How much do you know about Broughton? We may live in Broughton but do we ever look at its buildings as we walk about to the shop or the school? Do we wonder how our village looked a thousand years ago?
The name Broughton is thought to be Anglo-Saxon or Norse meaning ‘sheltered place’ from ‘brough’ (Anglo-Saxon) or ‘area within an enclosure’ from ‘ton’ in Norse. The ownership of Broughton can be traced back to Ralf le Neym, a Norman, in 1175 who was granted 52 acres in Broughton around the chapel, close to the Broughton Burn. He was given ‘free and perpetual alms’ with a toft, a croft and common pasturage. This chapel would have been the original one which survives as a grave yard on the hill. Llolan, from the St. Ninian settlement of Whitethorn set up his monk’s cell on this spot in the 7th century. (The key to the cell is held at the village shop for anyone who is interested). The site became a home to the Celtic Church, then a Roman Catholic Church and finally a Presbyterian Church until the ‘new’ church in Broughton was built in 1804 at Culzeat.
The toft and croft would eventually grow into a village around the site of the old chapel and its manse, which was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt until 1923. The laird lived in Littlethorpe, later called Broughton Place House. This too was destroyed by fire in 1773 and was not replaced until the 1920’s. The village boasted a farmhouse doubling up as an inn which was a staging post on the stage coach route from Edinburgh to Dumfries. Here the passengers would stretch their legs and receive refreshments whilst the horses were changed. There was an annual fair in the fields and the village had its own smithy (hence the place name Smithy Croft) and later its own police station. There would have been travelling circuses performing too. The farm eventually ceased to be an inn and is now owned by descendants of the Buchan family. However you can still see a window high up in the north gable where a boy could watch for the approach of the stage coach.
The steading opposite the farm house has been used as an engineering workshop, tweed warehouse as well as storehouses.
One of the most well known houses in the village today is Beechgrove. It is shown on the maps of 1799. Today it is known because of its garden which is open to all and attracts tourists from all over the world because of its outstanding floral displays. Opposite Beechgrove are Solway Cottage and Laurel Bank. These were used as a school and school house in the 19th century until 1876. The cottages then became the Police Station and house and then again in 1984 it was transformed into ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’, a tea room. It is now a tea room and a bistro, reverting to its old name of Laurel Bank.
Broughton today has much to offer its residents and tourists too. There is the John Buchan Centre which contains information about Broughton as well as John Buchan and it is all housed in an interesting former Kirk, (Free Church), the Broughton Gallery in Broughton Place House, Laurel Bank Tearoom and Bistro, the garden at Beechgrove and the reconstructed cell of Llolan. Beside these particular attractions is the history of the village which can be seen in the shape and design of its buildings if you care to look closely at them.