Borders History


The Scottish Borders and North Northumberland, bordered by The River Tweed were originally part of the same region inhabited by the Celtic Britons and are rich in history. From Ancient Times the area has experienced much turbulence and unrest and has been the battlefield for may rulers struggling to claim or reclaim the region. The results are evident in the shape of Stone Age remains, Iron Age hill forts, Castles,Towers, Abbeys, Priories and Ancient bridges. 

The rolling hills and lush river valleys provided food and shelter and strategic points of defence against enemies. In addition to defending themselves against foreign armies and invaders the borderland were ravaged by wars and skirmishes between the Scottish and English. The area, fought over many times by rulers and their armies was also plagued by it’s own Border Rievers.

Today the area is a peaceful unspoilt part of Great Britain. Although different countries the region is joined by its beauty and history and will forever remain intertwined. 

The region was inhabited back in the Neolithic Times with evidence of stone circles in the Cheviot Hills and lowland areas. A fine example with the Duddo Five Stones. Traces of late Stone Age and Bronze Age habitation has also been discovered in the Lammermuir Hills, The Cheviot Hills and to the west in Peebles. The Iron Age saw the construction of defensive hill forts, the remans of some of these can be seen today in the Cheviot Hills, Lammermuir Hills and Eildon Hills. 

The Roman Invasion in 43AD saw the construction of roads linking trading towns within the country. Once towns were built and a transport system established the Romans moved northwards. Dere Street was built from York, through the Northeast to Scotland, as a line of military communication and supply. This road ran through The Cheviot Hills to Melrose before passing the foot of the Lammermuir Hills and on to Edinburgh. Near Melrose is Trimontium, an old Roman fort constructed in 80AD. The fort was initially used as a focal point for locals and Romans for trade and transport. Other smaller Roman camps and settlements were established, particularly at strategic crossing points on the banks of the rivers, such as Norham. 

Hadrians Wall was constructed in 122AD running from the East Coast on the banks of the River Tyne to The Solway Firth in the west. The wall marked the northern limit of the Roman Empire and was designed to keep out the unconquerable Ancient Britons in the north. Although Trimontium continued to be used by the Romans in their attempt to conquer the north by 137AD the fort was deserted, the Roman occupiers retreating south of Hadrians Wall. 

After the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain in 410AD the Angles and Saxons, from Northwest Germany and the Jutes from Souther Denmark first raided and then settled in the country. These became known as the Anglo-Saxons. Several independent kingdoms were established, each with their own rulers. The large Kingdom of Northumbria extended from the Humber Estuary to Lothian in the North. The southern half was occupied by the Deira and the north by the Celtic Briton Brenicas. In 645 they joined to become the Kingdom of Northumbria.

The ancient British fort of Din Guarie (Bamburgh Castle) was seized by the Angle chief Ida the Flamebearer in 547 and was an important addition to his expanding Kingdom of Bernice. Ida proceeded to conqueror huge areas of land in the North East and became the most powerful leader in the North. Din Guarie became the capital of his Kingdom In 615 Din Guarie was renamed Bebbanburgh in honour of Bebba, the wife of King Aethelfrith. Aethelfrith was the grandson of Ida and became the first King to rule both Bernica and Deira. His daughter Ebbe became the abbess of a monastery on Kirk Hill at St Abbs's Head. Ebbe was sainted for helping to spread christianity and St Abb's Head was named after her. 

St Oswald, the son of Aethelfrith was King of Northumbria from 634 until his death in 642. Oswald once again united Bernica and Deira and promoted the spread of christianity in Northumbria. St Aidan, an Irish monk from Iona was sent by King Oswald to promote christianity in Northumbria. He walked from Iona to the Island of Lindisfarne, close to Bamburgh Castle and in 634 founded a monastery becoming bishop in 635. By walking from village to village and conversing with the villagers he and his monks restored christianity to the area. In 650 Aidan founded a monastery near the banks of the river in Melrose. 

In 651 St Cuthbert entered the monastery at Melrose, eventually becoming Prior. In 646 Cuthbert became prior of Lindisfarne and an active missionary, where he lived for the next ten years. At the age of forty he went to live a hermetic life on nearby Inner Farne Island. Cuthbert left the island for two years to become a Bishop but returned to isolation before his death in 687AD.

In 793 Lindisfarne was raided by the Vikings when many of the monks were killed and the monastery ransacked. In 867 The Danes invaded Britain and in 873 by using the old Roman road to system had invaded Northumbria. In 875 the monks on Lindisfarne fled the Island taking the bones of St Cuthbert with them. When the last Norse King of York was expelled in 954 the old Kingdom of Northumbria was divided into two earldoms, Deira and Bamburgh. Unfortunately further Danish raids from the north and South in 993 left Berncia cut off from the rest of England. and fort at Bamburgh was destroyed. By 962 Edinburgh had been retaken by the Scots and in 1006 King Malcolm II of Scotland carried out raids in Northumbria as far south as Durham. Eventually in 1018 he was victorious in the Battle at Carham, gaining control of Lothian. A border was created along the River Tweed which remains today. 

The Norman Conqust in 1066 saw many years of unrest between the Northumbrian people and the Normans. Eventually William I travelled North and laid waste to the whole countryside between York and Durham. By 1072 King Malcolm III of Scotland was organising raids across the border into Northumbria. William I moved into Scotland with his army and the Scots retreated. A treaty was signed between the two Kings and Malcolm was forced to acknowledge William as his feudal overlord. In 1091 King Malcolm III invaded Northumbria again but King William II was quick to reclaim the area and two years later in 1093 Malcolm was killed in defeat at Alnwick. 
In 1093 the priory on Lindisfarne was rebuilt and established as a Benedictine House remaining until its suppression under VIII in 1536.

The burnt out fort at Bamburgh was replaced by a magnificent stone castle which in 1095 became the property of the English Monarch. By 1164 the castle was complete. In the 12th century constant border raids resulted in the building of castles fortifying houses along the Anglo-Scottish border. Norham Castle was built in 1121 to protect the property of the Bishopric in North Northumberland from the Scots. Berwick Castle was built on the orders of King David I of Scotland in 1127. In the 12th century King David I also founded the four great abbeys in the Scottish Borders, Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso and Jedburgh. In 1237 the Treaty of York, between England and Scotland legally established the Solway-Tweed line as the border between the two countries. 

The late 13th century through to the mid 14th century saw the Wars of Independence ravage the area. In 1296 Edward I invaded Scotland, attacking and sacking Berwick. By the following year the Scots had started to rebel, launching raids into Northumberland, before Edward again invaded. Skirmishes continued until the execution of William Wallace in 1305. After a short period of calm rebellion was sparked again and in 1320 the Declaration of Arbroath was sent to the Pope affirming Scottish Independence from England. Scottish Independence and Robert the Bruce as King were both recognised.

After the death of Robert the Bruce tensions between the two countries increased, and from 1332 and 1357 they were once again at war. In 1333 Edward III attacked Berwick once again and much of Scotland came under English occupation, After many years and numerous battles by 1377 Scotland had gained independence. During the campaign both Berwick and Roxburgh Castles were captured by English forces and Dryburgh Abbey was burned. Jedburgh Abbey was pillaged and wrecked and a large part of Melrose Abbey was destroyed. Norham Castle was besieged numerous times by Scottish forces and was eventually captured. When peace was declared it was returned to the Bishop of Durham. 

Relations between the two countries remained uneasy and conflict continued. Berwick changed hands a number of times before eventually being taken and retained by England in 1482. Both Roxburgh and Jedburgh Castles were burned by the Scots to prevent further attacks and occupation by English troops. 

At the beginning of the 16th century Henry VII and James IV of Scotland started to make plans to maintain a lasting peace between the two countries. Unfortunately his successor Henry VIII declared war on France and James IV in fulfilment of his alliance with France invaded England, capturing the castles of Norham, Ford and Etal. This disastrous move led to his death at the Battle of Flodden in Northumberland in 1513. During an attack on Norham Castle in 1497 James established his headquarters at Upsettligton, renaming the village Ladykirk and building an impressive church known as Our Lady Kirk of Steill. The church and the village became an important meeting place and in 1559 the Treaty of Upsettlington was concluded in the church before being exchanged at St Cuthbert's Church in Norham.

From the late 13th century to the early 17th century the residents of the borderlands were terrorised by both Scottish and English Border Reivers. The Reivers would ride either north or south from their homes raiding and stealing, mainly cattle, Families on both sides of the border built fortifies tower houses (peel towers) to protect themselves, their families and their cattle. 

The dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 by Henry VIII led to the abandonment of Lindisfarne Priory. During the war of the "Rough Wooing" (1543 - 1547) Henry VIII's troops passed through the borders burning towns and slaughtering the inhabitants of the area. All of the great abbeys were attacked and almost destroyed. In the mid 1500's Elizabeth 1st refortified Berwick replacing the old town walls with new ramparts and fortifications. 

In 1586 James VI of Scotland signed the Treaty of Berwick with England and in 1603 was crowned King James I of England and James VI of Scotland. the union of the crown brought stability and peace to the region. In 1707 the Act of Union ensured that Berwick remained in England. 

In recent years Northumbria has become Northumberland and the old counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, Peebleshire and Selkirkshire are now known as The Scottish Borders. 

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