The Crook Inn probably started as a refuge for drovers and a meeting place for local shepherds in a relatively sparsely populated and lawless Tweedsmuir. It must have been significant enough, however, to be among the first inns in Scotland to be licensed in 1604. English laws licensing pubs were introduced to Scotland after the Union of the Crowns in 1603. The Crook Inn, the Kinghouse on Rannoch Moor and the Spread Eagle at Jedburgh were the first to be licensed in 1604; ‘An Act to restrain the inordinate Haunting and Tipling of Inns, Alehouses, and other Victualling Houses’. 1604 2(1) Jac. I, c.9.
The ‘Cruic’ appeared appeared in Blaeu’s map of 1654, based on an earlier map by Timothy Pont. The Armstrong map of Peebles and Tweeddale in 1774 shows both the Crook and the Bield.
In 1621 messengers were sent to arrest Sir Patrick Porteous of Hawkshaw for debt. They broke their journey at the ‘Cruik of Tweddell’ but did not get far afterwards as a number of neighbours pursued them and rescued Porteous.
The Crook Inn became a church briefly. In 1688, the Minister, Mr Francis Scott, a supporter of the King, was ousted by his congregation who preferred the covenanters. Mr Scott locked the Kirk and took the key so his successor, Mr James Thomson, was ordained on Sept 5th at the Crook Inn, and services were held in there until the Kirk could be reopened.
Around these ‘killing times’ the landlady of the Crook hid a covenanter in a peat stack until pursuing dragoons had eaten, drank, slept and moved on.
Fishing and Poaching
Fishing was better and poaching more common in the past. There is a story that a water bailiff found three large, recently-poached salmon and hid them while he visited the Crook Inn. After much hospitality and promises of the salmon to others, he emerged to find that the salmon had disappeared. The young poachers had retrieved them.
Rev George Burns wrote in the Statistical Account of Peebleshire in about 1829 that ‘Poaching prevails to a considerable extent both in game and salmon; but on the whole, the people are intelligent, moral and religious’.
Walking and the Scottish mountaineering Club
In 1891, the ascent of Broad Law (840m) marked the first official meeting of the Scottish Mountaineering Club when the walkers/climbers, met at and set out from the Crook Inn.
Several years ago a prominent mountaineer arranged a dinner for over 30 for colleagues and friends.in the Crook Inn. His only remaining climb was Broad Law, which he had reserved to mark his for his 85th birthday.
The Crook Inn during the construction of the Talla Reservoir
Building the Talla reservoir in 1895-1905 was a major construction project that required a railway line to be built from Broughton and many labourers. When the firm of James Young & Sons went bankrupt, the main contract was taken over by a subcontractor, John Best of Leith. Best arranged the construction of a platform at the Crook siding, convenient for the Crook Inn in which he had taken a financial interest. Best paid the 300-500, mainly Irish, labourers on a Friday. Travel to the Crook was free but the men paid to return. It is reported that Best had most of his money back by Monday! The Crook Inn was reported to be rowdy in those days.
Travel and the Crook Inn
Perhaps the grandest transport through Tweedsmuir was on 17th July 1617, when James VI/I travelled south from Edinburgh via Dumfries. The retinue stopped in Broughton and passed the Crook Inn. Transport of the baggage required 50 horses to be provided by locals who were liable to a fine of £20 for each horse that they could not provide.
The Crook Inn became important as a staging post when the upper Tweed valley was the main route between Edinburgh and Moffat/Dumfries, before the railways as there were ‘post-chaise and horses to be had’. The mail changed at the Crook after the post office was moved from the Bield. The route became more popular for affluent Edinburgh folk after sulphur springs were found in Moffat in 1630, and Moffat became a spa town, perhaps at its peak of popularity in the Victorian era.
Road travel was slow. The Turnpike Act of 1753 changed the route further north to improve coach travel from Edinburgh but did not alter the route through Tweedsmuir. The road was often reported as being in bad repair. The Peeblesshire Advertiser recounted a story (3rd June 1831) of a walker taking a wager with a coach driver that, with an hour’s start, he could reach Edinburgh before the coach. The walker arrived as the driver was loosening his horses! However, although slow, there was a daily service then, in stark contrast to absence of public transport now.
The Crook Inn had many literary connections.
Robert Burns wrote Willie Wastles Wife, the only poem based on Tweeddale, in the bar. He is reported to have slept in a small cottage in the Inn yard, now demolished.
William Black in Strange Adventures of a Phaeton makes his travellers spends a night at the Crook Inn and dine on ham, eggs and whisky.
Jeannie Hutchison, a landlord’s daughter, was made famous in a poem by Hamilton Paul, Minister in Broughton. A gravestone in Tweedsmuir Kirk is marked as ‘Jeannie o’ the Crook’.
The Edinburgh literati in the 19th century favoured the Crook. They came for good walking and they ‘dined and supped to the accompaniment of merry wit and jocund song’. These visitors included a judge, Lord Cockburn, on his regular circuit; John Wilson, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Edinburgh, who was a poet, essayist and literary critic writing under ‘Christopher North’; Russell, an editor of The Scotsman spent his honeymoon in the Crook. Andrew Lang, a prominent historian, journalist, lecturer, biographer, poet, and author stayed, as did the poet Thomas Campbell.
But the Crook Inn was not always welcoming. Sir Thomas Dick Lauder wrote in Scottish Rivers that the Crook Inn was ‘one of the coldest-looking, most cheerless places of reception for travellers that we ever chanced to behold... No-one could look at it without thinking of winter, snow-storms, and associations filled with pity for those whose hard fate it might be to be storm-stayed there’. His views may have been influenced by the dark November day, threatening snow and that the wheel had come off his chaise and he had been bumped along frighteningly until the driver noticed.
John Buchan, subsequently Lord Tweedsmuir, wrote a short story, Gideon Scott, a fine tale of the landlord of the Crook, Gideon Scott, and dark and deadly activities in the Tweed valley. The Community News reprinted it several years ago.
Social and Economic Role
The Tweedsmuir Curling Club held their annual meetings and dinners in the Crook Inn from 1861 to the 1920s.
The ‘Crook’ has hosted wedding and funeral receptions and been the meeting place for a variety of local organisations. The Porteous clan met in the Crook Inn every five years.
The Crook also hosted parties, darts, folk music, and Hogmanay celebrations.
Fishing and shooting parties made regular bookings. It was a venue for car and motorcycle rallies.
The Crook Inn provided scarce employment in the community and also indirectly in local businesses. Most young people gained their first experience of work in the Crook Inn. For a time it had a glass-blowing factory in the grounds and a tourist shop.
There was a Post Office, which closed in 2006 when the new owner took over.
The Crook Inn and Farm were part of the extensive estates of the Duke of Queensberry in 1789, then the Earls of Wemyss from 1811. It was bought briefly by John Buchan in 1919. The Crook land was sold to the Masterton family in 1921 and the Crook Inn to Alexander Cameron, a hotelier from Glasgow. There have been many owners since then, some like the Masraffs, the Reids and the Scotts particularly were appreciated by the community. The Crook was bought by the Mitchells (1972), the Masraffs (1979), Elizabeth McDowell (1986), Mary and Stuart Reid (1988), Marmaduke Ferguson and Linda Cronchey (1996), Susan and Gordon Bell (2000), and finally Jim Doonan (2006).
The Crook was much larger when it was the centre of the Crook Farm that included the nearby Crookhaugh cottages. There is no clear account of the earlier buildings with the stables and sheds when it was a posting house. The present main block 2-storey solid stone and slate block was built in the early Victorian era.
The Crook Inn then had 13 bedrooms and a bunkhouse, which may have been used by the Talla labourers at the weekends. An outbuilding housed extensive batteries and a noisy generator in the ‘30s and ‘40s, before electricity came to Tweedsmuir.
In the 1930s the Crook Inn had extensive modernisation by a Glasgow architect, James Taylor, in Art Deco style. The exterior walls were finished in white, an impressive extension with curved windows, a flat roof and balcony was built and various art deco features created in the interior, seen most impressively in the striking tiling in the ladies cloakroom. Across the road was a fine art deco style garden entered by a fine wrought-iron gate.
The present position and the future of the Crook Inn
Sadly, this historic Inn is now closed. The current owner wished to convert it into housing but the applications for change of use have been rejected, including an Appeal to the Scottish Government.
The Tweedsmuir Community Company, a limited liability, not-for-profit company, formed in 2007, now has an agreement to buy the Crook Inn in 2012 if it can raise the funds. The vision is to renovate it to provide a thriving Inn again. It will be a source of employment, support for small businesses, a centre for varied social life and a hub for other activities in the community.