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Leyden's Cottage, Denholm

A Category A Listed Building in Cavers, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.459 / 55°27'32"N

Longitude: -2.6841 / 2°41'2"W

OS Eastings: 356835

OS Northings: 618562

OS Grid: NT568185

Mapcode National: GBR 95P9.PX

Mapcode Global: WH7XH.R11W

Plus Code: 9C7VF858+H9

Entry Name: Leyden's Cottage, Denholm

Listing Name: Leyden's Cottage and boundary walls, Leydens Road, Denholm

Listing Date: 16 March 1971

Last Amended: 11 April 2019

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 332894

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB2057

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Cavers

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Hawick and Denholm

Parish: Cavers

Traditional County: Roxburghshire

Tagged with: Cottage

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Leyden's Cottage dates to before 1775 and is made up of three single storey cottages that have been converted into one. The cottage was restored in 1896 and also has early 21st century internal alterations. It was the birthplace of John Leyden, a poet and linguist. It sits within a terrace of predominantly 19th century houses just off the central green in the village of Denholm.

The cottage is built on a long rectangular plan of eight irregular bays and the two bays at the southwest end are slightly taller. The ground levels follow the topography of the gently sloping site. The cottage is rendered and painted random rubble on rough rubble foundations and it has smooth rendered and painted window and door margins. The main entrance door is at the centre and there is a carved granite commemorative plaque to John Leyden imbedded within the wall to the left of the door. The door at the northeast end leads to a pend which provides access to the rear of the property. The rear elevation has an irregular window pattern.

There are low boundary walls built of stone with a cope enclosing the front garden ground. There is a small section of wall attached to the rear elevation.

The windows are timber sash and case frames with horns with a predominantly 12-pane glazing pattern. The entrance door is four-panelled timber and the other doors are vertical boarded timber. The roof is thatched in reed with a turf ridge covered in chicken wire. There is one thatched eyebrow dormer window to the southwest side of the main elevation and two others to the rear elevation. There are two plain squared and rendered chimney stacks irregularly spaced along the ridge.

The interior was seen in 2017 and contains a significant amount of 18th and 19th century detailing. There are droved stone fire surrounds, some with added timber mantles, dating to the 18th century. The thick internal cross walls that separated the former cottages still survive and there are deep window cills. There are six-panel timber doors. There is an early 21st century staircase leading to a single room in the converted roof space which has eleven exposed 18th century rough-sawn, timber-pegged roof trusses. The pend has boarded doors at each end, a cobbled floor with inset drain, remnants of wall plaster, and a stone fire surround in the gable of the roof space above.

Statement of Interest

Leyden's Cottage is a rare example of an 18th century thatched cottage and is the only surviving example in a former terrace of thatched buildings and the village as a whole. Once common across Scotland, these vernacular thatched buildings are now extremely rare. It is one of only eleven thatched buildings known to survive in the Scottish Borders.

The cottage was restored in the late 19th century and refurbished in the early 21st century. However, it largely retains its 18th century footprint and a significant proportion of its historic character and fabric. The interior retains significant details from an early date particularly the rare exposed roof trusses which add to the interest of the building.

It has historic interest as both the birthplace of the linguist and poet, John Leyden, and for its association with what became a significant textile milling firm in the Scottish Borders.

Age and Rarity

Leyden's Cottage is located at the centre of the earliest part of the village of Denholm, overlooking a small green which is just to the northeast of the main village green.

The Denholm Village website notes the first recorded mention of Denholm is signed by Guy of Denum in the 'Ragmans Rolls' at Berwick in 1296. In 1664 local laird, Sir Archibald Douglas, feued 8 3/4 acres of his land for houses and gardens, which became the earliest part of the village set around the village green. Most villages in the area are laid out along a main street. However, Denholm is somewhat unusual because it is a planned around a central green.

The village first appears on Moll's map of 1732 with the spelling "Denhoom". On Thomson's map of 1822 it is shown with houses between the main road and the River Teviot. Over the course of the 19th century the village developed further to the east and south.

Leyden's Cottage is first shown in detail on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1858, published 1863). This map shows the village layout largely in its current form. Leyden's Cottage stands out from its neighbours because of the boundary wall marked at its front elevation. The cottage is part of a long rectangular terrace of buildings with the same depth, and these are likely to have been cottages of a similar size and profile to Leyden's Cottage. These other cottages in the street have replaced or substantially rebuilt.

The slightly taller section at the southwest end of Leyden's Cottage is shown as a separate property on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map. The stonework at the rear of the cottage, where it joins the adjacent stone house to the right, shows that this part of Leyden's Cottage was truncated when the adjacent stone house was built in the mid-19th century.

The pend, incorporated within the northeast end of the cottage, is also marked on this map along with the small section of the wall to the rear. The marked property boundaries and the low front garden walls suggest that the pend linked to the rear garden ground of the former neighbouring cottage to the northeast (Sunnybank Cottage).

Leyden's Cottage is the only surviving 18th century cottage in a former terrace of similar cottages. The village would have been largely made up of single storey thatched cottages in the early 18th century. Leyden's Cottage stands out amongst its neighbours as a remnant of the 18th century village and makes a good contribution to the current multiphase streetscape setting.

Denholm was predominantly houses for workers in agriculture until the latter half of the 18th century. During the late 18th century the village developed into a centre for stocking making that served the Borders as well as Edinburgh and Newcastle. In 1844 there were 87 hand operated stocking machines in the village and by the 1861 census 32 stocking makers are recorded in the village. (Denholm Village Website)

The window openings of traditionally constructed cottages of this period were usually small. The window openings in the main southeast elevation of Leyden's Cottage are relatively large for a cottage of this date. They are likely to have been enlarged to increase the natural light required for stocking making, as Leyden's Cottage is associated with a stocking making firm.

There were also two mills in the village. Westside Mill still exists (2018) on the The Wynd off the Green. The second mill in the village has been demolished. It was at the rear of Sunnybank Cottage which is attached to northeast end of Leyden's Cottage. The pend at the northeast of Leyden's Cottage is likely to have been the principal access to this mill. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map shows a small detached rectangular building to the rear of Sunnybank Cottage which is likely to have been the mill. A remnant of a corner of this stone structure still survives (2018).

In 1793 the stocking making firm, Dickson and Beattie, set up their business in Leyden's Cottage. The cottage was used to clean the textile fibres prior to stocking manufacture. In 1803 Dickson and Beattie moved to Hawick where they became Dickson and Laing and opened the Wilton Mills in 1809-10. The Wilton Mills were the first in Hawick to have water powered spinning jennies and in 1830 they introduced the first power looms. The Wilton Mills expanded significantly over the 19th century and became one of the most prominent mills in Hawick, which was the centre for textile manufacturing in southern Scotland.

The cottage is named after the 18th century Scottish poet and linguist, Dr John Leyden, who was born in the cottage in 1775 (see Close Historical Associations section below). Leyden was a locally significant person who was commemorated by an ornate stone memorial (listed at category C, LB2053) which was built in 1861 and is at the centre of the village green.

The cottage's association with John Leyden was remembered throughout the 19th century and in 1896 the cottage was restored by the Edinburgh Border Counties Association as an informal museum to him. During these works the granite memorial plaque was set within the wall next to the front door. It reads 'Birthplace of Dr. John Leyden born 8 September 1775 Died at Batavia 20 August 1811'. After the works the cottage was passed into the care of the Earl of Minto whose ancestor had been a friend of Leyden. The cottage is now in private ownership (2018) however it remains a significant building within the village because of its association with Leyden.

The use of thatch as a roofing material has a long tradition in Scotland. Thatched buildings are often single storey cottages or crofthouses and traditionally built, reflecting pre-industrial construction methods and materials. The survival of this building type into the 21st century is extremely rare. Leyden's Cottage retains its thatched roof which has been traditionally maintained.

A Survey of Thatched Buildings in Scotland, published in 2016 by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), found that were only around 200 buildings with thatched roofs in Scotland. Those which retain their traditional vernacular character, including plan forms and construction techniques may be of special interest in listing terms. The SPAB survey report shows that Leyden's Cottage is one of only eleven thatched buildings to remain in the Scottish Borders.

Leyden's Cottage is an early surviving building in Denholm and is the only remaining thatched building in the village. It has a close historic association with an important local historical figure and also as the early origins of a prominent textile milling firm in the Scottish Borders. The cottage has been moderately altered but it retains a significant amount of 18th century fabric and continues to demonstrate traditional building skills and materials.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interiors of these traditional thatched cottages in Scotland were often simple. Many of them have been refurbished and historic features no longer survive. The interior of Leyden's Cottage was restored in 1896 by the Edinburgh Border Counties Association to recognise its local heritage importance at that time.

The interior of Leyden's Cottage has been modernised and a staircase has been added around the early 21st century. However, it retains a relatively high level of vernacular interior detailing. There are hand tooled stone fire surrounds and six panel doors that demonstrate the building's early date. The large first floor room has eleven roughly sawn exposed timber pegged roof trusses. The survival of exposed structural roof timbers from this date is relatively rare and they add significantly the interest of the interior of this building.

Plan form

Leyden's Cottage is a long and thin rectangular plan. Narrow rectangular plan forms are typical of vernacular buildings because the expense of suitable roof timber restricted the depth which could be spanned. The cottage is made up of the only three surviving single storey rectangular plan cottages in what 19th century maps show was a complete street of similar cottages.

The thick internal walls between some of the rooms show the divisions between the separate cottages and add to the character of the building. The survival of Leyden's Cottage's early footprint without any significant additions or losses is rare and adds to its interest.

The integral pend within the northeast end of the cottage is believed to have provided access to one of the only two stocking mills in Denholm in the late 18th century. In the pend are remnants of plaster on the walls and it retains the cobbled floor with inset drain and boarded doors at each end. The survival of both its plan form and detailing is unusual in a modernised domestic building. It aids our understanding of the historic relationship between the cottages in the street and the former stocking mill building to the rear. The survival of the pend therefore adds interest as evidence of the cottage stocking industry which thrived in the village into the first half of the 19th century.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

While authenticity of material can be an important factor in assessing the significance of thatched buildings, buildings which have been repaired over time (perhaps with new roofing material or rethatched) can also be listed. The retention of the overall traditional character of vernacular buildings is therefore important in determining their special architectural or historic interest. The interest of these vernacular buildings is discussed in the Regional Variations section below.

The thatch on Leyden's Cottage has been renewed in recent decades, as is regularly required, and it was reinstated using traditional techniques and materials. Photographs on Canmore (Ref: 1273492 and 1629235) show that the thatched eyebrow dormer detail was added to the front of the roof between 1940 and 1975. These small change to the roof is not unusual and is reminiscent of English vernacular. It can be found at thatched cottages in Town Yetholm in the Scottish Borders and Camserney in Perth and Kinross.

Leyden's Cottage was restored at the end of the 19th century by the Edinburgh Border Counties Association using materials and methods that are characteristic of central Scotland and the borders. The current form of the building appears to be largely unchanged from that time. It retains a significant proportion of its 18th century vernacular character and fabric, such as the stepped level thatched roof and the thickness and irregularity of the rubble stone walls. The unusual larger windows were likely to have been added when the cottage was used for stocking making.

The building is a rare survival of a vernacular building in the village as well as the more widely in the Scottish Borders, and it has unusual design characteristics which add significantly to its interest.


Leyden's Cottage is built near the centre of the village overlooking the small green adjacent to the larger main village green. The houses set around the green are the earliest part of the village which was feued and laid out in the late 17th century. An ornate mid-19th century monument to the poet John Leyden is at the centre of the main green and acts as a focal point in the village.

Denholm is known to have been made up of predominantly thatched buildings into the late 18th century and Leyden's Cottage is the only surviving thatched building in the village.

Denholm was a centre for the stocking making cottage industry in the first half of the 19th century before the majority of the manufacturing moved to larger mills in Hawick. The resulting wealth from the stocking trade meant the village houses were improved and rebuilt over the mid and later 19th century. The varied styles and build dates of the houses around the village green show the prosperity and social development of this village from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century.

Leyden's Cottage is prominently sited just off the main green and makes an important contribution to its setting as it is the only thatched building from the 18th century which appears to be in a largely unchanged form. It is a surviving remaining example of a building that related to the history of stocking making in the village as well as jointly commemorating John Leyden with the nearby Leyden Monument.

Regional variations

The design and construction of a building, the method of thatching and the thatching material used was a distinctly localised practice. The best examples of local vernacular buildings will normally be listed because together they illustrate the importance of distinctive local and regional traditions.

The central and southern regions of Scotland have a history of diverse local thatching techniques. The industrial and agricultural revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries transformed areas of this region in a very short period of time and as a result relatively few thatch buildings survive. The majority of the thatched buildings in Denholm were replaced with stone and slate buildings in the mid to later 19th century as a result of the financial gains earned from the thriving stocking trade. Leyden's Cottage is the only building in the village that remains thatched after the redevelopments in the 19th century.

With the significant shift of people to towns and cities and improvements in transport and communication this region experienced a variety of thatching techniques and traditions. Central and lowland Scotland is also fairly well protected from the extreme weather prevailing in the Highlands and Islands. Consequently thatched roofs did not require heavy duty fixings to keep the thatch in place. The thatch was often secured down using pegs or wire netting. Leyden's Cottage roof does not have heavy fixings but the ridge is secured with chicken wire. The traditional thatching material in this area would have been oat straw, as was often the case across Scotland. Leyden's Cottage is thatched in reed with a turf ridge.

Its survival is unusual and its retention was likely in part because of the early recognition of its heritage interest. The association with John Leyden was commemorated by the restoration of the building in 1896. The thatched roof was not lost at that time and it has been maintained to the present day.

Close Historical Associations

Associations with nationally important people or events, where the structure or appearance of the building is also of some quality and interest, can be taken into account when listing a building. The association must be authentic and significant. The building should also reflect the person or event.

The poet and linguist Dr John Leyden (1775-1811) was born in this cottage, which is named after him. He was an enthusiastic learner renowned for a thirst for knowledge. He was particularly interested in language and poetry and made an important contribution to the recording of 18th century Scottish linguistics during his lifetime. He assisted the nationally important author, Sir Walter Scott, by finding material for the publication 'The Minstrelsy Of The Scottish Border'. Leyden established a pattern of writing modern imitations of historic works and this is believed to have inspired Scott.

Statutory address, category of listing changed from B to A and listed building record revised in 2019. Previously listed as 'Birthplace of Dr John Leyden'.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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