Mercat Cross (1). Start the Town Trail by the Mercat Cross in the Market Square. For a Scottish town or village, the Mercat Cross was a symbol of its trading status. Around it, public markets and fairs were held and proclamations made. Another function played by the Cross was as a site of punishment, public humiliation being common practice before the 19th century.
Duns' Mercat Cross is located in a prominent position on the south side of Market Square but when it was erected in 1792 it was on the north side. The markets of Duns were held weekly on a Wednesday. The Cross was taken down in 1820 to make way for the Town House, which was in turn demolished in 1966. The Cross was re-erected in the Public Park in 1897 where it remained until 1994 when it was returned to Market Square as part of an improvement scheme for the area.
John Stewart, Duke of Albany was the Governor of Scotland from 1515 to 1524. During this time the Earl of Home - then the warden of the Eastern Marches - was decoyed along with his brother to attend a Parliament in Edinburgh. In response to their rebellion to Albany they were beheaded and their heads affixed to public places. In place of the Earl, Albany appointed a French knight named De La Bastie as Warden. The Homes were incensed by this treatment of their relatives. De La Bastie met Wedderburn (who was related to the dead men) about two miles from Kelso on 20 September 1517 and as a result of the Homes besieging Langton Castle, an altercation took place. The Warden took flight with Wedderburn and his followers in full pursuit. Once caught, De La Bastie was killed, his head was cut off and it displayed at the Mercat Cross.
On 20 October 1715, General Mackintosh stopped in Duns with a party of Highland soldiers. This delegation was part of the unsuccessful attempt to restore the Stuart monarchy and the General duly proclaimed James VIII as King. The venture failed and James spent the rest of his life in France.
From the Cross, head along Easter Street between the two banks. Notice the way the street is framed by the two buildings. On the right is the Bank of Scotland dating from the early 20th century. This has a distinctly Scottish feel to it with the narrow windows and piended slated roof. On the left is the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was designed by Peddie & Kinnear in 1857. If you look carefully, you can see the initials PK carved on the top left quoin . This is a strong looking block, which is influenced by Italian architecture. The bank was built on the site of the Red Lion Inn and the manager originally had his residence on the upper floors. Notice as you walk along the street, the brick chimneystacks that are common in the Borders. Brick was used for chimneys as it is better able to cope with the harsh conditions caused by smoke from coal and wood fires than is stone.
You should turn right where Easter Street meets Currie Street. On the opposite side of the road is the former Duns South Church dating from 1851, now a carpet salesroom. Opposite the church is a small lane that rises slightly from Currie Street. This passes beside the church hall and into Church Square.