Visit Peebles - The Royal Burgh

History of Peebles

A brief history of the Town.

A brief history

It is thought that the name "Peebles" may derive from the ancient Cumbric (an early form of Welsh) word "Pebyl", meaning "a place where tents are pitched".

"The historic core of Peebles - the Old Town - lies to the west of the junction of the River Tweed and Eddleston Water. In the reign of King David I of Scotland (1124-1153), Peebles was created a Royal Burgh. King William I of Scotland (1165-1214) "The Lion", confirmed that the two chief courts of justice were to be held annually either in Edinburgh or Peebles.

During the wars of Independence, King Edward I of England visited Peebles in 1301 and 1306. Edward appointed his man - William de Dureme - sheriff in place of Sir Simon Fraser of Neidpath, who had joined with William Wallace in his attempt to free Scotland.

In the 15th and 16th centuries many visits were made to the town by the monarchy, King James III in particular was a frequent visitor. Peebles survived relatively untouched by the conflicts - both internal and external - that characterised life in the Borders at that time. There were however three major events in the 16th century. In late 1549, Peebles was almost completely razed by the English. In April 1585 the population of the Borders was directed by King James VI of Scotland to meet at Peebles in May in an attempt to halt the "crimes committed on the borders" by cross border raids. From 1650-1651, Cromwell's Army occupied the town.

The 18th century was not a good time for Peebles as poverty and hunger were common in the Burgh. In 1741, 1774 and again in 1783 the council found it necessary to purchase food for the inhabitants. The Industrial Revolution did not immediately affect Peebles and recovery from these dark years was slow.

The 19th century was a time of progress from a poor start when the town was described in 1801 as being "stagnant and almost lifeless", due in no small way to the privations of the previous century. The arrival of the Railway in 1855 brought an increase in trade and the growth of industry brought a deal of prosperity and expansion. In the 20th century, the increased ownership of the motor car after Second World War, led to an improved road network and the railway lines were closed in 1962.

Today, Peebles is the third largest town in the Borders and occupies both banks of the River Tweed. The road network enables people to travel easily to Edinburgh or elsewhere in the Borders. Through all the changes of recent years, Peebles still retains its historic layout and there is much to interest the visitor."

Peebles has been much written about. For information on books about Peebles, please visit our page 'books about Peebles'

Historical content : taken from the Town Walk and History of Peebles