Bowden was a parish in the former county of Roxburghshire, which ceased to exist following the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1974. The parish had an area of 31km2 (11.9 sq. miles) and had 6 neighbouring parishes: Ancrum, Lilliesleaf, Melrose, and St. Boswells in Roxburghshire, Galashiels and Selkirk in Selkirkshire.
Bowden is located in the Scottish Borders Council Area, some 3 miles (5 km) south of Melrose and 9 miles (14 km) northwest of Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. It contains the settlements of Bowden and Midlem. Bowden and Melrose have now been combined as a single [ecclesiastical] parish.
In 1113, when King David I of Scotland granted lands to the monks of Selkirk, he also granted them the land at Bothandene (Bowden) and Hailiedene (Holydean). The charter was renewed in 1124 when the monks moved to Kelso, where they founded the maginificent Kelso Abbey. At the same time a religious establishment was founded at Bowden. The abbot of Kelso built a tower at Holydean which was destroyed in 1296. The tower was rebuilt and extended by Isabel Ker of Cessford and renamed Castle Holydean. The castle became the home of the Ker family, later the Dukes of Roxburghe, who lived there for two centuries before the castle was finally destroyed in 1760 by the 3rd Duke, John Ker. The Roxburghes moved to their new home, Floors Castle, in the early 18th century.
In 1531, Bowden village was granted the right to hold a market, the first non-burghal market in Scotland, and a market cross which still stands today was erected - such was the importance of the village in mediaeval times. The cross is now used as the parish war memorial.
The present Bowden Kirk was greatly enlarged in the 17th century, but parts of an older church are still evident. The church is unusual inasmuch as it has three bells, two of which are still in use. The third bell is contained inside the church and bears the inscription SOLI DEO GLORIA JOHN MEIKEL ME FECIT EDINBURGHII ANNO 1690, meaning "I was built by the grace of God at Edinburgh in 1690 by John Meikle". John Meikle was an eminent bell maker and tuner in 17th century Edinburgh. The old kirkyard contains many interesting gravestones and, under the east wing, a burial vault which contains 22 members of the Ker family, six of them Dukes of Roxburghe. The church is embellished with some wonderful stained glass windows including the Priest's Door, built at the old priest's doorway.
Bowden has been blessed with education since just after the Scottish Reformation in 1590. The last school was built in the middle of the 19th century but closed in the mid 20th century. The school and schoolmaster's house are still standing and are used as private homes.
The Bowden village well was erected in 1861 and still stands in the atmospheric village adjacent to the old school. The village hall was erected in 1896.
While the first mention of Bowden is in the early 12th century, its original name of Bothanden is from the old English language meaning houses at the stream, the stream in question being the Bowden Burn which cuts through the village. Many artifacts from the Iron-Age have been found in and around Bowden, and there were even traces of an old military road from the Romans in Scotland period. It is known that ancient British tribes lived on the Eildon Hills. The Romans built a fort at nearby Newstead and named it Trimontium, meaning three hills.
Originally the people of Bowden were farm labourers and weavers, but in modern times the village is inhabited by many professional people, including doctors, nurses and schoolteachers. After local government restructuring in the early 1970s, Bowden became part of the newly formed Scottish Borders Council.
Sources for Old Parish Registers Records, Vital Records and Censuses
Notes for Roxburghshire
Further Sources of Reference
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