History of Singdean from 1376

As you can imagine, this is a work in progress. If there is anything you know about Singdean and who was here, we’d love to know…..

Since moving here in June 2012, we have tried to find out as much as we could about Singdean - who lived here and what did they do. A sort of family tree for Singdean. This is a story of our discoveries so far.

Although we are the only house here, Singdean was known as a hamlet. There is one mention of Over and Nether Syngdene but we don’t know which one this is! There are some remains down the valley ahead of Singdean, which we refer to as ‘Old Singdean’ but they may not be as old as where we are now. In the 1930‘s it is recalled that there are some ‘old foundations at the foot of the plantation near to the burnside’ (as yet, we have not found these). There have been a few name changes also...

Singdean is first mentioned (as ‘Sougdon’) in 1376 as part of land belonging to Jedburgh Abbey. This was for sheep farming which was a very valuable and vital commodity (the sacks of wool were exported via Berwick port). It had a value of 12 merks. It was in the ‘Middle Marches’ and an area It was right on the border of the area known as both ‘Liddesdail’ and ‘Teviotdail’ or ‘Lidalia’ and ‘Tevotia’ and ‘Tiviotdale’. And also in the middle of ‘Hobkirk’ and Castleton. (We had the same problem when trying to register with a doctor as we were in the middle of 3 boundaries but not part of one!)

Singdean is placed in the ‘Middle Marches’,  the centre of a very troubled history of 'The Border Reivers' which ran from  1222 until 1603. The valley of Liddisail was one of the most dangerous places to live in europe.This Border Country as described  in  George MacDonald Fraser's book 'The Steel Bonnets' - "the whole region, the very heart of Britain, contains some of the loveliest and some of the bleakest country in the British Isles. Along the central part of the frontier line itself is the great tangled ridge of the Cheviots, a rough barrier of desolate treeless tops and moorland with little valleys and gullies running every way like a great rumpled quilt. they are not high but they are bleak and lonely beyond description, ridge after ridge of sward and rough grass stretching away for ever, and an eternal breeze sweeping across the tufty slopes. They are melancholy mountains but even the incomer will recognise them as the most romantic hills in the world”

160 years later, in 1537 when the Armstrongs held the area here known as Liddisdail, it is listed as ‘Singdane’ where someone unknown was a tenant here together with 5 other farms quite close by, 2 of the other farms were located over the other side of the hill (the wooded hill that Singdean faces). There was a road linking everything, that went from here, down the hill, across the stream and up the other side and came out on the Kielder road at Myredykes farm (which is still there). There was also a long straight road that ran for miles - ‘The Wheel Causeway’ which is an old Roman road that ran along the top of the big hill opposite, toward Bonchester Bridge. There was also a large church ‘Wheel Kirk’ with a large grave yard, a tower, a farm and houses. Edward 1st was said to have taken refuge in the church in 1296 one night on his way to Galloway. All have long ago gone, but for Singdean. 

In 1541 there is a ‘William Elliot’ listed as a tenant paying an annual rent of 12 merks.  It could be that he is the same tenant as in 1537 and his family sibling (?) Elliots - Leo(ni), Robert, Joan(ni), Jacob are working the other farms. 

The next year is 1654 where you can see ‘Singdenn’ on an old map. 

In 1694, there is a book on ‘Hearth Tax’ . This meant you had to pay tax on the number of fireplaces that were in your home. It shows that Adam Thomsone (1691 - 1695) was here. 

In 1745, on the ‘rough hill road’ past Singdean, Charles’s Highland Army marched into England

In 1715 George Marjoribanks (b.1695) was a shepherd here. He was captured with 3 of his cousins whilst fighting the with the Scottish Forces against the English in the Battle of Preston. They were sent to Virginia in America on a ship on the 29th June 1716, where he later made his fortune in tobacco and cotton farming. 

1718. The Duchess of Buccleuch is now the land owner of ‘Singden’ which is an area of 1770 acres. By now, they own all the land in the area and beyond, ‘Singden’ is just a very small part.

1729 Name change again to Singdon. John Stevenson and his family lived  in ‘one of the Singdon Cottages’ here until 1779. He made use of the parish ‘mort cloth’ for a family burial in 1729. John’s eldest son, George, was a blacksmith at Hobkirkstyle. After they leave Singdon, John and his sons take over the blacksmiths in Bonchester Bridge. There is still a blacksmiths there.

1755 February and March Newspaper article. The Duke of Buccleuch is looking for a new tenant to rent Singden, part of 8 farms he owns in the area. Adverts were placed in ‘The Caledonian Mercury’ twice a week for 8 weeks

1770 Mapped as Singdon

1755 10th May Newspaper article. All the stock from the farms Hudshouse and Singden, belonging to Andrew Kerr to be sold consisting of 1400 ewes and lambs, 700 gimmers and dinmons, 600 weather hogs, 500 ewe hogs and 40 tups. Sale on 23rd May. Andrew Kerr is leaving (voluntarily or not?) as the landownner Duke of Buccleuch has been 

It is thought that the section of road that Singdean sits on was made between 1780 and 1790. As William Oliver was Sheriff of Roxburghshire, he would be often traveling from Dinlabyre to Jedburgh, so this road was made for his convenience and is thought to have the oldest bridges in Liddesdale. It is also probable that the Inn at Note of the Gate was also built for his requirements as a half way house for refreshment and shelter during a storm.

In 1851, Archibald Scott was the toll house keeper at ‘Note of the Gate’, at the top of the hill about a mile from Singdean. It was also a pub! A ‘lively place with merry nights frequented by quarry men and lime carters, sometimes with 20 carts outside’. Later is was frequented by many railway workers building ‘Borders Railway’ and the viaduct at Saughtree. In 1885, the last man to occupy it was William Beattie, the license was taken away in 1883. In 1891 the wall were still up but without a roof and eventually the stone walls were used for the road.  

1797 - Permanent lieutenancies were established in 1794 by a royal warrant which ordered the development of volunteer forces for the defence of Scotland. They were county based and led by a lord lieutenant who was appointed by the monarch. The lord lieutenant in turn appointed deputies. The duties of lieutenants included provision for the protection of their counties in the event of invasion, threat or civil uprising. They directed volunteer forces and, after the 1797 Militia Act, were empowered to raise militia forces.

advertising for a new tenant. (There is a record for Andrew Kerr marrying Janet Mercer 3 years later in Selkirk in 1758).

1770 Mapped as Singdon

1790  Mapped as Singdon

1793 The famous Sir Walter Scott passed on one of his ‘raids’ into Liddesdale in search of historical and traditional information. He went by Singden and heard a coughing cow, which a judge in an earlier court and ruled impossible “ "I have had plenty of healthy kye in my time, but I never heard of are of them coughing. A coughin' cow!—that will never do. Sustain the sheriff's judgment, and decern."ust," says the Shortreed Memorandum, "as we were passing by Singdon, we saw a grand herd o' cattle a' feeding by the roadside, and a fine young bullock, the best in the whole lot, was in the midst of them, coughing lustily. 'Ah,' said Scott, 'what a pity for my client that old Eskgrove had not taken Singdon on his way to the town. That bonny creature would have saved us— It was a day or 2 after this that Scott and an old companion were on their way into Liddesdale when "j

1797 Thomas Armstrong is listed amongst men balloted to serve in the militia and is a shepherd here. He is listed again in 1799 and is still a shepherd here (picture above).

1801 In the same list for balloted men, John Oliver is listed as being a shepherd here. 

1807 Alexander Anderson became the new owner of the now Singdean and borrowed £600 from Robert Turnbull to pay for it.

Around 1820’s, Robert Carruthers (b.1811) was a shepherd here. He lost his health when quite a young man, so returned home to Langburnshiels where he died. His youngest brother spent 17 years as a managing shepherd at the neighboring farm at Hyndlee.

1832 William Elliot is the farmer here as well as Myredykes farm. There are many recordings of stock sales where the sheep from Singdean are very highly regarded. 

1830’s George Lunn at Singdean. Nothing else is known other than he marries Jane Johnstone from Langholm 1st July 1845 at the residence of Thomas Brown Esq in Wales.

1840 Christian Elliot Wood (female) was born at Singdean. This was found on the 1911 census when she was living in Bellingham.

1835 detailed map showing the old road from Singdean to Myredykes farm on the Kielder road. 

It also shows the old Roman road and much else that is now buried..

1841 Census. Walter (50) and Elspeth (Eppy) Scott (41) lived here with their 8 children and 2 labourers in 2 rooms. Their children Helen (18), James (16), Jean (13), Andrew (11), John (9), William (7), Anne (5), and Christian (as above) 1. The labourers are Francis Cavers (20) and William Amos (15 - who went on have 3 children and died over the age of 70 in East Lothian). 

We think Elspeth was a local girl as her birth was registered in Hobkirk, 12.05.1801, just a few miles away from Singdean, father was Thomas Clark. There is also an Eppy Telfer born in 1800. There is also a Walter Scott registered at Hobkirk, February 1792, father Thomas Scott and also Walter Scott born 1790. Still more research...

Walter Scott (who started as a shepherd at Hyndlee farm down the road) has much written about him. At the beginning of the 1800’s, this ‘lonely out post amid the fair hills’ was home to a shepherd Walter Scott, who lived in the one room (now the kitchen) where his 10 sons and daughters were born. His animals would have been kept in the barn (part of which is the Bed and Breakfast and shop).  

He had in his possession a recipe for the making of a plaster for the cure for external cancer. He had met a doctor from Paris who told him that all the herbs he needed could be found on the hills around Singdean, it is said that it was a vegetable preparation and that all the plants used grew on the land at Singdean. They were then dried in a locked ‘keb-hoose’ on the hillside. 

Walter Scott became famous far and wide and men and women of all ranks and classes found their way for the now famed ‘Singdean Plaster’ and many remarkable cures were affected. Many were disappointed though, as he would only ‘cure’ externally and then away from a ‘vital part’. It is said that to avoid the appeals of the disappointed he would sometimes hide on the hill or in an out-building until the unhappy sufferer had left.

In 1839, there was a paper written in favour of building the railway line from Kielder up Singdean Burn (the burn in the valley opposite us) where there used to be a road. The railway was eventually built further down the hill at Saughtree.

Walter Scotts handwritten leather bound notebook is in the heritage centre in Newcastleton. However the pages at the end of the book, presumably with the cancer cure, are missing. We believe the recipe was passed down the family and is currently held by an ancestor in Arbroath.

1843 Walter and Eppy’s daughter Margaret dies at Singdean 3rd April 1843 aged 17.

1851 Census. Walter and Elsbeth (Eppy) Scott are still here with their children James, Jean, Andrew, John, Anne, Christian and a new daughter little Eppy. Also visiting on this day is a dress maker  Barbara Telfer from England. Their sons are shepherds here, and the 2 older daughters are domestic servants.

1853 Walter Scott dies at Singdean on 11th July aged 63. (His grave is in Newcastleton with his wife who died in 1881 aged 80 and Ann (granddaughter) who died in 1922 aged 36)

1861 Census. The eldest son James Scott is now head of the family and is married to Ellen. They have children Isabella (6), Walter (4) and Margaret (2). James’ younger brother Andrew also still lives here as well as 2 shepherds Simeon Rutherford (16) and Thomas Pott (64) who are both shepherds

1864 Archaelogy notes “About five years ago a stone, nearly four feet long, with a cross rudely sculptured on it, was found in the mountain pass near Singdean, and is now, we believe, in the possession of Mr Stavert of Saughtree.  It appears to be a memorial cross, but tradition is altogether silent in regard to it “.

At the museum in Newcastleton, they still have the herbs and seeds that were used for Walter Scott’s cancer cure (above) and also his hand written notes. In 1876 Walter Elliot ran barefooted in the Jeburgh Border Games (a huge event in it’s day) and won in the Grand Dunion Steeplechase, and when he came in, the spectators were most exultant at the great success of the winner. In the newspaper it says that ‘running barefoot the winner Elliot made a complete fool of some of our best long distance runners’. Well done Walter!

1866 Newspaper article. James Scott wins both ‘The Throwing of Heavy and Light Ball’ competitions at the Newcastleton Border Games. 

1871Census. James and Ellen Scott are still here with their children Isabella and Walter. They have a new shepherd living there, John Elliot (28).

1881 Census. Walter Elliot (61) and his wife Eliza (61) now live here with their 2 unmarried children James (27) and Betsy (18) and a granddaughter Eliza (3). Both Walter and James are shepherds.

1883 The extension (the upstairs downstairs part) is built. This is in our part of Singdean and has surprisingly tall ceiling heights with 2 attic bedrooms with very low ceiling heights!

1891Census. Walter and Eliza (71) Elliot still here with their still unmarried children James and Betsy and their granddaughter Lizzie. They also now have a shepherd John Anderson (21).

1898 newspaper article. William Telfer of Singdean, is found guilty of putting 20 gallons of undiluted sheep dip into Cauldron Burn. 

1901 Census. William Telfer (36) and his wife Margaret (25) live here with their new born daughter Sarah. They also have a domestic servant Jane Crozier (14) and 2 shepherds Robert Anderson (18) and James Scott (17). Another daughter is born here in 1904.

1918 Newspaper article. William Telfer is still at Singdean and is needing a new shepherd.

1920 Actual record The Duke of Buccleuch sells Singdean and lots of land to James Beattie

1923 Newspaper article. A shepherd, Mr Marshall, at Singdean has lost his black and white collie ‘Speed’

1927 Newspaper article. John Anderson lives here.and offers a good set of drainers tools for sale

1932 Newspaper article. Lily and James Park live here with sons John (7) and Angus. It seems James was presented with a Silver Platter.

1932 Newspaper article. Angus Park has a motorbike accident in Bonchester Bridge where he knocks into an grandfather and granddaughter who was said to be in the middle of the road, the little girl later dies. It is unclear if Angus is to blame, the judge belives he was travelling too fast. The judge realises that Angus would suffer great punishment for causing the death, so only imposes a fine of £5 and suspends his license for 1 year.

1944 Newspaper article. Angus Park is a prisoner of war. 

1945 Newspaper article. Angus Park returns home from being a prisoner of war in Anzio Beachhead. He is said to look ‘remarkably fit”

1945 Newspaper article. Leslie Nichol of Singdean (who later died at the age of 92) was fined £2 for riding a pedal cycle recklessly causing it to collide with a motor cycle. “When the motor cycle sounded his horn to over take the pedal cycle they were level, Leslie swerved to the right and ran into the front wheel of the motor cycle.” The fiscal announces ‘Apparently, some pedal cyclists think a motorist has got to exercise all the care and that they have not got to take any care at all’.

1950 Ken Beattie (b.1942) lived here with his mum and dad Betty and Bill and his siblings Irvin, Dorothy and John. They worked the sheep farm, as it still was then. Ken is the nephew of Leslie Nichol and has come back and stayed here in the B and B in 2013! Lovely man : )

1954 Newspaper article. Mr James Beattie (no relation to Ken) owner of Singdean and other farms announces a new sheep breed.

1959 Actual records. Mr Andrew Beattie (son of James) sells part of Singdean land.

A copy of something bought at the shop in Newcastleton - the shop keeper kept a note of every customer, where they lived and what they bought. Park, Singdean  1930’s

1961 Morag Grace Dalgleish is born at Singdean 6th April

1963 Actual records. Robert Kyle purchases Singdean from Andrew Beattie.

1964 Rosemary Ann Dalgleish of Singdean, has her marriage bans read out (for marriage to James Andrew Scott, Hawick) at Saughtree church 29th May.

1963 Actual records. Robert Kyle purchases Singdean from Andrew Beattie.

1967 Actual records. Mr Andrew Stavert Turnbull buys Singdean from Robert Kyle.

1973 Actual records. Robert Kyle sells Singdean to E.F.G. Estates Ltd  who in the same year sell Singdean and 1127 acres around it to Mr and Mrs Harris

1975 Actual records. Mr and Mrs Harris sell Singdean house and the surrounding 4 acres garden to Margaret Thompson. (Mrs Harris keeps the rest of the land which she later sells in 2014) Mr and Mrs Thompson, from Edinburgh, use Singdean as a get-away retreat. Mr Thompson loves to wear a yellow bobble hat, much to the annoyance of the owls who attack the hat on a number of occasions - Mr Thompson refuses to take his hat off!

1987 Scottish Borders Archaeology visit Singdean and record a medieval farmstead (Old Singdean down the hill in front of us) and note that ‘the original settlement of Singdean is on record as early as 1376

2007 Actual records. Margaret dies and leaves daughter Stephanie Singdean in her will.

2012 And so our own adventure  starts.....we buy Singdean from lovely Stephanie and Dave and move here in June of that year. It no longer has hundreds of acres used for sheep farming since 1367, but now has about 4 acres.


SINGDEAN   Near Newcastleton    Scottish Borders   TD9 0SP   hello@singdean.co.uk   01450 860622 © SINGDEAN 2018