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Uniting the Kingdoms? 1066-1603

 
   

England

Berwick, 'Capital of the Borders'

Trading took place between England and Scotland for centuries before the records begin. Border farmers reared sheep and cattle, while border reiversGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window stole such stock and sold it for profit. The main outlet for this commerce, and related wool and leather products, was Berwick, which attracted enormous trade because it had a lower customs duty than other northern ports. Sea trading was also established on the west coast, where English ports such as Carlisle and Workington dealt in a variety of goods including linen, wool, herring, hops, sea coal and copper.

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During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Berwick was claimed by both countries and often changed hands. It was finally recovered for England in 1482, during a campaign under Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III). Today it remains in England, but is also the county town of the Scottish county of Berwickshire, despite five centuries in English hands.

By the 1590s the massive defences of Berwick and other border forts were in disrepair, leaving the region vulnerable to Scottish raiders. Berwick relied for food on Scottish suppliers, and by the mid-sixteenth century border officials were becoming increasingly alarmed at this dependence. In 1592 the mayor of Berwick complained that Scottish merchants were undercutting the English in the town and removing English coin into Scotland. The following year all Scottish servants were barred from the town, and English soldiers with Scottish wives were dismissed. However, hundreds of Scottish people were still living in Berwick in 1597.

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Detail from Robert I of Scotland (the Bruce) and his wife Isobel, daughter of John, Earl of Mar. By kind permission of Sir Francis Ogilvy.
 
Detail from Robert I of Scotland (the Bruce) and his wife Isobel, daughter of John, Earl of Mar. By kind permission of Sir Francis Ogilvy.