The Square

History & Heritage
Learn about the The Square and its magnificent surrounding buildings

About The Square

In 1793 The Town Hall was reported that “It is to be regretted, that the elegant square in which the market is held, is not better ornamented with a better town house". Thus, with money raised by public subscription in 1816, this magnificent building replaced an earlier thatched tolbooth and town house. The arched windows at ground floor formed an open arcade until 1905 at which time the arches were filled in as part of extensive alterations. Above the doorway, you can see the Burgh Arms carved in stone. The building is crowned by a domed octagonal belfry with a clock which would have been an essential method of time keeping on market days before pocket or wristwatches became common. For many years the building contained the Town Council offices and the facilities for the local court. Today, the hall is used for various civic functions and is one of the finest buildings in the town. Within the entrance hall, there is a plaque gifted to the town by Polish troops who were stationed in the area during World War Two.
The Square, formerly a large market place and the hub of the town from the Middle Ages onward. Prior to 1790, the majority of buildings were thatched with high pointed gables facing The Square. At its centre is the Kelso Bull Ring where bulls were tethered on market days for farmers to view. Under the ring is a time capsule containing coins, newspapers and other local artefacts. At each coronation new material is added and the contents are updated.
The buildings opposite the Town Hall (the west side of The Square) close the view from the town to the River Tweed. At Numbers 15-20 The Square, you can see a formally designed Georgian building. Although there have been later alterations to this building, the overall effect of the original design can still be seen. One of the features of Kelso is the use of cream coloured bricks for chimneys. These bricks last longer than stone in chimneys. Closer to Roxburgh Street, the buildings are less imposing being of different style and materials. Behind this side of The Square, a great deal of industrial activity used to take place. Now only one mill still remains, continuing the tradition of milling on the banks of the Tweed which started here around the 12th century.
On the south side of The Square. you see the Royal Bank of Scotland. Built in 1934 to a modern, standard design, with projecting eaves and red brick facings ,this building would be more at home in the South of England than a Scottish country town. The adjoining building. on the corner of Bridge Street, is the Bank of Scotland, which is a more traditional Scottish bank building, constructed from stone. Built in 1833, this building originally housed the British Linen Company Bank.
From May to August look out for Swifts flying rapidly overhead. These birds nest under the eaves of many of the older buildings in the town centre and are remarkable in that they spend most of their lives in the air. The only time they land is when they are nesting. This is due to the fact that they have very long wings and extremely short leg which means that they are unable to perch or land on the ground.

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