The history of the housing of the area follows the pattern of agricultural development. Prior to the union of the crowns (1603), most of the agriculture would be purely subsistence. Apart from the Peel towers which formed a refuge in these turbulent times, the houses were of a primitive type. As late as 1861, there is a record that one house in the parish had no windows and 106 houses had only one each.
With the union came a more peaceful era and it was now safe to graze beasts out of sight of the farmstead. The day of the larger farm and the farm cottage had begun. More gracious residences made their appearance, often on the site of the old Peel towers and surrounded by a steading (farm buildings) and cottages. The present farms began to take shape. With the coming of electricity in 1955, life was revolutionised. The farm cottage, modernised in every way, provides a cheerful home for the folk within its walls.
That Eckford village remained static in size was largely due to the lack of available water. When this account of Eckford was written in 1966 the supply was barely adequate and the dread of drought passed when the water supply came eventually from the Ale Water shortly afterwards.
Of the larger houses in the area, one of the most interesting is Kirkbank, once the hunting lodge of Lady John Scott. This great lady is better known to us as a poet and musician, the author of many songs and verses, the best known being the music of ‘Annie Laurie’. She added the third verse, the first two were written by Mr. Douglas of Fingland in 1700.
Queen Victoria paid at least one visit to Lady John Scott while staying at Floors Castle. With the passing of the years, Kirkbank fell into disrepair and when it was restored by Mr. A.A.Buist a vixen and cubs were found within the premises.
Another well-known house is that of Grahamslaw, the original spelling being “Grymslaw”. There is little doubt that this was also a Border Peel tower, as the beginning of the tower rises from the cellars of the present four storey house. Near this house runs a small stream known locally as the Spittal burn. This could be a corruption from hospital burn and to some people it was known as the leper burn for in former days a leper hospital stood on the hill beyond the stream. There are caves at Grahamslaw reputedly used by cattle thieves.
On the other side of the Teviot is Ormiston, though here the present house lies west of the original tower. An early laird, known as the Black Laird of Ormiston, and Rob his brother were suspected of implication, along with Bothwell and Hay of Talla, in the tragedy at Kirk O’ Fields when Queen Mary’s husband Darnley, father of James I and VI, was killed in a suspicious fire in 1567. He was tried and hanged in 1573. It has been said that in the olden days the lads of Ormiston were ‘bonny fechters (fighters) and reivers’. (Reivers were raiders, usually of cattle).
At one time Mosstower, mentioned earlier, was a residence of the James Hepburn,Earl of Bothwell who became Mary’s husband after the death of Lord Darnley.
Another interesting residence was that of Kalemouth, at the confluence of the Kale and the Teviot. Formerly marsh, the area was drained in the nineteenth century by the enterprise of a William Mather. The whole area was enclosed with a high wall from the river and drainage arches were left in case of flood. Mather installed a joiner’s shop and a forge in the courtyard. The ironwork for the Kalemouth suspension bridge over the Teviot was made there. The anchorage for the chains lies under the roadway by the bridge which was built privately by the occupier of Ormiston.
Kalemouth House was bought by compulsory purchase from the then local authority and demolished in 1973. The house was destroyed in order to build a new bridge over the Kale Water.
The Kalemouth suspension bridge was closed for restoration in 1987 and in July that year the scaffolding which had been erected was swept away when the river was high after heavy rain. It had to be re-asssembled and the bridge was closed for months while restoration took place. Each new metal joint had to be made individually at Heriot Watt University.
It is thought that Marlefield House was built by Robert Adam c. seventeenth century. It is a formal three storey building which was repaired and altered c. 1754. Reconstructed 1891 by J.M. Dick Peddie. For a few years this was a hotel but is now a farmhouse for Marlefield Farm.