New direction for old society in Kelso

The society campaigned to stop Shedden Park from becoming a supermarket.The society campaigned to stop Shedden Park from becoming a supermarket.
The society campaigned to stop Shedden Park from becoming a supermarket.
Like a number of other societies, Kelso and District Amenity Society says it is struggling to recruit new younger members and is looking at a different way forward.

For nearly 50 years, the society has watched over how Kelso was developing. It came into existence formally in January 1975 (when its subscription was set at £1 for full members and 25p for juniors) and its aims since then have not significantly changed.

They are: to stimulate public interest in, and care for, the beauty, history and character of the town and its surrounding district; to encourage the preservation, development and improvement of features of general public amenity or historic interest; and to encourage high standards of architecture and planning in Kelso and the district.

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Over the years the society has attracted as members those who care about the past history and future development of the town. Early meetings were held in first vice-chairman Hector Innes’s studio which he generously made available for the society’s use, before moving to the Abbey Row Centre, when it was developed as a valuable community centre for the town.

In its early days the society was heavily involved in the campaign to set up a proper museum for Kelso, which opened its doors in 1986 in Turret House.

Among the exhibits were a number of items supplied by the Amenity Society and a new society was formed – the Friends of Kelso Museum, to assist in its running, however, financial restraints linked to the cost of the building led to the council deciding to close the museum.

A more durable 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 printworks of Scott’s old school friend James Ballantyne in Bridge Street.

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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' comments to Scottish Borders Council when there is something which concerns them, paying particular attention to the Conservation Area.

It 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 heavier traffic; the campaign to prevent Shedden Park from being turned into a super-market; and the Townscape Heritage Initiative which saw the town centre improved.

However, now is the time for change, and the society 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 on the challenge of protecting our town from bad developments. Covid made the problem more acute as for nearly two years we could only meet by Zoom – a bit of a challenge for some of the oldest members.

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“This has led us to take the step of joining forces with Kelso Heritage Society. Like us, their interest is in the history and heritage of the town and the surrounding area. In the early days we were closely linked to its predecessor the Friends of Kelso Museum. So it makes sense to link up with them, and we hope to be able continue our work, as a committee of the Heritage Society, continuing to care for our fine old town's architecture and history.”

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