History of the lands of Cardrona

At one time the lands of Cardrona were known as Easter Hopkailzie and are first mentioned as Cardrona – so named after a British fort ‘Caerdronnach’ that existed over the brow of the hill in 1465.

Govans of Cardrona

Seventy years later in 1534, Malcolm Lord Fleming, granted the lands of Cardrona to William Govan. However, the Govans had been associated with Cardrona since the 14th century, as in 1358, the eastern portion of ‘Hopkailzie’ is mentioned in association with Laurence of Govan, Sheriff of Peebles.

It seems probable that they built their new tower house at about the time that they came into official ownership of the lands and copied the border peel towers that already existed along the Tweed Valley. The tower would have reflected their wealth and standing, and formed part of the defensive system at a time when Border raids were both common and bloody.

Into the early 17th century, the Govans of Cardrona are mentioned in several documents which reflect the turbulent times and the strict reinforcements designed to bring peace by James VI. For example, in 1607, there is a complaint by the Privy Council that James Govan, proprietor of Cardrona, had been slain in a feud by John Scott, brother of Walter Scott of Tushielaw and that Scott had still not been brought to justice. Another, dated to a similar period, reports a complaint from John Govan of Cardrona denouncing some of his neighbours as rebels for the non-payment of 1200 merks, the outcome of which was that the King’s Guards were ordered to apprehend them.

Williamson family

In the 17th century (ca. 1685) the lands passed into the hands of the Williamson family, namely John Williamson of Hutcheonfield. Financial problems appear to be the reason that the Govans sold the land:

 ‘…William Govan and his son, John, labouring under the embarrassment of sundry heritable bonds for borrowed money, were under the necessity of relinquishing Cardrona to John Williamson, a principal creditor, who, on assuming possession, discharged a variety of encumbrances on the estate.’

The Govans were to die out by the early 19th century.

At some point after their acquisition of the lands, the Williamson family built a new house on the lower ground nearby; hence it is probable that Cardrona Tower was abandoned at this point. An inscribed stone with the date 1686 is built into the later house, which in its present form dates from a further rebuilding in 1840 (Historic Scotland 2010). The house stayed within the family (they later became the Kers) into the 20th century.