Map of Berwick and The County Of Durham 1760
The Berwick Directory, 1806 records only ‘ twelve estates, or farms of private property within the said liberties of Berwick. ‘ :
Magdalene Fields; Castle – Hills; Letham; Letham Shank; New – Water – Haugh; Gains – Law; Ferny – Flat and Mill; Bates-Cross; Bates-Strand; Cumberland – Bower; Sanson-Seal; Marshall-Meadows. These properties are easily identifiable to this day.
An Indenture of 1834 proves ownership of High Latham & Low Latham by Sir Francis Blake of Twizel Castle,Tillmouth and the ruins of the castle can be seen on the right after crossing the Till on the road to Cornhill on Tweed.
Earlier Blake family papers record their ownership of High Letham back to 1746.
In the early part of the 14th century the fragile and volatile relationship between England and Scotland was placed on a more even keel with the Treaty of Northampton in 1328. As part of the Treaty the young son of King Robert I of Scotland was married to the sister of King Edward III of England, and Scotland was assured political autonomy. The following year Robert died leaving his son and heir only five years old. The young boy was crowned King David II at Scone in 1331. But Edward Balliol, son of the former King John, continued to press his claim to the Scottish throne. With English support he successfully defeated a Royalist force under the Earl of Mar, Regent to the boy King and one of the casualties of the battle, at Dupplin Moor in 1332. Balliol was crowned King by his supporters. But his reign was short-lived, less than three months, before he was forced to make an ignominious flight ‘one leg booted and the other naked’ back to England.
But Balliol had not relinquished his ambitions for the Scottish throne, and in 1333 with promises of land, should he succeed, he persuaded Edward III to take a direct involvement in his cause. This broke the agreements of the 1328 Treaty, an agreement that Edward dismissed as not binding as it had been made in his minority. Edward now openly supported Balliol and in the spring of 1333 headed north to lay siege to Berwick, the Scottish-held town that was the prize concession promised by Balliol.
A Scottish force under the Regent Sir Archibald Douglas attempted, and failed, to draw Edward away from Berwick. With the town now surrounded the defenders sued for a truce. The terms eventually agreed were that Edward would accept the town relieved only if if this was done by a Scottish force, but only by crossing the Tweed from the north; a group of 200 men-at-arms entered the town, from any direction, but with the loss of no more than 30 of their number; the relievers fought and won a pitched battle against the besiegers. The truce was to hold until sunrise of 20th July. If none of the three terms were met Berwick would surrender to Edward. On hearing of this agreement Douglas hurried to the relief of the town.
Arriving on the 19th July Douglas approached from the north. On leading his troops to the summit of the hill called Witches Knowe he saw the English army drawn up before him to the south on the slopes of Halidon Hill.
Following the English victory at Halidon Hill the town of Berwick and the lands of the Borders and Lothian were ceded to England by Balliol. This ensured that warfare between the two countries would continue as the Scots fought to regain their lands. For Edward III his first battle was an important lesson in tactics, a lesson his was to employ to great effect against the French at Crécy and Poitiers.
The battlefield area is now fully enclosed but remains agricultural with only a few scattered farms. The marshy ground between the two hills has been drained. Access is possible along Grand Loaning lane which runs across the centre of the battlefield and via a circular conservation walk which goes around Halidon Hill taking in the English positions.
The Battle of Halidon Hill, fought between the Scots and the English, in July 1333, was one of the deciding battles that finally meant Berwick-Upon-Tweed became England’s most northerly town. Now tenant farmers Nigel and Lynn Dudgeon, of Conundrum, the most northerly farm in England, have joined forces with Defra and English Heritage to launch a new trail in and around the Halidon Hill Battlefield.
The castle was founded in the 12th century by the Scottish King David I. In 1296-8, the English King Edward I had the castle rebuilt and the town fortified, before it was returned to Scotland. The town and castle changed hands several times during the English-Scottish conflicts.
In 1464 the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland record that Robert Lauder of Edrington was paid £20 for repairs made to Berwick Castle. In the 16th century, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the walls were strengthened with the addition of two semi-circular artillery flanking towers, one at the river’s edge and the other on the angle of the curtain wall.The castle’s location in the hotly disputed border country between England and Scotland made it one of the most important strongholds in the British Isles, and it enjoyed an eventful history. As a major tactical objective in the region, the castle was captured by both the English and Scots on a number of occasions and frequently sustained substantial damage; Edward I used it as his headquarters during the course of his invasions of Scotland. The castle also changed hands in less violent circumstances when the English King Richard I (the Lionheart) sold the castle to the Scots, to help fund the Third Crusade. The castle finally fell into English hands in the last week of August 1482. After invading Scotland following a pact with the Duke of Albany, Richard, Duke of Gloucester captured the castle from Patrick Hepburn, Lord Hailes.
The construction of modern ramparts around Berwick in the sixteenth century rendered the castle obsolete and its later history is one of steady decline. Large parts of the structure were simply used as a quarry (notably for the construction during the Commonwealth of the parish church, Holy Trinity, while in the nineteenth century, the Great Hall and much of what remained was demolished to make way for Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station. The railway platforms now stand where King Edward took oaths of allegiance from Scottish nobility in 1296, marked by a large notice to that effect.
It is possible to walk the entire circuit of the town fortifications; you may find it useful to follow a route clockwise from Meg’s Mount or, following a visit to Berwick Barracks, from the Windmill Bastion. The walls of the Elizabethan ramparts, faced in grey limestone, stand about 6 metres (20 feet) high. Above the walls the rampart earthwork rises a further 5 metres (16 feet). Outside there was a broad, deep ditch, or moat, that is now dry. On the other side there was originally a high retaining wall similar to that of the rampart. Proceeding from Meg’s Mount, notable elements of these fortifications include Cumberland Bastion, which is one of the earliest and best-preserved bastions dating largely from Elizabethan times (though the earthworks above it were constructed in 1639–53); Brass Bastion, defending the north-east corner of the town; Windmill Bastion, a large regular bastion similar to Cumberland; and the Powder Magazine, a gunpowder store surrounded by its own walled enclosure and built in 1749–50. From King’s Mount to Meg’s Mount, the Elizabethan ramparts were never completed and instead the medieval walls and towers were repaired and modernised. Against the southern rampart is the Main Guard, a Georgian guardhouse that used to stand in Marygate but was moved to its present site in 1815. Now containing an exhibition on the history of Berwick, it once had a soldiers’ room, a slightly more comfortable officers’ room, and a prison cell for the detention of drunken soldiers, deserters, petty criminals and vagrants.