First referred to in 1296 as the lands of Ragman Rolls signatory Johan de Harden, Harden House and the lands surrounding it passed from one family to another for many centuries, both into and out of the hands of the Scotts (its eventual owners). Sold to Robert Scott of Stirches for £100 Scots in 1501, Harden was confirmed as belonging to Sir Walter Scott of Branxholme in 1516. However, the Homes family retained superiority over the lands until well into the 16th century, full Scott ownership of Harden being achieved only in 1559, when sold to William Scott of Todrig and his son Walter (who would later become the infamous reiver Auld Wat of Harden). The current proprietor of Harden House and grounds is Lord Polwarth – a direct descendent of Auld Wat.
Harden House is poised dramatically above the deep ravine of Harden Burn, nicknamed ‘the Beeftub’ for its use as a hiding place for stolen cattle, the plunder of the Scotts of Harden’s reiving. The motto of the Scotts of Harden is ‘Reparabit Cornua Phoebe’, usually translated as ‘There will be moonlight again’ – referring to their reiving habit of riding out beneath the moonlight. Harden House was destroyed in 1592 on Royal order, by Walter Scott of Goldielands, as retribution for Auld Wat’s role in the Falkland Raid (an attempt by Bothwell and his supporters to capture King James VI and Falkland Palace). The present house is of 17th century construction, built on the site of (and incorporating parts from) the earlier building.
‘For Wat must go a-reiving as the Scotts hev always din
When the night is clear, the stars are oot, and the moon shines bright again.
When the summertime has ended, and the nights ir drawin in,
When the leaves fa’ frae the Harden trees oo feel the urge again
Ti saddle up and gallop off, like oor sires in days gone by,
Across the hills ti Cumberland in search o English kye.
Nae soond o’ lowin’ cattle frae the Beeftub ‘neath the toor
Means Harden’s kitchen’s larder’s got nithin in’t but stoor,
And Mary’s less than subtle hint o’ spurs upon the plate
Means Wat and his bold retinue must tak the Border gate.’
- Wat Must Go A Reiving, ‘A Reiver’s Moon’ by Alan G. Brydon and Ian W. Landles 2009
‘Ho! for the blades of Harden!
Ho! for the driven kye!
The broken gate and the lances’ hate
And a banner red on the sky!
The rough road runs by the Carter
The white foam creams on the rein
Ho! for the blades of Harden!
“There will be moonlight again!”’
- Ho! for the blades of Harden, by Will H. Ogilvie