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Melrose, Scotland

MELROSE, SCOTLAND, a police burgh of Roxburghshire, Scotland. Pop. (1901), 2195. It lies on the right bank of the Tweed, 37^ m. S.E. of Edinburgh, and 19 m. N.W. of Jedburgh, via St Boswells and Roxburgh, by the North British railway. The name which Bede (730) wrote Mailros and Simeon of Durham (i 130) Melros is derived from the Celtic maol ros, " bare moor," and the town figures in Sir Walter Scott's Abbot and Monastery as " Kennaquhair." In consequence of the beauty of its situation between the Eildons and the Tweed, the literary and historical associations of the district, and the famous ruin of Melrose Abbey, the town has become residential and a holiday resort. There is a hydropathic establishment on Skirmish Hill, the name commemorating the faction fight on the 25th of July 1526, in which the Scotts defeated the Douglases and Kers. Trade is almost wholly agricultural. The main streets run from the angles of the triangular market-place, in which stands the market cross, dated 1642, but probably much older. Across the river are Gattonside, with numerous orchards, and Allerly, the home of Sir David Brewster from 1827 till his death in 1868.

The original Columban monastery was founded in the 7th century at Old Melrose, about i.\ m. to the east, in the loop of a great bend of the Tweed. It was colonized from Lindisfarne, Eata, a disciple of Aidan, being the first abbot (651), and Boisil and Cuthbert being priors here. It was burned by Kenneth Macalpine in 839 during the wars between Scot and Saxon, and, though rebuilt, was deserted in the middle of the 11th century. The chapel, dedicated to St Cuthbert, continued for a period to attract many pilgrims, but this usage gradually declined and the building was finally destroyed by English invaders. Meanwhile in 1136 David I. and founded an abbey dedicated to the Virgin, a little higher up the Tweed, the first Cistercian settlement in Scotland, with monks from Rievaulx in Yorkshire. Lying in the direct road from England, the abbey was frequently assaulted and in 1322 was destroyed by Edward II. Rebuilt, largely by means of a gift of Robert Bruce, it was nearly burned down in 1385 by Richard II. Erected once more, it was reduced to ruin by the earl of Hertford (afterwards the Protector Somerset) in 1545. Later the Reformers dismantled much of what was left. The adaptation of part of the nave to the purposes of a parish church and the use of the building as a quarry did further damage. The ruins, however, now the property of the duke of Buccleuch, are carefully preserved. Of the conventual buildings apart from the church nothing has survived but a fragment of the cloister with a richly-carved round-headed doorway and some fine arcading. The abbey, cruciform, is in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles, with pronounced French influence, due probably to the master mason John Morow, or Morreau, who, according to an inscription on the south transept wall, was born in Paris. The south front is still beautiful. The west front and a large portion of the north half of the nave and aisle have perished, but the remains include the rest of the nave, the two transepts, the chancel and choir, the two western piers of the tower and the sculptured roof of the east end. From east to west it measured 258 ft., the nave is 69 ft. wide and the width of the transepts from north to south is 115! ft. The nave had an aisle on each side, the north noticeably the narrower, the south furnished with eight chapels, one in each bay. Both transepts contained an eastern aisle, and the chancel a square chapel at its west end on each side. Over the south transept aisle, which was the chapel of St Bridget, is the clerestory passage, which ran all round the church. The choir extended westwards for three bays beyond the tower and terminated in a stone rood-screen. Sir Walter Scott has immortalized the east window, in The Lay of the Last Minstrel, but the south window with its flowing tracery is even finer. In the carving of windows, aisles, cloister, capitals, bosses and doorheads no design is repeated. The heart of Robert Bruce was buried at the high altar, and in the chancel are the tombs of Sir William Douglas, the Knight of Liddesdale (1300- I 3S3) James 2nd earl of Douglas (1358-1388), the victor of Otterburn; Alexander II.; and Michael Scot "the Wizard" (1175-1234) though some authorities say that this is the tomb of Sir Brian Layton, who fell in the battle of Ancrum Moor ( 1 544). At the door leading from the north transept to the sacristy is the grave of Joanna (d. 1 238), queen of Alexander II.

The muniments of the abbacy, preserved in the archives of the earl of Morton, were edited by Cosmo Innes for the Bannatyne Club and published in 1837 under the title of Liber sancte Marie de Melros. Among the documents is one of the earliest specimens of the Scots dialect. The Chronica de Mailros, preserved among the Cotton MSS., was printed at Oxford in 1684 by William Fulman and by the Bannatyne Club in 1835 under the editorship of John Stevenson.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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