A few years ago Tom Broad of the Borders Archaeology Society (BAS), supported by Northumberland National Park and SBC, organised a project to conduct an archaeological survey of the Halterburn valley. After a certain amount of work had been carried out the survey had to be put on hold for various reasons. Since then YHS member Jean Hirst has taken over. This project has now been going for a number of years and the first report, covering the area at the head of the valley, should be published shortly. The survey is conducted by members of ACFA (Association of Certified Field Archaeologists - see HERE for more info) led by Dugie MacInnes, many of whose members come from as far afield as Lanarkshire to help, along with folks from BAS and from YHS. The Halterburn Valley turns out to be packed with fascinating, but previously unrecorded, sites - ranging from relatively modern shielings through to a number of Bronze Age hut platforms and a burnt mound.
The group have recently spent three days (27th-29th March) hard at work. The weather was beautifully sunny, if cold - curlews could be heard calling on the hilltops, sadly an increasingly rare phenomenon. The photos above and below show members of the team surveying new features in the large and complex Witchcleuch Burn site. Piers Dixon suggests that this may be the site of 'Colpenhope Grange' - the property used by Kelso Abbey to manage the area, which once belonged to them. It may well also be the site of a secular settlement called 'Elter', which is known to have existed at a later date. Whatever the case, the large site is littered with fascinating lumps and bumps, suggestive of a long and complex history. The last feature we mapped was a beautifully preserved corn-drying kiln. YHS members and other who are interested in joining in with the project will be very welcome - notice of the next survey will be sent out via our Mailchimp email list.
In last month's blog we looked at a fragment of sundial recently found in Town Yetholm. Another instrument for measuring time, which was found at Venchen Cottages, close to the border with England, is shown above - the rusted remains of a pocket watch. What makes this interesting to us at YHS is that the watch was made by Robert Chalmers, Yetholm's very own watchmaker, as can be seen by his neatly engraved signature.
Robert Chalmers, though, was not the only watchmaker in town. He was preceded by John Baird Waddle. This man was the son of Andrew Waddle, a very long lived tailor (he died aged 98 in 1864), who resided in a thatched cottage on the site of the house now called Hilltoun View in Town Yetholm. The extended Waddle clan lived in this cottage and the tiny one-roomed house next door called Wayside Cottage. John Baird Waddle was born in Yetholm in 1830. He began his working life like his father as a tailor, but in the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses he describes himself as a watchmaker - and he is also listed as such in the 1878 Slater's Directory for Yetholm. As far as is known no watches by Waddle are known to survive.
Robert Chalmers, on the other hand, is listed in several works on Scottish clockmakers and his watches occassionally turn up for sale. Robert was born in 1859 in Ancrum, the son of a tradesman, who shortly thereafter moved to Yetholm. He is listed in the 1881 as a census as a watchmaker, as he is in all subsequent censuses. His shop was in the house on the High Street now called Graystones House. He married a local girl Mary White Young in 1896, but the couple had no children. He died in 1926.
Did Robert learn his trade from John Baird Waddle? During the 1880s both men seem to have been working in Yetholm as watchmakers. Or were the two men business rivals? Sometime in the 1890s John Baird Waddle left Yetholm and moved to a terrace house in Monkwearmouth, where he died in 1906. Was he driven out of business by his younger competitor - or did Robert Chalmers amicably take over the older man's trade? What is striking is that a small 'town' like Yetholm could in the nineteenth century support one watchmaker, let alone two.
Chalmers didn't just make watches, but he also assembled clocks. The photograph below shows a grandfather clock made by 'Robert Chalmers - Yetholm' which turned up at the Antiques Roadshow held at Mellerstain in 2000. Unfortunately the YHS collection doesn't include such a grand item - all we own of Chalmer's work is the rusted fragment shown at the head of this blog-post!
Around 60 people attended our meeting on 5th March - a packed house! - when David Jones gave a fascinating talk on the archaeology of Dere Street between Rochester and Whitton Edge. He covered everything from pre-Roman settlements to post WW2 blast shelters. Before the meeting Jan Rae, an eminent quilter and expert on Scottish textiles, and wife of Bill, a founder member of YHS, presented the society with her embroidery, appropriately named 'Dere Street'. It shows a Scottish hiker heading south towards Eboracum (York). Among other fascinating details the ghosts of Roman Soldiers can be seen marching along the road ahead. This is the second work (see here) which Jan has gifted to the society and will help make our meeting place a colourful and welcome area when it is eventually transformed into 'Yetholm Heritage Centre'.