MacFarlane's History of Langholm and Ewes

Extract from MacFarlane's Geographical Collections, published by the Scottish History Society in 3 volumes in 1907

The original spellings have been retained throughout.



This parish is at present made up of the old parishes of Staplegordon Vachop, and the half of the parish of Morton now called Half Morton.

The whole parish of Morton was annexed in former times to that of Cannabie, but that part of it that lies to the west of the river Sark, reckoning from the church of Cannabie, was annexed about 1655 to the Parish of Vachop, they continued in this state till about the year 1701, when Staplegordon and they were annex'd and a new church being built at Langholm, a little village in Staplegordon Parish, the whole took the name of Langholm parish.

Ewes church lies 3 miles to North of Langholm church. Midleby to the southwest of it 9 mile. Half Morton meeting house to the south of it 6 mile and to the outmost part of that parish it is 4 miles more. Cannabie to the southeast betwixt 4 and 5 mile. Castletown to the Northeast 8 and Westerkirk on the northwest 4 mile.

I begin my account 1st with the old parish of Staplegordon there are no gentlemens houses in it but two.

One of them belongs to the Earl of Dalkeith who is proprietor almost of the whole parish, the King having the teinds, and is the residence of his chamberlain. There was an old castle, built by the Armstrongs, once possessors of many lands in this border called Langholme Castle at the foot of a Holm that bears that name, it was about half a quarter of a mile from the church. It was built before the year 1529 for according to Buchanans account Armstrong of Kilknocky died before that year as did his brother who built it.

This castle was demolished last year, to be a quarry to build a fine bow, which stands in the midle of the Langholm forsaid, half a mile from the church on the north side of Esk, in which my Lords Chamberlain dwells as said is.

Note What is called Haughs in Teviotdale and Lauderdale we call Holms, where are severall of these as Potholm, Langholm, Erkenholm, Broomholm, all on the northest of Esk. on the southwest are Mylnholm, Meikleholm, Murthholm and Midleholm, these on the south side, being almost opposite to these on the north, which makes an agreeable open and gives a pleasant prospect among the many hills we have, the selveges whereof and the banks of the river being covered with pleasant woods replenished with many medicinal herbs which grow in great plenty and variety there.

There is another house the residence of Maxwell of Broomholm. It lyes about 2 miles below the church on the north syde of Esk, here grows great plenty of broom very rarely seen elswhere and Gauls commonly called Myrtus Brabertica or sweet willow, used for shadow arbors in summer.

This gentleman beside a small estate in the place above named, is proprietor of a five markland in the town of Langholm, my Lord Dalkeith of 2, John Little of 3, John Thomson of one mark lands.

Note. The Earle of Nithsdale gave to 10 gentlemen each a mark land paying of few duty to him 25 merks Scots yearly, all of his own name Maxwell, they obliging themselves to build, on the said lands of Erkenholm now called Langholm, each a house of stone and lime, 2 house hight the one confronting the other, leaving a street between the houses of 30 foot at least, this Contract which I have seen, bears date 1629 and it was erected into a brugh of Barony by the King before that, and called the town of Longholm.

These are now purchased by the authors I named except a markland that remains in Broomholms hands and by it he comes to be the greatest proprietor of the town of Langholm and he and the other 2 are fewars to the E. of Dalkeith who has the E. of Nidsdales right now.

The church stands within the town. This is a litle village, begun as abovesaid, and is now very much improven and beautified with a townhouse and prison for the Regality of Eskdale, a cross, a new church, the church yard is walled round within thes 3 years with stone and lime dikes and sett round within with young timber. The town is furnished with all manner of tradesmen a weekly market and 6 yearly fairs, from which arise considerable customs. It is the meeting of the regality Court, Justice of peace courts and of the Commissioners of the E. of Dalkeith for setting the land within the 5 Kirks of Eskdale here is an excise office and an officer, a post office and a post master thither the inhabitants of the 5 kirks come to hire servants twice a year, all which have so much improven it that at present there are above 430 examinable persons in it. It stands on the conflux of Esk, Ewes and Wachop rivers, and has 3 holms 3 woods and 3 waters all near it, which gives the most agreable prospect to strangers of any thing here. It is on the south of Esk. 16 miles from Carlisle 14 from Annan 24 from Drumfrise 16 from Havick, with all which it maintains a small trade in meal, skins, wool, cheese, butter and woollen yarn. Within this year a wool combing trade is set up in it, what pity is it, it wants a wool manufactory therein, this being a great wool country.

The River Esk called by Buchanans nomenclator Eska limitanea to distinguish it from others of the same name in Scotland, runs thro the united parish and divides Staplegordon from Vachop. It enters into it near 3 miles above the church and into Cannabie two mile below it. It runs almost straigh south.

In times of rain its rapid, being filled with some others rivers and many burns and brooks from the hills. There are the rivers in this parish that feed it, Ewes and Vachop and Tarras the last falls into it of a mile below Broomholm, over each of which there are arched Bridges Ewes has 3 arches, the other two, each, one large arch all of stone and well ledged and cowm'd. No other bridges in the 5 Kirks. There are also these burns that run into it, within this parish Dougland burn Craiglugh burn the one on the one side of Esk and the other on the other side and divide Westerkirk from this parish. There are also the Mylnburn the Greenburn, Kilnclugh, Whiteshields and Turnerclugh Murtholmclugh Gaybergill and Irvine burns often unpassable in great rains especially the last.

Its waters are clear in time of drought, being then fed with mineral spaws and is recken'd good to bath in for the scurvy in that season. It was very plentifull of excellent salmon but the Caul at Cannabie prevents their running now.

vThere is a noble stone bridge of 3 arches over it about a mile below the church, 2 of them very large about 44 foot diameter built about 26 years agoe. a boat used in former times to goe at Langholm toun, still called the boatford, now there's no use for it.

All Vachop is the sole property of the Earl of Dalkeith,.nothing in it but store rooms. The ministers mans is near the foot of Vachop within half a mile of the church, he rides every day to the church, having 3 waters to pass, a bridge over each, when unpassable and then its 2 miles by the Bridges.

The Manse stands on the ruins of the old Castle of Vachop wherin the Lindsays of Wachop, a family, I hear, now extinct here are still to be seen the ruins of an old fortification, on the northwest syde and south are fusees or moats in which the water of Vachop was lodged brough from the river in leaden pipes, some of which are still dug up. On the southeast runs the river in deep linns walled on that syde the manse is on, with very good old work, much of which yet remains and the depth will be in some places 18 fathom. On the Northeast is a mount rais'd where was a draw bridge that led between the castle and it. the whole stands on a litle and naturall rising ground, which gave encouragement to the building of this old fortification and assistance in the work.

The River Vachop runs thro this paroch and gives it a name, it rises in Loganhead, a hill in Westerkirk parish, runs first south and next directs its course east and so comes by the ministers house and falls into Esk at Langholm as said is. the bridge over it half quarter of a mile from the manse. There are several brooks that run into Vachop, the most noted are Bigholmsburn, the Blockburn, Westwater, Glencorf, Yellow Syick Earswoodsyck all above the manse the Mylnburn below it, over which is a Bridge.

Thers no lochs in this parish. Many Inns in town of Langholm. The woods are all young except the Langwood of old oaks. the new spring is kept by a forrester. Thers much turf and good black peats on the tops of the hills which fall lower as the approach Cannabie from which we have our coal.

I have nothing to say to 6, 7 & 8 paragraphs.

The number of catechisable persons in the united parish is near 1000.

The Baptis'd before the year 1716 were from 16 & 18 to 24. the last the greatest I find any year before, but since Janry 1716 to ditto 1726 are from 30 to 38.

The Burials increase with the parish in 1717, about 30 in 1722. 50. in 1725. 53.

Marriages from 8 to 10 a year but of late grown to 16 and 18.

Ther's a mortification of above 100 lib Sterl. for a free school at Langholm left by one Reid at London of which is 52 lib Ster. recovered last year. No mortifications to the poor. This is for Langholm.

Baptisd in Halfmorton about 8 or 10 each year, buried near that number and marryed 4 or 5. There is a charity school at the meeting house supported by the Hon. the Society for propagating Christian knowledge in Scotland.


Mr Arch. Gibson. No act of his settlement or any before him he died 1657.

Mr Robt Law his assistant succeeded him & was outed 1662.

Mr Math. Reid settled 1663 and transported to Hodholm in 1670 in this Presbetry.

Mr Robt Allan succeeded about 2 years after and went out at the Revolution. died 1720.

Mr Robt Law returned 1688 and died 1700.


Mr James Moubray died about 1642 no account of any before him.

Mr Thomas Allan father to Mr Robert abovenamed, succeeded and was 40 years minr here, died 1684. Mr Simon Weel 3 years minister went to Irland at the Revolution, whence he came.

Mr Jo: Loury settled about 1691 transported to Eskdale muir. a new erection 1702.

Mr David Grame setled about May 1704 and transported to Kirkmahoe in the Presbetry of Drumfrise 1716.

Mr Alexr Meikle ordaind 1717 and continues still. The 2 last ministers since the conjunction of Staplegordon and Vachop.

There are severall mineral wells in the Parish; Whithaugh well a quarter of a mile above Langholm, frequented about 30 years agoe.

In Vachop, at the ministers door, is an excellent chalybeat spaw, which will tincture a claret color but the best of this kind is at the Grange 2 mile from the manse, of the deepest tincture I ever saw, this is much frequented by people from Teviotdale, Annandale & the English border for the Sandy gravel, scurvy and obstructions. It is a great deobstruent Diuretick, Antiscorbutick and a cooler in the hectic fever. Ther's another well within S mile of the manse called the Blockwell, much also frequented, a sulphurous spaw of the same nature with Moffat.

As for Half Morton. It is the property of Sir William Maxwell of Sprinkell except a small part that belongs to Irwine of Auchenbedridge, who is the only gentleman, that has a house within it. This is an old Castle between 5 or 6 mile from Langholm church the rest of his interest is in Midleby parish. here are the ruines of several old castles belonging formerly to the Armstrongs, all in ruins, as their familys are as Auchenguile, Logan house, Cadgill etc.

The minister preaches in the meeting house once a moneth or 6 weeks as he can goe. This was a practice introduced about 1694 when the meeting house was built. Before sermon was on a little rising ground called Herdmanseat on the border of Vachop or in a house of Bloch near by. The minister rides thro the skirts of 2 parishes before he reach Half Morton viz. Cannabie and Midleby he having 6 miles to ride to the meeting house from the manse whereof 8 thro the 2 parishes abovenamed, and the Langholm is always vacant, when he is at Half Morton.

Stipend 1100 merks. and the King is Patron of Langholm & Half Morton both. The river Sark divides the last from the other part of Morton belonging to Cannabie.

7. DESCRIPTION of the Parish of EWIS.

The Parish of Ewis is in the shire of Roxburgh. The church stands near to the W. side of Ewis water 3 mile north from Langholm S mile East from the church of Westerkirk 7 mile west from the church of Castletown 11 mile S.W. from the church of Cavers.

Ewisleyis is 3 miles N. from the church. The water of Ewis riseth a mile S.W. from this place and runneth 7 mile toward Langholm where it falleth into the river of Esk. It is fed with springs and is scarcely known to freeze.

Cowmes and Ludgill stand 2 mile E. from the church. the water of Tarras riseth 2 mile east above Cowms and runneth closs by the west side of it. It runneth 5 mile below this place S.W. from it, and then falleth into Esk.

The house of Arkeltoun is half a mile N.E. from the church. Sorby is a short half mile S.W. from it. The house of Meikledale is a long mile N. from the church.

The Inn is at the village called Kirkstile which adjoineth to the church yard on the east side. 8. Cella Patricij or Kilpatrick of the Moor called also Kilpatrick Durham, as is reported, because many of that name were in it, though there is none now of that antient stock there, lyes in the Stuartry of Kirkcudbright Presbetry and Commissariot of Drumfreis, being on the border of the Presbytry and Commissariot.

Two ridges of hills run through this parish from North to South. betwixt them runneth Ewis in a pleasant fruitful' valley, not above a quarter of mile broad in most parts. The Heretors are Earl of Dalkeith, Arkletoun, Meikledale Cowmes, Ludgill Brergschaw & Sorbie.

The church seems built since the Reformation. There was no priest fixed here in time of popery. At Unthank 2 mile N.E. from the church, there are the mines of a chapple for divine service in time of popery. There is a tradition that Friars were wont to come from Melross or Jedburgh to baptize and marry in this parish. And these Friars being in use to carry the mass book in their bosomes, they were called by the inhabitants Bookabosomes. There is a man yet alive who knew old men who had been baptised by these Bookabosomes and who saith one of them called Hair, used this parish for a very long time.

The first minister here after the Reformation was W Graham to him succeeded W Chisolm and both these died in the place. Mr John Linlithgow came after W Chisolm in 1646. In Mr Linlithgow's time was the National Covenant sworn in the parish and the authentick copy of that Covenant as subscribed by the minister & people, is in the Sessions hands. He continued till 1664 when he was turned out by the Councel. To him succeeded Mr Jo: Hume who went out at the Test and after him came Mr Jo. Melvill who continued till the Revolution when Mr Linlithgow was again reponed. Mr Linlithgow becoming superannuate retired to his estate at Ridpath in 1694 when Robert Darling was ordained and he continued till his death in 1716. Mr Rob Malcom entred in 1717 and yet continueth.

There are about 300 catechizeable persons in the parish,and for 5 years backward there have been 63 baptisms and 48 burials. The stipend is in money and victual 70£ Str.communibus annis. It is constituted by a Decreet of Locality. The Earl of Dalkeith is Patron. There are large heaps of stones in this country which probably have been cast together for some extraordinary burial. the bones of a man were found lately in one of them in this parish. There were never any ratts known in Ewisdale or Eskdale.