Galashiels, Scotland, Town Website
home | news | business | organisations | history | braw lads

Town Trail

The Mercat Cross (4b)

The Mercat Cross was the traditional symbol of a Scottish village or town's trading status and was the focus of much social interaction. A Cross has occupied this site, almost uninterrupted since 1599 when the town was granted Burgh of Barony status. The Cross originally stood on a circular base with a flight of steps and a projecting balcony. It was removed in 1820 and put back in its present form in 1867 with the aid of funds from a public subscription. The Cross was restored in 1887 and a section of the original shaft can be seen in Old Gala House.

It was near here that an Act of Sasine relating to the marriage of James IV and Margaret Tudor took place, an act which is commemorated annually in the Braw Lads' Gathering in late June. On the Saturday of the Gathering, a stone and turf from Torwoodlee Tower (the seat of the Pringles of Torwoodlee) are handed over, symbolising the gift of the lands of Ettrick Forest by King James IV to Margaret Tudor in 1503. Their marriage eventually led to the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England one hundred years later. The Act of Sasine, or the granting of legal possession of feudal property, is still enshrined in Scots Law for property transactions. The plaques which depict James IV and Margaret Tudor were designed in the 1930s by George Hope Tait and commemorate their marriage.

Over the road is Church Square, modern housing designed by the well known architect Peter Womersley which is typical of the style of architecture of the early 1960s. The Old Parish Church was demolished in 1960 to make way for the flats, leaving only the name of the development to remind people that there was once a place of worship here. In 1963, the Saltire Society adjudged the scheme the best local authority housing completed in Scotland that year.

The flats directly across from Church Square were designed in the same style as Womersley's scheme but lack the strength of design which they would have obtained had they been by the same hand. They were built on the site of the Baron Baillie's house and garden. The Baron Baillie acted as the constable and legal agent for the Lairds of Gala right up to the early 19th century. On the side wall at Elm Row you can see a carved stone and a stone tablet. The stone was brought to Galashiels from Edinburgh by Sir Walter Scott; it had previously been built into the Tolbooth of the City (the castle is the traditional heraldic symbol for Edinburgh) and was saved when the Tolbooth was demolished. An inscription records that Scott carried out banking near here.

Walk up Elm Row and turn left along Tea Street which is opposite the entrance to Galashiels Academy.

Next: Tea Street

Historical Background
Where to Start
(1) Scott Park
(2) Old Gala House
(3) Old Parish & St Paul's Church
(4a) The Tolbooth and Cloth Hall
(4b) The Mercat Cross
(5) Tea Street
(6) Old Burial Ground
(7) St Peter's Episcopal Church & School
(8) Burgh Buildings
(9) Public Library
(10) Market Square
(11) Church of Our Lady & St Andrew
(12) Post Office
(13) Former Co-op Building
(14) Glasite Chapel
(15) Burgh School
(16) Bank Street Gardens
(17) Volunteer Hall
Site by Bordernet in the Scottish Borders  |   legal