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Early History

The derivation of the name DUNS has been suggested as from the Celtic word DUN (a hill or a fort) or from the pure French DUNE, a sandhill and if the origin of the Town be of the Norman period, the second alternative is not unlikely, (c.f. DUNES, DUNEKIRK, DUNKIRK) and note the spelling of the name as DOWNES in the report by the historian, doubtless an Englishman, of the burning of the Town by the Earl of Hertford in 1545: also spelling DUNES WOODE in 1377.

The spelling of the name for a time was altered to Dunse at what date is not definitely known although the two forms did seem to alternate in preference over the years. It was decided to revert to the earliest spelling, Duns, at a public meeting on 25th. May 1882 although the later form of Dunse still lingers for instance in this Society and Dunse Masonic Lodge.


The date of the Town’s origins is uncertain. It may have been Saxon or even earlier but it would seem to be at any rate as early as Norman.

The first recorded mention of Duns occurs in 1150 when Hugh de Duns witnessed a grant of the Church of Langtune to the Abbey of Kelso. In a Charter in the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214) by Waldeve, Earl of Dunbar in favour of the Monks of Melrose conveying to them a common right of pasturage in Lammermuir, Hugo de Duns probably the above Hugh was one of the witnesses. Hugo has a Norman ring about it and certainly is basically French.

In 1296 the parson of Duns - persone de l’eglise de Douns- Henri de Lematon - swore fealty to Edward 1 at Berwick. Henri indicates French extraction, whatever more. Norman period existence would appear to receive conclusive evidence by the discovery in the walls of the Church building taken down in 1790 of pillars bearing traces of undoubted Norman workmanship.

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