1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jedburgh
JEDBURGH, a royal and police burgh and county-town of Roxburghshire, Scotland. Pop. of police burgh (1901), 3136. It is situated on Jed Water, a tributary of the Teviot, 561 m. S.E. of Edinburgh by the North British railway, via Roxburgh and St Boswells (49 m. by road), and 10 m. from the border at Catcleuch Shin, a peak of the Cheviots, 1742 ft. high. Of the name Jedburgh there have been many variants, the earliest being Gedwearde (800), Jedwarth (1251), and Geddart (1586), while locally the word is sometimes pronounced Jethart. The town is situated on the left bank of the Jed, the main streets running at right angles from each side of the central market-place. Of the renowned group of Border abbeys—Jedburgh, Melrose, Dryburgh and Kelso—that of Jedburgh is the stateliest. In 1118, according to tradition, but more probably as late as 1138, David, prince of Cumbria, here founded a priory for Augustinian monks from the abbey of St Quentin at Beauvais in France, and in 1147, after he had become king, erected it into an abbey dedicated to the Virgin. Repeatedly damaged in Border warfare, it was ruined in 1544–45 during the English invasion led by Sir Ralph Evers (or Eure). The establishment was suppressed in 1559, the revenues being temporarily annexed to the Crown. After changing owners more than once, the lands were purchased in 1637 by the 3rd earl of Lothian. Latterly five of the bays at the west end had been utilized as the parish church, but in 1873–1875 the 9th marquess of Lothian built a church for the service of the parish, and presented it to the heritors in exchange for the ruined abbey in order to prevent the latter from being injured by modern additions and alterations.
The abbey was built of Old Red sandstone, and belongs mostly to the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries. The architecture is mixed, and the abbey is a beautiful example of the Norman and Transition styles. The total length is 235 ft., the nave being 1331 ft. long and 591 ft. wide. The west front contains a great Norman porch and a fine wheel window. The nave, on each side, has nine pointed arches in the basement storey, nine round arches in the triforium, and thirty-six pointed arches in the clerestory, through which an arcade is carried on both sides. The tower, at the intersection of the nave and transepts, is of unusually massive proportions, being 30 ft. square and fully 100 ft. high; the network baluster round the top is modern. With the exception of the north piers and a small portion of the wall above, which are Norman, the tower dates from the end of the 15th century. The whole of the south transept has perished. The north transept, with early Decorated windows, has been covered in and walled off, and is the burial-ground of the Kerrs of Fernihirst, ancestors of the marquess of Lothian. The earliest tombstone is dated 1524; one of the latest is the recumbent effigy, by G. F. Watts, R.A., of the 8th marquess of Lothian (1832–1870). All that is left of the choir, which contains some very early Norman work, is two bays with three tiers on each side, corresponding to the design of the nave. It is supposed that the aisle, with Decorated window and groined roof, south of the chancel, formed the grammar school (removed from the abbey in 1751) in which Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661), principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews, and James Thomson, author of The Seasons, were educated. The door leading from the south aisle into a herbaceous garden, formerly the cloister, is an exquisite copy of one which had become greatly decayed. It was designed by Sir Rowand Anderson, under whose superintendence restoration in the abbey was carried out.
The castle stood on high ground at the south end of the burgh, or “town-head.” Erected by David I., it was one of the strongholds ceded to England in 1174, under the treaty of Falaise, for the ransom of William the Lion. It was, however, so often captured by the English that it became a menace rather than a protection, and the townsfolk demolished it in 1409. It had occasionally been used as a royal residence, and was the scene, in November 1285, of the revels held in celebration of the marriage (solemnized in the abbey) of Alexander III. to Joleta, or Yolande, daughter of the count of Dreux. The site was occupied in 1823 by the county prison, now known as the castle, a castellated structure which gradually fell into disuse and was acquired by the corporation in 1890. A house exists in Backgate in which Mary Queen of Scots resided in 1566, and one in Castlegate which Prince Charles Edward occupied in 1745.
The public buildings include the grammar school (built in 1883 to replace the successor of the school in the abbey), founded by William Turnbull, bishop of Glasgow (d. 1454), the county buildings, the free library and the public hall, which succeeded to the corn exchange destroyed by fire in 1898, a loss that involved the museum and its contents, including the banners captured by the Jethart weavers at Bannockburn and Killiecrankie. The old market cross still exists, and there are two public parks. The chief industry is the manufacture of woollens (blankets, hosiery), but brewing, tanning and iron-founding are carried on, and fruit (especially pears) and garden produce are in repute. Jedburgh was made a royal burgh in the reign of David I., and received a charter from Robert I. and another, in 1566, from Mary Queen of Scots. Sacked and burned time after time during the Border strife, it was inevitable that the townsmen should become keen fighters. Their cry of “Jethart’s here!” was heard wherever the fray waxed most fiercely, and the Jethart axe of their invention—a steel axe on a 4-ft. pole—wrought havoc in their hands.
“Jethart or Jeddart justice,” according to which a man was hanged first and tried afterwards, seems to have been a hasty generalization from a solitary fact—the summary execution in James VI.’s reign of a gang of rogues at the instance of Sir George Home, but has nevertheless passed into a proverb.
Old Jeddart, 4 m. S. of the present town, the first site of the burgh, is now marked by a few grassy mounds, and of the great Jedburgh forest, only the venerable oaks, the “Capon Tree” and the “King of the Woods” remain. Dunion Hill (1095 ft.), about 2 m. south-west of Jedburgh, commands a fine view of the capital of the county.