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Berwick upon Tweed
Government of the Town by the Guild


UNDER this heading we must first inquire into the origin of the word Berwick, and then into the origin and history of the town and Guild. It is well known that various attempts, all unsuccessful, have been made to discover the origin of the word. In Holinshed's ' Scotland' there is the following legend: In the 9th century, during the reign of Kenneth, King of Scotland, the strongest castle in the whole country Kenneth bestowed upon that valiant captene named "Bar," whose counsel and forward service stood the Scots in no small stead in the English wars—that fortress ever after called by the name Dunbar, that is to say, the Castle of "Bar."' May not the 'bar' in Berwick and in Dunbar be one and the same word?

Another story runs thus: After this Armoger (54 a.d., ob.) reigned his son Westman and wele governed the lande, and in his tyme came Roderik, a Gascoigne, into this land, unto Stenmore. Thanne King Westman assembled a gret oyste and faught with Roderik and slough hym in Bataille, and than he gave theyme a forlete countre whos chiuetaine [chieftain] was called Beryng, and ther began a town called Berwyke, and edified and bilde all the cuntrye aboote and become ryche menne; bot their were no wommen among theym; and the Britains wolde not marie with theym because they were strangers, wharfor thei sent ovir the see into Irelande to the gentills to sende theym wommen both of gentilwomen and of commoners.'

In support of this view: 'Berengus interfecto Roderigo domino suo obtinuit locum habitandi in Britannia a mari et postea aedificavit villam de Berwick'.

The Rev. Joseph Stevenson, who is certainly an authority, says that Doddington may be the head of the family of Duddo, and gave it his name; and that his descendants founded Doddington. Berrington, again, is from 'Beor'. May not Berwick be the town of 'Beor'?

Chalmers, in his 'Caledonia' asserts that North Berwick derived its name from the same source as Berwick-upon-Tweed, which, in all the early charters, is called South Berwick. It means the 'bare' or naked village or castle. North Berwick stands on the naked shore of the Forth, being a small narrow promontory projecting from the town into the Frith.

Again, the prefix 'Par' or 'Bar' in Celtic names generally denotes a Border tribe. Hence the name of the Parisii, who occupied the country adjoining the Senones. It was the most northerly part of the possessions of the Celts as distinguished from the Belgians. Hence probably the bar of the river, or the barrier of a town, Query, then, is Berwick equal to Bar vie, the Border town ?

Berwick is the same as Beretum, Villa Frumentariae or grange. It is not likely that Berwick was a villa Frumentariae or grange when it must have received its name from the Saxon settlers at the mouth of the Tweed. It was much more probably named from the circumstances of its want of verdure, from the Anglo-Saxon bare, nudus, and wic, vicus.

Others, again, incline to the very simplest interpretation, viz., that the 'Ber' is simply 'Bere' or Barley, and 'vie' a town; so that Berwick is the Beretown. Either it might mean that the lands around Berwick grow excellent barley, or that much of the grain was sold in Berwick, that there were large granaries in the town in ancient times.

We cannot omit the fact that the bear has long been connected with the arms of Berwick. A very early specimen is found on a seal attached to one of the Coldingham charters which is still in the Durham Register. It bears date about the year 1250 a.d. How the bear became attached might affect the etymology of the word. Between 'Bear' and the first syllable of Berwick there is a close resemblance. It is much more probable, however, that the bear on the Berwick arms was suggested by the name, than that the origin of the name had anything to do with bears. The second syllable may be from 'vyk' or 'vik' a 'bay 'in the Scandinavian tongue, or simply from the Latin vicus. Further than this, it can serve no good purpose to pursue the subject. The word seems to yield no indisputable etymology. Its spelling, also, varies immensely. Some of the more curious forms are given: Beruuic, Beruic, Beruwyk, Beruik, Berwyq, Bar-whek, Berwugca, Berewyc, Berwicchii. The real name is Berwick-upon-Tweed, or Berewicum-super-Twedam. In passing from the origin of the name to the origin of the town we pass to equally difficult ground. There is no reason to believe that the beginning of Berwick differed much from that of other seaside towns. The following remarks of Cosmo Innes are peculiarly applicable to Berwick:

'I have alluded to some of the causes which determined the position of our Scotch burghs. The royal demesne and castle formed the nucleus of some, as of Ayr, etc. The cathedral or great abbey attracted others. . . . Some have an evident fitness as barriers against the wild mountaineers . . . But more of our ancient burghs owe their origin to the mouth of a river, indenting our rugged coast, and tempting some adventurous natures or some sea-rovers from Flanders to seek shelter there for their cobbles and busses, to carry on their fishing, and to establish their infant trade and even some rude manufacture. Such lovers of the sea needed little more. They had the shelter of the cove and the bar against storms, a sufficient stream to drive their corn-mill and their waulk-mill. They had in the constitution of their race the power of uniting and submitting to authority, and a coherence and vitality quite sufficient to meet on any common emergency. Such towns were, I suppose, as old as anything like society among us, and probably long before any of the ascertained facts of our history, when later some enlightened sovereign like David I. led these burghers forward, protecting their industry by his laws and a charter, and further by the natural defence of a little castle built at the head of the town, where a few of the King's "Milites," or a body of townsmen under the King's bailie, arming suddenly, could show face against any roving galley of " heathen Danes," or equally lawless robbers of our own hills seeking to reap where they had not sowed—the aboriginal village proud of its new charter, passes for the creation of a sovereign who only gave legal form and sanction to its old customs.'*

All trace of the origin of Berwick is lost, but, in these lines of Innes, we have the most probable account of the formation of early Berwick; for until the time of David we learn nothing of it as a town. But, in the beginning of his reign, it had an existence—a corporate existence, too—from the fact of its actual position and influence. Its aldermen, as we have said in a previous page, were learned in all the usages of a burgh; and whence could this knowledge be derived, if it were not a burgh obeying a recognised code of laws? It became a Royal Burgh under David, and a member of the Court of the Four Burghs. It was evidently then a most important town, growing in activity and trade. It was thus the Anglo-Norman Burgh, with its feudal castle and civic population, distinct and separate from the garrison, which was the model of the burghs established and confirmed by David beyond the Tweed. It may be doubted whether any free communities engaged in commerce and occupying walled towns were in existence much before this reign, even in the Lothians; though the germs of such societies may have existed at several places at that early date. Had there been burghs or walled towns in any part of Saxon Northumbria before the close of the eleventh century, the invading Scots would surely have been checked before they reached the gates of Durham.'

We begin our history of the Guild from the reign of David, and at once pass to consider the laws that governed this early society. There were undoubtedly guilds in Berwick earlier than this reign, for guilds seem to have existed in towns from their earliest beginnings. The term ' guild' most probably means a feast. The craftsmen of each trade met occasionally over their feast of ale and bread to discuss matters of deep interest to themselves, and thus formed guilds, which were in their nature simply trade associations. These separate guilds could never, in their disunited form, govern the township. The community, therefore, chose the Borough Reeve, or Provost, who should preside at their common meetings where they deliberated on their welfare and their freedom. Each burgh seems to have been originally divided into four wards, similarly to a shire into four quarters. Over every ward was placed a Bailie, a type of the rural Mair of the Quarter; the leading personage being the Burgh Reeve or Provost, chosen annually with the Bailies and Bedells of the community of the burghers, in the first burgh moot held after Michaelmas. Complete self-government, indeed, was conferred from the outset upon the Scottish burghers by a Sovereign desirous of attracting such a class to his kingdom. And the enlightened policy of David, together with the state of peace and prosperity which he secured for the whole of the north of England, as well as for the settled portion of his own kingdom, soon filled the walled towns, which rapidly sprang up on every side, with a crowd of willing settlers from South Britain and from, Flanders, who were guaranteed the enjoyment of even more than the usual freedom and privileges under the royal protection. The original burghers as a class were, with few exceptions, of foreign extraction—emigrants from Southern Britain, and, not unfrequently, Flemings, as in Berwick, where the Flemings long dwelt apart as a separate Guild/J Their common interests gave rise to unions of several burghs into a sort of parliament. Of this nature was the Hanse of Northern Burghs, to which David had granted his protection, confirmed by King William, and a yet more memorable combination in the South, consisting of the Four Burghs, Berwick, Roxburgh, Edinburgh, and Stirling. These were the Four Burghs from whose deliberations emanated the code of laws that still bears their name. Such was the origin of these laws, which, in due time, received the sanction of the King's Court of Parliament, but which, even independent of that action, were received as authoritative by all the burghs of Scotland. We see here the real origin of our third estate, which had this defined organization and authority, and constituted that remarkable parliament of the curia quattuor burgorum centuries before the burghs, as one of those estates, sat and voted in the national Parliament.

Berwick's interests internally were in the hands of the Bailies and the Provost, who guided the community prosperously onward. Appeals from their decisions went to this Court of the Four Burghs, which met once a year in Haddington, presided over by the Chamberlain of Scotland (hence called the Chamberlain Air'), and was competent to decide cases of appeal from all the burghs of Scotland. Representatives from the Four Burghs sat in the Court with the Chamberlain, to aid him in reviewing the decisions of individual burghs. What were the precise functions of this Court cannot now be fully ascertained; but it is obvious that the Court decided questions involving the usages of burghs and the rights and privileges of burgesses, and even regulated, in regard to such matters, the principle of movable succession.' In that assembly, probably, were ordered and assessed the taxes which the burghs contributed to the necessities of the State. We know, indeed, that they joined in the aids of public contributions from a very early period/%

In the Chamberlain Air inquiries were, likewise, made whether the Bailies and other officers of the King in the several burghs performed their duties properly. For instance, in one Chamberlain Air which is extant, the date of which is uncertain, there are inquiries—

'If the Bailies do judgment and justice at all times, and equally to the puir and the ritch; if they tak gifts for doing justice to any or mak themselves parties in Court, or kepe the assize of brede, aill, and flesche ; if they search thrice in the year for casting furth of lipper folk, and have caused wechtes and elnes to be duly examined. Inquiry is to be made if brewster wives sell aill conform to the price set upon it by the taistcrs, and if they selle before it has been prized by the tasters, and if they sell by potfuls and not by sealed measures.

'Again, if fleschers by ony vthyr than sound beastes or sell otherwise than publicly in the market, and keep the assise imposed on beef, mutton and pork. Also inquire if there be ony common sklanderers not punished, and if double wechtes be used, one for buying and one other for selling. If ony are using the burgh freedom who are not free, and who used the freedom and have not biggit land after a year. Inquiry is to be made of coukes makand reddie flesche or fish in pastry not fit for the use of man, or if, after they have kepit such the proper time, they heat it again and sell it to the manifest deception of the people.'

Another important and curious inquiry is set down in this long and inexhaustible list. It is anent some four score marks of Silver granted by our Lord the King for the cleansing of the town'of Berwick into whose hands they have come, and whether into the hands of private persons, and the town was not cleansed of that money/ Some malappropriation of money is evident here. Innes hints that if the date of this grant could be discovered, then the date of the whole 'Air' could be ascertained. This is impossible, as no data remain whereby anything of this grant can be learned at all.

In the proceedings of the cAir' we have the manner given at length in which they 'chalance' the 'Ail Taistares':

'In the first they are nocht redic at the fourth puttyn of the Takyn for to tast ail. Secondly, they are nocht rcdy to tast ail as oft as the Brewster tunnis. The third, that they wannes [go] within the hous, whar thai sulde stand in the middis of the streyt befor the dur, and send an of thar falowis in with the bedal that sul chesc of what pot he will tast, the whilk he sal present to his falowis, and thai sail discern thar apone, efter the assise to thaim put The fourth, that they present nocht the defaultis before the Balzeis in the next Court followand. The fifth is that thai mak nocht the assise of ail, but sayis sympilly, "it is gud or it is ewill."'

This curious custom would not be unacceptable work for some even at the present day; but, for the sake of decency, it is to be hoped that the € ail' was not strong, for, if there were many houses to visit in one day, the consequences with heady ' ail * may be imagined. Baxters, fleschers, and salmon-fishers were all under the control of this Court. Various other matters were settled in the same manner. Its whole powers may not be thoroughly known, but surely in these remarks enough has been said to give us an idea of a very busy Court, and one which, if well worked, performed an important and extensive duty.

There are two sets of laws published—the one relating to the internal regulations of the town or burgh, and called the 'Statutes of the Gild' (Statuta Gilda) the other referring more to the relationship between those who lived in the country and those who lived in the burgh. These were the laws of the Four Burghs referred to above. The original language of both is Latin. Both sets of laws have been published by different editors. The whole set of Guild Laws in Latin, and the first seventeen in Scotch, were printed in the first volume of the 'Acts of the Scottish Parliament'. Cosmo Innes, in the first volume of the Burgh Record Society, published them again in the same form, and translated the remainder in Latin into modern English. Toulmin Smith, in 'English Gilds' has printed only an inaccurate copy, taken from a work published at Rouen and edited by H. Houard, a learned French antiquary, and from a German work entitled 'Das Gildewesen im Mittelalter,' edited by Dr. Wilda. Thomson and Innes edited their copies from what is known as the 'Ayr MSS./ whichj are now in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. Through the carelessness of the custodiers, no Latin copy has been preserved in the Berwick archives. In 1568 evidently a copy was in existence; for, among the writings and charters mentioned that year in the i Guild Book,' as handed over to the custody of Anthony Temple, Mayor, there is this interesting notice: ' One Book in Paper wryten in Lattin touchinge the statuts of the Towne of Barwick.' It seems to have been entirely overlooked by the authorities here that even an English copy still existed among the Records of the Guild. Toulmin Smith asked the question of a late town clerk, and his answer was, * That no such laws were here, and never had been.' These laws were all the time in his keeping, in the English of the later part of the fifteenth or early part of the sixteenth century. I do not think the language is older, and the handwriting is certainly not older, than the reign of Henry VII. The copy is a specimen of very careful and very beautiful penmanship. These laws will be found complete in Appendix No. VII. Meanwhile we shall give an idea of their scope. They bear to have been enacted under the presidency of Robert Bernham, Mayor of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Simon Maunsel and other good men of the burgh. Now Robert Bernham was Mayor in 1238 and in 1249 The general understanding by Thomson and Innes is that these laws were made about the latter year. Probably made is not the proper term; codified seems the more correct. They were, at that time, brought into unity and harmonized for the good of the town. These laws greatly resemble, both in form and substance, the Laws of the Four Burghs. These latter were certainly older than this date; as old as the reign of David. Thomson says of them, 'They bear a great resemblance to the Laws of Newcastle made in the reign of Henry II., and probably in use as early as Henry I.' (1100-1135), that is, contemporary with David. The Latin in both those of the Four Burghs and those of Newcastle is identical, or nearly so. Here is the Latin of the first law of 'Leges Quattuor Burgorum,' followed by the Latin of the first of the Newcastle Laws:

'Quilibet Burgenses potest maniare foris habitentes infra forum suum et extra infra domum suam et extra sine licencia prepositis sine nisi commercia vel nundine teneantur in burgo et nisi fuerit in exercitu regis vel in custodia Castelli.'

'Burgenses possunt maniare foris habitantes infra suum forum et extra et infra suum domum et extra et infra suum Burgum et extra sine licentia prepositis nisi comitia teneantur in burgo et nisi in exercitu custodia Castelli.'

The resemblance here is more than accidental. It is well-known that David was frequently about Newcastle during his reign. His son Henry was Earl of Northumberland ; there is, therefore, no improbability in supposing these laws to have the same origin. Again, the customs leviable at the ports of Berwick and Newcastle were the same in nature, and in amount on any given article, which clearly shows the close connection between the two towns at that time.

To return to the laws of the Guild. There is no doubt but that the laws, codified in 1249, had been in existence since David's reign, and towns had been governed by methods indicated therein. The reason given by Bernham and his coadjutors for drawing up these laws is thus set forth: Up to this time a number of Guilds had existed with divers interests, and not always working harmoniously one with the other. Now the desire was to amalgamate all these Guilds into one, 'that from hensflzrth that no man presume to procure any other gilde within our burgh, but all gang together with on assent and trew lowff.' This desire seems to have become general at this epoch, and probably it shadows forth the growing influence of the merchant class. The Guilds were generally tending to become mere Merchant Guilds, and to a very great extent all tradesmen were debarred entrance thereinto. Also it is ordered that no bowcher by nother woll nor hyds whils he occupys that craft, or melles with the slaying of bees.' No butcher while he handles the axe can be a merchant or meddle with the staple trade of the town. These Guilds were very arbitrary and conservative in their action. No unfreeman could trade and no freeman was permitted to assist any unfreeman in his trade. Freemen, and these alone, were to have entire control over all commerce coming within reach of the burgh. Hence the Guild was very careful that everything traded in was good. 'Noe shomaker to tand eny hyds bot of whom the erys and homes be bothe of on lenthe.' 'If it hapyn the byere of any merchandise se it gud above and wars vnder, the seller shall mend it after the seyght of the Feryngmen/ However, entire selfishness did not regulate all Guild concerns. There was a kinder, a more lovable side to it. In short, the Guild formed not only an exclusive trading society of merchants, but also a society for helping their poorer and more unfortunate brethren. 'If any of oure brether of oure gilde fawll in age or in poverte of in seknes, and not hawyinge whervpon he may lefF, at the disposision of our alderman and other of oure brether he shalbe releffed with the goods of our gylde.' If anyone died poor and left wife or daughter, the wife was to be relieved, and provision to be made for the daughter, either to enable her to marry or to enter a religious house. The true bequeathing of property was also clearly laid down, as well as the amount of fine for admission to the freedom, which was asserted to be 40s., and in addition every freeman who had goods worth 40 must possess a horse worth 40s. The trade regulations were strict, minute, and definite. No married woman could trade in woo]. There must be no sale of goods but in the market-place and in market hours. Forestalling the market was a serious offence. No wool was to be taken from sheepskins from Whitsunday till Martinmas. Wool from the skins of recently-clipped sheep would be short and useless. Herring must be sold to a freeman at the same price as they were bought for in the boat. A favourite fine for breaking any trade regulation was a tun of wine forfeited to the Guild. The government of the town by these laws was vested in twenty-four feering-men, a maior, and four bailifs. The Maire and bailleffs be elect and chosyn be the consideration and syght of the comonty; and if there be any contravers or debayt in the chesyn of them, then they shall be chosyn be the oth of the xxiiij ferynge-men/ The deliberations of this body were secret, and all were bound to secresy, under penalties of dismissal after the third offence, and he that was in this manner disfranchised was to be considered for ever 'a vntrewe man.' Attendance at meetings was compulsory, and he that came not at the ringing of the bell was fined 12d. There was to be no quarrelling among the representatives as they went to the Guild or during the meeting, or in returning home, under a penalty of 3s. 4d. If the quarrel resulted in striking with the fist, he that was proved to be in fault was fined 100 marks, and had, moreover, to amend to him that was struck what the feryngmen judged expedient. 'If any brother drawe blode of another with a clowbe or with any other wapyn, or maym hym of any membre, he shalbe condempened at the arbeterment of the aldermen/ These forfeits or fines were not to be lessened at any 'Mane's prayers.' So careful were they over their behaviour, and so little faith had they in the self-restraint of their neighbours, that, considering prevention better than cure, they forbade a knife to be carried into Guild, under a fine of 1s.

Thirty-eight of these regulations appear to have been made in 1248. The remaining eight have separate dates, and were drawn up from 1281 to 1294. The feryngmen for this purpose met in the church of St. Nicholas and in the hall of the Friars of the Holy Trinity ;* although the Berfreyt is mentioned in the body of the code as the place for meeting. In the Ayr MSS. the separate enactments number fifty-one ; but there is no important difference between the two sets. The Berwick Code is shorter, as if the language had been stripped of some of the redundancy of the early MSS.

The code of the Four Burghs is a much more extensive series of enactments. One hundred and nineteen are given in Innes's volume of the Burgh Record Society. We cannot load our history with these laws; nor is there any necessity, for we have already referred to their close resemblance to English laws, amongst which most of them may be read.

Berwick continued to be governed on the basis of these laws till the charter of James in 1603, or, more correctly it might be said, till the passing of the Municipal Corporation Act in 1835. The Guild brethren were undoubtedly assisted to some extent by the laws of the Four Burghs, which, along with the Guild Laws, gave all necessary powers and furnished all necessary regulations. The laws of the Four Burghs are characterized as more complete and compact, and have in them more of the qualities of a body of statute law, than any other fragments of ancient legislation.

It is a problem yet unsolved whether any early charters were conferred upon the town. The presumption is that such was the case. None, however, have been found, and none are referred to save in the time of the Alexanders. The nature of a grant of Alexander HI. is still extant. It is set forth in an inquisition in the time of Edward III., still preserved in the Tower of London. By this inquisition the jury returned, * That in all past times the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed had been a free burgh, and had had a Mayor and Bailiffs and a Common Clerk, and that these officers were each entitled to a certain annual fee ; that, when the revenues of the burgh were in the hands of Alexander III. of Scotland, these salaries were paid by his Chamberlain (an officer whose duties were then similar to those of the Treasurer of the Exchequer of England), until Alexander granted the town with all its revenues and issues, reserving an annual rent to the Crown payable at his exchequer at Berwick, to the Mayor and commonalty of that burgh, after which the salaries were paid out of this annual rent.'

Considerable light is thrown upon the subject of the nature of the revenues of Berwick by records at a date subsequent to this, but no contemporary records of this period remain. It may safely be concluded that the King of Scotland was the lord of the soil and of the fisheries of the Tweed, and that he gave grants —some in fee subject to annual rents, called 'Burgh Mail' a term of payment that remained in Berwick till quite a recent date; and some upon lease—that certain tolls and customs were also payable in respect to merchandise, and that the lands were subject to a Castle-guard rent for the maintenance of Berwick Castle. These revenues were chargeable with the expense of keeping the Castle in repair, with the salaries of the officers appointed to collect them, with the annual fees to the Mayor, and Bailiff, and Town Clerk for executing certain duties within the burgh, the nature of which is not explained.

In 1296, Berwick was conquered by the English; but it is quite evident, from the after-history of its records, that even Edward I. did not change its government, but continued all its officers as in the time of Alexander HI., viz., 'Chancellor, Chamberlain, Sheriff, Justiciar, Maior, and Bailiffs'.

The original charter of Edward I. is not to be found ; but, in the confirmations by'the other Kings, it is quoted at length; and from a translation in the c Oath Book' in Berwick archives, the substance is given as follows. We omit the introductory matters:

'Know ye that for the betteringe of oure town of Barwick-upon-Tweed and the profitte and comodytie of our men of the same towne, we will and grant, for us and our heires, that our foresaid towne be from hensforth a free Burroughe, and the men of the same town free Burgesses; and that they have all liberties and free customes to a free Burroughe belonging for ever. And that they may have a Guild Hall or place of meeting, and a Brotherhoode or Guild of Merchants and other customes and liberties to that Guild belonginge, so that none of that Guild make any merchandize within that Burrough, but by the will of the burgesses of the same Borrough. Furthermore we grant to the same burgesses that they of themselves elect every yeare one Maior, a discreete and meete man who shall be faithfull to us and our heirs and serviceable in the government of the same Borough, so that when the Mayor is chosen he shalbe presented to us or our Chancellor, Treasurer, and Barrons of Exchequer of Scotland (yf we or our heirs be not then present), and to us shall swear fealty, and that it shall belong to the same burgesses that Maior in the end of the year to amove, and him or another to elect and present in manner aforesaid. And that the Maior and Comonaltie of the same Boroughe of themselves electe ffbwer Baliffs descreete and meete men which faithfully shall doe and execute those things which to their office dothe apperteyne within the Borough aforesaid and to us and to our heirs before the said Maior shall swear fealty. That the burgesses shall have power to bequeath their property in their last will and testament without any hindrance from us or our ministers. That they be impleaded only in their towne of Berwick before the Maior and Baliffs. That they haue the retorne of all wrytts whatsoever touching that Borough, and that no one interferc unless in defaulk of the Maior and Baliffs. That the burgesses elect a coroner who shall be presented to the Maior, to whom he shall swear to act in his office faithfully. Further we grant that a certain prison be maide and had within the said Borough to chastise malefactors there taken ; and that a gallowse likewise be erected without the said Borough upon our owne grounde, so that the said Maior of infangthief and outfangthief may doe judgment. We grant likewise that the Burgesses have Theolonium, Pontagium, Passagium, Muragium, Pavagium, Canagium, Lastagium,


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