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Springwood House

Springwood Park

The showground and caravan park at Kelso became known as Springwood Park in 1750 when Admiral Sir James Douglas (1704-1787) purchased the land and changed its name from Bridgend.

This Douglas line descended from the Douglas of Cavers branch of the family, and were lawyers and merchants. They took the title Douglas of Friarshaw from the original seat of the family in the parish of Lilliesleaf. Sir James died in 1787 leaving the estate to his son Sir George who was a captain in the 25th Regiment of Foot and later commanded the Kelso Volunteers. He sold the old estate of Friarshaw in 1788 and became MP for Roxburgh. His son, Sir John James, succeeded to the lands and baronetcy on the death of his father in 1821. Sir John James joined the 15th Hussars and fought in the Peninsula campaign and at Waterloo. He married Hannah Charlotte, heiress of Henry Scott of Belford and changed the family name to Scott Douglas. The lands of Longnewton were thus added to the estate of Springwood Park.

There is an iron plaque set into the boundary wall of Springwood Park estate opposite to the end of the Rennie bridge which was put there by Sir John James to indicate the boundary of his estate. He died in 1836 and was succeeded by his son Sir George Henry Scott Douglas. Following family tradition, he joined the army and rose to a Captaincy in the 34th Regiment of Foot which later became the Border Regiment. We are fortunate that Sir George kept a diary throughout his army career which illuminates regimental life and paints a vivid picture of his many sailing exploits in his cutter Vampire and his yacht Ariel. He became a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. He returned to Kelso in 1853 and embarked on an extensive building programme much of which stands to this day. In 1874 he successfully stood against the Marquis of Bowmont to become Member of Parliament. At his death in 1885 he was much lamented by the people of Kelso and district: letters of condolence survive from the Royal Company of Archers; the Border Rifle Volunteers; Kelso School Board; the Edinburgh Border Association; the Ornithological Society; Kelso Choral Union; the Tweedside Physical & Antiquarian Society and many more.

His first son James, known to the family as Jamie, joined the Royal Scots Fusileers and was killed at Kwamagwasa during the Zulu wars so it was his second son, Sir George Brisbane Douglas (he dropped Scott from the family name) who became the fifth baronet. Sir George was born on 22nd December 1856 in Gibraltar, his mother's homeland. Until the death of his elder brother, he looked certain to lead an academic life but managed to combine the running of a large country estate with writing prose and poetry. He had a great interest in local history and recorded many tales told by his gamekeepers and other worthies. He was widely published in his lifetime and his work includes New Border Tales (1892); Poems of a Country Gentleman (1897); Diversions of a Country Gentleman (1902) and The Border Breed (1909). His authoritative history of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles was published in 1899 by William Blackwood & Sons. He never married and on his death in 1935 he was succeeded by his nephew, Sir James Louis Fitzroy Scott Douglas, who never resided at Springwood Park. It is said that Sir James rapidly spent his way through two large inherited fortunes (buying a redundant destroyer after the second world war in order to cruise the Mediterranean) and died without issue and owing money. The contents of the house were sold at auction and the pictures dispersed. The house itself was let but became riddled with dry rot and was eventually dynamited. The mausoleum where the Douglas family lie still stands but is sealed and sadly dilapidated.

A Tale of Brigend

As stated, before Sir James Douglas bought Springwood Park it was named Bridgend and owned by Sir William Ker of Greenhead. In 1714 he had arrested some gypsies who were going about armed and living off the land. He had them confined in the tollbooth at Jedburgh and refused to listen to the pleas of Janet Stewart, the mother of one of the miscreants. On the 25th March 1714 the household of Bridgend had retired for the night when there was an explosion which set the house on fire and the property was totally destroyed. On the 11th May at the Spring Circuit Court at Jedburgh, William Walker, Patrick Faa, Mabel Stirling, Mary Faa, Jean Ross, Elspeth Lindsay, Joseph Wallace, John Fenwick, Jean Yourston, Mary Robertson, Janet Wilson and Janet Stewart were accused of wilful fire-raising and of being 'notorious Egyptians, thieves, vagabonds, sorners, masterful beggars and oppressors, or at least holden and in repute to be in such manner meant.' The sentences were varied but Janet Stewart was scourged by the hand of the common hangman with a scourge of cords on the bare back - receiving four stripes at the West Port, four at the cross and four at the Town Foot. She was then returned to the prison for three days and, thereafter, had her left ear nailed to a post, erected for the purpose, near the Town Cross and made to stand there for a quarter of an hour. Patrick Faa underwent the same punishment but also had both ears cut off. After this, they were transported to the American plantations. It is worth noting that Sir George Brisbane Douglas himself always maintained an affection for the true gypsy and Queen Esther Faa-Blythe used to be a frequent visitor to his mother Mariquita.

Contributed by Ian Abernethy, author of "The High Toun on the Hill", a history of the village of Heiton.

Kelso Scotland, Scottish Borders UK