1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Borders, The

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BORDERS, THE, a name applied to the territory on both sides of the boundary line between England and Scotland. The term has also a literary and historical as well as a geographical sense, and is most frequently employed of the Scottish side. The line begins on the coast of Berwickshire at a spot 3 m. N. by W. of Berwick, and, after running a short distance W. and S., reaches the Tweed near the village of Paxton, whence it keeps to the river to a point just beyond Carham. There it strikes off S.S.E. to the Cheviot Hills, the watershed of which for 35 m. constitutes the boundary, which is thereafter formed by a series of streams—Bells Burn, the Kershope, Liddel and Esk. After following the last named for 1 m. it cuts across country due west to the Sark, which it follows to the river’s mouth at the head of the Solway Firth. The length of the boundary thus described is 108 m., but in a direct line from the Solway to the North Sea the distance is only 70 m. At the extreme east end a small district of 8 sq. m., consisting of the tract north of the Tweed which is not included in Scotland, forms the “bounds” or “liberties” of Berwick, or the country of the borough and town of Berwick-on-Tweed. At the extreme west between the Sark and Esk as far up the latter as its junction with the Liddel, there was a strip of country, a “No man’s land,” for generations the haunt of outlaws and brigands. This was called the Debatable Land, because the possession of it was a constant source of contention between England and Scotland until its boundaries were finally adjusted in 1552. The English Border counties are Northumberland and Cumberland, the Scottish Berwick, Roxburgh and Dumfries; though historically, and still by usage, the Scottish shires of Selkirk and Peebles have always been classed as Border shires. On the English side the region is watered by the Till, Bowmont, Coquet, Rede and North Tyne; on the Scottish by the Tweed, Whiteadder, Leet, Kale, Jed, Kershope, Liddel, Esk and Sark. Physically there is a marked difference between the country on each side. On the southern it mostly consists of lofty, bleak moorland, affording subsistence for sheep and cattle, and rugged glens and ravines, while on the northern there are many stretches of fertile soil, especially in the valleys and dales, and the landscape is often romantic and beautiful. Railway communication is supplied by the east coast route to Berwick, the Waverley route through Liddesdale, the London & North-Western by Carlisle, the North British branch from Berwick to St Boswells, and the North Eastern lines from Berwick to Kelso, Alnwick to Coldstream, and Newcastle to Carlisle.

At frequent intervals during a period of 1500 years the region was the scene of strife and lawlessness. The Roman road of Watling Street crossed the Cheviots at Brownhartlaw (1664 ft.), close to the camp of Ad Fines, by means of which the warlike Brigantes on the south and the Gadeni and Otadeni on the north were held in check, while another Roman road, the Wheel Causeway, passed into Scotland near the headwaters of the North Tyne and Liddel. (For early history see Lothian; Northumbria; Strathclyde.) In the 12th century were founded the abbeys of Hexham and Alnwick, the priory church of Lindisfarne and the cathedral of Carlisle on the English side, and on the Scottish the abbeys of Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose and Dryburgh. The deaths of Alexander III. (1286) and Margaret the Maid of Norway (1290), whose right to the throne had been acknowledged, plunged the country into the wars of the succession and independence, and until the union of the crowns in 1603 the borders were frequently disturbed. Berwick and Carlisle were repeatedly assailed, and battles took place at Halidon Hill (1333), Otterburn (1388), Nisbet (1402), Homildon (1402), Piperden (1435), Hedgeley Moor (1464), Flodden (1513), Solway Moss (1542), and Ancrum Moor (1544), in addition to many fights arising out of family feuds and raids fomented by the Armstrongs, Eliots, Grahams, Johnstones, Maxwells and other families, of which the most serious were the encounters at Arkenholme (Langholm) in 1455, the Raid of Reidswire (1575), and the bloody combat at Dryfe Sands (1593). The English expeditions of 1544 and 1545 were exceptionally disastrous, since they involved the destruction of the four Scottish border abbeys, the sack of many towns, and the obliteration of Roxburgh. The only other important conflict belongs to the Covenanters’ time, when the marquess of Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh in 1645. Partly for the defence of the kingdoms and partly to overawe the freebooters and mosstroopers who were a perpetual menace to the peace until they were suppressed in the 17th century, castles were erected at various points on both sides of the border.

Even during the period when relations between England and Scotland were strained, the sovereigns of both countries recognized it to be their duty to protect property and regulate the lawlessness of the borders. The frontier was divided into the East, Middle and West Marches, each under the control of an English and a Scots warden. The posts were generally filled by eminent and capable men who had to keep the peace, enforce punishment for breach of the law, and take care that neither country encroached on the boundary of the other. The wardens usually conferred once a year on matters of common interest, and as a rule their meetings were conducted in a friendly spirit, though in 1575 a display of temper led to the affair of the Raid of Reidswire. The appointment was not only one of the most important in this quarter of the kingdom, but lucrative as well, part of the fines and forfeits falling to the warden, who was also entitled to ration and forage for his retinue. On the occasion of his first public progress to London, James I. of England attended service in Berwick church (March 27, 1603) “to return thanks for his peaceful entry into his new dominions.” Anxious to blot out all memory of the bitter past, he forbade the use of the word “Borders,” hoping that the designation “Middle Shires” might take its place. Frontier fortresses were also to be dismantled and their garrisons reduced to nominal strength. In course of time this policy had the desired effect, though the expression “Borders” proved too convenient geographically to be dropped, the king’s proposed amendment being in point of fact merely sentimental and, in the relative positions then and now of England and Scotland, meaningless. Some English strongholds, such as Alnwick, Chillingham, Ford and Naworth, have been modernized; others, like Norham, Wark and Warkworth, are picturesque ruins; but most of the Scottish fortresses have been demolished and their sites built over, or are now represented by grass-grown mounds. Another familiar feature in the landscape is the chain of peel towers crossing the country from coast to coast. Many were homes of marauding chiefs, and nearly all were used as beacon-stations to give alarm of foray or invasion. Early in the 18th century the Scottish gipsies found a congenial home on the Roxburghshire side of the Cheviots; and at a later period the Scottish border became notorious for a hundred years as offering hospitality to runaway couples who were clandestinely married at Gretna Green, Coldstream or Lamberton. The toll-house of Lamberton displayed the following intimation—“Ginger-beer sold here and marriages performed on the most reasonable terms.”

Border ballads occupy a distinctive place in English literature. Many of them were rescued from oblivion by Sir Walter Scott, who ransacked the district for materials for his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, which appeared in 1802 and 1803. Border traditions and folklore, and the picturesque, pathetic and stirring incidents of which the country was so often the scene, appealed strongly to James Hogg (“the Ettrick Shepherd”), John Wilson (“Christopher North”), and John Mackay Wilson (1804–1835), whose Tales of the Borders, published in 1835, long enjoyed popular favour.

Besides the works just mentioned see Sir Herbert Maxwell, History of Dumfries and Galloway (1896); George Ridpath, Border History of England and Scotland (1776); Professor John Veitch, History and Poetry of the Scottish Border (1877); Sir George Douglas, History of the Border Counties (Scots), (1899); W. S. Crockett, The Scott Country (1902).