Discover the life of Sir Walter Scott and the history of Selkirk at Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom. Built in 1803 as the Sheriff Court, this is where Sir Walter Scott, author of such classics as The Heart of Midlothian and Rob Roy, dispensed justice to the people of Selkirkshire. The visitor can explore Scott's life, his writings and his time as sheriff. Displays tell the story of 'The Ettrick Shepherd' James Hogg and explorer Mungo Park.
The son of a Writer to the Signet (solicitor), Scott was born in 1771 in his Presbyterian family's third-floor flat on College Wynd in the Old Town of Edinburgh, a narrow alleyway leading from the Cowgate to the gates of the University of Edinburgh (Old College). He survived a childhood bout of polio in 1773 that left him lame, a condition that was to have a significant effect on his life and writing. To cure his lameness he was sent in 1773 to live in the rural Scottish Borders at his paternal grandparents' farm at Sandyknowe, adjacent to the ruin of Smailholm Tower, the earlier family home. Here he was taught to read by his aunt Jenny, and learned from her the speech patterns and many of the tales and legends that characterised much of his work. In January 1775 he returned to Edinburgh, and that summer went with his aunt Jenny to take spa treatment at Bath in England, where they lived at 6 South Parade. In the winter of 1776 he went back to Sandyknowe, with another attempt at a water cure at Prestonpans during the following summer.
On a trip to the Lake District with old college friends he met Charlotte Genevieve Charpentier (or Carpenter), daughter of Jean Charpentier of Lyon in France, and ward of Lord Downshire in Cumberland, an Episcopalian. After three weeks of courtship, Scott proposed and they were married on Christmas Eve 1797 in St Mary's Church, Carlisle (a church set up in the now destroyed nave of Carlisle Cathedral). After renting a house in George Street, they moved to nearby South Castle Street. They had five children, of whom four survived by the time of Scott's death, most baptized by an Episcopalian clergyman. In 1799 he was appointed Sheriff-Depute of the County of Selkirk, based in the Royal Burgh of Selkirk. In his early married days Scott had a decent living from his earnings at the law, his salary as Sheriff-Depute, his wife's income, some revenue from his writing, and his share of his father's rather meagre estate.
James Hogg (1770 – 21 November 1835) was a Scottish poet, novelist and essayist who wrote in both Scots and English. As a young man he worked as a shepherd and farmhand, and was largely self-educated through reading. He was a friend of many of the great writers of his day, including Sir Walter Scott, of whom he later wrote an unauthorized biography. He became widely known as the "Ettrick Shepherd", a nickname under which some of his works were published. Born on a small farm near Ettrick, Scotland in 1770 and was baptized there on 9 December, his actual date of birth having never been recorded. His father, Robert Hogg (1729–1820), was a tenant farmer while his mother, Margaret Hogg (née Laidlaw) (1730–1813), was noted for collecting native Scottish ballads. Margaret Laidlaw's father, known as Will o' Phawhope, was said to have been the last man in the Border country to speak with the fairies.
Mungo Park (11 September 1771 – 1806) was a Scottish explorer of West Africa. He was the first Westerner known to have travelled to the central portion of the Niger River, and his account of his travels is still in print. Mungo Park was born in Selkirkshire, Scotland, at Foulshiels on the Yarrow Water, near Selkirk, on a tenant farm which his father rented from the Duke of Buccleuch. He was the seventh in a family of thirteen. On 26 September 1794 Mungo Park offered his services to the African Association, then looking for a successor to Major Daniel Houghton, who had been sent in 1790 to discover the course of the Niger River and had died in the Sahara. On 22 May 1795, Park left Portsmouth, England, on the brig Endeavour, a vessel trading to the Gambia for beeswax and ivory. On 21 June 1795, he reached the Gambia River and ascended it 200 miles to a British trading station named Pisania. On 2 December, accompanied by two local guides, he started for the unknown interior. He chose the route crossing the upper Senegal basin and through the semi-desert region of Kaarta. The journey was full of difficulties, and at Ludamar he was imprisoned by a Moorish chief for four months. On 1 July 1796, he escaped, alone and with nothing but his horse and a pocket compass, and on the 21st reached the long-sought Niger River at Ségou, being the first European to do so. He followed the river downstream 80 miles to Silla, where he was obliged to turn back, lacking the resources to go further.
The building is on one floor and accessible to disabled visitors. Public steps up to the entrance at the side of the building have to be negotiated prior to reaching the ramp at the rear of the building. There are toilet facilities including a disabled toilet. There is a large, free public car park 60 yards from the building Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Sir Walter Scott's Courtroom, Market Place, Selkirk, Selkirkshire TD7 4BT
Transport: Tweedsdale (ScotRail) then bus (X95). Bus Routes : 72, 73, 95, 128, 396 and X95 stop outside
Opening Times : 29th March - 1st October, Monday to Friday, 10:00 to 16:00; Weekends 11:00 to 15:00
Tickets : Free
Tel : 01750 726456