Shop in the Close

Shop in the Close

Halliwell's House Museum

Halliwell's House Museum


Halliwell's House Museum is situated in the very atmospheric Halliwell's Close. The narrow, cobbled lane with outhouses, which was formerly gas-lit and was typical of many such Closes in Selkirk, has a compelling history dating back over 400 years. The museum building itself dates from the end of the 18th century and is part of what is probably the oldest surviving row of dwellings in the historic town of Selkirk. Halliwell's House and Close take their name from Robert Halliwell who was a wig maker who owned buildings in the Close at the beginning of the 18th century. Records dating from the 1600s indicate many different trades have thrived in Halliwell's Close down the centuries: weavers, fleshers (butchers), ironmongers, tailors, bakers, coopers (barrel makers), shoemakers and others. The museum tells the story of life in Halliwell's Close as well as the wider story of Selkirk's fascinating history.


Selkirk was formerly the county town of Selkirkshire. Selkirk is one of the oldest Royal Burghs in Scotland and is the site of the earliest settlements in what is now the Scottish Borders. The town's name means "church in the forest" from the Old English sele ("hall" or "manor") and cirice ("church"). Selkirk is the site of the first Borders abbey; however the community of Tironensian monks moved to Kelso during the reign of King David I. In 1113, King David I granted Selkirk large amounts of land. William Wallace was declared guardian of Scotland in the town. Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Marquess of Montrose and the Outlaw Murray all had connections with the town. Selkirk grew up because of its woollen industry, although now that industry has ceased, leaving little in its wake. The town is best known for bannocks, a dry fruit cake. The town has associations with Mungo Park (explorer); James Hogg ("The Ettrick Shepherd"), a local poet and writer; and Sir Walter Scott, a writer of romances in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is also home to Scotland's oldest horse racing track, the Gala Rig, on the outskirts of the town. It was supposedly in the church at Selkirk, supported by nobles and clergy, that William Wallace was declared Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland. However this is disputed; the old lands of Mauldslie near Rosebank are also reputed to be where Wallace was declared Guardian. Mauldslie Castle was built on the lands of Forest Kirk.


Selkirk men fought with Wallace at Stirling Brig and Falkirk, and also with Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, but it is Selkirk's connection with the Battle of Flodden in 1513, her response to the call of the King, the brave bearing of her representatives on the fatal field, and the tragic return of the sole survivor, that provide the Royal Burgh with its proudest and most maudlin memories: the celebration of a five-hundred-year-old defeat. Only one man, "Fletcher", returned from the battle, bearing a blood-stained English flag belonging to the Macclesfield regiment. During the series of conflicts that would become known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Selkirk played host the Royalist army of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, with his cavalry installed in the burgh, whilst the Royalist infantry were camped at the plain of Philiphaugh, below the town. On the morning of 13 September 1645, a covenanting army led by Sir David Leslie attacked the royalist forces camped at Philiphaugh, and a rout ensued. Montrose arrived to find his army in disarray and had to the flee the field, eventually leading to his exile. The action at Philiphaugh is infamous for the massacre by the Covenanters of up to 500 surrendered Royalist troops and camp followers — including many women and children. Sir Walter Scott was appointed Sheriff Deputy of the County of Selkirk in 1799, and was based in the Royal Burgh's courthouse in the town square. The Sir Walter Scott Way from Moffat to Cockburnspath passes through Selkirk.


The Selkirk Common Riding is a celebration of the history and traditions of the Royal and Ancient Burgh. Held on the second Friday after the first Monday in June, the ceremony is one of the oldest in the area, with 300-400 riders, Selkirk boasts one of the largest cavalcades of horses and riders in Europe.[citation needed] Selkirk still owns common land to the north and south of the town, but only the northern boundary of Linglie is ridden on the day. The Riding commemorates how, from the eighty men that left the town to fight in the Battle of Flodden, only one – Fletcher - returned, bearing a captured English flag. Legend has it that he cast the flag about his head to indicate that all the other men of Selkirk had been cut down. At the climax of the day the Royal Burgh Standard Bearer and Crafts and Associations Standard Bearers cast their colours in Selkirk's ancient market place.


The Standard Bearer is chosen from the eligible unmarried young men of the town who have applied for the post by the trustees of the Common Riding Trust, successors to the old Selkirk Town Council which disappeared in the local government reorganisation in 1975. He will normally have served his time as an Attendant to previous Standard Bearers. He is introduced on Appointment Night, the last Friday in April. He is carried shoulder high round the town, accompanied by bands and the crowds of locals. There follow many civic duties in preparation for the main event, and participation in other town common ridings and festivities, including Spurs Night when the Standard Bearer and attendants meet the principals of Galashiels at Galafoot and receive a pair of spurs at a dinner in Galashiels.


The museum is on two floors. The upper level can be accessed via the stairway or lift, which is suitable for wheelchair users. There are no toilet facilities, though public toilets adjoin the building.There is a free, large public car park which adjoins the building.. Assistance dogs are welcome:


Location : Market Place, Selkirk, Selkirkshire, TD7 4BL

Transport: Tweedbank (Scotrail) then bus (72). Bus Routes : 72, 73, 95, 128, 396, S05 and X95 stop outside.

Opening Times : 25th March - 30th October, Monday-Saturday, 11:00 to 16:00; Sunday 12:00 to 15:00

Tickets : Free admission though donations are welcomed.

Tel. : 01750 726456