KELSO, a police burgh and market town of Roxburghshire, Scotland, on the left bank of the Tweed, 52 m. (43 m. by road) S.E. of Edinburgh and ioj m. N.E. of Jedburgh by the North British railway. Pop. (1901), 4008. The name has been derived from the Old Welsh calch, or Anglo-Saxon cealc, " chalk", and the Scots how, " hollow," a derivation more evident in the earlier forms Calkon and Calchon, and illustrated in Chalkheugh, the name of a locality in the town. The ruined abbey, dedicated to the Virgin and St John the Evangelist, was founded in 1128 by David I. for monks from Tiron in Picardy, whom he transferred hither from Selkirk, where they had been installed fifteen years before. The abbey, the building of which was completed towards the middle of the 13th century, became one of the richest and most powerful establishments in Scotland, claiming precedence over the other monasteries and disputing for a time the supremacy with St Andrews. It suffered damage in numerous English forays, was pillaged by the 4th earl of Shrewsbury in 1522, and was reduced to ruins in 1545 by the earl of Hertford (afterwards the Protector Somerset). In 1602 the abbey lands passed into the hands of Sir Robert Ker of Cessford, 1st earl of Roxburghe. The ruins were disfigured by an attempt to render part of them available for public worship, and one vault was long utilized as the town gaol. All excrescences, however, were cleared away at the beginning of the 19th century, by the efforts of the Duke of Roxburghe. The late Norman and Early Pointed cruciform church has an unusual ground-plan, the west end of the cross forming the nave and being shorter than the chancel. The nave and transepts extend only 23 ft. from the central tower. The remains include most of the tower, nearly the whole of the walls of the south transept, less than half of the west front with a fragment of the richly moulded and deeply-set doorway, the north and west sides of the north transept, and a remnant of the chancel. The chancel alone had aisles, while its main circular arches were surmounted by two tiers of triforium galleries. The predominant feature is the great central tower, which, as seen from a distance, suggests the keep of a Norman castle. It rested on four Early Pointed arches, each 45 ft. high (of which the south and west yet exist) supported by piers of clustered columns. Over the Norman porch in the north transept is a small chamber with an interlaced arcade surmounted by a network gable.
The Tweed is crossed at Kelso by a bridge of five arches constructed in 1803 by John Rennie. The public buildings include a court house, the town hall, corn exchange, high school and grammar school (occupying the site of the school which Sir Walter Scott attended in 1 783) . The public park lies in the east of the town, and the race-course to the north of it. The leading industries are the making of fishing tackle, agricultural machinery and implements, and chemical manures, besides coach-building, cabinet-making and upholstery, corn and saw mills, iron founding, etc. James and John Ballantyne, friends of Scott, set up a press about the end of the 18th century, from which there issued, in 1802, the first two volumes of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; but when the brothers transferred their business to Edinburgh printing languished. The Kelso Mail, founded by James Ballantyne in 1797, is now the oldest of the Border newspapers. The town is an important agricultural centre, there being weekly corn and fortnightly cattle markets, and, every September, a great sale of Border rams.
Kelso became a burgh of barony in 1634 and five years later received the Covenanters, under Sir Alexander Leslie, on their way to the encampment on Duns Law. On the 24th of October 1715 the Old Pretender was proclaimed James VIII. in the market square, but in 1745 Prince Charles Edward found no active adherents in the town.
About I m. W. of Kelso is Floors or Fleurs Castle, the principal seat of the duke of Roxburghe. The mansion as originally designed by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1718 was severely plain, but in 1849 William Henry Playfair converted it into a magnificent structure in the Tudor style.
On the peninsula formed by the junction of the Teviot and the Tweed stood the formidable castle and flourishing town of Roxburgh, from which the shire took its name. No trace exists of the town, and of the castle all that is left are a few ruins shaded by ancient ash trees. The castle was built by the Northumbrians, who called it Marchidum, or Marchmound, its present name apparently meaning Rawic's burgh, after some forgotten chief. After the consolidation of the kingdom of Scotland it became a favoured royal residence, and a town gradually sprang up beneath its protection, which reached its palmiest days under David I., and formed a member of the Court of Four Burghs with Edinburgh, Stirling and Berwick. It possessed a church, court of justice, mint, mills, and, what was remarkable for the 12th century, grammar school. Alexander II. was married and Alexander III. was born in the castle. During the long period of Border warfare, the town was repeatedly burned and the castle captured. After the defeat of Wallace at Falkirk the castle fell into the hands of the English, from whom it was delivered in 1314 by Sir James Douglas. Ceded to Edward III. in 1333, it was regained in 1342 by Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, only to be lost again four years later. The castle was finally retaken and razed to the ground in 1460. It was at the siege that the king, James II., was killed by the explosion of a huge gun called " the Lion." On the fall of the castle the town languished and was finally abandoned in favour of the rising burgh of Kelso. The town, whose patron-saint was St James, is still commemorated by St James's Fair, which is held on the 5th of every August on the vacant site, and is the most popular of Border festivals.
Sandyknowe or Smailholm Tower, 6 m. W. of Kelso, dating from the 15th century, is considered the best example of a Border Peel and the most perfect relic of a feudal structure in the South of Scotland. Two m. N. by E. of Kelso is the pretty village of Ednam (Edenham, " The Village on the Eden "), the birthplace of the poet James Thomson, to whose memory an obelisk, 52 ft. high, was erected on Ferney Hill in 1820.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)