Place:Bowden, Roxburghshire, Scotland

Coordinates55.5525°N 2.7338°W
Located inRoxburghshire, Scotland     (1697 - 1975)
See alsoBorders, Scotlandregional authority 1975-1996
Scottish Borders, Scotlandunitary council area since 1996
source: Family History Library Catalog

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.



the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

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.

Research Tips

Sources for Old Parish Registers Records, Vital Records and Censuses

  • Scotland's People This is a pay website providing vital statistics and census data for all of Scotland with original images. There is a description at Scotland under Genealogical Resources.

Notes for Roxburghshire

  • GENUKI has a list of references for Roxburghshire. Some of these may be superseded by more modern material.
  • The Borders Family History Society provides a page of facts and publications for each of the parishes in its area. They have a lot of material and they publish monumental inscription books or CDs for many parishes. On each parish page is a map of the local area taken from either the Ordnance Survey Quarter-inch to the mile, Scotland, 1921-1923 series or the Ordnance Survey One-inch to the mile, Popular edition, Scotland, 1920-1930 series. These maps are not visible immediately upon opening a page, but worthwhile scrolling down to find.
  • The FreeCen Project has transcriptions of the whole of Roxburghshire online for the 1841 and 1851 censuses and 87% of the 1861 census.
  • The Bowden Parish Registers for the Church of Scotland provide records of baptisms (1697-1854), marriages (1697-1807 and 1822-1848) and burials (1697-1803 and 1822-1848). See the FamilySearch Wiki article on Bowden for other church denominations.

Further Sources of Reference

Please note and respect the copyright warnings on these websites.

  • GENUKI article on Bowden. These articles often include a bibliography.
  • Scottish Places article on the parish of Bowden. The tabs of the right provide more information, and a map of the parish within its surrounding area, with small settlements highlighted and linked to more information.
  • The FamilySearch Wiki article on Bowden provides direct reference to FamilySearch holdings on many topics with respect to the parish.
  • The National Library of Scotland have a website devoted to maps from the 1600s right up to the present. Comparisons of modern-day and old maps of the same place can be made. From the home page click on "Find by place" and then follow the instructions on the next page. Once you are viewing the place you want, use the slider <----> at the top of the map to compare the layout of roads and the place names of smaller areas, perhaps even farms, with the landscape today. The website takes some getting used to. The One-inch 2nd edition, Scotland, 1898-1904 OS is a series of maps with the parishes delineated. Each of these maps cover an area of 18 x 24 miles and will zoom to comfortable reading size with a couple of mouse clicks on the map itself. Unfortunately, they are not geo-referenced, and it is necessary to go to the OS One Inch 1885-1900 series to locate places by latitude and longitude.
  • The Statistical Accounts for Scotland In the 1790s and again in the 1830s, the ministers of the all the parishes of the Church of Scotland were asked to provide a description of their parish to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The original account request included 160 questions to be answered. These accounts are available in print in 20 volumes and are also online where it is freely available to browse. The browsing portal is below the viewing area of most computer screens. Scroll down to "For non-subscribers" and click on "Browse scanned pages". This brings you to another page on which one can enter the name of the parish in which you are interested.
  • Excerpts from The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885 are provided by Scottish Places. Selections from Groome and other gazetteers from the 19th century are also found on GENUKI.