CHAPTER 5

 

The Burgh

 

THE PEEBLES OF 1900 had much to be proud about. It had left behind the crushing poverty of the eighteenth century and in a hundred years had achieved a modest prosperity which extended to the bulk of its citizens. The main industry, textiles, had enjoyed almost forty years of growth and increased trade. The main product, woollen cloth of high quality, enjoyed a world-wide reputation, much of-it being marketed through merchants within the town. Other lesser industries flourished and the shops and businesses reflected the needs of a population which, by 1900, had reached 5,266.

The principal streets were well lit and the pavements universally level. The road surfaces, however, were still of whin grit which became reduced to a grey slime after wet weather or snow melt. With the preponderance of horse traffic and the consequent droppings, the resulting admixture can be imagined. Nonetheless, the fell mongers and tanners had gone from Greenside and Tweed Green and the 'stinking stairs' existed in name only.              

The High Street, Eastgate and Northgate were as we see them today. Three architectural aberrations had appeared by 1900, the 'Trust', which had been rebuilt in mock-Tudor after the rebuilding of Tweed Bridge, the property at 32 High Street and the Liberal Club (later the Social Club) at 17 Eastgate. These were in a quasi-Tudor style totally out of place in an otherwise noble street.

As we have seen, the vast increase in administrative and legislative activity in the nineteenth century led to a transformation of local government. Although the town council still comprised the same officials and councillors, to them had been added professionals to carry out their advisory and technical needs. In Peebles the extra staff consisted of a town chamberlain, a burgh surveyor and various foremen of trades and superintendents of cemeteries, parks and so on.

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