BOWDEN, a parish, situated in the district of Melrose, county of Roxburgh, 3 miles (S. by E.) from Melrose; containing, with the village of Midlem; 857 inhabitants, of whom 253 are in the village of Bowden. This parish, which, in ancient records, is called Bothenden, Botheldene, and Boulden, was, early in the 12th century, granted to the abbey of Selkirk, by a charter of David I., in which it is designated by the first of these names; and in subsequent charters, confirming that grant, by Malcolm IV., in 1159, and by Walter, Bishop of Glasgow, in 1232, it is mentioned by the latter appellations, probably corruptions of the former. The monks had a grange at Holydean, in this parish, which, in the 16th century, was given by royal charter to Sir Walter Ker, of Cessford, ancestor of the dukes of Roxburghe, as a reward for his services during the border warfare. A strong fortress was erected by the proprietor, on the lands of Holydean, which was occasionally the residence of the family; but, at present, very little is remaining, the greater portion having been removed, during the minority of John, the third duke, by his grace's agent, to furnish materials for the erection of a large farm-house and offices. The court-yard, comprising an area of nearly an acre, was inclosed with walls of stone, four feet in thickness, and sixteen feet high, pierced at intervals for the discharge of arrows and musketry, and having an arched gateway defended with a strong portcullis. Within the inclosure, were two strong towers, the one three, and the other five, stories high, containing many spacious apartments, and every requisite for a baronial residence. Part of the wall on the south side is remaining, but greatly dilapidated; and near it, is the ancient well of the castle, which affords a supply of excellent water to the family living at the farm-house. About 500 acres of the farm of Holydean are inclosed with a wall of loose stones, which has stood for more than three centuries, and is still in good condition; this inclosure is, in an old lease, called the "Great Deer Park of Haliedean."
   The parish is situated on the river Ale, by which it is bounded on the south, and is about five miles in length, and four in breadth, comprising above 6000 acres, of which 3460 are arable, 2531 meadow and pasture, 260 woodland and plantations, and 30 garden and orchards. The surface is broken by a series of parallel ridges, extending from east to west, and declining in height towards the south, between which are fertile valleys of various breadth, watered by rivulets flowing eastward into the Tweed; and towards the south-west, are some smaller streams, which fall into the river Ale. One of the Eildon hills, and part of another, rising in three conical summits, to the height of 900 feet above the general level, and about 1360 above that of the sea, are within the limits of the parish, and form conspicuous objects in the landscape. The scenery is pleasingly enriched with plantations of modern growth, and the several demesnes of the chief proprietors contain many trees of lofty and venerable appearance; in the ancient park of the Duke of Roxburghe, is some fine timber; at Holydean, is a wood of about forty acres, chiefly birchtrees, of great age, and around the churchyard are some of the largest sycamores and ash-trees in this part of the country. The soil, towards the north and west, is a stiff clay of considerable depth; in the southern part, especially on the ridges, lighter and more friable; and in the valleys, a rich deep loam. The substratum is generally whinstone; and in some parts are considerable tracts of moss, below which shell marl is found, resting on a layer of fine blue clay. The system of agriculture is highly improved, and the crops are favourable; lime, marl, guano, and bone-dust are the manures. Considerable improvements have been made in draining and inclosing the lands, and in the breed of sheep and cattle, of which great numbers are fed; the sheep are mostly of the Leicester and the Cheviot kind, and occasionally a cross between them, which is on the increase; the cattle are chiefly of the short-horned breed. Numbers of small highland cattle are pastured here during the winter, and fattened in the summer, and sold to the butchers. The rateable annual value of the parish is £4963. Among the seats is Kippilaw, a handsome mansion, pleasantly situated in a demesne embellished with timber of luxuriant growth; Cavers and Linthill are also substantial residences. The village contains little remarkable, except an ancient cross in the centre, of which the date is unknown: the remains of one or two small towers or peels, of which there were several within the last twenty-five years, containing, in the lower part, a place for cattle, and in the upper, apartments for the family, to which access was afforded by a stone staircase on the outside, were lately removed.
   The parish is in the presbytery of Selkirk and synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and patronage of the Duke of Roxburghe; the minister's stipend is £211. 11. 7., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £15 per annum. The church, situated near the eastern extremity of the parish, is an ancient structure, of which the original foundation is unknown; it affords accommodation for nearly 400 persons, and is in a state of good repair; the oldest date that appears on any part of the building, is 1666. Under the east end is the funereal vault of the Ker family, containing twenty-one coffins, ranged along the sides of the building, among which are those of five dukes of Roxburghe, predecessors of the present duke. There are places of worship for members of the Free Church and the Associate Synod of Original Seceders. Two parochial schools were until lately supported, one in the village of Bowden, and the other in that of Midlem, but the latter has been discontinued; the master of the former has a salary of £30 per annum, with a house and garden rent-free, and the fees produce £12. The remains of a military road, with stations, or camps, of a circular form, at intervals of more than two miles, uniformly occupying eminences in view of each other, may be traced in various places, extending across the centre of the parish, in a direction from south-east to north-west. Where not obliterated by the plough, the road may be traced, in the form of a ditch about twenty feet in width, and, in some places, in the form of two parallel ditches, with an interval between them of fifty feet in width. Warlike instruments of different kinds have been discovered by the plough, in the immediate neighbourhood of the road, and also in the adjacent mosses. On the summit of a precipice at Holydean, nearly 150 yards from the principal farm-house, and overhanging a deep dell called Ringans-Dean, was an ancient chapel and burying-place; the foundations of the building may yet be traced, and grave-stones, handles of coffins, and human bones have been frequently found near the site. It has been conjectured that from this ecclesiastical establishment the place derived the name of Holydean. Trees of various kinds, and of very large dimensions, have been discovered in the mosses, while digging for peat and marl; they are chiefly oak, ash, and fir, and have been found generally at a considerable depth below the surface.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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