The Lowland Clearances – Lost Villages (transcribed)

Published on
24 March, 2017


A man talks about the land clearances of the Scottish Borders in the 18th century, and searches for some of the lost, forgotten villages which these created.

Written by
Mark Nicol

Historian – Filmmaker – Blogger – Guided Tours – Group Speaker

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The Lowland Clearances – Lost Villages (transcribed)

Everyone knows about the Highland Clearances.
What is not so well know is that our ancestors here in the Borders suffered a similar fate.
We go searching for some of the lost, forgotten villages of the area.


I’m out here Peeblesshire near the village of Stobo.
I’m looking for another village, a village which you see in a lot of old maps!
It’s called Lour – L O U R
Where is Lour I can’t see anywhere on any road signs.

You see the problem is Lour does not exist anymore, it’s been flattened, destroyed wiped from memory, why!, why is this happened?

Lour was part at a Scottish Border clearances in the late 1700s, hundreds of villages and fermtoons across the region were emptied, flattened, destroyed in the name of progress, in the name of finance in the name of industrial scale agriculture.

But the most worrying you think is Lour and Peeblesshire are not the only places affected.

This is Liddesdale; I’m actually right on the river Liddle here at Kershopefoot right on the English border. Looking at our old maps and I say old I mean really old, 1692 map of Liddesdale. And on that map there are hundreds of these small fermtoons or villages all over Liddesdale, looked like a very heavily populated area.

But now when you look around Liddesdale, it’s a massive industrial scale agriculture as far as you can see, they are chronically laid out farms, livestock and crop productions everyone!

Now most Scottish people will of heard of, or more than that, most Scottish people will have been educated in the Highland Clearances – a terrible, terrible episode in Scottish history. The rich landowners in the north cleared the clans from their land and villages in the highlands to make way for sheep farming.

People were violently moved from the steadings and crofts and then forced emigration or work in the cities.So the factors and the landowners could make more money from the land through sheep farming.
Surely this didn’t happen in the Borders or the south of Scotland?
Well I am afraid it did!
It did happened and that’s what’s happened to all these small villages in Liddesdale.

The lowland clearances were perhaps not quite so quick and violent as the Highland Clearances but more people were affected and it happened earlier than the Highland Clearances and certainly the over lasting effect has been just as dramatic on the countryside what was in the Highlands.

This is the village of Newcasteton, right on the River Liddle.
But this is not an ancient village this village does not even appear on the map from 1692. Because Newcastleton here was constructed in 1793, a planned village by the Duke of Buccleuch.  

Now you would need to be extremely naive to believe that the Duke built this village out of the goodness of his heart, but more benefit to himself. Because this village was built to house that people who would be evicted from their homes or forcibly financially moved over their homes and the fertoons around Liddesdale.

Now they were brought to Newcastleton and it’s not all bad, for they were given homes, they were given employment, they were given this lovely – lovely village. But they were moved from their home, their home ferntoons to come here, but where were the original inhabitants of Newcastleton come from in 1793?

Where were these villages and fermtoons, is there any evidence of the left and does anybody remember?

One of the most well-known and talked about villages which Newcasleton replaced was called Old Casleton or Casleton as it was known in those days. And Castleton was not only famous for the village, but was famous as the site of a Liddle castle.

I’ve got a feeling this is the castle ramparts over here. It’s pretty impressive from here – let’s go! 
It’s not exactly tourist friendly this site, there’s a lot of barbed wire and you know there really no inviting people to come in here, but you can see why when you get down here because there’s a massive huge cliff that comes from nowhere at the edge of this field so you really don’t want to be coming here with kids or mad dogs

This is defiantly the site of  the castle, massively impressive ramparts still standing there. This castle predated Hermatige castle, they move to Hermatige once this was out of commission.
Wow lets go take a closer look!

Wow – really didn’t expect to be quite as much left as this very – very clearly defined ramparts and walls – amazing!

There we go, Liddle castle, and as impressive as the castle is, it’s not the reason why I’m here. The reason I’m here is to find remains of the actual village of Casleton the place where people were uprooted from, the place that was flattened and forgotten about.

According to this map the village is really just in this area here to the south of the Castle. Rumor has it somewhere on this site there’s the remains of the Old Market Cross from the centre of Castleon village.
If I could find that I’d be laughing!
There is actually something standing right in this field here. Honestly my heart’s is racing!

Oh my god I think this is it! This is it, yeah!

It’s quite a strange experience to be honest with you, I don’t know how I feel about that it’s just they’re completely – forgotten – Cannot think of a better word.

Market Square, from the middle of old Casleton village.
Flattened  in 1793 never – never to be commemorated or talked about again.

I’ve brought some flowers to lay as a mark of respect. Not for the people because the people survived and probably had a decent life.
But for the place, the history, the culture, the heritage and everything else that went here.
The thriving wee town, the town, the town that was big enough and important enough to have a Market Square and is now a boggy marsh.

You know you can just imagine the hustle and bustle of daily life here.
A castle over there and a busy marketplace here.
People going about their jobs, their livelihoods, building futures for their kids in this place, this place that they probably thought was eternal.

I’m just surmising here because I don’t – I don’t actually know but,  I think looking at the scars on hillsides here, the parallel lanes running down and up at frequent intervals I think what you’re seeing there’s remains of the old run rig system.
With each cotter, in the Highlands they were known as crofters, down here known as cotters and incidentally not one single cotter remained in the Scottish Borders after the clearances and the Highlands at least some crofters did – did remain, none down here.
I think that’s what you’ve seen there is the run rig system, each man had his own bit of land.

You know I do really, I really do feel this is quite an emotional and poignant place.
Not just for me as a Borders man, remembering these forgotten places, but you know my great granny, her name was Crozier.

Crozier was a famous Liddesdale Reiving family name and you know I just – just wonder how did my great granny end up in Galashiels or how did our family end up in Galashiels.

Did they live here?

Were they booted out their houses here and move to the big town of Galashiels for industry?
Who knows? I don’t know that but – but your mind runs away with you at a place like this.

There you go!
The lowland clearances, the forgotten villages of the Scottish Borders  
But the Jurys out – was it good, was it bad?

Certainly brought prosperity to a lot of people in the Borders and changed the landscape some people would say for the better.  
But I have to remember these people that were wrenched from their villages from their upbringing and moved somewhere they probably didn’t want to go!

  • – Fremtoon = Farm town

Transcribed by Genscu

Fancy seeing these places for yourself?

Mark offers dedicated day trips that focus on experiencing these places and finding out more about your family history in the Scottish Borders.
Click below to our dedicated website:

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