Early Berwick (upon-Tweed)

This is from Highways & Byways in The Border, i.e. the much disputed region between England and Scotland. This is about the border town Berwick upon Tweed:

The town first became part of the kingdom of Scotland when Malcolm II, at Carham fight, won Lothian from Northumbria. That was in 1018.. Thenceforward Berwick was one of the 4 most important places of Scottish trade; the Scots held it while they might, the English took it when they could; the place changed hands several times to the infinite distress of a people inured to siege and sacks they must have endured much when Malcolm mastered it; and again in 1172, when Richard de Lacy and Humphrey de Bohun, at war with William the Lion, burned the town. William, after he inadvertently, in a morning mist, charged the whole English army at Alnwick, and was captured, surrendered Berwick back to England by the Treaty of Falaise, when heeded homage for his whole kingdom. The English strongly fortified the place, though the fragments of the girdling wall near the railway statin are, I presume, less ancient than the end of the 12th century. William bought all back again from the crusading Richard of he Lion Heart: the 2 kings were “well matched for a pair of lions,” but William the Lion was old by this time.

In 1216, Alexander II attacked England at Norham Castle, but King John, though seldom victorious, was man enough to drive Alexander off and brute enough o sack Berwick with great cruelty, setting a lighted torch to the thatch of the house in which he had lain; and “making a jolly fire” as the general of Henry VIII later described his own conduct at Edinburgh. Fifty years later the woman-hating friar who wrote The Chronicle of Lanercost describes Berwick as the Alexandria of the period; the tweed, flowing still and shallow, taking the place of the majestic river of Egypt. One is reminded of the Peebles man who, after returning from a career in India, was seen walking sad on Peebles Bridge. “I’m a leear,” [liar] he said, “an unco leear. In Indi I yelled the a’ that Tweed at Peebles was wider than the Ganges!” and had believed it.

However, Berwick was the Scottish Alexandria, and paid into the coffers of the last of her “Kings of Peace” Alexander III, an almost incredible amount of customs dues. After 3 peaceful reigns, Scotland was a wealthy country, and Berwick, was her chief emporium. But then came the death of the Maid of Norway, the usurpation by Edward I, the endless wars for Independence: and Berwick became one of the cockpits of the long strife, while Scotland, like St. Francis, was the mate of Poverty.

While Edward was in France, his “toom tabard”, King John (Balliol) renounced his allegiance. Edward came home and, in the last days of March 1296, crossed Tweed and beleaguered Berwick, in which were many trading merchants of Flanders. The townsfolk urned several of his ships, and sang songs of which the meaning was coarse, and the language, though libellous, was rather obscure. Edward was not cruel, as a rule, but, irritated by the check, the insults and the reported murder by the Scots of English merchants, he gave orders for a charge. The ditch and stockade were carried and a general massacre followed, of which horrible tales are told by a late rhyming chronicler. Hemingburgh, on the English side, says that the women were to some extent protected. The Scots avenged themselves in the same fashion at Corbridge, that old Roman station, but the glory and wealth of Berwick were gone, and the place retaining only its military importance.

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