A History of Gifford
Gifford, in the Parish of Yester is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon period. In the 17th century a large estate and farming community flourished after the first Marquess of Tweeddale had enclosed the Yester Estate with a 7 mile wall and laid out a park within it. He demolished the old settlement of Bothans which lay near his house, and the village grew outside the gates to accommodate estate workers. The name Gifford derives from a Norman family.
Gifford’s history began in the heart of what is now Yester Estate, at the old Yester Castle. The castle was built in 1267 for Sir Hugo de Gifard, reputed to be a wizard. The design of the castle included an underground grand hall, known as the Goblin Ha', believed to be built with the aid of magic. The village called Yester grew up around it over the following centuries, with the Gifford family marrying into the Hay family and the name of the landed gentry changing from then.
In the early 1700s, the Hays began to move the village of Yester towards what is its present day location and Yester Castle was abandoned by the Hays when they moved into Yester House, built between the castle and the new village in about 1750, and designed by William and Robert Adam.
The heart of the new village was, and remains, Yester Parish Church, the fine, white-harled church built in a T-plan with tower and spire. topped off by a spire, including the bell from the original parish church.
One of Gifford’s most famous sons is commemorated by a plaque on a wall near the church. John Witherspoon was one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence, and became the first president of Princeton University. Another nearby plaque commemorates the Labour Party politician John Pitcairn Mackintosh, buried in the nearby churchyard.
The village itself now incorporates the lime Avenue leading up to the gates of the Estate, its Village Hall with the mercat cross and old water pump in front of it, the Main Street leading up to the church, with the High Street running in parallel to the Avenue, with the Village Green and ‘Pound’ in between, given the heart of the village its green and spacious feel.