THIS week, Ted McKie takes us back in time to old Innerleithen...

Amongst the objects in the care of Innerleithen Community Trust is a box of 69 photographic glass plates.

The photographer is not known but the views of townscapes and studio pictures of people appear to have been taken in the 1860s and 1870s and are among the oldest in our photographic archive. Though not without blemish they still provide an excellent window on the Innerleithen of 150 years ago.

Old Mill

The Old Mill was situated at the top of Damside at the junction with the Strand. The group of houses shown in the photograph is part of Innerleithen that has almost entirely disappeared, leaving a just grassy bank and assorted broadleaf trees. The exception is the long, low cottage known in the 1870s as the “Consheuch” and deployed as a “Puirs Hoose” to accommodate unfortunate people lacking means and income. Today the building is a comfortable private house known as Kaimend Cottage. In the 1871 Census the housing complex was home to 26 families totalling 138 people. The white house on the right sits beside the dam (mill lade) and was converted from the former meal mill, which had a waterwheel on the east gable – thus “Old Mill”. The houses were built in the 1850s to accommodate mill workers and tradesmen and, in 1871, a teacher of music. With the exception of Kaimend Cottage the site was cleared in the 1940s.

Plora Cottage

The photograph shows Plora Cottage when it was newly built (around 1870) and it remains instantly recognisable and little outwardly changed today. What has disappeared, of course, is Waverley Mill in the background along with its landmark chimney. At that time the road in the foreground, now Waverley Road, was still part of Miller Street while Morningside lies off the photograph to the left. The house was built by Robert Mathison, a local builder, stone mason and founder of the Innerleithen Alpine Club. Later, the house became the property of his niece Euphemia.

Princes Street

This view of the top of Princes Street is taken from a garden (now built upon) by the bend in the road about 200 metres from its junction with Pirn Road. Looking north the image is greatly foreshortened with the Firs and St. John’s Free Church near the top of Horsbrugh Terrace taking centre stage. Pirn Wood forms the background. The Rosy Raw, the row of low houses on the north side of Pirn Road has long disappeared, as have the similar dwellings on the right towards the top of Princes Street (the public garden area).


For this view the photographer appears to have been standing on the roof of the nearest building to be seen in the picture. The buildings in front were part of Caerlee Mill and are no longer there. The three-storey stone tenement block, known appropriately as the “big hoose”, has long since vanished, making space for a car park. The houses immediately beyond this were modernised and extended upwards in 1888 by the proprietors of Caerlee Mill, J.J. & H. Ballantyne. The small workshop at the end of the row on the left has gone, having given way to the entrance of Maxwell Street. The roof of the large house seen at the centre of the background – Hill House – still stands, as does the row of cottages leading off to the right. Behind are the lower slopes of Lee Pen.