Peebles Town Walk was originally designed as part of Peebles Civic Society's contribution to European Architectural Heritage Year. The full walk will take rather more than two hours to complete, but a shorter walk is also provided for in the published booklet which is available from "Visit Scotland" office on the High Street.
Many of the notable historic buildings referred to are indicated by small metal plaques.
A symbolic centre of a Scottish market town, the Mercat (market) Cross of Peebles is situated in Eastgate (formerly Cross Gate). It confirms the town?s former trading status. Here the public market was held, the Town Drummer announced royal and other proclamations to the people of the Burgh and criminals punished. This tradition is carried on in the Beltane Festival.
The traditional Peebles market day was a Tuesday and there were several annual fairs held in the town. The Cross of Peebles is an unusual design. The capital of the octagonal stone column has rich carvings of the three fishes and the strawberries. These are taken from the Arms of Peebles and the family crest of the Fraser of Neidpath. In 1662 the four-faced stone sundial and metal wind vane were added to mark the restoration to the throne of Charles II.
The Mercat Cross has had several sites in its 500 years history. In 1807, the Cross of Peebles was in such a ruinous condition that the council ordered its removal but the town?s people were opposed to the decision. In 1858 it was placed in the quadrangle of the Chambers Institution. The Mercat Cross was re-erected on its former site at the junction of Eastgate, Northgate and High street in 1895 and was moved slightly to the east in 1965.
The Cross Keys Hotel or Cleikum Inn)was built in 1693 as a town mansion by Walter Williamson of Cardrona. Later, this inn had strong associations with Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish novelist.
The "new town" centred on High Street, was developed from the 15th century. The street level that you see today is lower than it was in the past. In 1846, High Street was lowered by almost 1m drains were built, projecting stairs removed and pavements laid. Dean's Wynd close originally led from the Dean's House (now Chambers Institution) via the Bridgegate to the Cross Kirk and its lands on the north side of the town. Opposite the Tourist Information Centre you can see old bakery (24-28 High Street) was built for the Turnbull family in 1724. The family owned it for seven generations. There is a carved stone panel with a pair of wooden shovels, a mop and two figure 4s, which are the traditional symbols used by bakers. To the left is a shop which at one time was housed by the local militia and prisoners held before the burgh prison was built at the end of High Street.
Originating in the 16th c., the Chambers Institution has an interesting history. Belonging to the Church, it was the Dean's House, and later passed to the Queensberry branch of the Douglas family.
Locally known as the Queensberry Lodging, it was the birthplace of "Old Q", the 4th Duke of Queensberry, the infamous Rake of Piccadilly and ancestor of the 8th Duke who drew up the "Queensberry Rules of Boxing".
After extensive modernisation and extension the building was generously given to the town in 1857 by Dr William Chambers. He and his brother Robert, both born in the town, founded the Edinburgh publishing firm, W&R Chambers, which today is world renowned for its dictionaries and encyclopaedia. A later major extension, opened in 1911, was funded by Andrew Carnegie, the millionaire who, after making his fortune in steel production in USA, funded several thousand public libraries world-wide, including in Peebles. Later the Chambers Institution became the civic centre, and was the meeting place of the Town Council until the reform of local government in 1975. The most recently opened exhibit (1990) in the Chambers Institution is the "Secret Room", displaying wall-mounted plaster friezes donated by William Chambers - a 16 metre long reproduction of portions of the Elgin Marbles, and a complete facsimile of the "Triumph of Alexander", by the Danish sculptor Bertil Thorvaldsen.
In the quadrangle of the Chambers Institution, the War Memorial unveiled in 1922 by Field Marshal Earl Haig of Bemersyde, lits the names of 225 Peebleans killed in the First World War - a veritable decimation of the then male population of 2257. The names of those who lost their lives in the Second World war were added later.
The facade conceals an older interior with a thick walled barrel-vaulted room, or "bastel house" (from the the French "bastille"), and was formely a refuge and strongly built for defence. At least six such bastel-houses survived in Peebles in 1870. In stage-coaching days this hostelry was known as the "Harrow Inn", and was the point of departure for the coach for Edinburgh.
The construction of the Tontine Hotel was financed on the "tontine principle" - an early form of life annuity - by which the last survivor of its original subscribers would fall heir to the property. Apparently French parole prisoners were employed in its construction, and its first manager was a Franco-Belgian (Lenoir). It has a very elegant dining-room with a musicians gallery, an Adam style fireplace, and a large bow window overlooking the River Tweed.
The Parish Church is built on Castlehill, at the junction of the Eddleston Water and River Tweed, on the site of Peebles Castle. In 1783, St Andrew Church was built here. It was replaced on 23 April 1885m by the existing Parish Church with "crown" steeple, crow-step gables and chiming clock. The Burgh Arms carved in stone was saved when the 18th century church was demolished
Sheriff Court House was formerly the County Rooms and the Burgh Prison. It was built in 1848. Its old cells are sill there but have not been in use since 1878. The house itself was built upon a steep-sided mound which has known many changes of use. The flat summit was occupied by the castle of Peebles, known to have been in existence by 1152 and used as a royal hunting lodge. It disappeared during the middle Ages.
When it was demolished the 17th c. Peebles Silver Arrow was recovered from where it had been concealed during the Cromwellian occupation of Scotland.
As early as the reign of Charles I the Royal Company of Archers assembled at Peebles on the one day during the year to complete for the Silver Arrow.
The Bank House is better known in this century for its association with the famous author John Buchan, also his sister Anna Buchan who wrote under the pen name of O. Douglas. In the 1930's John Buchan, as Lord Tweedsmuir, was Governor Generel of Canada. In 1975 part of the building had to be demolished for the widening of Cuddy Bridge, but its famouse "red door" was incorporated round the corner in the reconstruction.
Traditionally the Common Land on which the townsfolk still have the right to hang out washing to dry.
The first stone bridge was bild about 1485. This bridge replaced an earlier wooden structure, though still onle wide enough (2.4m) for a horse and cart. It was first widened to 6.0m in 1834, and again to 12.0m in 1900. This widenings can be seen clearly from underneath the arches the river walk being reached by proceeding down the Port Brae and on to Tweed Green. Tweed Bridge was part of an important drove road in the 17c.-19c. for the Highlands to as far south as the midlands of England. Downstream, you can see the panoramic view highlights how the town's building were first developed, with the gable-ends facing the High Street and the roof ridges and gardens running down to the long vanished Town Wall which ran along the edge of the Green.
Eddleston Water, better known locally as "The Cuddy", was originaly the main access into the town from the west, where there were two medieval church settlements. This was also one of the river crossings on the main "drove road" for cattle sold at Falkirk and driven south over the Southern Uplands. In those time, below the narrow wooden, or trie, bridge across Eddleston Water, was "Cuddy Pool", where those accused of witchcraft and other malprractices were ducked.
Biggiesknowe was once the centre of the burgh's hand-weaving cottage industry. The older houses were built in 1796 as weaver's houses, in one of which the famous publishers William Chambers and his brother Robert were born in 1800 and 1802. In another was born John Veitch, respected professor of logic at both St Andrews and Glasgow Universities.
The ruined church at Peebles, the Cross Kirk, was erected on the spot where an old stone cross was located. This kirk was founded in 1261 by King Alexander III of Scotland. A gravestone also uncovered at that time was inscribed "the place of Saint Nicolas the bishop". The church was dedicated to him, and to The Holy Rood (or Cross) which gives the church its name. In the 15 c. a monastery was attached to the Cross Kirk and for a time after the Reformation it had become the burgh's parish church. Nearby are also the ruins of St Andrews Church, founded in 1195 and later became a collegiate church.
The church of St. Andrew of Peebles was founded in 1195. The church was so damaged in 1549 by an English force and later that in 1560 the parishioners left the building and transferred to Cross Kirk. It is believed locally that the army?s horses of a force of 3000 Cromwellian soldiers were stabled in the ruined St. Andrew?s Kirk. In 1663 the stones from Kirk were taken for the widening of Tweed Bridge. Anyway there are many fine old gravestones to be found in the graveyard.