About Town Hall
The building that stands today dates from 1735. Typically Scottish in its simplicity of detailing, the doorway is emphasised by the steps, which rise to the entrance of the hall, above which is a clock tower. The original clock from the tower was removed to Mellerstain Castle near Earlston and built into the gable of the stable block there. The stairway was originally walled although iron railings later replaced these.
Originally, the Tolbooth was where traders paid rent for trading in the Burgh and where tolls were collected from travellers passing through Lauder. In later years, the ground floor was used as a jail (most notably for the imprisonment of witches), with the upper floor being used as the court. This upper floor still bears the wooden slots in the walls to take the bar to which the accused was called to receive justice.
The ground floor of the building had three vaulted cells, one of which was below the stairs. This room had no windows to admit light and was known locally as 'the black hole'. The building was last used as a prison in 1840. Today, one of the former cells is used as the Burgh Registrar's Office, and Civil marriages are conducted in the Council Chambers on the first floor.
Many stories are told of old prison days, such as the prisoner who threatened that he would not stay longer unless he got better milk to his porridge.