Though the village is not a great deal more than a 1929 kirk for the parish of the same name,
the area has two of the most important archaeological sites in the county, if not in the country.
Both are evidence of the extent of the Roman penetration of southern Scotland during the early centuries of the first
millennium AD (see Some Historical Background).
To the north-west of the village, the flat-topped Burnswark hill, an unmistakable landmark, is where in the 2nd century
the Roman army occupied an earlier Celtic hill-fort. No one knows for sure whether they took over an empty site or had to
lay siege to the previous occupants. More than just a fort to the Romans, Burnswark appears to have been used as a shooting practice range,
with the original Iron Age fort as the target.
To the south of the village, where the Middlebie Burn flows into the Mein Water, is the site of another Roman fort,
known locally as Birrens. To the Romans it was Blatobulgium. It lay along the Annandale section of the road network that the invaders
began engineering from their arrival in the late 1st century. Like many of the other Roman installations, Birrens was not continuously manned.
It was abandoned and re-built several times. From the 120s it served as an outpost of Hadrian's Wall, the frontier built from the Solway to the Tyne.
To the north of Middlebie is Scotsbrig, the farm that the writer Thomas Carlyle's
parents moved to from Ecclefechan after his father
gave up being a stonemason. During visits Carlyle was fond of taking long meditative walks round by Waterbeck.
The name of the steading has had an intriguing evolution: in the sixteenth century there was a small tower-house here with the name Godsbrigge.
At the farm the Carlyles had a servant whose illegitimate son became the painter William Ewart Lockhart, a favourite of Queen Victoria
(see The Artists).
Carlyle must have known and been suitably contemptuous of a somewhat lesser literary talent that flourished locally in the person of
Susannah Hawkins (1787-1868), the self-styled 'Annandale Poetess'. The daughter of a blacksmith from near Burnswark, she began her
working life as a dairymaid but in middle age took to the writing of what Frank Miller in The Poets of Dumfriesshire (1910)
dismisses as 'sad doggerel'. So comically na´ve was Miss Hawkins that she wrote of having been born 'near the famed camp of Burnswark,
where the brave Caledonians fought against the Roman Catholics'!
She persuaded the editor of the Dumfries Courier to publish some of her pieces and when the grandiosely titled The Poetical Works of Susannah Hawkins
appeared in 1829 the copies were snapped up.
A schoolmaster who employed her as a servant tried giving her grammar lessons, after which she is reputed to have
declared 'I'm a gran' grammarer noo!' She was sufficiently self-deluded to compare herself with Burns and after visiting his
monument in Ayrshire she reportedly exclaimed 'Hech, sirs, an' this is what they do wi' us when we are deid!'
Many more editions of her verses were published and she spent much of her old age on the road as her own sales rep,
until finally retiring to a property near her birthplace called Relief Cottage.