Monday 19th November 1759 was a dark winter’s day at the old Langton House when the Baillies of Langton met with their laird, David Gavin, and a team of lawyers from Duns to sign the deeds that established the new model town of Gavinton.
By contrast, it was a warm summer’s afternoon last Saturday when the villagers of Gavinton held a walk in eighteenth century clothes to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the move from the old town of Langton to the new town of Gavinton, across the valley of the Langton Burn. The thundershower that looked imminent never happened, as people appeared on Gavinton Green from all over the village, many wearing the kind of clothes that our ancestors in 1759 might have worn. From the Green, some folk walked down to old Langton and some took the special bus, all gathering at the old Langton Graveyard.
The graveyard is all that’s left of the old village, but many people in Gavinton didn’t even know it existed. It’s now in the middle of a wood, hidden from view. Up till a month ago, it was completely overgrown with nettles and ivy and a forest of sycamore saplings. But some hard work by volunteers from the village, with the support of the present owner of the estate, Mr Sandy Brownlie, and a small grant from the Scottish Borders Council, revealed the treasure trove of history beneath. The old church is just a ruin, but the gravestones are absolutely fascinating and a wonderful record of the community’s history. There are stones dated from 1620 up to the last burial there in 1859.
When all had had a good look round, the symbolic walk began – down the old south drive, past the Terrace Lodge, across the Langton Bridge and up the steep hill by the new church, to be led onto Gavinton Green by the Duns Pipe Band. When all were assembled on the Green, Mrs Cilla Wills, of Anton’s Hill, Leitholm, addressed the gathering. Mrs Wills is the grand-daughter of the last Gavin laird of Langton, Lt. Col. T.G.B. Morgan-Grenville-Gavin, and thus provided a direct link with the founder of the village, David Gavin.
An exhibition had been set up in the Village Hall giving an outline of the history of Langton and Gavinton, with many exhibits kindly lent or donated by villagers and by members of the Gavin family. The 1780s plans of the village and estate were kindly lent by Mr Sandy Brownlie. Mrs May Tait of Polwarth Mill was especially generous in providing all sorts of interesting agricultural and rural craft implements from bygone days for display. It seems that David Gavin was not the hard-hearted laird who drove his estate workers out of their homes in Langton that some may have thought he was. The building of Gavinton was just part of Gavin’s process of improving his estate and there seems no doubt that the new settlement was a better place to live than the old one.
As well as the exhibition, villagers and visiting family and friends were treated to tea and cakes in the hall and a hog roast or salad bar on the Green. While all this was going on, several teams were rushing round the village unearthing clues in the village treasure hunt or looking for answers to the village history quiz. The Fish family won the treasure hunt and the Fleming family won the quiz.
The present residents were very happy to have celebrated the passing of 250 years since their predecessors made the move into their new village.
Text courtesy of John Marjoribanks