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Berwick upon Tweed
Chapter V. 1337—1377


TO resume our narrative from 1337, we find that there was for four years at least active war with the Scots. Berwick continued all this time a busy port, because of the quantities of provisions sent north for the English soldiers, and for supplies to the more northern castles that were at present in the hands of the English, viz., Perth, Stirling, Cupar, and Edinburgh. It required large quantities of provisions for all the soldiers and garrisons, but large sums of money were also necessary to keep all these in a proper state of defence. The Berwick garrison consisted of 290 soldiers of all ranks. Men-at-arms were promised 8d. and archers 3d. per day. However, Richard de Talbot, Keeper of the Town, had an idea that this was an extravagant amount to spend, and he promised the King to keep Berwick with 50 men-at-arms, 3 knights, and 100 archers; his own pay to be 4s., each knight 2s., each man-at-arms 1s., each hobelar 4d., and each archer 3d. per day. Talbot did not find the task of defending Berwick quite such an easy one as he imagined, for he left in haste in a few months, taking all his men with him. The Mayor of Berwick and the Sheriff of Northumberland were ordered to levy forty men well armed, and twenty stout and powerful archers for its defence, until the Chamberlain should return to take the place of Keeper, while a new appointment was being made. These payments mentioned above were promised, but slowly and sparingly made. The King was informed in 1338 that many of his servants were leaving the town in consequence, when the Chamberlain was peremptorily ordered to pay them their wages. John de Mowbray, Talbot's successor, to whom there was due 2,000 for expenses of his men-at-arms and archers, complained that he was only paid 100 of this sum. 600 more was then sent him, but he had to be content meanwhile to wait for the balance of 1,300 still due to him. Complaints of this kind are common through the remaining period of the history, and especially in the reign of the virgin Queen.

Notwithstanding all this waste of money and of men in the Scotch war, and in spite of all the bravery and energy Edward III. displayed, he never came any nearer the complete conquest of Scotland. Even the Castle of Dunbar, so near the Borders, he never acquired. The Black Agnes of history, daughter of Randolph, Bruce's friend, defended it against all the force of the English King. The raising of this siege gave great encouragement to the Scots to continue their warfare, and to endeavour to throw off all English domination. During 1339 and 1340, a great part of Scotland was won back to its native ruler. Castle after castle fell into the hands of its regent, Sir Andrew Murray.

In 1341 Stirling was besieged by the Scots, under the leadership of Sir William Douglas. Edward hastened to its rescue, and arrived at Berwick, on his way to the north, at the head of an army of 4,000 men and 6,000 horse. The news of the capitulation of Stirling garrison caused him to fall back upon Newcastle, and while he was there the Scots sent ambassadors to sue for peace. Edward, equally glad of a respite, granted a truce for six months. Immediately this was accomplished, the leaders of the different armies began to fraternize. Edward came and spent his Christmas at Roxburgh, which was still in his hands. Sir William Douglas visited the Earl of Derby, one of Edward's leaders, and was most hospitably received and entertained. Jousting formed their soldier-like pastime. Edward came to Berwick to spend the Easter of 1342. Here again jousting was engaged in with great zeal. Twelve Englishmen challenged twelve Scotch. For a graphic account of this meeting we are indebted to Wyntoun the chronicler.

After the preliminaries had been settled, viz., in what suits each was to perform, and how the prizes were to be decided, the chronicler adds:

'The justyng lestyd dayis thrc,
Qwhare men apert [bold] cowrsis mycht sc.
Twa Inglis knychtis thare ware slayne;
Off Scottismen there deyde nayne.
Bot turnand hamwart be the way
Off ane hurt endyt Jhone the Hay;
And Willame the Ramsay wes there,
Borne throw the hewyd [head] wyth a spere,
And throw the helme wyth strynth off hand
Qwhill the trwnsowne thare stekand.'

In this condition Ramsay was shriven by a priest. The Earl of Derby, standing near, said he desired no other ending than this, for it was 'a fayre sycht, no fayrere sycht ma man se.' When shriven, Alexander Ramsay

'Gert lay hym [the wounded man] down forowtyn lete;
And on his helme his fute he sete,
And wyth gret strynth owt can aras [pluck]
The trownsown that thare stekand was.
He rase allane, fra it wes owte
And wyth a gud will and a stowte
He sayd, that he wald ayl na-thyng.
Tharoff the erle had wonderyng,
And gretly hym commendit then,
And sayd, "Lw! stowt hartis off men."'

This pastime continued for three days, and on the third Patrick the Grame hurried on to it as soon as he had arrived from beyond the se'. He offered a jousting to anyone who would engage. With this result Grame fought with

'A cumly knycht
That semyt stowt bath bald and wycht . . .
On the morn at the justyng
He bare hym throu the body qwhit
And he deyt off the dynt welle tyte.'

The prizes were then divided, one to the best of the English, and one to the best of the Scotch. The English winner's name is not recorded; but William Ramsay, the wounded 'knycht,' received the Scotch prize. The Earl of Derby sums up the whole proceedings in these lines:

'"I trow it has bene seldyn sene
That off were justyng, thus has bene
Contenyt thre dayis, and the prys
Gywyn, as at thys justyng is.M . . .
He festaid the jwstarys that day
That on the morn syne held thaire way.'

The walls were beginning to attract attention now. Decay seemed to be threatening them in various places. If the walls had been wholly of stone, and built in the manner in which those of that early date were usually built, no repaire should yet have been required. Wood, however, was in constant requisition, and wood was in great danger of either decaying or of being carried away for fuel. In 1340 the walls around the town threaten loss and ruin in several places, and John de Mowbray, Governor, must have them repaired at once/ In 1343 justiciaries were appointed to inquire concerning certain evil-doers and disturbers of the peace who had broken down some embattlements upon the walls made for defence of the same, and had taken and carried away timber to the value of 100, and had inflicted other enormities to the grave hurt and contempt of the town.

In 1345 a duplicate of this order occurs. Walls and mills were ruinous, wood was again stolen, and an inquiry was to be made as to the theft. The need for so much wood seems at first sight unexplainable. But the old walls of the town were guarded by nineteen towers, and the wall itself was supported on the side next the town by an embankment of earth. Through this embankment there were underground passages to the towers, and these passages, generally more than thirty feet in length, were lined on sides and top with boards, which were constantly being carried away or wasted by decay. Hence the continual cry of ruinous walls and robberies of wood.

In 1344 Walter de Creyk, Keeper of the Town, and Percy, Keeper of the Castle, were enjoined to supervise the repair of houses, walls, towers, battlements, bretagia, and buildings enclosed in the town. For this work the Berwick burgesses lent the King 600, which they experienced great difficulty in recovering. 500 was at length paid by the Chamberlain out of the customs of the port, and for the remainder the King granted them the right of collecting the following taxes till the whole was paid:

1. Small custom of water of Tweed, with bushels and measures . 40 marks per annum.
2. Our fishery there.........26 ditto.
3. Fines in the Tolbooth........5 ditto.
4. The Burgh Mails and Stallegerie......8 ditto.
5. The halpenny tol.........100s.

These were equal to a sum of 57 13s. 4d., and were to be allowed for two years. The Chamberlain was either at the end of that time to make up the deficiency or recover the surplus.

There was good reason for Edward's anxiety about the state of the fortifications during these years. David II. had been sent to France shortly after the year 1333 to be out of harm's way. The King of France received him courteously, for the Scots and French were good friends, and both were enemies of England. David returned to Scotland after an absence of nine years, when he was but seventeen years old, and at this early age he was appointed King with full powers. The English at this date, 1341, had been driven almost entirely out of Scotland ; and had David equalled his father in prudence and in skill of handling armies, a very different colour had tinged all our future history. But, headstrong and rash, he began at once making inroads into England, which ended in the disastrous fight of Neville's Cross, 1346, and his capture by Sir John Copeland, who held at this time the office of Supervisor of the Fortifications of Berwick. John, a warlike man, had offered his services to the King against David, and had met with marvellous success; he was rewarded with a grant of 500, 100 of which was to be paid out of the customs of Berwick. David was injured in the battle, and did not reach London till January, 1347, where he was kept captive for many years.

No open war took place after this for some time. A truce for eight years was agreed upon, but was badly kept. The Borders continued in a most disturbed state. The 'iter Justiciar' was delayed in 1347 because of the dangers of the time. The Bishop of Durham was using his influence not on the side of peace, as he ought to have done, for he was ordered by the King to desist from his extortions upon the burgesses of Berwick, and to cease collecting excessive tolls from goods crossing the water of Tweed. King Edward was anxious at this crisis to calm any irritation in the minds of the inhabitants for fear of losing his hold upon the town. He issued orders that no new taxes were to be levied, and in order to assure the burgesses of his favour, that lands and tenements be gifted to them. His friends had all these possessions confirmed to them beyond dispute, Robert de Tughale, who now held almost every available office, had a renewed grant of all his tenements and fisheries. And a wonderful concession was granted to the Scots, who were now allowed to come and trade within the walls of the town. The fortifications must likewise be strengthened and thoroughly repaired; and a bridge between town and castle was to be rebuilt. A sum of 200, obtained for the ransom of a prisoner, was to be paid into the exchequer for the execution of these works.

In the same year the life of the mayor, Richard de Stanhope, seems to have been threatened, for the King ordered inquisition to be made concerning some malefactors who had conspired against the life of the mayor and the peace of Berwick:

'There are many malefactors and disturbers of our peace, as well Scotch as English, confederated in large numbers in divers conventicles and congregations within the town as without, against the mayor of the town, as against others in our allegiance.'

It does not appear why this order should have been necessary. It was the time of Wycliff, and if the conventicles had been gatherings of heretics we might have been disposed to have referred the whole matter to the religious animosities of the times. But nothing in the record points to this supposition, and nothing in the history of the period sheds any light upon it. Edward continued to soothe the feelings of the Berwick merchants and authorities. The laws of the Kings of Scotland were to prevail in the town without any hindrance, and all trade restrictions, other than what were in force under the laws of the Alexanders, were to be entirely removed. He evidently had a presentiment at this time that his hold upon the town was both slight and uncertain. Before the year 1355 elapsed the fact of this uncertainty was violently thrust upon him. During the former part of this year the Scots had met with some successes against England. A company of them had raided upon Norham, and successfully burned and plundered the village. Another company met the English in a skirmish at Nesbit Moor in Berwickshire, and was again triumphant Emboldened by these exploits, Thomas Stewart, Earl of Angus, assisted by the Earl of March, made a brave and successful attempt against Berwick in this year. The details of this attack are various and obscure. The usual account states that a fleet of ships landed an army on the north side of the town (Greenses Harbour). When disembarked, the soldiers, covered by the obscurity of an October night, crept up to the walls near the Cowgate—Wyntoun says ' Kow Yete' —where the scaling-ladders were placed. William de Tour is said to have mounted first, and was fast followed by the bravest of the Scots, and the sentinel being overpowered, a short and sharp skirmish left the Scots masters of the town. Alexander Ogle, English captain of the town, was slain, and two other English knights. The victors' loss is stated at eight knights of considerable rank. The inhabitants, panic-struck with the noise of battle, rushed out in the night, fled half-naked across the river, or took shelter by way of the Douglas Tower or the castle, which, at this time, remained in the hands of the English. The Scots, eager to gain the castle, attacked it through the Douglas Tower, but were eventually repulsed. In the capture, Fordun and other chroniclers report that ' the Scots gat great riches in the toun/ a fact that may well be doubted. The Scots would certainly pillage the town when they were masters of it, for the inhabitants had left it to their mercy. It was held by England's enemies but a short time. Edward, who considered Berwick of the greatest importance, heard of its loss while in France. He delayed not a moment after receipt of the news. He crossed to London, and before he himself could reach the north he ordered a levy of 82 men-at-arms and 1,100 archers, with white head-dresses and black tippets,' to proceed from the West Riding of Yorkshire to the relief of Berwick Castle. After the stay of only a few days in London, though the Parliament was in session, he hastened north, and reached Newcastle for the Christmas festivities, and arrived at Berwick on the 14th of January. In the words of Avesbury:

'Edward III. having his army lodged near the town of Berwick, and his navy in the Haven ready to assail the Scots that were within the town, entered the castle, which the English still held. Sir Walter de Manny was a captain of great value in sieges. He had brought with him certain miners from the Forest of Dean and other parts of the realm, whom Sir Walter at once set to work to make an underground passage through which the English might enter the town. Hereupon the Scots perceived in what danger they stood, and knew that they could not long defend the town against the besiegers, and therefore surrendered it into their hands without further resistance.'

So far Avesbury; but the ordinary account says that the Scots left the town when the English appeared, after they had razed the walls and burnt the houses of the town.* We are again told of this surrender in these words, l that when Edward arrived at Berwick, and entered the castle, the burgesses came to terms with Edward, contrary to the wishes of the Scots, and the latter departed, surrendering on terms of life and limb.' If the Scots gained great riches on the taking of the town, and carried them away, it is quite clear that they must have left Berwick before Edward came to it. It was most unlikely that he would allow them to capitulate, and carry off plunder at the same time. Edward, after the submission and settlement of Berwick, proceeded to Scotland as far as Edinburgh, and returned by Carlisle, ravaging and burning all that came in his way, leaving misery and wretchedness behind ; this terrible raid is remembered in Scotland as the 'Burnt Candlemas'. By this expedition the King renewed his authority over the whole of the South of Scotland, and ordered that the laws and customs of the land be not altered in that district, and that they be carefully observed in Berwick for the true allegiance of its inhabitants. He ordered that all the goods and possessions of those who returned to the town, after its evacuation by the Scots, be restored to their rightful owners. He also confirmed the Charter of Edward I. He then attempted to put the fortifications into the state in which they were before this untimely irruption of the northern army. Sir John Copeland and Richard Tempest, overseers in the work, were ordered to restore the Douglas Tower, to repair the defects in the walls, towers, bretagia, gates, bridges, barriers and fosses, both of castle and town. These repairs speak of the amount of damage done by this capture and recapture of the old town of Berwick. To increase the population if possible, he ordered that no freeman should enjoy the privileges of freedom unless he took up his residence within the walls. An important privilege was granted to the town besides the diminution of the tax upon wool. The Scots were to be allowed to come and trade with the town; and the burgesses permitted to sell them as much as 3,000 qrs. of wheat, 2,000 of malt, 600 of peas and beans, and 400 of oats. A market-place was fixed for this purpose on the Calf Hill, outside the town.

It was in the year 1357 that David Bruce obtained freedom from his lengthened imprisonment in England. Berwick was the centre at which all the negotiations for his liberation were transacted and finally adjusted. In 1351 an unsuccessful attempt was made by David to free himself by ransom. He was permitted to go to Scotland to make arrangements, but was forced, by the statesmen in Scotland rejecting the terms, to return again to Edward's power. After further negotiations, which lasted for six years, he was at length liberated in 1357, when the treaty of Berwick was finally concluded and confirmed by the Parliaments of both countries. On the 16th of August, a safe-conduct was granted to a number of Scots 'to proceed to Berwick to treat about the ransom of David de Bruys'. On the same day the Archbishop of York had the King of Scots delivered to his keeping in order to proceed to Berwick with him. The Northumbrian barons with their vassals had to proceed thither, and to remain there until the Scots returned home. Evidently the treacherous Scot was not to be trusted. This must have been a gay and busy time in the old Border town. Here came from England: John, Archbishop of York; Thomas, Bishop of Durham; Gilbert, Bishop of Carlisle; Henry Percy, Ralph Neville, Henry Scroop, Thomas Musgrave; and from Scotland: William, Bishop of St. Andrews; Thomas, Bishop of Caithness; Patrick of Brechin, Chancellor of Scotland; the Earl of March, Sir Robert Erskyn, Sir William Levingston.

In the treaty it was agreed thatl the noble Prince, David of Scotland' (he is never called King by Edward) be fully delivered without our prison, and ransomed by certain sums of money, on conditions and in form following; viz., that 100,000 marks be paid within ten years next to come in equal portions. The payments are to be made to an assignee of the English King by letters under Royal Seal at Berwick, if it is in our hands; and if not, at Norham, or at the King's pleasure at Bamborough/ It is a well-known fact in history that this was a burden upon Scotland greater than it was able to bear. It served shortly after as a pretext to try and wrench the independence of Scotland out of the hands of the Scots. Edward would release all the debt, would even give up all claim to Berwick, if they would ratify a deed by which the kingdom would become English on David's death, if no heirs of his body remained. These terms were presented to the Scotch Parliament, to be rejected with scornful indignation, and Scotland remained for ever free. The instalments of the ransom continued to be paid at uncertain periods by David and David's successor, many of the payments being made at Berwick in presence of Henry Percy, the Governor, Ralph Neville and John Copeland.

The repeated conquests of Berwick were beginning to tell upon its condition. The cry of poverty was first distinctly heard from the citizens in the year 1357 —a cry that became louder and more persistent as time went on. To stifle it in the meantime, the English King bestowed upon them greater exporting facilities; gave grants of property during the year to as many inhabitants as ever he could; allowed, or rather invited, the burgesses to insert as many names as possible in the burgess-roll for the better inhabiting the town, and for the greater prosecution of trade. Moreover, he granted the profits arising from the Berfrey, or prison, for the good of the town. Three years after this, he granted them freedom from a subsidy that burdened the rest of the nation, and added unusual facilities for trade, such as a considerable drawback upon wool. These grants and kingly privileges show that the current that was urging Berwick on in the tide of time was urging it more and more out of the flow of successful trade.

Though the Earls of Northumberland in succession were Governors of Berwick at this period, as well as Wardens of the East Marches, yet they were seldom personally present at their post of duty, and Deputy-Governors held rule; these were often changed. The changes are rung upon John Copeland, Richard Tempest, Alan de Heton, and Thomas de Musgrave. From an indenture of an engagement of Tempest's, preserved in the 'Scotch Rolls' we may learn some interesting particulars:

'This Indenture, made between our Lord the King on the one part and Richard Tempest, Knight, on the other part, testifies that the said Richard undertakes to do his best for the safe keeping of the town of Berwick from the day of the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist next to come until the same day of the Nativity next following for one year fully accomplished, and shall have for the said keeping as many men-at-arms and armed archers and others as he will see necessary and as will be sufficient for the safe keeping of said town, and will be paid by the King 500 by quarterly payments. At the end of the same year the said Richard will be discharged unless a new bargain has been made. And the said Richard shall have power as one of the Guardians of the Marches to give safe-conducts and trews, and to receive persons to the peace of the King, as he shall see good for the King's profit. The repairing of the walls and bretagia, fosses and gates in the town will be done at the cost of the King, and by the ordinance of the said Richard and under his care. In case of the perils of war, a greater number of armed men may be kept than in times of peace, and the King will provide for them as is necessary. In testimony, etc., the King affixes his great seal, 12 June, 1363.

Tempest retained his charge for one year, when Alan de Heton succeeded, whom Sir Thomas de Musgrave followed. This last Governor was taken prisoner at Duns by the Scots, in 1370; the Scotch and English, all along the Border, had been raiding one on the other in a most destructive manner. About this time, Sir John Gordon had obtained an advantage over the English at Carham, and took Sir John Lilburn and many of his followers prisoners. Percy, to punish these losses and insults, led seven thousand men through the Merse into Scotland, and encamped at Duns. Here his further progress was stayed by a contrivance of the peasants and shepherds of the neighbourhood. They made use of a machine which they possessed for frightening the deer and wild cattle from the corn. These were rattles made of pieces of dried skins distended round ribs of wood, and fixed to the end of long poles. The bags, being furnished with a few pebbles, and shaken vigorously, made such a hideous noise, when an unusual number of them were employed together, that the horses of the English took fright and broke away from their keepers, and ran up and down the country until they became a prey to the country people. The army, awakened with the same noise, dispersed, and fled across the Tweed. Musgrave, coming to the help of Percy, fell into an ambush laid for him by Gordon, and was taken prisoner, as well as the troops he commanded.

Edward IIl.'s long reign now comes to a close, a reign most disastrous to Berwick and to Scotland. He was succeeded by the weak and vacillating Richard II., when the Borders were kept even less successfully than in the time of his grandfather.


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