Royal and Ancient Burgh of Lauder  
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Historical Background

Lauder is an ancient town and was known in the 12th century as a 'Kirktown'. The town received several visits from royalty of both Scotland and England. William the Lion granted Lauder a Royal Charter in the late 12th / early 13th Century, and King James IV, who frequently held court in the town, renewed this in 1502.

In the early 14th century, Sir James Douglas, confidant of King Robert I, assumed control of Lauderdale when he was granted the barony (c.1325). By 1455, the Douglas family had grown too powerful for the liking of King James II and consequently they were stripped of their power and the Earl of Douglas charged with treason. It was after this that Lauder became a Royal Burgh.

In 1482, with an army besieging Berwick, Lauder church was the venue of the famous conference that led to the capture and the eventual death of King James III. More interested in the arts and architecture, King James did not pay too much attention to governing Scotland nor to the traditional power structures. This caused his nobles no end of concern and so during this conference six of his favourite courtiers were seized by jealous barons and were hanged "over the bridge of 'Lather' (Leader) before the King's eyes". The seige of Berwick was never lifted and Berwick has been part of England ever since.

An artillery fort was built by the English at Lauder in the late winter and spring of 1548, during the Rough Wooing. It was constructed to relieve English garrisons that were occupying parts of south-east Scotland. The fort was one of four with Roxburgh, Eyemouth and Dunglass which were all built around the same time.

These forts were still held by the English and included in the Treaty of Bologne (March 1550), by which it was agreed, by France and England, that they should be surrendered, demolished and never again fortified. The fort in Lauder was surrendered as part of the peace treaty on 10 April 1550, having been besieged by Scottish forces from late February of tha year onwards.

A contemporary plan of the fort was drawn in October 1549 for the 5th Earl of Rutland. From this it can be seen that the fort was built on the edge of the river terrace, in the space occupied by Thirlestane Castle today.

From 1567, Lauder was regularly represented at Parliament in Edinburgh. Prior to 1707, the Burgh was outright in its condemnation of the proposed union of the Parliaments. After the union, the Burgh's position on one of the main north-south routes through the Borders led to an increase in trade in Lauder. The Burgh subsequently went through a period of expansion as the population increased and by the early 19th century, there were over two thousand inhabitants and twenty inns.

In 1745, Prince Charlie lodged at Thirlestane Castle on his way to invade England. In the centre of Lauder there is a house known as Cope's House where Sir John Cope is said to have lodged while fleeing from Prestonpans.

Although there are no records of when it was built, or of any repairs, it is said that Lauder was in the past surrounded by a Burgh wall with gates at both the West and East Port. (Unfortunately, all traces of this wall had been removed by the early 20th century). The Burgh still preserves its original medieval form of a single main street and two back lanes, a layout at one time typical of many small Scots market towns, which may support the claim of a Burgh Wall.

Lauder escaped massive expansion during the Industrial revolution. Although most of the houses date from the 18th and 19th century, extensive backfilling of the back garden areas did not occur. Expansion in Lauder has taken the form of adding more storeys to the buildings. Good examples of this can be seen at 4 The Avenue and 31 East High Street.

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Town Trial: Historical Background, Lauder Scotland