A new book has been written on the history of Galashiels and this is a portion of a news release from Historic Scotland:
“Historic Galashiels: Archaeology and Development charts the events that shaped the town from the formation of a valley by the movement of ice sheets through to the social, economic and architectural impact of its becoming the Scottish centre for tweed manufacture.
Authors Martin Rorke, Dennis Gallagher, Charles McKean, Patricia Dennison and Gordon Ewart have brought together the perspectives of historians and archaeologists to offer a new look at the town.
They recount archaeological evidence for settlements dating back to the Neolithic period, and building work in Gala Park in 1878-79 uncovered evidence of Bronze Age burials. Iron age hillforts and Roman roads predate the urban settlement that grew from the 14th century.
The old red sandstone that is common to the Tweed basin can be seen in nearby Melrose Abbey but you are more likely to see greywacke whinstone used in the town’s historic architecture. In 1849 the arrival of the railway offered alternative building materials -brick or sandstone- and coal for steam power that injected new energy into the wool trade and so intensified urban development.
The woollen industry affected everything from the town’s water channels and housing to society in general. A weavers corporation formed in 1666 championed better regulation of the trade and four-year apprenticeships. The book catalogues the mills that contributed enormously to the town’s prosperity, explains what can be learned from their industrial archaeology and recounts the architectural character -as defined by churches, schools, houses and shops- of different parts of the town.
Today Gala has less reliance on the woollen industry and has seen a diversification in employment, and retail uses at many mill sites, but Heriot Watt’s School of Textiles and Design ensures that innovation in textiles continues in Galashiels.”
“The name Galashiels is a mix of two parts: Gala may originate in the Cumbric ‘gal gwy’ meaning clear stream; ‘shiel’, derived from a Scandinavian language, means shelter.”