The Burgh

clocks, nineteen silver and two gold watches'; this in a town of 1,800 inhabitants.

No pavements existed and the main road surface was of impacted sand and gravel; drains likewise were non-existent, and middens and piles of refuse were commonplace, although the council made frequent efforts to keep streets and wynds clear. Burghers were permitted to lay cobbled ways and such 'causies' did exist mainly at the 'Crossgait' where stood the Mercat Cross and where markets, usually on a Tuesday, were held.2

Government of the town was still in the hands of the town council, as it had been since 1469. By the Act of Scottish Parliament, the constitution provided that the council consist of a provost, two bailies, a Dean of Guild, a treasurer, eleven councillors and one deacon: the old council to elect a new one annually. Abuse of the latter provision was to lead directly to the Burgh Reform Act of 1833 which, combined with the extension of adult suffrage under the Reform Act of 1832, led to a fairer election of the council. To some extent at least, the municipal oligarchy of merchants and traders, often above criticism, ceased to exist. With the introduction of the £10 property value as a qualification to vote, an electorate of just ninety-four was created in Peebles where the population was still only 1,800 as enumerated in the census of 1831.

On the whole, Peebles was well served by its town council. In the years that followed, they were to lead the community in general improvements to the town and, with a growing population, were to make constant efforts to introduce industry. In particular, centred in a wool-producing area with a plenitude of clean water, the town was ideally placed to attract textile manufacturers, there was already a thriving hand-loom industry, mainly in the Biggiesknowe, so skills were available. Ironically, with the introduction of textile machinery and the consequent building of mills, the hand-loom weaving was to be the first casualty. The town also derived benefit from the formation of upland farms as a result of the enclosure and improvement of land by dyking and draining and, perhaps more important, the liming of the predominately acid soil. The tenants and workers from such farms looked to Peebles as an entrepốt for their produce as well as their needs. Thereby both rural and town economy grew. Indeed, Peebles in the nineteenth century was regarded as much more the county town than it was to be in later times. Because of this pre-eminent position, the neighbouring landlords were much more

41

 

 

Last Page
Contents
Next Page