The village of Morebattle can be found in remote upland countryside some 8 miles north east of Jedburgh, 6 miles south east of Kelso and 3½ miles south west of Town Yetholm. It stands in the crook of a sharp turn in the Kale Water, a river which rises in the Cheviots to the south and turns at Morebattle to head west towards its confluence with the River Teviot.
Given its remote location, it comes as something of a surprise to find Morebattle is a fairly substantial village. In many ways, what you see today can be viewed as the end product of continuous settlement in the area that dates back two millennia to the iron age, and probably further. Being on the north western edge of the Cheviots means the landscape becomes increasingly hilly as you head south, and a look at the map reveals that many of these hills are topped off by traces of settlements and forts, including Morebattle Hill, immediately to the south of the village.
Being so close to the often troubled border between Scotland and England probably made this a dangerous place at times. This helps explain the presence of Cessford Castle two miles to the west and dating back to the 1400s; Corbet Tower ¾ of a mile to the south and dating back to the 1500s; and Whitton Tower two miles to the south west and dating back to the 1600s.
It is tempting to think that the name of the village dates back to these turbulent times. In fact it seems to have much earlier origins, from the Anglo-Saxon mere-bodl meaning "the house by the lake". The lake in question lay in the river valley to the north of today's Morebattle, and was drained in the 1800s.
Eventually the border areas did settle down a little, and when Timothy Pont visited in about 1590 he found this area sufficiently well populated to support the five mills operating on the Kale Water upstream of Morebattle, with another a mile and a half downstream at what is still called Caverton Mill.
Today's Morebattle has a solid feel that perhaps reflects its long development. The village has Church of Scotland and Baptist churches, a village hall, an institute (in the old school) and a primary school. It also has a post office, a village store and a butcher, while the Templehall Inn serves food and drink. The last of these is probably especially welcome to those following the St Cuthbert's Way long distance path which comes through the village en route from Melrose to Lindisfarne.
Growing through the pavement of the Main Street close to the Morebattle Institute is a tree surrounded by a railing which carries an intriguing plaque. It records the planting of what has since become known as the Trysting Tree on 13 July 1947 "to commemorate the first meeting between the Kelso Laddie and Jethcart Callant and their followers." This reflects Morebattle's role as the place where on one day each year, the Common Ridings of Kelso and Jedburgh meet, under the leadership of their principals, the Kelso Laddie and Jethcart Callant. The meeting symbolises the two town's joint role in opposing Border Reivers during more troubled times. The two groups of mounted visitors are formally welcomed by the community of Morebattle and singing and dancing then follows before the two parties remount and return to their respective towns.
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