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The History of the Blackadder Mains Cottage

The cottage at Blackadder Mains was originally two farm workers cottages (No 1 & 2 Blackadder Mains Cottages). The cottages lay empty from 1979 to 1981 and I bought No 2 in 1990 and then purchased No 1 in 1991 and embarked on their reconstruction and refurbishment from April 1992, finally moving in May 1993. Shortly after this the property was listed Grade C by Historic Scotland. The cottages were built in 1865 of sandstone with a decorative slate roof, I heard from a local farmer that the owners nearly bankrupted themselves in the process. The farm of Blackadder Mains along with Blackadder Bank, Blackadder West and Blackadder Mount and the nearby village of Allanton were all originally part of the Blackadder Estate which surrounded Blackadder House, above the Blackadder River near the village of Allanton. In the early part of the 20th Century the estate was owned by a family called Houston Boswall. who sold it off in the 1920s. I have seen a copy of the particulars for the sale and it was quite a magnificent place.

A story I have heard locally was that Mr Houston Boswall was killed in the Great War and his young widow was left with the estate of five and a half thousand acres and a sum of £40,000. Once the cash was gone she started to sell off the land. She had the roof of the house removed to avoid paying taxes and it was finally blown up in 1931 or 1932 (I am told she did not want anyone else to live in it). Little remains of the house other than a folly walkway with stone balustrade which was at the back of the house below ground level, cut into the rock of a cliff face that overlooks the river Blackadder below. Where the house was a wood was planted. Below the folly on the bank of the river the remains of the hydro electric power house is still visible (Blackadder House was reputedly the first in Berwickshire to have electric lighting).

The Gardener's Cottage and Butler's Cottage still remain as do three walls of the old walled gardens which are fairly derelict now. There are magnificent listed iron gates half way down one wall along with the remnants of one of the old glass houses and the room above where the nuns would sit and read and knit looking out over the numerous garden staff working below. There are lodge cottages at South Lodge (where there are some fine listed iron gates with stone, lion-topped gate posts), the two small East Lodges in Allanton Village itself and the North Lodge just west from the bridge over the Blackadder river at the north of Allanton Village.

The house was serviced by a small army of servants, many of whom were housed in the village. Berwickshire was once described as "The Home of the Stately Home" and within a mile of Blackadder House lay Allanbank House (which was the Dower House to Blackadder) and Kelloe House, both of which, I am sad to say, are no more.

'Adder' is from the old English word 'awedur', meaning 'running water' or 'stream'. There is mention of Blakadir de Eodem (of that ilk) holding lands in the earldom of March in 1426.

The Boswall Family

During the nineteenth century the Estate was owned by the Boswall family and a Robert Boswall was chosen by a childless relative, Dr. Alexander Boswall, to be heir to the estate of Blackadder. To prepare him for this responsibility, Robert was placed in the Royal Navy and a fiance, Lady Lucy Ann Preston, was chosen for him. However, Robert did well at sea aboard the H.M. Queen Charlotte, and when his captain died at sea he was bidden to take care of the widow and her daughter. He was stationed at the Royal Navy Garrison in Gibraltar, in command of the British Gunship Cacafogo during English hostilities with Spain, when he married his former Captain's daughter. Dr Boswall disinherited him for disobeying his wishes and marrying someone other than Lady Lucy, and Lady Lucy was given to another cousin, Thomas Boswall, who did inherit. Although the Blackadder estate was sold finally by his descendants, when Euphemia Boswall inherited it in 1830 she was considered to be one of the richest heiresses in Britain.

The family became embroiled in the constant Borders' feuds and extended their lands by grants from James II, bestowed as a reward for repelling English raids with great ferocity. The Borders holdings of Blackadder of that Ilk were taken into the family of Home (now the Home Robertson family) by the marriage of Beatrix and her younger sister, the only heirs of their father Robert, to younger sons of Home of Wedderburn in 1518 (Wedderburn Castle is still owned by his descendent, Georgina Home-Robertson). According to Anderson, this was achieved in the following manner: 'Andrew Blackadder followed the standard of Douglas at Flodden in 1513 and was slain along with two hundred gentlemen of that name on that disastrous field leaving a widow and two daughters, Beatrix and Margaret, who at the time were mere children. From the unprotected state of Robert's daughters, the Homes of Wedderburn formed a design of seizing the lands of Blackadder.

They began by cutting off all within their reach whose affinity was dreaded as an hereditary obstacle. They attacked Robert Blackadder, the Prior of Coldingham, and assassinated him. His brother, the Dean of Dunblane, shared the same fate. Various others were dispatched in like manner. They then assaulted the Castle of Blackadder (which was sited somewhere on the land that is now Blackadder Mains and was destroyed in the early 1500's when the English, under the command of Surrey, invaded Scotland) where the widow and her two young daughters resided.

The garrison refused to surrender but the Homes succeeded in obtaining possession of the fortress, seized the widow and her children, compelling them to the marriage by force. The two daughters were contracted to younger sons, John and Robert in 1518 and as they were only in their eighth year, they were confined in the Castle of Blackadder until they became of age.

Whatever the truth of this story, the Home possession of the estates was challenged by a cousin, Sir John Blackadder, who held the lands of Tulliallan. Sir John sought assistance from Parliament but, as was so often the case at that time, the matter was ultimately resolved by steel. Sir John Blackadder was beheaded in March 1531 for the murder of the Abbot of Culross in a dispute over land. He was succeeded in the barony of Tulliallan by his brother Patrick, who again renewed his dispute against the Homes for the family lands. Again, Anderson accused the Homes of treachery in the story of Patrick's murder in an ambush near Edinburgh, where he was to meet the Homes to try to resolve their differences. The Blackadders thereafter relinquished their claim to the Borders lands, and Sir John Home was created, Baronet, of Blackadder in 1671.