A PEEBLES historian has gone upmarket in her quest to discover the Royal Burgh's past.

Sandy Whitnell has previously researched and documented the depravity suffered in the town at the Peebles Poorhouse.

From the late 1850s the Combination Poorhouse on Rosetta Road was home to many down-on-their-luck locals.

In a bid to find some balance, Sandy went from rags to riches with her next project - and has now charted the history of the glamorous Tontine Hotel.

From her initial 3,000 word essay for a local history meeting, she decided to investigate the High Street hostelry even further.

And this month The Public Rooms of the County has been published.

The 64-page booklet provides readers with a remarkable journey from the hotel's grand opening in 1808 all the way through to its popular place on today's High Street.

Sandy told us: "It was after I'd done my talk on the Peebles poorhouse that I wanted to go to the other extreme and see where the wealthy were staying at the time.

"It seemed such a shame that the history of The Tontine Hotel hadn't been done before, so I initially wrote up 3,000 words.

"That was just the start."

There were three prominent figures involved in the creation of the Tontine Hotel - local MP Sir John Montgomery, banker John Hay, and army captain Robert Nutler Campbell.

Their aspirations for a prominent high-class hotel in Peebles led to 75 people purchasing shares to fund the project.

Tontine, named after Italian economist Tonti, derives from the type of investment plan used.

The Tontine was built at a cost of £2,830 - around £218,000 in today's money - and the doors were opened in 1808.

From its early days The Tontine was a popular meeting place for many organisations and societies in and around Peebles.

It was also a busy destination for travellers arriving by coach and horse, with its stables being well used, in the days before the railway reached the town.

And it wasn't just horses who were stabled at the Tontine, with reports from 1856 of an elephant from Batty's Travelling Menagerie dying while being kept at the Tontine.

The Public Rooms of the County highlights the grandeur offered with the magnificent ballroom regarded as its crowning glory.

Sanday's enjoyable book also introduces readers to the vast array of characters who managed the hotel - from Frenchman Benoit Lenoir at the height of the Napoleonic wars and entrepreneurial James Cameron to the bullish Thomas Noble and heroic Duncan McPherson - until its sale into private ownership in the 1890s.

The purchase by William Borthwick and Duncan McPherson ended the Tontine arrangement, but the premises kept the name.

Although the hotel was sold to a national chain in 1920, it returned to private ownership more recently with the current proprietors Kate and Gordon Innes.

Author Sandy admits she struck gold during her research with an enquiry at the National Records office in Edinburgh.

She added: "The officer at the National Records produced three unopened boxes full of original documents relating to the hotel.

"It was an absolute treasure trove for any historian and has helped me produce a very detailed history of this much-loved hotel."

The Public Rooms of the County, priced at £5, is available from The Tontine Hotel as well as Amazon.

All profits from the sale of The Public Rooms of the County will be shared between the Peebles Foodbank and the Peebles Community Talking Books project.