Society problems

New direction for the old company in Kelso

The company campaigned to prevent Shedden Park from becoming a supermarket.

For nearly 50 years, the company has watched Kelso grow. It officially began in January 1975 (when its membership fee was set at £1 for full members and 25p for juniors) and its aims have not changed significantly since then.

These are: to stimulate public interest in and care for the beauty, history and character of the city and its surrounding district; encourage the preservation, development and improvement of elements of public interest or historical interest; and to encourage high standards of architecture and planning in Kelso and the District.

Over the years, the society has attracted as members those who care about the past history and the future development of the city. Initial meetings were held in First Vice President Hector Innes’ studio, which he generously made available to the society, before moving to Abbey Row Center when it was developed as a valued community center for the city.

In its early days, the company was heavily involved in the campaign to create a veritable museum for Kelso, which opened in 1986 at Turret House.

Among the exhibits were a number of items provided by the Amenity Society and a new society was formed – the Friends of Kelso Museum, to assist in its operation, however, financial constraints related to the cost of the building led the council to decide to close the museum.

A more enduring legacy of the society’s work is the Walter Scott Trail. The writer’s first major work, The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, was produced at the printing works of Scott’s old school friend, James Ballantyne, in Bridge Street.

The main activity of the society has always been to keep an eye on local developments and their possible impact on the town, relaying members’ feedback to the Scottish Borders Council when there is something of concern to them, giving special attention to the conservation area.

He has been involved in the redevelopment of old and derelict buildings between Bowmont and Roxburgh streets; the need for a second bridge over the Tweed to cope with increased traffic; the campaign to stop Shedden Park being turned into a supermarket; and the Townscape Heritage Initiative which improved the town centre.

However, the time has come for a change and the company is joining forces with an old ally.

A spokesperson for the Amenity Society said: ‘There have been difficulties in recent years attracting younger members to take up the challenge of protecting our town from bad development. Covid made the problem more acute as for nearly two years we could only meet via Zoom – a bit of a challenge for some of the older members.

“It led us to take the step of joining forces with the Kelso Heritage Society. Like us, they are interested in the history and heritage of the city and surrounding areas. At first, we were closely tied to its predecessor, the Friends of Kelso Museum. So it makes sense to partner with them, and we hope we can continue our work, as a committee of the Heritage Society, in continuing to care for the architecture and history of our beautiful old town.