males hired themselves for herds, hinds and farmers servants, and were in other parishes. This is not mere conjecture, for a great part of the paupers upon the list consist of such women, and I know of many more who still subsist by their own labour. Besides, some single women, or widows, after obtaining a settlement in other parishes, come to reside in these villages; because stout women, fit to be employed the whole season in every kind of out-work, are so scarce in proportion to the demand, that no farmer will let a cottage, but upon the condition of being furnished with a worker.'

In order to ascertain whether, in the natural course, the number of males be greater than the number of females, I picked out all those families which consisted mostly of children, and found the males more numerous than the females.'

Baird notes, writing in 1841,:

'The average number of children in a family is 3 or 4; but among the gipsies not less than 6 or 6 . I have no means of ascertaining the average number of births, deaths, and marriages for the last seven years; the registration of baptisms having been much neglected, and no registry of deaths being kept at all.'

In his report for the first Statistical Account, Rev William Blackie wrote:

'The number of poor upon the roll is usually about 30, who receive from 2s 6d to 8d per week each, as their necessities may require. besides the stated poor, some needy families receive occasional supply. The funds for answering these purposes arise chiefly from assessments. They amounted, in the year 1795, to the sum of 52 19s Sterling. The collections in the church, amounting to about 8 annually, are, at the desire of the heritors, mostly given to indigent persons not upon the roll, with a view to prevent them from becoming a burden on the public so soon as otherwise would be the case'.

By 1841, the number of poor on the roll is described as being very great - viz averaging 65 for the last five years. 'It is unfortunate,' writes Rev Baird, 'that, with very few exceptions, there is little disposition among the poor to refrain from seeking parochial aid; neither do they seem to consider it in any sense degrading.'

In 1952, Rev Kenneth MacFadden records that whilst previously most of the land had been in the hands of the Marquis of Tweeddale and the Wauchopes of Niddrie, changes came about after the First World War.
In 1923, presumably because of the death of General Wauchope, Venchen and Wideopen were sold to the then sitting tenant Mr A Scott. On his death in 1933, the Robson family bought the farms and are there still.

'The Wauchopes now own only Lochtower, Duncanhaugh Mill and several fields in or around Town Yetholm which are tenanted by various people who live in the village and farm the fields. With the sale of the lands of Yetholm Mains and Halterburn and the small farm of Yetholm Mill, the Marquis of Tweeddale now owns no land in the parish'.

He records that the population, far from falling, had actually increased over recent years, although the figure then, of 632, was considerably lower than the figure in 1851 of 1352, which was the highest ever recorded.

Back to: Articles