Industry, Trade and Commerce

but eventually Croall dominated and they bought up the opposition, although it is reported that Croall then put up the fares and operated only one coach per day and at such an hour that prevented anyone from Peebles using it except at great inconvenience. An appointment in Edinburgh for half an hour on a Wednesday forenoon required the traveller to leave on Tuesday at 4 p.m., staying in Edinburgh all Wednesday and returning to Peebles on the Thursday morning. The presentation of a brace of whips from the inhabitants of Peebles to the coachman, James Stewart, for his 'general good conduct and obliging manner to the passengers under his care', shows that, despite the inconvenient time-table, there was indeed high regard for an essential service that operated right up to the day before the railway line was opened.

The railways were obviously welcomed for the tremendous improvement they made to the convenience of travelling. It became relatively easy for a wider section of the community to travel to distant places and Peebles also gained through having many more visitors.

Perhaps the most immediate benefit that became apparent to the majority of townspeople and tradesmen was the substantially reduced cost of transportation. It was claimed that the charge for carrying a ton of goods from Edinburgh to Peebles by horse-drawn cart was 'greater than would have been the freight by sea or rail from Edinburgh to London . . . coal was so extravagantly dear in the district, as almost to be placed beyond the reach of the humbler classes.' The railway brought about a reduction in the price of coal in Peebles to about half the rate it was previously, with the charge for carrying a ton of goods from Edinburgh reducing from 20s (£1) to 9s 9d (49p). The cost of transporting a truck-load of cattle became as low as 5s (25p) and just 7s (35p) for sheep.7

There was no sudden 'take-off' in the development of the town with the coming of the railways but with the advantage of hindsight, we can now readily identify that the major benefit was the impetus it gave to the early signs of enterprise that were already astir in Peebles. Banking was the first commercial activity in a chain of events that contributed to the economic growth of the town. Although there were three banks already established in the town (one bank agency lasting only seventeen years, from 1840 to 1857), the other two national branch-banks that were to become an integral part of modern Peebles, the Bank of Scotland and the Union Bank of Scotland, did not appear until later on.

 

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