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Cavers Church - - 251997.jpg
Cavers Church
Grid reference: NT541156
Location: 55°25’57"N, 2°43’38"W
Population: 1,085
Post town: Hawick
Postcode: TD9
Dialling code: 01450
Local Government
Council: Scottish Borders
Roxburgh and Selkirk

Cavers is a parish in Roxburghshire, to be found to the south and east of Hawick; a place of one central hamlet that takes the name of Cavers and a scatter of others, such as Cavers Knowes to the south, and features such as Cavers Park Woods. The manor house is Cavers House. The one village in the parish is Denholm, in the north-east corner of the parish.[1] The civil parish also incorporates the ancient parish of Kirkton.

The name 'Cavers' means "enclosure".

The parish has a population of 1,085 at the 2011 census, of whom 653 live in Denholm.[2]


In 1320, Robert The Bruce rewarded James Douglas by granting him the lands of Cavers, one of many grants of lands across Scotland which he made to Douglas.[3] Sir James had been Bruce’s trusted lieutenant at Bannockburn in 1314, and was key to his power base in southern Scotland.

The lands passed to James, 2nd Earl of Douglas, who, like so many other Douglases, was not to die in his bed, but on the field of battle, at Otterburn in 1388. James's sons and (a) daughter(s) were all illegitimate. To ensure their succession, he granted the lands of Drumlanrig to his bastard son William and Cavers to Archibald.

Cavers remained in Douglas hands until 1975 when James Palmer-Douglas moved away from Cavers and the remaining lands of the once vast estates in Roxburghshire were put on the market.[4]

Cavers House

Little or nothing remains of the original materials of Cavers House, but the evidence suggests the building was originally constructed in the later 15th or early 16th century as a five storey high tower, which is now known locally as the "Warden's Tower".[5] It probably incorporated part of a 13th century castle [6] and the foundations of the oldest part of the building date from 1200.[7]

In 12th-13th centuries the castle was possessed by the Baliols, but in 1352-3 passed to William, Lord Douglas, with the barony, by grant of King David II. In 1511, King James IV granted a new charter to James Douglas for the town and lands of Cavers including the castle, manor and mill. The castle in this charter probably refers to the existing tower and this is again mentioned in a charter of 1576.[5]

The tower was subsequently modernised and the removal of a vault above the first floor in 1890 revealed a fine 13th-century piscina-niche. This feature appeared to be in its original position, indicating that part of the tower wall is older than the tower itself. This may be a vestige of the Baliol castle.[5]

The upper two storeys were altered in 17th century and an extension was added to the tower on its north side from 1750, such that between 1750 and 1884 a classical mansion was formed known as Cavers House. This had a symmetrical seven bay front, which faced east and a three windowed semi-circle at the centre.[6]

The building was remodelled in the Scots Baronial style in 1885-7 by Kinnear and Peddie, reducing the semi-circular centre to two storeys, adding attics to the tower and north wing, and constructing a new north-west wing. However this new wing and part of the north wing were demolished in 1953. [6]

The roof was removed in 1953, but the tower (including the 13th century remains) [6] and a substantial part of Cavers House still remains, up to its eaves.

Parish Churches

The old church of Cavers (dedicated to St Cuthbert), which dates from 12th century, was rebuilt in 1662, although parts of the east gable, north wall and north-west corner survived from the original building. The church stands within the grounds of Cavers House.

This church building was superseded by a modern church in 1822, although the old church was used as a parochial hall into the 20th century.[8]

Kirkton Church, built in 1841, is a simple but well-proportioned church standing on an elevated site near the north-eastern boundary of the ancient parish of Kirkton. It is a conspicuous feature in the landscape, replacing an older church of unknown date which had become dilapidated. [9]

Currently, the Church of Scotland parish comprises Cavers and Kirkton linked with Hawick.

History of the parish

The parish of Cavers corresponded exactly or closely to the barony of the same name. This Barony together with the lands of Cavers, and also the hereditary sheriffship of Roxburghshire, were possessed by the family of Douglas until the abolition of heritable jurisdictions in the 18th century.[10] In 1325 King Robert I bestowed on the Sir James Douglas many lands, including the barony of Cavers, and erected the whole into a regality. The charter, by which the king made the grant is called the "Emerald Charter." [11]

The ancient parish of Cavers is very irregular in shape, being almost cut in two by that of Kirkton.[12] The north and south of Cavers are joined by a narrow strip east of Kirkton where the A6088 road enters from the parish of Hobkirk. In the north lies the village of Denholm, five miles north-east of Hawick, while in the sparsely populated south lay Shankend station (on the Waverley Route) seven miles south of Hawick. The parish is 13 miles long with a width varying from four miles to 70 yards. Area 18,352 acres[12]

From the 19th century there was a single school board covering both parishes, which ran three schools.[12]

Outside links


  1. New Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol III Roxburgh, Peebles, Selkirk, publ.William Blackwood, 1845 pp. 425-439
  2. Census of Scotland 2011, Table KS101SC – Usually Resident Population, publ. by National Records of Scotland. Web site retrieved Oct 2016. See “Standard Outputs”, Table KS101SC, Area type: Settlement
  3. Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Reports Part 2, page 726, published in 1879,
  4. "Black Douglas clan leader joins battle to preserve ancient church". The Scotsman. 25 February 2003. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 CANMORE (RCAHMS) record of Warden's Tower
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Historic Environment Scotland
  7. (J A H Murray, 1913; published in Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society, 1953
  8. CANMORE (RCAHMS) record of Cavers Church
  9. New Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol III Roxburgh, Peebles, Selkirk, publ.William Blackwood, 1845, pp. 377-378
  10. New Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol III Roxburgh, Peebles, Selkirk, publ.William Blackwood, 1845, p.430
  11. The History and Antiquities of Roxburghshire and Adjacent Districts , by Alexander Jeffrey,publ. Edinburgh, 1864, Vol 4, p. 327
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, by, Francis Groome, publ. 1882-4. Article on Cavers