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An Introduction to Coldstream

Coldstream, the Gateway to Scotland and the First True Border Toon, is situated on the banks of the beautiful River Tweed, which forms a natural boundary between Scotland and England.

Birthplace of the Coldstream Guards, the town is proud of the fact that it still retains strong links with the oldest regular British regiment in continual existence, the only one today that is named after a town. The Guards’ motto remains Nulli Secundus or Second to None, which is what we aim to offer you in the way of care and sensitivity as you plan your special day.

Coldstream enjoys a long tradition of couples coming here to mark their lifelong commitment to one another. At the Scottish end of Coldstream Bridge is the 18th- century Toll House or Old Marriage House, which today is a private dwelling. In the 19th century, Coldstream rivalled Gretna Green as a wedding venue for hundreds of couples wishing to take advantage of Scottish marriage laws, which were more lenient than those in England. These allowed couples to get married without their parents’ consent, prior public notice or residential qualifications. Sometimes this led to ‘runaway’ elopements, with parents in hot pursuit of the bridal pair fleeing across the Border from England to tie the knot; at other times the motive for either Scots or English couples was simply to get married with no expense, publicity or family interference.

Such marriages were held mostly in the Marriage House but also in public houses like the Newcastle Arms. They were conducted for a fee by so-called ‘priests’ (shoemakers, mole-catchers and the like), who had no qualifications but saw an opportunity to make a lucrative living out of the practice. They provided witnesses and entered their names in ‘registers’, comparatively few of which have survived.

The most celebrated ‘priests’ at Coldstream were William Armstrong and William Dickson; it is known that no less than 1,466 couples were married by Dickson alone over a period of 13 years. It is said that five earls and at least two Lord Chancellors of England took advantage of this legal loophole before the law was changed in 1856. Ironically, the Parliamentary Bill that did this was sponsored by Lord Brougham, a Scot who had himself been married at Coldstream under the previous law.

Coldstream Bridge, with a its magnificent span of five arches, bears a plaque commemorating the time that Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet, returned to Coldstream from Northumberland in 1787. Burns is, of course, famous throughout the world as the author of not just Auld Lang Syne but also of some of the most romantic poems and songs ever written, notably My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose.

Other literary connections with Coldstream are to be found at nearby Lennel House, which is now a nursing home. Children's writer and artist Beatrix Potter stayed here in 1894, when her parents rented it as a holiday home for the summer months. Poet and writer Siegfried Sassoon recovered here in 1918, after it had been converted into a private convalescent home for officers during World War I by its owners, Lady Clementine and Major Walter Waring.

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