Topics > Northumberland > Berwick upon Tweed > Berwick-Upon-Tweed, 1848

Berwick-Upon-Tweed, 1848

BERWICK-UPON-TWEED (Holy Trinity), a port, borough, market-town, parish, and county of itself, and the head of a union, 64 miles (N. by W.) from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and 334 (N. by W.) from London; containing 8,484 inhabitants. The name of this town, which Leland supposes to have been originally Aberwick, from the British terms, Aber, the mouth of a river, and Wic, a town, is by Camden and other antiquaries considered to be expressive merely of a hamlet, or granary, annexed to a place of greater importance. Such appendages are usually in ancient records styled berewics, and the town is thought to have obtained its name from having been the grange or berewic of the priory of Coldingham, ten miles distant. The earliest authentic notice of Berwick occurs in the reign of Alexander I. of Scotland, and in that of Henry II. of England, to the latter of which monarchs it was given up, with four other towns, by William the Lion, in 1176, as a pledge for the performance of the treaty of Falaise, by which, in order to obtain his release from captivity after the battle of Alnwick, in 1174, he had engaged to do homage to the English monarch as lord paramount for all his Scottish dominions. Richard I., to obtain a supply of money for his expedition to the Holy Land, sold the vassalage of Scotland for 10,000 marks, and restored this and the other towns to William, content with receiving homage for the territories only which that prince held in England. King John, upon retiring from an unsuccessful invasion of Scotland, burnt the town, which the Scots almost immediately rebuilt.

In 1291, the commissioners appointed to examine and report on the validity of the title of the respective claimants to the crown of Scotland, met at Berwick, and pursued the investigation which led to the decision in favour of John Balliol. Edward I. having compelled Balliol to resign his crown, took the town by storm in 1296, when a dreadful carnage ensued; here he received the homage of the Scottish nobility in the presence of a council of the whole nation, and established a court of exchequer for the receipt of the revenue of the kingdom of Scotland. Wallace, in the following year, having laid siege to the town, took and for a short time retained possession of it, but was unsuccessful in his attempt upon the castle, which was relieved by the arrival of a numerous army. Edward II., in prosecuting the war against Scotland, assembled his army here repeatedly, and hence made inroads into the enemy's territory. Robert Bruce obtained it in 1318, and, having raised the walls and strengthened them with towers, kept it, notwithstanding attacks from Edward II. and III., until it surrendered to the latter after the celebrated battle of Hallidown Hill, within the borough, which took place on the 19th of July, 1333. From Edward IV. and his successors it received several charters and privileges in confirmation and enlargement of the charter granted by Edward I., in which the enjoyment of the Scottish laws as they existed in the time of Alexander III. had been confirmed. After having been exposed during the subsequent reigns to the continued aggressions of the Scots and the English, Elizabeth repaired and strengthened the fortifications, and new walled part of the town: the garrison which had for some time been placed in it, was continued till the accession of James to the English throne, when its importance as a frontier town ceased. During the civil war in the reign of Charles I., it was garrisoned by the parliament.

The Town is pleasantly situated on the northern bank, and near the mouth, of the river Tweed, over which is a handsome stone bridge of fifteen arches, built in the reigns of James I. and Charles I., and connecting it with Tweedmouth on the south. The streets, with the exception of St. Mary gate, usually called the High-street, Castlegate, Ravensdowne, the Parade, and Hide-hill, are narrow, but neatly paved, and the houses are, in general, well built: the town is lighted with gas, and an abundant supply of water is obtained by pipes laid down to the houses from the public reservoirs, which are the property of the corporation. Fuel is also plentiful, there being several colleries on the south, and one on the north, side of the river, within from two to four miles of the town. A public library was established in 1812, and a reading-room in 1842; the theatre, a small neat building, is opened at intervals, and there are assemblyrooms. The new fortifications, which are exceedingly strong, have displaced those of more ancient date, of which only a few ruins now remain; they afford an agreeable promenade, much frequented by the inhabitants. The present works consist of a rampart of earth, faced with stone: there are no outworks, with the exception of the old castle, which overlooks the Tweed, and is now completely in ruins, and an earthen battery at the landing-place below the Magdalen fields. The line of works below the river is almost straight, but to the north and east are five bastions, to two of which there are powder magazines: the harbour is defended by a four and a six gun battery near the governor's house; and a saluting battery, of twenty-two guns, commands the English side of the Tweed. There are five gates belonging to the circumvallation, by which entrance is obtained. The barracks, which were built in 1719, form a small quadrangle, neatly built of stone, and afford good accommodation for 600 or 700 infantry. To these was recently attached the governor's house, for officers' barracks; but that building and the ground adjoining, formerly the site of the palace of the kings of Scotland, have been sold by the crown to a timbermerchant, and are now occupied for the purposes of his trade.

The port was celebrated in the time of Alexander III. for the extent of its traffic in wool, hides, salmon, etc., which was carried on both by native merchants, and by a company of Flemings settled here; the latter of whom, however, perished in the conflagration of their principal establishment, called the Red Hall, which was set on fire at the capture of the town and castle by Edward I. At present, there is a considerable coasting-trade, though it has somewhat declined since the termination of the continental war: the exports are corn, wool, salmon, cod, haddock, herrings, and coal; and the imports, timber-deals, staves, iron, hemp, tallow, and bones for manure. About 800 men are employed in the fishery: the salmon and trout, of which large quantities are caught, are packed in boxes with ice, and sent chiefly to the London market; great quantities of lobsters, crabs, cod, haddock, and herrings are also taken, and a large portion forwarded, similarly packed, to the metropolis. The principal articles of manufacture, exclusively of such as are connected with the shipping, are, damask, diaper, sacking, cotton-hosiery, carpets, hats, boots, and shoes; and about 200 hands are employed in three ironfoundries, established within the present century. Steam-engines, and almost every other article, are made; the gas-light apparatus for Berwick, Perth, and several other places, was manufactured here, and iron-works have lately been erected at Galashiels and at Jedburgh by the same proprietors. The harbour is naturally inconvenient, the greater part of it being left dry at ebb-tide; it has, however, been recently deepened by several feet, and vessels of large tonnage come to the quay. The river is navigable only to the bridge, though the tide flows for seven miles beyond it: on account of the entrance being narrowed by sand-banks, great impediments were occasioned to the navigation till the erection, in 1808, of a stone pier on the projecting rocks at the north entrance of the Tweed; it is about half a mile in length, and has a light-house at the extremity. This, together with the clearing and deepening of the harbour, has materially improved the facilities of navigation, and been of great importance to the shipping interest of the place. On the Tweedmouth shore, for a short space, near the Carr Rock, ships of 400 or 500 tons' burthen may ride in safety. The smacks and small brigs, formerly carrying on the whole traffic of the place, are now superseded by large and well-fitted steamvessels, schooners, and clipper-ships. There are numerous and extensive quays and warehouses, with a patent-slip for the repair of vessels; and the town has the advantage of a railway to Edinburgh, in continuation of the railway along the east coast hence to Newcastleupon-Tyne: the great railway bridge over the Tweed here, was commenced in the spring of 1847. The market, which is well supplied with grain, is on Saturday, and there is a fair on the last Friday in May, for blackcattle and horses; statute-fairs are held on the first Saturday in March, May, August, and November.

By charter of incorporation granted in the second year of James I., the government was vested in a mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses; and there were, besides, an alderman for the year, a recorder, town-clerk, towntreasurer, four sergeants-at-mace, and other officers; but the control now resides in a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors, together composing the council, by whom a sheriff and other officers are appointed. The borough is distributed into three wards, and its municipal and parliamentary boundaries are the same; the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, and twelve other gentlemen have been appointed to act under a separate commission. Berwick was one of the royal burghs which, in ancient times, sent representatives to the court of the four royal burghs in Scotland; and on being annexed to the kingdom of England, its prescriptive usages were confirmed by royal charter. It sent representatives to parliament in the reign of Henry VIII., since which time it has continued to return two members. The right of election was formerly vested in the freemen at large, in number about 1140; the resident freemen and certain householders are now the electors, and the sheriff is returning officer. The limits of the borough include the townships of Tweedmouth and Spittal, on the south side of the river. The corporation hold courts of quarter-session for the borough, and a court of pleas every alternate Tuesday for the recovery of debts to any amount; a court leet, also, is held under the charter, at which six petty constables are appointed. The powers of the county debt-court of Berwick, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Berwick. The town-hall is a spacious and handsome building, with a portico of four massive columns of the Tuscan order: a portion of the lower part, called the Exchange, is appropriated to the use of the poultry and butter market; the first story contains two spacious halls and other apartments, in which the courts are held and the public business of the corporation transacted, and the upper part is used as a gaol. The whole forms a stately pile of fine hewn stone, and is surmounted with a lofty spire, containing a peal of eight bells, which on Sunday summon the inhabitants to the parish church.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £20; net income, £289; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Durham. The church is a handsome structure in the decorated English style, built during the usurpation of Cromwell, and is without a steeple. One of the Fishbourn lectureships is established here. There are places of worship for members of the Scottish Kirk, the Associate Synod, the Scottish Relief, Particular Baptists, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics. A school for the instruction of the sons of burgesses in English and the mathematics was founded and endowed by the corporation, in 1798; to each department there is a separate master, paid by the corporation, and the average number of pupils is about 300. The burgesses have also the patronage of a free grammar school, endowed in the middle of the seventeenth century by Sir William Selby, of the Moat, and other charitable persons. The Blue-coat charity-school was founded in 1758 by Captain Bolton, and endowed with £800, since augmented with several benefactions, especially with one of £1000 by Richard Cowle, who died at Dantzic in 1819; the whole income is £155, which is applied to educating about 150 boys, of whom 40 are also clothed. The school of industry for girls, established in 1819, affords instruction to 106 girls; and there are several infant, Sunday, and other schools. A pauper lunatic house was erected in 1813, and a dispensary established in 1814. A considerable part of the corporation land is allotted into "meadows" and "stints," and given rent-free to the resident freemen and freemen's widows, according to seniority, for their respective lives. Among the most important bequests for the benefit of the poor, are, £1000 by Richard Cowle, £1000 by John Browne in 1758, and £28 per annum by Sarah Foreman in 1803. The poor law union of which the town is the head comprises seventeen parishes and places, sixteen of them being in the county of Durham; and contains a population of 20,938. Some remains are still visible of the ancient castle of Berwick, and of a pentagonal tower near it; also of a square fort in Magdalen fields, and some entrenchments on Hallidown Hill. All vestiges of the ancient churches and chapels of the town, the Benedictine nunnery said to have been founded by David, King of Scotland, the monasteries of Black, Grey, White, and Trinitarian friars, and three or four hospitals, have entirely disappeared. The Magdalen fields, already mentioned, belonged to the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen. During the reigns of William the Lion, and of Edward I., II., III., and other Scottish and English monarchs, Berwick was a place of mintage, and several of its coins are still preserved. There is a mineral spring close to the town, which is occasionally resorted to by invalids.

Extract from: A Topographical Dictionary of England comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate and market towns, parishes, and townships..... 7th Edition, by Samuel Lewis, London, 1848.

Berwick upon Tweed Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council area Northumberland Parishes and Townships - 1848
A topographical dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis, 7th Ed., 1848
- A topographical dictionary of England comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate and market towns, parishes, and townships, and the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Man, with historical and statistical …

Added by
Simon Cotterill


Add a comment or share a memory.

Login to add a comment. Sign-up if you don't already have an account.


Co-Curate is a project which brings together online collections, museums, universities, schools and community groups to make and re-make stories and images from North East England and Cumbria. Co-Curate is a trans-disciplinary project that will open up 'official' museum and 'un-officia'l co-created community-based collections and archives through innovative collaborative approaches using social media and open archives/data.