Royal and Ancient Burgh of Lauder  
home > history > articles on lauder's history > a brief history

A Brief History of a Typical Scottish Burgh

Lauder is situated beside what was in Roman times a main route north from England - Dere Street. The route came from Trimontium, modern Newstead, near Melrose, following the valleys to pass over the Lammermuirs at their west end at Soutra. As a major access to the north, Lauder has through history been a place of importance.
In the 12th century it was the site of a major castle built by the de Morville family. Later, the site was used as a fort by the English.
Later, still, the same site became the site of Thirlestane Castle.
Before 1500 the town had been created a Burgh by Royal Charter, the rights being renewed by James IV in 1502.

The town developed in a pattern which was typical of a Scottish Burgh, a pattern which has hardly changed to this day. The Tolbooth, later known as the Town House overlooked the Market Place. The Market Cross, often headed by a Unicorn motif, stood in front of the Tolbooth. Sometimes the Cross was raised up on a stepped plinth to protect it from the crowds on Market Days. As the Tolbooth housed the burgh court, nearby would be the "stocks" and "jougs" which were used as a mild punishment for minor offences. Nearby, also, would be the Tron - the Weighhouse where the weight of items for sale could be checked.
One street often entered the Market Square facing the Tolbooth, and, very often, as here in Lauder, and also in Kelso, two streets developed one on each side of the Tolbooth. These would run in parallel, but in Lauder's case they join after a short distance leaving the Tolbooth and the buildings which developed behind it on an island.

It is possible that Lauder may have had a surrounding wall at some point by the fact that there are still East Port and West Port - "Port" being the old name for the gate which was shut at night to protect the town. No physical evidence of any wall has been found.

Land for housing was divided into long narrow plots known as "burgage plots" on which houses were built and there was sufficient ground behind for the growing of food and the keeping of livestock. Wells were dug in these "backlands", and the "midden" was also housed there. A lane often ran at the foot of the backlands giving access, without going through the house. From this lane there might be access to the "townlands" - common land on which the townspeople had the right to graze animals. Lauder is very unusual in that it still has its "burgage acres" or "townlands", in the keeping of the people.

Lauder has retained that pattern with the houses along the Main Street having gardens which go down to lanes which run along the foot - Crofts Road and Castle Wynd. Lauder is a prime example of the typical Scottish Burgh, with all the newer parts of the town being outside that layout.

 

A Brief History Lauder Scotland