- PEEBLES, a burgh, market-town, and parish, in the county of Peebles, of which it is the capital; containing 2632 inhabitants, of whom 1898 are in the burgh, 21 miles (S.) from Edinburgh. This place, which is of great antiquity, bears evident indications of having been once of much more importance and of much larger extent than at present. In 1151, Ingelram, who was rector of the church, and archdeacon of Glasgow, was made chancellor of Scotland by David I., and in 1164 promoted to the see of Glasgow. At a very early period, from its proximity to the royal forests, Peebles was the frequent resort of the Scottish kings, and the favourite residence of Alexander III., who founded a monastery for Red Friars, and built and endowed the church of the Holy Cross. During the invasion of Scotland by Edward I. of England, the bailie and burgesses of Peebles, which appears to have been made a burgh, though at what time or by what charter is not precisely known, swore fealty to the English monarch at Berwick in 1296. In 1304 the burgh, as then constituted, was granted by that king to Aymer de Valence; and in 1367 David II. conferred a charter, bestowing on the inhabitants all the privileges of a royal burgh, in acknowledgment of their loyalty in having contributed to his ransom when taken prisoner by the English at the battle of Neville's Cross. The town was frequently plundered by the English, and in 1545 was reduced to ashes by the Earl of Hertford, afterwards Duke of Somerset, in revenge for the defeat sustained by the English in a battle with the Scots under the command of the Earl of Angus. During the usurpation of Cromwell, the town was occupied by his troops while besieging the castle of Neidpath, the stronghold of the Frazers, sheriffs of the county, on which occasion the church of St. Andrew was appropriated as a stable for the horses of the soldiers. The inhabitants, in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, strictly maintained their loyalty to the sovereign; and during the war with France, when the country was threatened with invasion, the county raised a corps of infantry and two troops of cavalry, consisting together of 820 men, well accoutred and well officered, for the protection of their native land.The town is beautifully situated on the north bank of the Tweed, and at the mouth of the stream called the Peebles water, which here falls into that river: the older portion of it is on the west, and the more modern portion, called the New Town, on the east, side of the Peebles water, over which are two bridges affording a communication between them. An ancient bridge of five arches over the Tweed, with three dry arches to afford a passage for the water in time of floods, was widened and remodelled in 1834, and is now a striking feature in the scenery; it formed but an indifferent means of communication between the parts of the parish on the opposite banks of the river, being inconveniently narrow, and an act was thus passed for the renovation and enlargement of the structure. A little below the town is a handsome iron bridge for foot passengers, erected about thirty years since by Sir John Hay, to connect portions of his grounds. The streets are gradually improving by the erection of handsome new houses as the old buildings fall into decay, but the place is not increasing in extent; it is amply supplied with water, and lighted with gas by the corporation. The chief trade carried on here is the woollen manufacture, which has been established for several years, and affords constant occupation to a tolerable number of persons: the making of stockings is carried on upon a small scale, and the weaving of cotton for the Glasgow houses gives employment to a few individuals, who work at their own dwellings. Branches of the Glasgow Bank and the Linen Company have been founded. The market, which is toll-free, after having been for some years discontinued, has been revived, and is held weekly on Tuesday; it is well supplied with grain and other articles of merchandise. Fairs are held on the second Tuesday in January, the first Tuesday in March, the second Wednesday in May, the Tuesday after the 18th of July, the Tuesday before the 24th of August, the Tuesday before the 12th of September, the second Tuesday in October, and the Tuesday before the 12th of December, for cattle, sheep, and various kinds of wares, and for the hiring of servants. The burgh, under a charter of James VI., confirming all previous grants, is governed by a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild and treasurer, and a council of twelve burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk and subordinate officers. The provost and bailies are elected by the council, and have the appointment of the lower officers of the corporation; they are justices of the peace by virtue of their office, and hold courts, as occasion requires, for the determination of civil pleas, and for the trial of cases of misdemeanor, in which the town-clerk acts as assessor. The police is under the management of the corporation. The burgh formerly was joined with Selkirk, Linlithgow, and Lanark, in returning a member to the imperial parliament, and the right of election was vested in the burgesses; but since the passing of the Reform act, it has had the privilege of voting only in the election of a member for the county. The town-house is in the centre of the High-street of the New Town, and the County Buildings at the west end of the street.The parish is about ten miles in length from north to south, and six miles in breadth from east to west; and comprises 18,200 acres, of which 3000 are arable, 1500 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow and pasture. The surface is diversified with numerous hills of small elevation, and with some fine tracts of level land along the banks of the rivers. The hills towards the north are covered with heath, and abound with moor game, but in the other parts are clothed with verdure; and the scenery is finely enriched by the plantations which have been formed on many of the lands, and which are in a flourishing condition. The Tweed pursues its pleasing course for more than five miles through the parish, which it divides into two nearly equal parts: soon after entering the parish it expands into a fine sheet of water, augmented by the Lyne; and in its progress it receives also the waters of the Manor and the Eddlestone, and the small burn of Haystone. All these streams abound with trout of excellent quality, of which very large numbers are taken during the season; and salmon are also found in the Tweed, but not of any great size, nor in any great quantity. The soil is mostly light, but tolerably fertile: the crops are, oats, barley, wheat, turnips, and potatoes; the system of agriculture is advanced, and the rotation plan of husbandry generally pursued. Considerable progress has been made in draining and inclosing the lands; the farm-buildings are substantial and well arranged, and all the more recent improvements in the construction of implements have been adopted. Great attention is also paid to the rearing of cattle, and to the improvement of the breeds: the cattle, of which about 300 are annually pastured, are chiefly of the Teeswater breed; and 8000 sheep, of the black-faced and Cheviot breeds, are fed on the pastures, and a proportionate number of lambs. The substratum is chiefly greywacke, of which abundance is found in the hills; it is of a fine texture, and has been quarried for building and other purposes. Transition limestone occurs in some parts of the parish, and a quarry was opened; but the quality of the stone was very inferior, and from the high price of the coal for burning it into lime, the works have been long discontinued. King's Meadows, Venlaw, Rosetta, Langside, Minden Cottage, and Kerfield, are all handsome residences beautifully situated. The rateable annual value of the parish is £12,558. It is in the presbytery of Peebles and synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and patronage of the Earl of Wemyss and March: the minister's stipend is £298. 3., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £24 per annum. The church, a substantial edifice of stone, was erected in 1784, and is adapted for a congregation of 850 persons. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church, for the Associate Synod, the Relief Church, and Episcopalians. Two schools are supported by the corporation; one a grammar school, of which the master has a good house for the accommodation of boarders, a salary of £10 per annum, and £16 from sixteen additional scholars, with the school fees; and the other an English school, the master of which has a salary of £38, and the school fees, which average about £40 per annum. There is also a school for young children, of which the mistress has a salary of £10 per annum, paid by the corporation. The poor receive the interest of funded bequests amounting to £700; and there are two friendly societies, which tend somewhat to diminish the number of applications for parochial aid. The tower of the ancient church of the Holy Cross is still remaining; and the market-cross, which was sold as building materials, was purchased, and erected in the pleasure-grounds of King's Meadows, by Sir John Hay, the proprietor of that estate. On the summit of Cademuir are some remains of a Roman camp; and on an eminence called Janet's Brae, about half a mile to the east of the town, are remains of two other camps. The late Duke of Queensberry was born in this town, and was brought up in the castle of Neidpath, the family seat. Peebles is the birthplace of the enterprising Messrs. Chambers, of Edinburgh.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.