About Us
Minutes / Agendas
Clubs / Societies
Community Safety
Local Services
Contact Us

Swinton and Ladykirk

Ladykirk and Swinton are the heart if the Merse – one of the best agricultural areas in Scotland. (The name "Merse" means low flat land; but the Oxford English Dictionary continues….."The Merse – the district between the Lammermuirs and the Tweed").

The Community Council area comprises the village of Swinton (Pop. 255 per 1991 census) plus the small settlements of Ladykirk, Upsettlington, Horndean and Simprim.

Swinton Hall

The largest settlement in the area is an early example of a planned village. The village, claimed to be "Queen o' the Merse" has a picturesque village green with a monument in the middle of the football pitch. This "12th Man" as it is affectionately known is said by some to be a memorial to the last wild boar killed in the Merse but others will maintain that it is in fact a Market Cross.

The annual "Queen o' The Merse" Festival and Gala day takes place on the village green around the 3rd Saturday in June.

Facilities in the village include a Primary School, large village hall, church, Post Office, Hotel and village shop.
A small village/farm settlement which sits on the northern bank of the Tweed overlooking the English village of Norham. The 16th century church with its unusual stone roof is well worth a visit. There was in fact a primary school in the village but this closed in the early sixties and the pupils transferred to Swinton.


Ladykirk Church

Horndean – A delightful little hamlet one mile north of Ladykirk. There was a public house here until 1945/46 when it finally closed after the nearby Winfield aerodrome, a war-time R.A.F. training station, closed.

Simprim – Like Horndean, was once a parish on its own and had the distinction of being the smallest parish in Scotland (about 2 miles long by 3 fields wide). It also had one of the smallest kirk buildings in Scotland (22 feet by 13 feet), the remains of which can still be seen beside the road.

Sites of Historical Interest

Ladykirk Church (formerly known as The Kirk of Our Lady of the Steill) – King James IV of Scotland was nearly drowned crossing the ford over the Tweed which is just below the church. He vowed to build a church in memory of the Blessed Virgin of the Steill who had saved him. (A steill is a deep pool where salmon nets are placed). His vow also stated that the church should be one that could not be destroyed by either fire or flood, thinking, no doubt, of the many cross border burning raids and frequent floods of the Tweed valley. By 5th March 1500 building had commenced on the site 120 feet above the river and the whole structure, including the unusual roof and even the pews (these were not replaced with wooden ones until1861) were constructed in stone from Swinton quarry. The cost was about £1,200 which in today’s terms is at least £1.5 million! The king came often to see how the church was progressing – in 1501, twice in 1505, in 1507 and before the ill-fated Flodden in 1513. He was present at a service in 1505 and gave 14/- (70p) as an offering.

It is possible that when the kirk was originally built that the tower was used as a watch tower as it commands a great view not only of the ford across the Tweed, but also of Norham Castle. Across the ford came many famous people – Malcolm IV, Robert the Bruce, William the Conqueror, Edward 1, Queen Mary of Lorraine, John Knox, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Walter Scott, and also Sir Robert Carey, who in 1603 rushed north to proclaim James IV’s great-grandson, James VI, King of England as well as Scotland.

Swinton Church

Swinton Church – Swinton would provide a refuge or overnight stay for weary Christian travellers from the 7th century onwards. The long narrow shape of the building is reminiscent of a Celtic church of that period (although the first written record of a kirk on this spot is not until 1098). As the church had to be strongly built to withstand raids from across the border the walls from these early days are over three feet thick. Swinton like much of the Merse paid a heavy toll for its position only three miles from the border. The kirk was used as a place of refuge for in 1482 it was burned by the English Army under the Duke of Gloucester, and in 1542 it was defended and lives were lost by both defenders and attackers.
The bell (one of the oldest in Scotland) although actually called "Mary” is affectionately known as the "Flodden Bell” as it was rung in 1513 to sound the death at the battle of Flodden not only of King James IV but also of so many of Scotland’s finest men and of a whole nation’s hopes. Around the bell are the words:- "MARIA EST NOMEN MEUM, 1499" (Mary is my name, 1499).

The effigy of the "Swinton Knight” – Sir Alan Swinton, who died about 1200 can be seen behind the pulpit on the south wall. This is probably the oldest effigy in Scotland and above it can be seen the Arms of the Swinton family – three boar’s heads. The stone coat of arms above the gallery door is believed to be the oldest stone coat of arms in Britain. These are two of the many links with the Swinton family, whose family tree, shown in the kirk, is one of the longest recorded family trees in Britain (going back some 1200 years),

Over the year many alterations and additions were made to Swinton Church the last being in 1910 when the roof was raised, the windows heightened, a parquet floor introduced and new pews and pulpit were installed. The pulpit was a gift from the Swinton family and was carved by the Kensington School of Art. The Architect was Robert Lorimer, who later became famous as the architect of the Scottish National Shrine in Edinburgh Castle, where the inner walls are carved in stone from Swinton quarry.

Swinton Village Hall – This large building in the middle of the village was originally the "Free Kirk” and was erected in 1860. It had a very handsome spire which could be seen from all around the Eastern Borders but sadly the top of the spire had to be removed in the interests of safety. The two churches in Swinton re-united in 1932 and thereafter the building eventually re-opened as one of the largest village halls in the area.

Key Issues Facing the Community

The key issues facing this community are the same as any other community in the area:-
  • Low Pay – Scottish Borders is one of the lowest paid regions in the U.K
  • Lack of affordable housing for first time buyers – properties coming on to the market are likely to be snapped up by "incomers” either as holiday homes or as a place to retire to.

Local Projects
At present, the only ongoing Community Council project is the erection of stone plaques at the four entrances to Swinton village. It was hoped that these would have been erected in 2000 but problems obtaining good quality stone from Swinton quarry has lead to various delays. However the plaques have now been carved and should hopefully be erected very shortly.

The Community Council consists of a maximum of 9 Members (6 from Swinton & 3 from Ladykirk). Until recently we had six Swinton members and one from Ladykirk but two Swinton members have now resigned.

We are currently looking to co-opt at least two new members.  Please click here for a list of current members.

Looking East

View across green towards the Wheatsheaf

View across green towards potting shed


View from England
Latest News
No current News.

What's On
No events for this month.

Clubs & Societies
None currently registered.
 ©2011 Berwickshire Community Councils Forum. All rights reserved. Website by SOS