Melrose Masonic Lodge
The Lodge of Melrose St John is located where High Street joins Market Square and is reputed to be the joint oldest such institution in Scotland. It is said that the masons who founded the Lodge, which was originally sited in Newstead, worked on the Abbey during its early stages of construction. The lodge moved to Melrose in 1791.
On December 27, St John the Evangelist's Feast Night, the Freemasons of the town and from further afield take part in the "Masons Walk", a torch-light procession. This involves walking around the Mercat Cross three times led by a band playing "The Merry Masons". From here the band leads the procession to the Abbey where a short service and ceremony is held. Afterwards they return to their Lodge for a social event.
The plan of the town centre has changed little over the years although the buildings certainly have. Until the 17th century, most domestic buildings in Scottish towns were thatched. However, in 1681 a Parliamentary Act was passed which stipulated that roofing material should be "lead, slate, scailzie, or tile and not otherwise". This was in an attempt to stop fire spreading from building to building. To the rear of the houses were the "backlands" or gardens, which were roughly three times as long as they were broad and these would sometimes contain a private well. Here the householders would have grown some produce and kept animals and even carried out industrial activity on a small scale. Before an effective public sewage system was introduced, the backlands would also have contained a cesspit, hopefully a fair distance from the well.
Today, Market Square has many interesting buildings. For example there is the former Corn Exchange which now contains a gent's outfitters. This was designed in the early 1860s in a Scots Jacobean style by David Cousins, who used to be the City Architect for Edinburgh. On the building you can see the carved initials of the architect and also MFC, standing for Melrose Farmers' Club.
Scailzie, pronounced 'scailyie' - stone shingles.
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