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Mediaeval Roads: Evidence from Monastic Charters

Note: translations below are from the Origines Parochiales Scotiae (Volume I) and the maps are based on the 1914 OS half-inch map, with thanks to Ordnance Survey

During the reign of Alexander II (1214 - 1249) William Purveys of Mospennoc sold the monks of Melrose a right of way for 20/- which would allow them to reach their lands at Hopcarthen on the other side of the Tweed from his land of Mospennoc. The right of way was "through the middle of his land of Mospennoc, for themselves and their men, as well as with their cattle as with their carriages - if the accustomed road was blocked by flooding they could make another way through the land near the water."

OPS, Vol.1, page 181
Lib. de Melros pps.214, 215

See Drummelzier below.

This is best read in conjunction with the above as it is related to the original grant of Hopcarthen. Sir Simon Fraser the Elder (d. 1291) gave Melrose all the land of South Kingildoris and the land of Hopcarthane on the other side of the Tweed. His son confirmed the grant and allowed the "right of free entry and egress to the monks, with their cattle and the men herding the same in the pasture between Hesilyard and Haldeyhardsted. He also gave them a right of way for their waggons and carts through his land of Hoprew, "by the road which stretches beyond the moor of Hoprew, namely, from the burn which is called the Merburn to the King’s highway below the land of Edwylstone." The right of way through Mospennoc in Glenholm parish was west of Kingledoors, opposite the monks’ lands of Hopcarthen.

OPS, Vol.1, page 203
Lib. De Melros pps. 318, 319
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page


Hopcarton from near Mossfennoc Same location looking north Near Kingledoors

These places are in the Tweed valley south of Drummelzier and still exist today. Hesilyard and Haldeyhardsted have not been identified although they must have been in the area. Hoprew is presumably Happrew. The only place name in the area resembling Merburn is Margate Burn but this identification is speculative.

The charter allows us to assume a track suitable for waggons running on the west side of the Tweed from present day Mossfennan to Kingledores with a branch over to Hopecarton. Given the topography the track must have been close to the present day road.

The route towards Melrose is less clear. A reasonably direct route would have been to cross the Tweed at the ford one mile SW of Drummelzier and then followed much the same course as the present day road through Stobo. This could lend itself to the section of the charter that refers to the moor of Hoprew. The most likely route for the King’s Highway would have been down the valley of the Lyne.

West Linton

In a charter dated between 1165 and 1190, Richard Cumin gave the whole land of Sleperisfield to the Abbey of Holy Rood. The boundaries of the land are stated as "From the head of Kingseteburn as it descends into the Line, and as the Line descends to Biggaresford, and so by the high road to the next burn beside the Cross and as that burn descends into Pollentarf……."

OPS, Vol.1, page 190
Liber Cartarum Sancte Crucis, appendix II, no. 5, page 210

Although Kingseteburn is not marked on any map the best fit would be either the stream at NT 1352 or the one at NT 1253. Both these streams run into the Lyne from the slopes of King Seat.

Following the Lyne downstream, the Roman road which in part was used in the Middle Ages between Edinburgh and Biggar would be crossed near Lynedale (Biggaresforde). The road then runs south-westwards and crosses the West Burn near South Slipperfield. Chambers in the History of Peeblesshire, p.463 notes that the West Burn used to be called the Polintarf.

Blith and Ingolneston and the Halch
In the early 1200's a charter of William Cumyn, earl of Buchane, gives the boundaries of a grant of land in West Linton, viz. "as the Polntarfe falls into the Lyne from the bounds of the canons of Holyrood as the Lyne descends as far as the boundaries of the Newland downward, and thence as the road goes from the Lyne to the Tarfe, and along the Tarfe upwards to its source, and from the source of the Tarfe as far as the Maydvane, and from the Maydvane as far as Qwhitilaw, and from Qwhitilaw to the source of the Garvalde, and from the Garvalde southward as far as Mynidicht as the boundaries of the canons descend beyond Mynedicht as far as the source of the Alirburn, and from the Alirburn downward as far as Blacfurde."

OPS, Vol. 1, Appendix, page 516
Mun.Vet.Com. de Mortoun, Vol. 2, pps. 4,5

The placenames are relatively straightforward. Polntarfe is the West Burn, the Maydvane is Medwin Water, Mynedicht is Mendick and the Alirburn is Allary Burn, a small stream just north of Medwin Cottage. Qwhitilaw is probably Whitehill (see for example Thomson) south-west of Ingratston, and Blacfurde is shown as one kilometre south of Felton on the Tarf.

It can be seen from the map that the Polntarfe (West Burn) joins the Lyne about a mile south of West Linton. The boundary then follows the Lyne downward towards Newlands where it then follows the road between the Lyne and the Tarf.

Mendick Hill

It is more than likely that the road had the same line as the present A701 especially as early maps show that the parish boundary (as defined by this charter) ran along this road as far as Blyth Bridge and then followed the Tarf upwards. Although early maps have this as a road between Edinburgh and Moffat and there is a reference in the Pont texts and possibly the Lothians map to what may be this road, it is not absolutely certain that this was the case in the 1200's. However, given the proximity to Newlands (owned by Newbattle Abbey) and the reference to Holyrood, it is more than likely that it would have been used to access Edinburgh and Newbattle (near Dalkeith) through Leadburn at this time. It may be identical to the road mentioned in the Newlands charter below.

The Blackford over the Tarf could indicate a route between the above road and the Edinburgh to Biggar road, joining it near Dolphinton.

Lyntoun Schelis
A charter dated to about the year 1370 contains an interesting reference to the Cauldstane Slap, known then as the "high road of the Carnes". It reads, "As the Flahope descends into the water of Lyne, and so ascending the water of Lyne as far as the mouth of the Hollharschawburne; and so ascending from the Hollharschawburne as far as the high road of the Carnes; and so ascending along that road on the north side to the Cauldstane on the east as far as the Kippithill of Estir Carne; and so by the bra on the south as far the the White Cragg as the water descends to the upper Cragg of the Blak Loch - with the common between Lynes heudes (the sources of the Lyne); and so from the common between Lynes heudes as far as the est heuyd of Dryhope-minich; and so from Dryhop heuyd on the south along the boundary of the water descending to Minitiullach; and so descending as far as the Albecluch-heuyd; descending on the west as far as the Westercluch-heuyd; and so from the Westircluch-heuyd as far as the Stanelaw above the high road; and so from the Stanelaw as far as the Flahope on the west."

OPS, Vol.1, Appendix, page 517
Mun. Vet. Com. de Mortoun, Vol.2, page 87

The map shows those placenames which can be readily identified from old maps. Some of the names towards the end of the charter are difficult to identify although it is likely that they marked the parish boundary to the north and east of West Linton.

Fortunately Hollharschawburne can be identified as Hareshaw (at the north end of Baddinsgill Reservoir) which makes it certain that the "high road of the Carnes" is the road later known as the Cauldstane Slap and extensively used by drovers. The fact that it existed at such an early date is interesting and raises the question of when it originated and what its purpose was.

The "high road" mentioned towards the end of the above extract can only be the road between Edinburgh and Biggar. As it followed the Roman road its course here is well known.


Cultivation terraces at Newlands-click for larger image Old church at Newlands- click for larger image

A charter of Newbattle Abbey states the boundaries as "From the Gallowhill as the way passes by the Harestan to the burn of Cadcalenoch and as that burn descends to the wood of Derelech……"

OPS, Vol 1, page 193
Reg. de Neub., charter 125, page 94

It is very difficult to identify these boundaries. There is a Gallowberry Wood at NT 1243 and a Gallow Bank at NT 141 464 but it is not certain if either of these are the Gallowhill of the charter. There is a stone circle at Harestanes (NT 124 442) which is one mile SW of Blyth Bridge. As the boundaries are listed as running from south to north this would favour Gallowberry Wood but only if Harestanes is the place referred to in the charter. Cadcalenoch and Derelech do not appear on any early map although one wonders if there is a link to Callends (NT 1545). The Head of Peblis, if interpreted as the headwaters of Peebles Water would tie in with Lecbernact mentioned later in the charter which is Leadburn (Watson,Celtic Placenames of Scotland, p.142) but C B Gunn (Hawick Archaeological Society 1930) refers to a holy well of this name in Newlands (NMRS record) which may have been sited near the old church at Newlands (NT 161 466) which is some 10 miles from Leadburn.

In view of these uncertainties it is hard to say where this road was, although it is highly likely that journeys between Newlands and Newbattle Abbey would have been along much the same route as that followed by the present day road.


A charter dated between 1214 and 1233 refers to part of the lands of Eduluiston formerly called Peniacob which extended from "the head of Aldenhisslauer towards the south by the Whitegate, to the Cross which stands in the highway; and so across upwards to the top of Erhacleth as the march stones show; thence descending westwards to the Harecarneburn, and along the Harecarneburne downwards to the water of Peblis; thence by that water upwards to the slack (gulam) of Aldenhisslauer; and the whole of Harecarflat, with one acre of the ground which is between it and the highway; and with the meadow lying next to it as far as Kingisforde….."

OPS, Vol.1, page 213
Regist. Glasg. page 142

Watson succeeds in identifying Aldenhisslauer (Celtic Placenames of Scotland, p.135) as one of the headwaters of the Eddleston (sometimes called Peebles) Water which runs past Cowie’s Linn (NT 2351). Erhacleth is probably Early Burn shown on the old 6"map (Peeblesshire sheet VI) and now known as Shiplaw Burn. Harcareflat must have been in the vicinity of present day Harcus shown on Blaeu as Harcas, with Harecarneburne one of the streams flowing into Eddleston Water nearby.

One interpretation would be that by following the Aldenhisslauer one would reach the Whitegate and then Early Burn, i.e. in the main valley. This however would conflict with the later part of the description which implies the boundary ran north up the main valley along the same course, i.e. overlapped. This can be avoided by going upstream from Cowie’s Linn to a road that early maps show ran from Whiterig down to Lyne and ultimately Stobo and Drummelzier and the upper Tweed valley. From this road one would reach the Early Burn and the Harecareburn and then the Eddleston Water.

Looking north towards Earlyburn The "Whitegate"

The reference to the ground beside the highway would have applied to the west side of the river as the early road ran there and not to the present day road which is a later turnpike - the course of the early road is still shown on modern maps. Kingisforde does not appear on early maps but was probably near Earlyvale and Waterhead (NT 2450).

If this interpretation is correct it means that two roads are being referred to. The one in the main valley suggests a route between Edinburgh and Peebles. The Whitegate is more difficult - the road shown on early maps indicates its course in this locality but does not allow us to assume it ran north of Whiterig, or down to Drummelzier in mediaeval times.

In a charter dating from between 1196 and 1214, Ellen of Morville gave Melrose some land in Killebeccokestun (Eddleston). The charter says "from the head of Widhope towards the east, by the middle of the hill-top, to the Old Castlestead; thence across to Careligburne; thence by the march between the plough-land and the moor to Haropburne; and so down that burn to the place where Haropeburne and Carelgiburne meet; and so upwards by Careligburne to the ditches dug for a march, and so westwards by the ditches dug for a march, to the ford of Widhopeburne towards the Line; and so upwards by that burn to the head of Widhope aforesaid." She also gave the monks a right to use the common pasture in the township with free entry and egress through her lands and those of her men.

OPS, Vol. 1, page 214
Lib. De Melros pages 71, 72

This is very difficult to interpret as names seem to have changed and some of the burns are not named on the early maps. The map shows a possible interpretation but it is hard to say if the Widhopeburne of the charter is the Lyne Burn of the early 6" map (Peeblesshire, sheet VIII) or a stream a little further west. The ford would have been on one or other of these streams and may just have given access to Lyne Common a little to the south although this is not certain.

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