A rare unspoiled exampled in Scotland of a village planned around a green, Denholm (originally Denum) was first mentioned in historical records in 1296. Despite much turmoil – burned by Dacre’s men in 1535, plundered by the English in 1541, then burned again by the Earl of Heretsford’s men in 1545 – Denholm’s layout has remained much unchanged, with the present village plan dating to the 17th century. Its name may derive from Anglo-Saxon or Old English, meaning ‘river meadow by the narrow wooded valley’, or ‘at the valleys’, and most instances of the surname Denholm or Denholme probably originate with the village.
Though small in size, Denholm boasts two particularly famous sons. James A.H. Murray, primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) from 1879 until his death, was born at 3 Main Street in 1837 to a Hawick mother (then servant at the Dean Burn Cottage) and draper father. Leaving school at 14, he taught at Hawick Grammar School at the age of 17, before moving to London where in later life he would be called upon to work on the production of a new English language dictionary. Murray’s birthplace is commemorated by an unassuming plaque on Main Street. Denholm’s other famous son, John Leyden, was a poet and linguist, born to a shepherd father in a thatched cottage (still preserved) on the north-eastern corner of the village green. Leyden assisted Sir Walter Scott in the compilation of his ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders’, and composed much poetry himself, including his Scenes of Infancy which features many beautiful insights into Denholm life in the 18th century. The striking monument in the centre of the village green was erected fifty years after Leyden’s death, and paid for by public subscription in order to commemorate his life.
Denholm has long had its own primary school, which is accompanied around the village green by two pubs, a tearoom, restaurant, and local shops. One particularly quaint architectural feature can be found on Main Street, next to James A.H. Murray’s birthplace. The Text House is a two-storeyed building designed and constructed by its then owner, practicing physician Dr John Haddon, in 1910. It features two sets of plaques, reading: “Tak tent in time, ere time be tint”, and “All was others: all will be others.” The first reminds the reader to take care with time, or it will pass by quickly, and the second reminds the occupier that people lived in the house before them, and will continue after they leave.