Teviotdale, Hawick, Scottish Borders, TD9 OJT Scotland | Tel: 01450 374535 or 07875 741007

History of Branxholme

Branxholme Castle

Ancestral Home of “Wicked Wat” and the “Bold Buccleuch”

Branxholme Castle or according to the ancient spelling, Branksome, dates back to the earliest part of the fifteenth century. Up to the seventeenth century, the castle was the principal home of the Scott’s of Buccleuch. Situated three miles southwest of Hawick, the building stands on a gentle eminence above the River Teviot, in full command of the approaches above and below. Its strength is obvious from its situation on a deep bank surrounded by the Teviot and flanked by a deep ravine.

In its golden days, Branxholme was the master stronghold of a wide surrounding chain of fortresses, the main strength of upper Teviotdale, the key of the pass between the basin of the Tweed and Cumberland, where hostile armies marched and countermarched, where the moss-troopers rode their raids into England and returned homewards, pricking before them with their spears, the cattle stolen from across the Border. There are few more events worthy of note in the political or social life of Scotland than reiving which during a period of some three to four hundred years, prevailed along the whole line of the Borders.  From Berwick to the Solway, covering many counties including Roxburgh, the area was chiefly inhabited by hoards of moss-troopers, who made it the chief business of their lives to harry and steal from their English neighbours on every opportunity, carrying off whatever came to hand, be it horses, cows, sheep or goods. On the English side, those who were despoiled were not slow to retaliate and generally succeeded in making good the losses they sustained.

The habit of reiving, which began as an occasional resource, developed gradually into a legitimate profession with all classes from the chief of the clan to the lowest serf, engaged in it. In fact, most of the notorious reivers were gentlemen in high positions who gloried in this activity and in whose eyes it was an honourable and worthy calling.  This entity of plunder and reprisal went on along the whole line of the Border for many generations and all the great Border families were involved.

The ancient barons of Buccleuch, both from feudal splendor and from their frontier situation, retained within their household at Branxholme, till the cessation of Border strife, a number of gentlemen of their own name, who held lands from their chief for the military service of watching and warding his Castle.

‘Nine-and-twenty knights of fame,
Hung their shields in Branksome Hall;
Nine-and-twenty squires of name,
Brought them their steeds to bower from stall;
Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall
Waited, duteous, on them all:
They were all knights of metal true,
Kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch.‘Ten of them were sheathed in steel,
With hiked sword, and spur on heel:
They quitted not their harness bright,
Neither by day nor yet by night:
They lay down to rest
With corslet laced,
Pillow’d on buckler cold and hard;
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel,
And they drank the red wine through the helmet barr’d.‘Ten squires, ten yeomen, mail-clad men,
Waited the beck of the warders ten;
Thirty steeds, both fleet, and wight.
Stood saddled in stable day and night,
Barbed with a frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood-axe at saddlebow;
A hundred more fed free in stall:-
Such was the custom of Branksome Hall.’

The 1600 Hundred's

Sir Walter Scott, the Bold Buccleuch, died on the 15th of December 1611 at Branxholme and was buried at St. Marys Kirk Hawick. It may be said of the Bold Buccleuch that he was the epitome of reiving genius with all its unquestionable courage and heroic qualities. He was brave, firm in purpose, had a spirit of chivalry, was independent, quick to resent injuries but warm-hearted and generous. He played a large part in the traditional story of the country and may well be regarded as a truly great man who was forced by the circumstances of his time into devoting his undoubted talents to tasks which were not quite worthy of his genius and were, without doubt, the outstanding figure on the Border in the closing stages of the 16th century. His name will remain associated with one of the most eventful and stirring periods in Border history, and will forever be enshrined in Border song and story.

Walter Scott second Lord of Buccleuch and 1st Earl, son of Sir Walter ‘The Bold Buccleuch succeeded to the title of second Lord Scott of Buccleuch on 15th December 1611 and was the first in his family for 140 years to succeed to the titles when of full age.  Although living extensively in Holland, he also lived for periods at Branxholme.  He was created 1st Earl of Buccleuch on the 16th March 1618.

The Earl was noted for his generous hospitality overstretched his estate and so entered the service of the States-General of Holland in 1627 against the Spaniards, and by 1629, he was a Colonel of a company in the Netherlands and was present at the sieges of Bergen-op-Zoom and Maastricht.

He was recalled from the Netherlands, in 1631, by Charles I., who desired his presence in London, as his Majesty had occasion for his services, but he subsequently returned to his command in the Netherlands in 1633, after making a Will in Scotland, and was in active service there six weeks before his death.  He died in London on the 20th November 1633 from apoplexy on his way home again to Branxholme from Holland via London. He was interred among his ancestors in St. Mary’s Kirk in Hawick and was the last of the Scotts of Buccleuch to be buried in the family vault.

After his death, Branxholme ceased to be the chief family residence of the Scotts.  However the extent of the ancient building can still be traced by some remains of its foundation and as the building stands today, it is a fine example of a historic family home of a Border Clan Chief in feudal times and is a living example of Scotland’s past, present, and future.

“Sweet Teviot! on thy silver tide
The glaring bale fires blaze no more;
No longer steel-clad warriors ride
Along thy wild and willowed shore;
Where’er thou wind’st, by dale or hill,
All, all is peaceful, all is still,
As if thy waves, since time was born,
Since first they rolled upon the Tweed,
Had only heard the shepherd’s reed,
or started at the bugle horn.”

The 1500 Hundred's

Walter Scott succeeded to the lands of Branxholme, Whitchesters, Lempitlaw, Eilrig, Rankilburn, Milsington, and Kirkurd. However, he received sasine of half of Branxholme, together with Eckford and Langton only in 1500, the lands having been held inward by the Crown for seven years.  He died in 1504 leaving his widow who long outlived him before she was burnt within Catslack Tower in 1547 by Lord Grey and an English raiding party, supported by the Kers.  Walter Scott was succeeded by his son of the same name, Walter (Wicked Wat).  Walter Scott (‘Wicked Wat’) represented the house for no less than forty-eight years, and by his combined energy and prudence became one of the most powerful barons in the Borders, his retainers fighting under the banner of their sovereign at the battle of Flodden, and though very young at that time, it is not improbable that he was present as their leader and made a knight on the eve of the battle. He is said to have been one of the few Scottish noblemen to have escaped the battlefield and became a thorn in the side of the English reivers.

Throughout most of the life of Wicked Wat, there was a conflict with the Douglases and the Kers of Cessford and on the night of the 4th October 1552, Sir Walter was attacked whilst walking down the High Street of Edinburgh, and murdered by a party of Ker supporters, who cast his body into a booth. Two servants of the Kers passing the booth soon after found Sir Walter still alive and completed the murder.

Walter Scott succeeded his grandfather, as his father William eldest surviving son of ‘Wicked Wat’ died in 1552 a few months before Wicked Wat was murdered on Edinburgh High Street.  Sir Walter Scott was a zealous partisan of Queen Mary and supported her cause with the utmost enthusiasm.

Queen Elizabeth had had enough and determined to suppress support for the Scottish Catholic Queen,  and in 1570, commissioned the Earl of Sussex to raise a military force with the intention of inflicting punishment on the Scottish Borders.  Branxholme was attacked and the beautiful gardens and orchards so carefully kept and tended were all laid to waste and the house of Buccleuch was destroyed by blowing one half from the other by means of powder. Needing a new stronghold Walter Scott seized Douglases Black Tower, supposedly until Branxholme was rebuilt, but the Douglases ever regained possession of their home.

Sir Walter commenced the rebuilding of Branxholme immediately but the work, though it had been in progress for three years, was not completed at the time of his death on April 17th, 1574 at the age of 25, and was finished by his widow, Lady Margaret Douglas.  Walter Scott ‘The Bold Buccleuch’  succeeded his father in 1574, and although he was only in his ninth year when his father died he grew up to be one of the most fearless and active leaders on the Border.  The Bold Buccleuch became one of the most powerful barons of his time, was noted for his bravery and is often regarded as the last of the Border Reivers.

In 1594 the Bold Buccleuch was re-appointed the Keeper of Liddesdale and it was in this capacity that two years later he affected the rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong from Carlisle Castle, living up to his nickname, “the Bold Buccleuch” particularly after this rescue.

The 1400 Hundred's

Robert Scott the 5th Laird of Rankilburn (Buccleuch), succeeded his father, the first Sir Walter Scott, who died at Homildon Hill on 14th September 1402.  He acquired half the lands of Branxholme from John Inglis in 1420, thereby becoming the first Scott of Branxholme.  He was succeeded by his son Walter in 1426, who in 1431 had an official copy made of the charter of 1420 by which his father was granted half the lands of Branxholme.

Walter was knighted by James II in 1437 and in 1446 he exchanged the family’s Lanarkshire property of Murthockstone for the rest of Branxholme, with Thomas Inglis as a result of a conversation in which Inglis, a man it would appear, of a mild and tolerant nature, complained much of the attacks he was exposed to from the marauding English Borderers who frequently plundered his lands of Branxholme.  Sir Walter immediately offered him the estate of Murthockstone for that which was subject to such shocking abuse adding to the estates, and greatly increasing their influence.

He died before the 9th of February 1469 and was succeeded by his eldest son, David Scott.  David Scott is recorded as his father’s heir in the 1463 resignation of the family estates, with Branxholme being then erected into a Barony and over his tenure as keeper, made large additions to Branxholme.  In 1469 he and his son Walter were made Keepers of Hermitage Castle for 19 years by Archibald Douglas, ‘Bell the Cat’, 5th Earl of Angus, who was also Lord of Liddesdale.

After his son Walter died, a new arrangement was made in 1471, keeping David along with his second son and new heir David, Keepers of Hermitage Castle and Bailies of the Lordship of Liddesdale, Ewesdale, and Eskdale, for a period of 17 years, a time over which they put Hermitage into a better state of defense, garrisoning it with a hundred men.

David died in 1492 and is buried in the Church of the Holy Cross, Peebles. In his Will, he bequeathed 40 shillings to the Church of Hawick, as well as Peebles.  David Scott, his second son, and heir predeceased his father, dying before 1484 and the titles were inherited by his grandson, his second son David’s only son Walter, who became Sir Walter of Branxholme and Buccleuch on the death of his grandfather in 1492.

The 1100 - 1300 Hundred's

Henry Lovel, Lord Cary, son of Ralph and Margaret, or possibly 3rd son of William Gouel de Perceval., succeeded in about 1159. Henry was probably born at Castle Cary, but also held the Barony of Hawick, split his time between England and Scotland. He was ‘Henry Luvel’ in 1166 when he witnessed a charter by King William to Robert de Brus and is recorded as Baron of Hawick in documents dated 1166 and 1190.

We have been lucky enough to have met a wonderful expert who has provided us with valuable knowledge of Branxholme and Hawick

With his help and knowledge, we will be producing a book “The History of Branxholme Castle”.  We hope to have it published by 2019.

If you have any knowledge of the castle or wish to share stories or memories of your time or knowledge at Branxholme please get in touch with us.  We are doing all we can to read up and learn about this wonderful place we now call our home which is steeped in interesting and important history.  Thank you for reading this Brian and Carol.