History


Signs of ancient human activity are written into the landscape around Yetholm in the form of numerous hill forts, hut platforms and field boundaries. Perhaps the most striking piece of evidence was unearthed in 1837, when two bronze shields were dug from boggy ground at the edge of the village. The shields (see example, right) were probably deposited as gifts to the gods, sometime between 1150 and 750 BC. They are currently on display in the National Museum, Edinburgh. (More information about Yetholm-type shields can be found here.)

Yetholm Shield
The name of the village is derived from the Old English language and probably means 'Gatehouse Village'. In the seventh century the area was part of the Kingdom of Northumbria. King Oswy (612-670) granted most of the Bowmont Valley, including Yetholm, to the monastery at Lindisfarne.

Milking sheep

In the eleventh century the border between England and Scotland was drawn through the area, placing Yetholm in Scotland. A parish church is recorded in 1233, although a building probably existed long before this. The monastery at Kelso owned a huge sheep grange in the parish, the extensive remains of which can be seen in the Halterburn Valley.


The daily life of Yetholm's peasants was interrupted in 1304 when Edward I convened a huge meeting here, to receive the submission of many 'rebellious' Scottish noblemen. From this date until 1603, relations between England and Scotland were to be hostile. Yetholm suffered from its exposed position, most notably in the1520s and 1540s when it was burned to the ground during Henry VIII's blitzkrieg against Scotland.
(Right: Fragment of 14th century tombstone
in Yetholm parish kirk
)
Fourteenth century tombstone
Yethol Weaver's Flag


Kirk Yetholm's famous gypsies seem to have arrived in the area in the late seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century agricultural change across Scotland meant that many labourers became surplus to requirements. However, in Yetholm land was made available to smallholders and Town Yetholm's population grew. In addition to their smallholding, many made a living from trade or a craft. In 1776, 25 looms are recorded in the village. Yetholm's weavers had a guild and their flag (left), with it's motto 'Mens days are swifter then a weavers shuttle' (from the book of Job), is held by the National Museum.

In 1836 a handsome new church replaced the old thatched kirk. At this date the combined population of Kirk and Town Yetholm (linked by a new bridge, built at the same time as the church) was 1,289 people. Yetholm was a flourishing small town, serving the needs of the population of the Bowmont valley, with a variety of shops, mills, pubs and churches.
(Right: Kirk Yetholm green in the late 19th century)
Old Kirk Yetholm
Old Town Yetholm
In the twentieth century, the mechanisation of agriculture resulted many farm workers becoming surplus to requirements. Yetholm's population has declined accordingly. In addition, the advent of the motor-car meant that people travelled into the bright lights Kelso for shopping and entertainment. That said, in the twenty-first century Yetholm is still a lively place, with two pubs, a village shop, a butchers and a post-office. There are many flourishing social activities.
(Left: Town Yetholm as seen from Venchen Hill; an early twentieth century postcard)

In 1965 the Penine Way, running from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, was opened. This 267 mile path has made Yetholm's name famous and is symptomatic of the way tourism has now become one of the area's main 'industries'. Yetholm's turbulent history may have at times held back economic development, but it has also helped bequeath an unspoiled and stunning landscape; a beautiful place, which draws people to visit and live here.
Penine Way sign

 

History