Built around the Gala Water (a tributary of the Tweed) the
town of Galashiels lies in a shallow valley. Until the late
18th century Galashiels was little more than a village. Unlike
other Border towns, Galashiels was not subject to the ravages
of warfare on a regular basis, did not have an abbey and was
not a frequent haunt of royalty. This is not to say that the
town is devoid of history.
The nearby Abbey and village of Melrose were granted charters
by King David I (1124-53) and King William I (1165-1214) in
which land near the Gala Water is mentioned, possibly where
the Old Town was built. In 1622, a new church was constructed
at Galashiels and the parish name was changed to Galashiels.
Chronicled in the historical document Scalacronica is an
event which is important to the history of the town. The valley
of the Gala Water was a route used by English armies heading
north and, in 1337 an English force made their way towards
Edinburgh to relieve the besieged garrison in the castle.
According to local tradition they encamped near Galashiels.
A party of English soldiers had become separated from the
main force and was gathering wild plums. They were discovered
by the locals who surprised and slew them.
During 1544 the villages of Buckholm and Gala were burned
by the English, as were many other Border towns. The following
year the Scots rallied around the Earl of Arran (acting as
Regent) prior to their victory over the English at Ancrum
Moor near Jedburgh. This led to further violent reprisals.
The Industrial Revolution and the coming of the railway transformed
Galashiels from a village into a thriving town. From 1771,
land within the town was feued and factories built. Gradually
houses were built on each bank of the Gala Water. In 1844
the North British Railway (NBR) company began work on a railway
from Edinburgh and this was completed in 1849. The line was
initially called the 'Border Union' but was renamed the 'Waverley
Route' in honour of Sir Walter Scott. More than 100 years
later, Galashiels was a victim of the Beeching Review of the
rail network and the Waverley Route was eventually closed
Today, Galashiels is the second largest town in the Borders
with a population of approximately 14,000. It may not, at
first glance, be as historic as other neighbouring towns but
this is a living and developing community which has more to
offer and surprise the visitor than may be expected.
Next: The Start