Quarter Knowe, or Chapel Knowe, is the mound on which the Tweedsmuir Kirk and the old upper section of the Kiryard are located and hence is covered by the Historic Scotland Listing protocols for the Kirkyard.  The etching of 1790 by Francis Grose below shows what is presently considered as the first church on the site of 1644. This shows the Manse near the present day car-park and also shows the ancient cultivation terraces on the mound.

The origin of the word Quarter can either mean a quarter of a piece of land or a quarter of a Parish for Elder representation and also for the disbursement of "poor money" purposes. There is a Quarter Hill in Tweedsmuir not far from the Kirk. However the more well known Quarter is that at Glenholm/Rachan which was the seat of the Tweedies of Quarter.

Like most of Scottish History the history of the Knowe is obscured by shadows and mist with very little light around the edges and the obvious confusion between the two Quarters, mentioned above, in historical documents has not helped!

The  area now called Tweedsmuir was originally part of Drumelzier Parish and it was formally disjoined in 1644 and was called by the new name of  Tweedsmuir Parish.  A new church was built on Quarter Knowe that was completed in 1648 - the first custom built Presbyterian church - a God Box - in the Upper Tweed area. However, a separate Parish had been planned for some time. There had been a roll of tenants for the new Parish in 1639 that was only one year on from the signing of The National Covenant in Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh in 1638.  This roll included Johne Chisholme of Stanehope and Thomas cheisholme of houpkirtane indicating that the new Parish would extend as far North as and to include Hopecarton. This boundary would make Quarter Knowe more or less in the middle of the new Parish. By 1643 the northern Parish boundary had been set at the Polmood Burn to the east of the river Tweed and the Glenmore burn to the west - as it is today. This boundary makes Quarter Knowe towards the north end of the Parish. From this it is plain that the chosen location of the new church was to be Quarter Knowe regardless of the boundaries of the Parish. What made it the chosen spot? Was there something there already of religious significance?

My own input to this as mentioned on the Frasers of Oliver page where I suggest that the name of Oliver is a corruption of Holyford and that the first Oliver Castle was in fact called Holyford named after the ford that had been known as Holyford for some time - see below.   The ford gave access to the mound and surrounding land on which was located something of religious significance.  The ford would have been at the shallows below the Carlow's Linn where in 1682 it is recorded that there were stepping stones across the Tweed between the Bield and the Manse - the Manse then being near the present day carpark.

There are a couple of nuggets in the records that shed some light on Tweedsmuir Quarter Knowe. Firstly in the Peeblesshire Presbytery Records of 1626-1639 it states that when digging for foundations on the site then known as the Quarter or Chapel Knowe, on the lands of Menzion, skeletons were found proving an ancient burial-place and site of a chapel. The fact that Menzion is mentioned indicates that we have the right site and that the mound was known as Chapel Knowe I think is very significant.

James W. Buchan (brother of John Buchan) in his acclaimed 3-Vol History of Peeblesshire refers to various Writs of 1512, 1555 and of 1564 involving the Hays which clearly refer to Chapel Knowe being in the Barony of Oliver Castle and was the "chief messuage" of that Barony. Buchan then went on "It is not unreasonable to assume that there would be a chapel on that site in pre-Reformation times, and accordingly it would seem that the Parish Church marks the site of the Quarter Chapel - a most suitable place for the chief messuage." A messuage is a dwelling house with associated out buildings - which possibly could include a small chapel, also gardens, orchards, etc.

The mound must have been very much larger than it is now. The Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in their survey of the site in 1959 stated that the east side of the mound had been cut back by the river. This observation is confirmed by the 1790 etching where it can be clearly seen that the cultivation terraces, as indeed can be seen today, do not continue around the east end of the mound as one would have expected.   The cutting back of the mound must have been as the result of exceedingly high river levels caused by heavy rains some time in the past after the date of the formation of the cultivation terraces and before the construction of the Kirk of 1644.   The RCAHMS in their survey of 1959 noted the cultivation terraces but did not commit themselves to a possible date of contruction except that it was before 1644.  Apart from the mound being much larger, the River Tweed and the Talla, particularly the latter would have been much closer to the mound which was probably at the confluence of the two waters.   This lack of flat ground around the mound would account for the requirement for the cultivatation terraces to provide areas for vegetables/fruit for the occupants of the mound within the bounds of the rivers.         

Apart from the above two references the Quarter Knowe or Chapel Knowe appears to fade into unrecorded history of the Dark Ages.   

In the Kingledores Chapel section on the Pilgrim Way Markers, Chapels and the spread of Christianity page there is the mention of the Monks of Melrose being there.  Their base was at Old Melrose, a site revered by the ancients.   It was on the loop of a river and surrounded on three sides by water with access by a ford that they named Monksford.  The site is noted by the RCAHMS and is on their Canmore online archive as ID 55631 and named St Cuthberts Chapel with many aerial views of The Old Melrose site.   Accompanying maps indicate that the chapel site is on Chapel Noll.  The Monks had also named a crossing of the River Teviot Abbotsford.   Did The Monks also inhabit and name our Chapel Knowe and also name the ford there Holyford?

There is a very curious coincidence concerning the surname of Oliver.   Anybody with that surname could claim a connection with the Upper Tweed.   It is not a very common name but in the late sixteenth century a family of Olivers rose to prominence as a Riding Family during the Reiving Times.   They were based in West Teviotdale not far south of Upper Tweed.   But what is astonishing is that their near neighbours that rode with them were the Crossers (Croziers).   How can there not be connection between the two families with origins of Holy and Cross respectively?  And that connection being Chapel Mound in Upper Tweed.


  Map showing the Reiving Families of the sixteenth century.


Tony Hope