Press Castle and The Post Road

Press Castle and The Post Road

 

As you enjoy the peaceful scenery from Press Mains Farm Cottages, it's fascinating to think how different it would be now if the road had been maintained as it once was as the Great North road - the A1 of its day.

The main road from London, through Berwick to Edinburgh, and the route of the first ever coach into Scotland, ran directly from Ayton, to Cairncross, past Press Mains and through Old Cambus to Cockburnspath, the only road shown on the J. Blaeu's 17C map of Berwickshire.

Prior to 1803, a track - not suitable for wheeled vehicles existed.

Robert Carey carried the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth to James VI of Scotland from London to Edinburgh. It took 60 hours to complete the 400 miles. James departed with family, courtiers and hangers on for London - and was so disgusted with the state of the bridge over the Tweed at Berwick that he ordered the construction of the stone bridge still there today.

The road became quite busy with the carrying of official letters and documents and the demand for civilian letters saw the birth of the first postal service north of the border.

At Pease the road crossed the burn by a ford, which still exists, with precipitous inclines on either side. The construction of Pease Bridge which was at the time the highest bridge in the world at 130 feet above the water, enabled the first daily mail coaches to run between Edinburgh and London with a journey time of about 60 hours.

Horses were changed only once in Berwickshire - at Press.

The Press Inn, situated at the corner where you turn off to come down to the farm, was said to be a haven in the midst of the wastes of Coldingham Moor. The Post Office opened in 1768 and when the mail coaches started in 1786, it was at the Press Inn that horses were changed and the mail bag for Duns taken off.

But road users were not satisfied with the road. The narrow Dunglass Bridge still posed great problems for the coaches and the notorious Coldingham Moor was feared by all, being described as the most dangerous part of the road between London and Edinburgh.

By 1810 the road was moved to the present line of the A1, through Grantshouse and bypassing Reston. The Inn and Post Office at Press were closed in 1813. The Cockburnspath Hotel then went from strength to strength, handling all coach traffic including the mails from Edinburgh to Berwick.

All traces of Press Inn have now disappeared but until a few years ago there was a small building known as the Parcel Office standing next to the road. This is marked on the old map of the farm as Packet House and a sketch of it appears in a local history of Coldingham.

It can be sad to see some of the changes that have taken place over the years but, just think, the quiet road at the farm entrance might now be a dual carriageway !