Every Nation has a border. The Romans helped define ours with the building of Hadrian’s Wall in the 2nd century AD. 80 miles of ditch, stone and earth rampart that marked the extreme Northern frontier of the then Empire. This so called wall still visible in many parts today would not have repelled a large invasion force but went a long way to controlling cross border immigration or un-wanted attacks by small bands from the North.
On disintegration of the Roman Empire and the subsequent invasions by the Germanic Angles we were to see the setting up of the Kingdom of Northumberland which controlled much of the east from the Forth to the Humber, thus crossing the border as we know it. Many battles fought by the Picts and even the Scots against Anglic domination and expansion kept the eastern Kingdom of Northumberland much the way it was following the initial spread of the Germanic tribes. Un-fortunately these Germanic tribes were to bring us the english language as we know it today. From the early 7th century the modern regions of East Lothian, Berwickshire, Northumberland and Durham was known as Bernicia. Some historians believe that the first Angles in the area were employed by the Romans as mercenaries on Hadrian’s Wall. By the 7th century though their domination of the Celtic locality was complete.
200 years after the unification of Pict and Scot and the formation of Alba a battle was fought at Carham just south of Coldstream in 1018. At this battle Malcolm II, King of Scots defeated the Angles of Northumbria and thus went a long way to giving us the modern day Scotland as we know it today from Tweed to Sark (or Esk in the debatable lands). Of course many battles were still to be fought in this border area including many in the modern day region of Northumberland North of the Roman Wall.
The River Tweed marks the modern day border of Scotland and england and at the town of Berwick the border takes a detour North away from the Tweed 2.5 miles! This allowed the english to claim Berwick as theirs and from 1482 has remained an english town. But what about before 1482? Berwick or South Berwick was a bustling border sea port. Part of the spoils of Carham it changed hands more than 13 times and was to play a part on many of the conflicts between Scotland and england in the medieval period. The most famous of these exchanges during the so called Wars of Independence when Berwick then controlled by the Scots was sacked by Edward 1st, Longshanks in 1296. At that time Berwick had become one of the largest and richest towns in Scotland. It traded throughout Northern Europe. Defended only by a ditch and timber palisade the english army of Longshanks swept easily in. Not much resistance apart from 30 or so Flemings who barricaded themselves in the Red Hall and fought to the last to be burnt to death when the building was set on fire. Not many of the burgesses, merchants or artisans escaped the wrath of the english King that day some say 15 to 30,000 were put to death.
Today Berwick remains in england only by the placing of a pen to map. If the border were to follow the Tweed then it could be part of a Free Scotland. No need for a pen to draw a line on a map the River Tweed does it for us………
Thanks to some fellow Patriots from the border area this it seems is what they should be seeing when they cross the Tweed at Berwick! I tend to agree with them.
Welcome to Scotland ; Failte gu Alba