The Town

The Town

Coldstream is situated where the River Tweed forms a natural boundary between Scotland and England. Much of the town's history arose because of its location on the border and the centuries of feuding between the two nations.

Running right through the length of the town, there is a very busy main street; the third busiest route into Scotland after the M74 and A1. The High Street has a wide array of shops catering for most of the local needs. 2 hotels, 2 pubs, 3 clubs, as well as the many B&B's, serve to accommodate and refresh both visitors and townsfolk alike.

The population of the town is approximately 1900.

Where the River Leet joins the Tweed, there was to be found the first major and reliable ford upstream from Berwick-upon-Tweed. This indeed was Coldstream's raison d'etre. Consequently, most major Scottish and English armies invaded each other’s territories over this ford. The last invading army was Scottish under the illustrious Duke of Montrose in 1640. Before the Union of the Crowns in 1603 permanent stone buildings were few. Coldstream Abbey was one and it was here that Abbess Hoppringle gave the noble casualties, who fell at Flodden in 1513, a Christian burial. Although there are few remains today, names such as Nun's Walk, Penitent's Walk and Abbey Road are all reminders that the 12th Century Cistercian Priory once stood here close to the Market Square.

 In 1951 the town's folk decided to set up a "Civic Week" broadly after the fashion of the other Border common riding festivals. Since then this annual celebration has gone from strength to strength and is firmly established as one of the best weeks of its kind. The highlight of the week is the mass mounted cavalcade, which sets off from the town on the Thursday to Branxton Hill. Here the Coldstreamer and the other Border principals pay homage to the brave of both nations who fell at the battle of Flodden in 1513.

At noon on Thursday, in the first full week of August, this battle of Flodden is commemorated by a ride out led by the ‘Coldstreamer’, a young man who is elected to carry the town standard for the week’s festivities.

There is an oration and service on the site of the battlefield. A sod is cut and carried back to the Tweed Green in Coldstream where a moving ceremony takes place to commemorate the actions of Abbess Hoppringle.

The Burgh is probably best known because it gave its name to the second oldest Regiment of Foot Guards - The Coldstream Guards. In 1659 General George Monk established his headquarters in the Market Square before marching to London to restore Charles II to the throne. As was written at the time, “the town of Coldstream hath given title to a small company of men whom God made the instrument of great things and though poor yet honest, as ever corrupt nature produced into the world by the no dishonourable name of Coldstreamers”. This connection with the Guards exists to this day and the Regiment always sends representatives to the town's annual civic week.

After the union of Scotland and England in 1707, the town began to grow apace, with fine stone buildings gradually appearing. Coldstream finally got the bridge it deserved when Smeaton built his fine bridge, designed to link Edinburgh and Newcastle, between 1763 and 1766. The bridge itself has 7 arches and is 305 ft long. In 1787 Robert Burns first set foot in England by walking across the bridge. This visit was commemorated in 1926 by Coldstream Burns Club who inserted a suitable memorial plaque in the parapet in the centre of the bridge.

At the Scottish end of the bridge there stands a building. This was used as the Toll House. At one time it was as popular as Gretna Green for conducting marriages held without prior public notice. This privilege was abolished in 1856, but not before at least two Lord Chancellors had taken advantage of this legal loophole.

 Further in towards the town stands its most imposing monument, known locally as "Charlie's". This great column surmounted by a figure was raised by the friends of Sir Charles Marjoribanks to commemorate his election to parliament after the first great reform bill of 1832. Sir Charles was the son of Sir John Marjoribanks who owned a large estate called The Lees which is on the west side of the town.

To the north of the town stands another large estate, The Hirsel, which is the seat of the Earls of Home. The Homes, who had been wardens of the east march of Scotland for centuries, took up residence here in about 1620. This distinguished family has always given valuable and valiant service to the nation and indeed the 14th Earl, Sir Alec Douglas Home, who had to renounce his title to serve in the House of Commons, served as Foreign Secretary and then Prime Minister in 1963. On his retirement from the Commons, he was given the life peerage of Baron Home of the Hirsel. After his death in 1997 his son, David Douglas Home, became the 15th Earl. In the grounds of The Hirsel can be found Dundock Woods, which is well known for its spring displays of rhododendrons and azaleas.

In 1951 the town's folk decided to set up a "Civic Week" broadly after the fashion of the other Border common riding festivals. Since then this annual celebration has gone from strength to strength and is firmly established as one of the best weeks of its kind.
The highlight of the week is the mass mounted cavalcade, which sets off from the town on the Thursday to Branxton Hill. Here the Coldstreamer and the other Border principals pay homage to the brave of both nations who fell at the battle of Flodden in 1513.