History of Clovenfords

Clovenfords, the village of the split fords nestling in the valley at the crossroads between the “Kings Ford” over the River Tweed and the “Old Ford” at Caddon Mill, originally called Whytbanklee.

The Clovenfords Inn, circa 1750, was a stagecoach route between Carlisle and Edinburgh. The village boasted a smithy, a post office and a handful of cottages when Galashiels was only a hamlet dependent on Clovenfords for its mail deliveries and news from the outside world.

On being appointed Sheriff of Selkirkshire, Sir Walter Scott stayed at the inn in 1779, before living at Ashiestiel House. At the inn Sir Walter met William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy during their tour of the Scottish Borders which produced a wealth of poetry and prose including those lines, ‘Yarrow Unvisited’:

“And when we came to Clovenfords so said my winsome marrow.
What’er betide we’ll turn aside and see the braes of Yarrow”.

Today Sir Walter Scott’s statue stands in the forecourt of the Clovenfords Hotel watching over the village with a tolerant, benign and compassionate smile at the corner of his mouth, irrespective of the many changes taking place around him, symbolizing the greatness and the spirit that makes similar villagers to Clovenfords, so important to the integral life of the Scottish Borders.

John Leyden, a bosom friend of Sir Walter Scott, a contemporary poet, minister in the Church of Scotland, historian, philosopher, and surgeon. In 1792, when only 17 years of age, Dr Leyden taught in the village school, in Millbank Road. A stone dye, part of a gable end, is all that remains of the school which was fondly known as ‘The Luggie’. The site of the school is marked by a granite slab which was erected in his memory in 1911.

Tweed Vineyards was created by William Thomson in 1869, choosing Clovenfords, Vine Street, because it had its own railway station, essential for delivering the many tons of coke required to heat the large complex of hothouses and because his brother-in-law was a builder and contractor living in Galashiels. The Tweed Vineyards of Scotland became the crème de la crème of the grapevine producing six tons of Muscat and Gros Colman grapes per year, then delivered by rail as far south as Covent Gardens and Harrods of London. For 90 years the Tweed Vineyards flourished under four generations of the Thomson family until the price of grapes fell dramatically. They sold the business in 1959, to Robert Affleck, a market gardener. Time took its toll and the once famous vineries fell into a state beyond repair. Only the name remains the same, Tweed Vineyards.

Caddonfoot Parish Church was begun in March 1860, and was opened for worship 3rd February 1861. It was built as a memorial to Alex Pringle of Whytbank by his friends and relatives. In 1875 the church was enlarged and the seating increased to accommodate 360 worshippers. In 1933 Hon. Alex Shaw of Fairnilee, later the 2nd Lord Craigmyle, had the church remodelled to form a chancel. He and his wife Lady Craigmyle also gifted two stained glass windows, one believed to be the only stained glass window in the country in the memory of Sir Walter Scott.

Tom Quayle, 2013

View our archive of historical photos of the Clovenfords area

History of Clovenfords & Sir Walter Scott

The following chapters of the History of Clovenfords & Sir Walter Scott by local writer Tom Quayle are available to read online:

  1. The Dawning of Quhytebank
  2. History of Clovenfords Hotel
  3. Ashiestiel House
  4. Dr John Leyden and the Luggie
  5. Tweed Vineyards and William Thomson
  6. Abbotsford House
  7. Lord Craigmyle and Peel Hospital
  8. Elibank Castle and Muckle Mou’ed Meg
  9. Caddonfoot Parish Church
  10. The Pringles of Whytbank
  11. The Pringles of Torwoodlee
  12. Scots Poets Alice Rutherford and Andrew Lang
  13. Clovenfords Millennium Notice Board
  14. Historic Schools within the Scottish Borders

Other articles on local history

Clovenfords Historical Trail, a leaflet produced in January 2016

The history of the statue of Sir Walter Scott, an article by Joan Mundell which tells the story of the statue that now stands outside the Clovenfords Country Inn

The history of the Braw Lads’ Gathering

Clovenfords’ Royal Visit July 1923

Map of Clovenfords from 1897

Clovenfords Railway Station