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Wood Market c.1766

Kelso Bridge

Early History

The earliest recorded history of Kelso comes in 1113 when David, Earl of Tweeddale and Northampton, later David I, King of Scotland, brought a group of monks from Tiron in France to set up a monastery at Selkirk. In 1128, he moved the monks to Kelso to set up the Abbey there. There is an earlier reference to a warrior, Catrawt of Calchvynyd who may have lived about 600 AD. This mention of a chalk heugh or hill is probably the very earliest reference to the town. Prior to there being a settled spelling of the name of the town, there are references to Calkou, Calcehoh, Calcehov etc, in fact there are 37 different variant spellings recorded. The name Chalkheugh remains in the name of the Terrace behind the Royal British Legion Clubrooms in Roxburgh Street.

The earliest inhabitants of the town probably lived in Wester Kelso, the site of which is, now, to be found within the main gates of Floors Castle. By 1200, Wester Kelso is recorded as having a Provost. Wester and Easter Kelso were linked by a road, the Common Way, later known as High Street, along the line of what is now Roxburgh Street. There was a Market Cross in Wester Kelso, where 'The Old Pretender' is reputed to have been proclaimed as James VIII in 1715. He, of course, was never able to claim the crown. Wester Kelso was destroyed by a fire in 1684.

With the building of the Abbey at Easter Kelso, there sprang up a community around the Abbey. The Tironesian monks were renowned as skilled craftsmen and would bring their skills to bear for the local community.

Opposite Wester Kelso, and across the Tweed, probably linked by a ford or ferry, was the town of Roxburgh, a far more important town at this time. The Castle of Marchmount had been rebuilt and both the castle and the town, outwith the walls, were named Rexesburgh or Rokesburgh (Roxburgh) by David I about 1124.

David I, son of St Margaret, was one of the most forward thinking and religious of monarchs, being responsible for the building of all the Border Abbeys. He is also credited with the setting up and development of the Parish system. Edenham (Ednam) is reputed to have been the first Parish in Scotland.

Kelso Scotland, Scottish Borders UK