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Mediaeval Roads: Evidence from Monastic Charters

Note: The maps below are based on the 1914 half-inch map for Dunbar and the 1926 one-inch map for Dunbar and Lammermuir. With thanks to Ordnance Survey.

Precise dates for the charters can be found on Glasgow University's Scottish Charters Project website.






Gordon Hume Mellerstains Nenthorn

In 1251, the bishop of St Andrews gave Kelso permission (among other things) to use revenues from the church of Symprinc to help the poor and to show strangers hospitality.

Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 127; L. de Calchou charter 277, page 228

Symprinc church (now Simprim in Swinton parish) was situated about 4 miles north of Coldstream. It is not clear from the charter what route/s might have been used by those receiving hospitality although Coldstream, Berwick and Kelso must be possible destinations.

This item has been moved to East Lothian under Lammermuirs, Spott parish..


Map of Fogo parishA later charter (early 1200's) mentions two other roads in Fogo, viz. "Leading southwards to Grenrig, then by a certain ancient way to my meadow which lies between Grenrig and Aldefoghou, and then westwards from that meadow to the stones set as a boundary between the land of the monks and that of the men of the village and then from the stones to a certain stream that descends from Blyndewell."

"tendente versus austrum usque ad Grenrig, et ex traverso Grenrig per quandam antiquam semitam usque ad pratam meum quae jacet inter Grenrig et Aldefoghou et ab illo prato in occidentem usque ad lapides positos pro divisa inter terram eorundem monachorum et terram hominum villae, et de lapidibus usque ad quendam rivulum descendentem de Blyndewelle."

Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 128, L. de Calchou charter 303, page 244

Unfortunately early maps are of no help in identifying Aldefoghou and Blynedwelle. There is a Green Rig just south of Fogo village and, more speculatively, Whinkerstones one mile SSE of Green Rig. At best, this suggests the "ancient way" was near Green Rigs and ran west or south-west from there.

The other mention is later in the same charter, "Furthermore I give to these monks four acres of land next to their territory, lying to the east, on both sides of the road which leads to Berewic, which land is called Ricardflat, next to the Blakeder."

"Praeterea dedi eisdem monachis quatuor acras terrae contiguas terrae eorundem monachorum, ex orientali parte jacentes, ex utraque parte viae quae tendit versus Berewic, quae vocantur Ricardflat, juxta Blakeder."

Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 128, L. de Calchou charter 303, page 244

The complete charter suggest this was in the eastern part of Fogo parish as it has a boundary running north to the Blackadder then heading east down river to Ricardesflat from where it turned southwards to run to an Estbutterstrother then up by a stream to a Westbutterstrother and heading westward to complete the circuit. This would then place Ricardesflat beside the Blackadder at the east end of the parish.

It is tempting to think that it in fact defines the eastern boundary of Fogo parish as Pont has a Bitrigsyde (Blackadder's map shows it as Bitterigside) just north of Harcarse Hill and beside a stream that leads westwards (strother indicates a marshy place - see Dictionary of the Scots Language).

From this, one could suggest that the road to Berwick ran from Ricardesflat, i.e. at the east end of Fogo parish beside the Blackadder, effectively where the Swinton to Duns road (A6112) runs. Interestingly enough the parish boundary follows this road for some two miles southwards to Harcarse which could suggest this was the said road to Berwick although a more direct route could have been possible if the ground was not too marshy.

The Monastic Annals refers to a charter in the time of King William (reigned 1165-1214) that confirmed a grant of the church of Langton and some land to Kelso Abbey. The boundary ran "along the road on the east side of the church to Wedderburn, and thence to Humpulles and Langlands." To make a full ploughgate the donor added "the land called Gretryg, bounded by ditches from Holeburn to Stocfutcluh, and from thence to Fulstrother by the syke, and eastwards to the arable land and meadow of Fulstrother, and thence to the syke which runs between Gretryg and Stamkilchestre, and down the syke to the path which goes to Holeburn, on the west of Chimbelawe, and up Holeburn to the above named ditches."

Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 130, L. de Calchou charter 140, page 108

Map of LangtonThe only Wedderburn that appears on early maps lies approximately 2 miles due east of the site of Langton church. If this is the Wedderburn in question there are no indications of its route though a fairly direct route is likely. There is no trace of Humpullas or Langlands.

The early maps show a Gritrig (NT 774 509) one mile south of Gavinton, very near to the Howe Burn - this is presumably the Holeburn of the charter. The text is too vague, however, to fix the path with any certainty.

Ulfkilston, or Oxton (in Channelkirk parish)

Map of OxtonA charter of Kelso Abbey dating from the time of Malcolm IV (reigned 1153-1165) refers to a grant of land in Oxton. The charter reads: "'From the head of Holdene descending by the Holdene burn to Derestrete and then by Derestrete heading north to Fuleford and, by Samson's divisions, to the Leader, and so by the Leader ascending in a straight path to the east end of the said town of Hulfkeliston, and from the east end of Ulfkiliston taking a straight path by the south street* and ascending to Derestrete, with the exception of the tofts and crofts of William de Colilaw and Richard son of Gaufredi, and so by the same road southwards to the cross, thence westwards as crosses have been placed and ditches made as far as the road coming from Holdene and so by the same road as far as the head of Holdene."

Videlicet a capite del Holdene descendendo per rivulum de Holdene usque in Derestrete et sic per Derestrete versus boream usque fuleforde per divisas Samsonis usque in ledre et sic per ledre recto tramite ascendendo usque ad capud orientale eisdem ville de Hulfkeliston et a capite orientali de Ulfkiliston recto tramite per vicum australem ascendendo usque ad Derestrete exceptis toftis et croftis Willius de Colilawe et Ricardi filius Gaufredi et sic per eandem viam versus austrum usque ad crucem et inde versus occidentem sicut cruces posite sunt et fosse factum sunt usque ad viam venientem de Holdene et sic per eandem viam usque ad capud de Holdene.
*vicus refers to a street rather than a road, presumably it was through the village
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 131; L. de Calchou charter 245, page 202; R H Hardie, Roads of Mediaeval Lauderdale, page 88; Allan Archibald, History of Channelkirk, Edinburgh, 1900, page 664

Following Hardie (Roads of Mediaeval Lauderdale - p.88) and Archibald (History of Channelkirk - p.664) it is clear that the Holdene is the Howden Burn near Overhowden (NT49 52) along which the boundary ran to reach Dere Street and then turn north. Dere Street here has the line of the minor road running from Midburn into Oxton. It is not clear if the Fuleford was over one of the burns just north of here (see Armstrong's map) or if it was nearer to Carfraemill. In any case it followed the Leader up to Oxton where the old 6"map (sheet XIII) clearly shows a road running from Nether Howden west into Oxton. It is not clear if the tramite of the charter denotes a footpath beside the Leader or just has the meaning of going directly although no doubt there was a footpath along the river.

From Nether Howden it ran a short distance west to Oxton to reach the village and Dere Street (which runs through Oxton) then turning south along Dere Street to the village cross. From there it turned west to reach a road leading up to Overhowden.

Several charters in the Chartulary of Kelso Abbey refer to roads in this parish. Although they look very promising with their mentions of roads and fords, they prove difficult to interpret as most of the placenames are lost. The most definite conclusions that can be drawn are that there was a road between Gordon and Spottiswoode, at that time a part of Gordon; and a road to a place called Huntely and beyond as well as a road to Kelso. Also fairly definite is the placing of Fairford on the Huntely road.

Less definite are the locations of Bradefurde, Carterford and Cothlandisforde as well as the Cartergate.

Map of GordonCharter 1
One was a grant in the late 1100's by Richard of Gordon of the church at Gordon and some land associated with it. Its boundaries were as follows: "all that land from the cemetery as far as the consecrated Lippestan*, and from there to the priest's curia (?court/assembly place), and towards a certain ditch by the croft of Roberti Rikeloc, then to Gateyeth, and towards the road that goes to Gordon, and by that road up to Damdhic, and from Damdhic (the Monastic Annals has Navidhic) southwards as far as a great stone, and so towards a ditch which is full of stones, and to the furthest reaches of Alexander's curia, and so by this, ascending to the cemetery."

" totam terram illam a cimeterio usque ad Lippestan sacerdotis, et inde usque ad curiam sacerdotis, et ad fossam quandam per croftam Roberti Rikeloc, usque ad Gateyeth, et ad viam quae venit de Gordon, et per viam illam sursum ad Damdihc, et de Damdhic versus austrum usque ad unum magnum lapidem, et sic ad fossas repletas lapidibus, et ad extremitatem curiae Alexandri, et sic per curiam ejus, et sic ascendo usque ad cimiterium."
*the DSL notes that this might have been a lychstone where bodies were laid on the way to a cemetery
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 133, L. de Calchou charter 118, page 85


So far as the above charter goes, none of the names appear on early maps so although the cemetery was no doubt near the old church at Gordon we cannot be sure of the direction the road took. The placename Gateyeth is interesting.

Charter 2

The "Brun- mos" area

In the mid-13th century Richard's grandson, Thomas de Gordon, gave some land near Fairford beside the road leading to Gordon,and also part of a petary called Brun-mos in the western part of Gordon that extended by a straight path from a ditch at Todholes southwards to another ditch at the Blakeburn, a stream which ran between Faunes, Melocstan, and Gordon. The boundary then followed the ditch beside the Blakeburn eastwards to a river which came down from Fairford. It ran northwards along this to a syke called Witheleche then headed westwards up this to Todholes. He also gave them liberty to make a bridge (wooden) to the petary.

Later in this charter (no.122) there is mention of a grant of land starting at Brademedue then ascending the Eden to the Carterford and then following the Cartergate to the Blackburne.
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 133, L. de Calchou charters 121 & 122, pages 88 & 90, also 123

Although Todholes can not now be identified the Blakeburn was probably the stream now known as Hareford Burn as this does run between Fans and Mellerstain and Gordon and is in the western part of Gordon. There were extensive mosses in the area through which the Hareford Burn runs and the Brun-moss was probably part of these. The stream coming down from Fairford must have been the stream shown on modern maps a few hundred metres west of Gordon rather than the Eden. Fairford would have been on this stream on the way between Gordon and Huntely.

A possible fit for the Carterford would be for Brademedue to be near Stichill Home Farm about one mile north of Stichill and the Carterford to be at the crossing of the Eden nearby. The Cartergate could then have ran along much the same line as the present day Kelso to Gordon road up to the Hareford Burn, assuming this to be the Blakeburn. Against this is the possibility that this was the "bradefurd" of a charter for Hume parish - this would effectively displace the Carterford northwards to an unknown ford from where the Cartergate could still reach the Blakeburn.

Charter 3
His daughter Alice, in the time of Alexander III (reigned 1249-1286), confirmed some previous grants. Among them is reference to some land "between the road to Spottiswode and the domain of Dedrig, in breadth, and between the road to Huntely and Huplongsflath, in length."
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 133 , L. de Calchou charter 120, page 87

Spottiswood is five miles NNE of Gordon. Huntely can be placed with some certainty some 2 miles west of Gordon at NT 616 424 where the old 6" map (sheet XXVI) shows the Huntly Tree, said to mark the location of this now vanished settlement, although Armstrong's map shows it on the main road beside Huntlywood.

Whatever the actual boundaries may have been, the references to the roads are clear enough. The route to Spottiswood however is not clear from the charter. It presumably ran near Bassendean, which existed in mediaeval times, and must have crossed the Eden. Thereafter it would have taken a reasonably direct route though maps show considerable marshy ground which would have been avoided.

The road to Huntely would have been close to the present day road if Armstrong is correct or would have gone a few hundred metres south of this if the tradition of the Huntly Tree is correct but skirting the northern edge of the moss.

Other Charters

There are references to three fords, namely, Bradeford, Fairford and Cothlandisforde and roads to Spottiswoode and Huntely. The charters date from the latter part of the 13th century.


The Bradeford is mentioned in a grant of land that extended from the Bradeford northwards along the side of the Eden then headed eastwards over towards Hume, turned south and then headed west to reach the Eden and the Bradeford again.


The other grant mentioned Fairford and Cothlandisforde and the road to Spottiswoode in one part of the charter, and Fairford and the road to Huntely later in the same charter.

Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 133 , L. de Calchou charter 119, page 86 (Bradeford) also charter 122 page 91; charter 124, page 94 (Fairford and Cothlandisforde)

Since the grant was of lands east of the Eden, the Bradeford could have been at one of several places to the east of Gordon, viz. south-west of Byrewalls, Gordon Mid Mill, just north of this where the old 6" map (sheet XXVII) shows an interesting set of stepping stones over the Eden and then a footpath across what would have been marshy ground, and Mack's Mill. This is not certain, however, as a charter for Hume parish could be interpreted as placing it further to the south.

The mention of Fairford and Cothlandesforde along with several other places relate to the grant of a ploughgate which was 130 acres (one-fifth of a square mile or 800 x 800 yards or equivalent), so these must have been close together. Part of the boundary ran southwards from the road to Spottiswoode to the Harewelle (the old 6" map shows a Hair Well in West Gordon - sheet XXVII).

In the same charter there was also a grant of 15 acres in which Fairford and the road to Huntely is mentioned. This suggests that the grants were just west and north west of (West) Gordon and that Fairford was on the Huntely road. It is not clear where Cothlandisforde was though it may have been north of Fairford on the same stream.

Rent Roll
The Rent Roll refers to a requirement on certain tenants, each of whom had to deliver 30 cart loads of dry peats to the abbey each year. Kelso lies 8 miles to the south-east and one would expect a reasonably direct route to have been taken, perhaps through Nenthorn which lies in between.
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 134.

East Gordon
In the reign of Robert I, Adam of Gordon gave some land in East Gordon to Melrose Abbey. The charter reads:

"from the southern part of cloiuindikis next to the via regia which leads to Berwick, northwards, and descending by the clouindikis as far as that place where clouindik falls into grenemos and from there as far as the northern part of grenemos and from there eastwards between mosses and morasses then obliquely past brunriglaw and from there southwards beyond brunrigmos by a certain ditch as far as the eastern boundaries of gamelhismos and from there westerwards between gamelhismos and the public road as far as clouindik..."

"ab australi parte de clouindikis iuxta viam regiam que ducit apud Berwik versus aquilonem et descendo per clouindikis usque ad locum ubi clouindik cadit in grenemos et inde usque ad partem aquilonem de grenemos et a parte aquilonali de grenemos versus orientem inter mossam et moram usque in traversum de brunriglaw et inde versus austrum ultra brunrigmos per quondam sicum usque ad finem orientalem de gamelhismos et inde versus occidentem inter gamelhismos et viam publicam usque ad clouindik..."

Liber de Melros vol.2, charter 409, page 375;  Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 266

Early maps offer no indication of where these localities might have been. At best we can probably assume that the land was east of the Eden Water (i.e. in east Gordon) where there were extensive mosses. It is not clear if the via regia to Berwick ran up towards Greenlaw and if it was the same as the public road.

A charter (late 1200's) of Ada Courtenay, daughter of Patrick, Earl of Dunbar, mentions land "that lies next to the Eden, from the southern part of which, as far as an ancient fosse, namely, as the same fosse begins at the road which divides Naythanesthirne (Nenthorn) and Hume next to the bradeford then leads eastwards to the black fosse which was made from the northern part of the marsh....."

"videlicit, illam terram que jacet iuxta rivulum de Edene ex parte australis usque in antiqum fossatum, viz. sicut idem fossatum incipit a via que dividit inter Naythanesthirne et Home iuxta bradeforde, et tendit versus orientem usque ad nigrum fossatum quod factum est ex parte aquilonali in marisco....."
L. de Calchou charter 129, page 99

A major difficulty with this charter is whether this is the same bradeforde as that mentioned under "other charters" above - the mention of a road forming the boundary between Nenthorn and Hume would place it further south than the identification suggested above, viz. SW of Byremills, Gordon Mid Mill etc. The bradefurd being close to the road would fit better with what we called the Carterford, i.e. a crossing of the Eden near to Stitchill Home Farm which would displace the Carterford to the north where it could still reach the Blakeburn.

In view of this, there has to be an uncertainty about the location of Bradefurd and the Carterford.

Melocstan or Mellerstaines
Map of MellerstainKelso was given liberty to make a bridge over the Blackburn and to have a road to their petary. This was confirmed about the year 1261.
Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 134, L. de Calchou charter 136, page 104

There is no indication in the charter of where the bridge and road might have been though the fact that the grant related to Mellerstain suggests the approach was from the south.



Nenthorn anciently called Naithansthirn
Map of NenthornIn the late 1300's Kelso was gifted Camflat, in the territory of Little Newton. It was bounded by Kelso parish on the south, and on the north by Kanmuir moss, through which there was a causeway and highway.

Monastic Annals of Teviotdale, page 135; Liber de Calchou charter 521, page 411

At the time Nenthorn was centred on Newton which is about one and a half miles south-west of a farm called Kaimflat. Although no marshes are shown on modern maps the ground may well have been water-logged in the middle ages. The charter says the highway was a via regia which suggests it was a through route although it is not clear if it was a north south route perhaps between Kelso/Roxburgh and Duns or an east west route perhaps heading towards Coldstream.