Cavers, a Teviotdale parish of Roxburghshire, containing, in its northern division, the village of Denholm, 5 miles NE of Hawick, and, in its southern division, Shankend station, 7 miles SSE of Hawick. Very irregular in shape, being cut in two by Kirkton parish except for a narrow connecting link to the E, it is bounded NW by Wilton and Minto, E by Bedrule and Hobkirk, S by Castleton, and W by Teviothead, Kirkton, and Hawick.


Dr Chalmers was assistant minister from 1801 to 1803; but the name most closely associated with Cavers is that of the scholar-poet, John Leyden (1775-1811). The low-thatched cottage at Denholm in which he was born is still occupied; but Henlawshiel, at the base of Ruberslaw, whither his father removed in 1776, has been long demolished. Antiquities are four or five prehistoric hill-forts, remains near Ormiston of Cocklaw Castle, and, in the southern division, about 3 miles of the Catrail; whilst a crag towards the summit of Ruberslaw is pointed out as ' Peden's Pulpit.'


Cavers HouseCavers House, a little SE of the parish church, on the site of a castle inhabited by the Baliols in the 12th and 13th centuries, is a large rectangular pile, baronial in aspect, with walls of great thickness and small old-fashioned windows. Its oldest portion, a square tower, was built by Sir Archibald Douglas, younger son of that valiant Earl of Douglas who conquered and fell at Otterburn (1388), and whose banner is here preserved along with the trophy won from Harry Hotspur. Sir Archibald's descendants were hereditary Sheriffs of Teviotdale, and also sometimes Wardens of the Marches, down to 1745; with the twentieth of them, James Douglas, Esq. of Cavers (1822-78), the male line became extinct. There upon the estate-9840 acres, valued at £7937 per annum-passed to his niece, Miss Mary Malcolm, who in 1879 married Capt. Edward Palmer.


Other mansions are Orchard, Ormiston House, and Stobs Castle, which stand respectively 2¾ miles E by N, 2½ E by S, and 4½ S, of Hawick.


The old parish church, ¼ mile NNE of Cavers House, is a long plain building, with traces of Norman and First Pointed work; young Leyden made it his week-day study, and played in it some most unholy pranks. A little to the westward, and 2½ miles ENE of Hawick, is the present church, erected in 1822, and containing 500 sittings. Denholm has also a Free church (364 sittings).








Cavers House. Built mainly between 1750 and 1884, the large mansion known as Cavers House has grown round a lofty tower which now forms its SE. side; but this tower, which is known locally as the "Warden's Tower", may itself be a secondary construction imposed upon the remains of still earlier building. Unfortunately the tower has undergone such extensive alteration that little or nothing remains by which it can be dated. Its size, however, would suggest a date in the later 15th or early 16th century.

On plan it consists of an oblong block measuring about 50 ft. along the S wall by 29 ft. over the E gable; the W gable, however, shows a re-entrant angle at its S end measuring 8 ft. 6 in. from N to S by 3 ft. 6 in. from E to W. The walls vary from 4 ft. 6 in. to 8 ft. 6 in. in thickness. In height there are five storeys and an attic. Both attic and battlements are wholly modern while the two floors beneath were rebuilt in the 17th century, but the three lower floors probably date from about 1500. The masonry is rubble for the most part, but in the lowest part of the S wall there is a considerable amount of ashlar in large blocks. None of the windows is earlier than the 17th century and the majority are quite modern.

The tower has been modernised inside. In 1890 the removal of the vault above the first floor disclosed the presence of a fine 13th-century piscina-niche near the east end of the south wall. This appeared to be in situ, and hence it would appear that some part of the wall containing it was older than the tower. It may have been a vestige of the Baliol castle of which mention is made below. The piscina niche has a foiled head, and when first uncovered was enclosed by a plain circular moulding which an ignorant mason removed to make the feature flush with the wall. The niche-opening measures 2 ft. 3 in. in height, 1 ft. 4 1/4 in. in width, and 7 1/4 in. deep, while the sill, shaped on the dexter side as a piscina and on the sinister side as a credence, projects about 3 in. more, being set out on two moulded brackets formed like capitals of the period, the lowest member of each being cone-shaped with a floriated end and finishing downwards in a thumb-knot. Apart from this feature, the interior of the tower contains nothing of interest.

The first extension of the tower was a wing thrown out to the N in alinement with the E gable; it was built about 1700, but was reconstructed in 1887.
In the 12th and 13th centuries Cavers belonged to the Baliols. In 1352-3 the lands of the barony were granted by David II to William, Lord Douglas. As time went on certain parts of the barony were alienated, and in 1511 James IV made a fresh grant of the free barony of Cavers to James Douglas- this included the town of Cavers with the lands, castle, manor and mill. The "castrum" of this latter charter is probably the existing tower, and it is again mentioned in a charter of 1576-7.

(Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot 1984). In 1542 Cavers was burnt by Dacre with the help of Sir Walter Scott of Branxholm (Acts Parl Scot), and in 1545 it figures in a list of places "brent, raced, and cast doune" by Hertford (D Laing 1855; Haynes "Collection of State Papers", p.53).



Douglas dynasty for sale in the Borders

Published in the Borders Telegraph: 15 Oct 2013

The ancient seat of the Douglas family in the heart of the Scottish Borders is up for sale at offers over £300,000.Cavers House

Cavers Castle, near Hawick, is now an empty shell of a ruin despite being a 64-room, 100,000 acre residence in its heyday.
The property - set now in only 11 acres - is thought to be attracting interest in the USA where there is a strong Douglas clan association.
The majority of the 100,000 acres has been sold over the years by the Palmer-Douglas family but Cavers Castle itself which was the seat of the Douglas family for more than 300 years would provide an emotional pull.

A spokesman for Melrose-based estate agents Retties said: “It is a once magnificent Scottish Castle in 11 acres in need of complete restoration.
“All that remains of the Castle are the bricks and mortar of the five storey, south-easterly wing. Some of the walls are up to eleven feet in thickness and detail around fireplaces and cornicing still remain.

“Existing plans are available proposing the restoration of the Castle to a single dwelling family home.

“The plans are to create a family home to a very high specification, with space, design and amenities to meet today’s living requirements.

“Incorporating a swimming pool, gymnasium, library and cinema, the design will contrast modern architecture with the existing historic fabric, resulting in a rejuvenated structure that can once again take its place amongst the noteworthy buildings of the Scottish Borders.

“No formal application has been submitted, but the local planning department have indicated they would look favourably on the restoration of the castle and would consider the existing or new design plan.”

The castle was constructed around 1200 and first inhabited by the Balliols.

Clan Douglas, instrumental in banishing the Balliols from Scotland, were granted the lands by King David 11 of Scotland in 1352.

Sir Archibald Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas was responsible for the construction of Cavers Tower, a traditional fortified Scottish tower, on the site of the original castle after he succeeded to the earldom when James Douglas fell at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388.

Cavers House was inhabited by a branch of the Douglas family until the twentieth descendent, James Douglas died in 1878 leaving no male heir. The property passed to his niece Mary Malcolm who married Captain Edward Palmer in 1879 and the property was substantially re-modelled as Cavers House between 1881 and 1887.

The house eventually became disused and was made available to the British Army for use in a demolition by explosives exercise in 1953.

The army were partially successfully in destroying Victorian section but made little impact on the 11-feet thick walls of the older medieval section.

See also:

A.  Townhead of Cavers

B.  Douglas of Cavers

c.   Cavers churches

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