On Scott Crescent near the Mercat Cross stood the Tolbooth
and the 'Pant Well'. In Scottish market towns, the tolbooth
was the building in which monies were paid by traders attending
the markets. The Tolbooth in Galashiels was probably built
in 1599 when Galashiels became a Burgh of Barony. Prior to
1617, the Tolbooth was used as a place of worship and as a
dancing school. Those who fell foul of the law also saw the
Tolbooth at close quarters, as it was used as a prison for
the Manorial Court of Galashiels. Originally there was a clock
and a bell contained within a tower but the clock was removed
to the parish church. Unfortunately, the bell has since been
lost. The building was demolished in 1880 as it was in danger
of falling down. The weather vane from the top of the Tolbooth
can now be seen in Old Gala House.
The 'Pant Well' was once located to the left of the shop
and was one of the public wells supplying drinking water to
the locals. Such wells were common in Galashiels until the
latter stages of the 19th century. Even though the water from
these wells was frequently unfit for drinking and outbreaks
of disease occurred as a result, the townspeople were against
installing a piped supply. Matters were not helped by town
councillors who were opposed to the introduction of pipes.
The government eventually compelled the Burgh Council to provide
a secure water supply in 1879 but it was not until 1907 that
the Secretary of State for Scotland forced the Town Council
to install a piped sewage system.
The manufacture of cloth has been important to Galashiels
for many years and in 1666 the weavers of the town formed
a corporation to promote their trade. The Corporation dissolved
in 1875, by which time the mills (where most of the weavers
worked) had made the cottage weaving industry uneconomic.
The Galashiels Manufacturers' Corporation was established
in 1777, followed a year later by the Dyers' Corporation.
In 1791 the first mill in Scotland with mechanical carding
machines was constructed in Galashiels. There was a massive
increase in the quantity and quality of cloth being produced
as a result of such mechanisation.
The Cloth Hall (on the right hand side of the road) was constructed
in response to this. Here was a centre for the trade of cloth
produced by the early mechanised textile industry. Without
this building, trade from Gala would not have been as strong
as it became. The Hall opened for business on 30 July 1792
and was an instant success. The cost of the building was met
by subscription and the local minister, Dr Robert Douglas
gave a loan of £1000. Each member of the Manufacturers' Association
was allocated a shelf and charged an annual rent for this
In 1813, the Hall became a public house and later a bank.
Today the Hall has been subdivided to form private flats.
After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, there was a
depression in the woollen industry. The depression hit Galashiels
badly and in 1827 the town was described as being "in a most
disastrous condition". Sir Walter Scott and some of his friends
visited London wearing trousers made from Shepherd's Tartan,
the material became an instant fashion success and trade in
the material increased.
In the 1830s, Gala became a distribution point throughout
the Borders for coal carted from the Lothian coal fields (for
many years, the tenants of Gala paid their rent by carting
coal). This coal enabled steam power to be introduced to the
mills in 1836 and cloth production increased. The arrival
of the railway in 1849 helped to boost trade again as producers
could transport their goods to customers with great ease.
Next: The Mercat Cross