View over Berwick-upon-Tweed town centre
Berwick-upon-Tweed shown within Northumberland
|Population||11,665 (2001 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||North East England|
Berwick-upon-Tweed i/ / Scottish Gaelic: Bearaig a Deas) is a town in the county of Northumberland and is the northernmost town in England, on the east coast at the mouth of the River Tweed. It is situated 2½ miles (4 km) south of the Scottish border. It is roughly 56 miles east-south east of Edinburgh, 65 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne and 345 miles north of London.
Founded as an Anglo-Saxon settlement during the time of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area was for over 400 years central to historic border war between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, and several times possession of Berwick changed hands between the two kingdoms. The last time it changed hands was when England retook it in 1482. Berwick remains a traditional market town and also has some notable architectural features, in particular its defence ramparts and barrack buildings.
The name “Berwick” is of Old English origin, and is derived from the term bere-wīc, combining bere, meaning “barley”, and wīc, referring to a farm or settlement. “Berwick” thus means “barley village” or “barley farm”.
In the post-Roman period, the area was inhabited by the Brythons of Bryneich. Later, the region became part of the Anglian kingdom of Bernicia. Bernicia later united with the kingdom of Deira to form Northumbria, which in the mid-10th century entered the Kingdom of England under Eadred.
Between the late 10th and early 11th centuries, the land between the rivers Forth and Tweed came under Scottish control, either through conquest or through cession by an English ruler. Berwick was made a royal burgh in the reign of David I. A mint was present in the town by 1153.
Struggles for control of Berwick
Berwick's strategic position on the Anglo-Scottish border during centuries of war between the two nations and its relatively great wealth led to a succession of raids, sieges and takeovers. William I of Scotland invaded and attempted to capture northern England in 1173-74. After his defeat, Berwick was ceded to Henry II of England. It was later sold back to William by Richard I of England in order to raise funds for his Crusade. Berwick had become a prosperous town by the middle of the 13th century. According to William Edington, a bishop and chancellor of Scotland, Berwick was "so populous and of such commercial importance that it might rightly be called another Alexandria, whose riches were the sea and the water its walls". In 1291/92, Berwick was the site of Edward I of England's arbitration in the contest for the Scottish crown between John Balliol and Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale. The decision in favour of Balliol was pronounced in the Great Hall of Berwick Castle on 17 November 1292.
In 1296 England went to war with France, with whom Scotland was in alliance. Balliol invaded England in response, sacking Cumberland. Edward in turn invaded Scotland and captured Berwick, destroying much of the town. Edward I went again to Berwick in August 1296 to receive formal homage from some 2,000 Scottish nobles, after defeating the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in April and forcing John Balliol to abdicate at Kincardine Castle the following July. An arm of William Wallace was displayed at Berwick after his execution and quartering on 23 August 1305. In 1314 Edward II of England mustered 25,000 men at Berwick, who later fought in (and lost) the Battle of Bannockburn.
Between 1315 and 1318, Scottish armies, sometimes with the help of Flemish and German privateers, besieged and blockaded the town, finally invading and capturing it in April 1318. England retook Berwick some time shortly after the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333. In October 1357, a treaty was signed at Berwick by which the Scottish estates undertook to pay 100,000 marks as a ransom for David II of Scotland, who had been taken prisoner at the Battle of Neville's Cross on 17 October 1346.
In 1461 Berwick was ceded to Scotland by Margaret of Anjou on behalf of her husband, Henry VI, in return for help against the Yorkists during the Wars of the Roses. Robert Lauder of Edrington was put in charge of the castle. He was succeeded in 1474 by David, Earl of Crawford. On 3 February 1478, Robert Lauder of The Bass and Edrington was again appointed Keeper of the castle, a position that he held until the last year of Scottish occupation, when Patrick Hepburn, 1st Lord Hailes, had possession.
Berwick had a mediaeval hospital for the sick and poor which was administered by the Church. A charter under the Great Seal of Scotland, confirmed by King James I of Scotland, grants the king's chaplain "Thomas Lauder of the House of God or Hospital lying in the burgh of Berwick-upon-Tweed, to be held to him for the whole time of his life with all lands, teinds, rents and profits, etc., belonging to the said hospital, as freely as is granted to any other hospital in the Kingdom of Scotland; the king also commands all those concerned to pay to the grantee all things necessary for the support of the hospital. Dated at Edinburgh June 8, in the 20th year of his reign."
In 1551, the town was made a county corporate. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, vast sums – one source reports "£128,648, the most expensive undertaking of the Elizabethan period" – were spent on its fortifications, in a new Italian style (trace italienne), designed both to withstand artillery and to facilitate its use from within the fortifications. These fortifications have been described as "the only surviving walls of their kind". Sir Richard Lee designed some of the Elizabethan works. Although most of Berwick Castle was demolished in the 19th century to make way for the railway, the military barracks remain, as do the town's rampart walls – one of the finest remaining examples of its type in the country.
In 1639 the army of Charles I faced that of General Alexander Leslie at Berwick in the Bishops' Wars, which were concerned with bringing the Presbyterian Church of Scotland under Charles's control. The two sides did not fight, but negotiated a settlement, "Pacification of Berwick", in June.
In 1707, the Act of Union between England and Scotland largely ended the contention about which of the countries Berwick belonged to. Since then, Berwick remained within the laws and legal system of England and Wales. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 (since repealed) deemed that whenever legislation referred to England it applied to Berwick. England now is officially defined as "subject to any alteration of boundaries under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1972, the area consisting of the counties established by section 1 of that Act, Greater London and the Isles of Scilly.", which thus includes Berwick.
Berwick remained a county in its own right, and was not included in Northumberland for Parliamentary purposes until 1885. In the same year, the Redistribution of Seats Act reduced the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) returned by the town from two to one.
On 1 April 1974, the Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed was created by the merger of the previous borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed with Belford Rural District, Glendale Rural District and Norham and Islandshires Rural District.
In 2008, SNP MSP Christine Grahame made calls in the Scottish Parliament for Berwick to become part of Scotland again, saying, "Even the Berwick-upon-Tweed Borough Council leader, who is a Liberal Democrat, backs the idea and others see the merits of reunification with Scotland." The Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis, who was born and brought up in Berwick, also asked for the border to be moved twenty miles south (i.e., a significant distance south of the Tweed) to include Berwick borough council rather than just the town. stating: "There’s a strong feeling that Berwick should be in Scotland. Until recently, I had a gran in Berwick and another in Kelso, and they could see that there were better public services in Scotland. Berwick as a borough council is going to be abolished and it would then be run from Morpeth, more than 30 miles away." However, Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, said the move would require a massive legal upheaval and is not realistic. The issue was set to be the centre of a new BBC comedy-drama series, A Free Country, commissioned in 2008 from writer Tony Saint, but to date this project has vanished from view.
In 2009, the Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed was abolished as part of wider structural changes to local government in England. All functions previously exercised by Berwick Borough Council were transferred to Northumberland County Council, which is the unitary authority for the area.
During periods of Scottish administration Berwick was the county town of Berwickshire, to which the town gave its name. Thus at various points in the Middle Ages and from 1482 (when Berwick became administrated by England) Berwickshire had the unique distinction of being the only county in the British Isles to be named after a town in another country.
The town of Berwick was a county corporate for most purposes from 1482, up until 1885, when it was fully incorporated Northumberland. Between 1885, and 1974, Berwick (north of the Tweed) was a borough council in its own right, and then on 1 April 1974 it was merged with Belford Rural District, Glendale Rural District and Norham and Islandshires Rural District.
During these periods, Berwick Borough Council and Berwickshire County Council (or District Council) existed, both named after the same town, but covering entirely different areas.
The Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed was abolished on 1 April 2009. From that date, Northumberland County Council assumed its functions, and those of the other districts in its area, to become a unitary authority.
A new Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council, a parish council, has been created covering Berwick-upon-Tweed, Tweedmouth and Spittal. It is expected to take over the former Borough's mayoralty and regalia.
Slightly more than 60% of the population is employed in the service sector, including shops, hotels and catering, financial services and most government activity, including health care. About 13% is in manufacturing, 10% in agriculture, and 8% in construction. Some current and recent Berwick economic activities include salmon fishing, shipbuilding, engineering, sawmilling, fertilizer production, and the manufacture of tweed and hosiery.
Berwick town centre comprises the Mary Gate and High Street where many local shops and some retail chains exist. There is a small supermarket in the vicinity too. A new office development has been built in the Walker Gate.
There is a retail park in Tweedmouth consisting of some units. Berwick Borough Council refused a proposal from Asda in 2006 to build a store near the site, later giving Tesco the green light for their new store in the town, which opened on 13 September 2010. Asda went on to take over the Co-op shop unit in Tweedmouth early 2010.
The old A1 road passes through Berwick. The modern A1 goes around the town to the west. The town is on the East Coast Main Line railway, and has a railway station. A small seaport at Tweedmouth facilitates the import and export of goods, but provides no passenger services.
The local speech of Berwick-upon-Tweed shares many characteristics with both other rural Northumberland dialects and East Central Scots. In 1892, linguist Richard Oliver Heslop divided the county of Northumberland into four dialect zones and placed the Berwick dialect in the “north-Northumbrian” region, an area extending from Berwick down to the River Coquet. Likewise, Charles Jones (1997) classes the dialect as “predominantly North-Northumbrian” with “a few features shared with Scots”.
Features of this dialect include the “Northumbrian Burr”, a distinct pronunciation of the letter R historically common to many dialects of the North East of England; and predominant non-rhoticity: older speakers tend to be slightly rhotic, while younger speakers are universally non-rhotic.
A sociological study of the English-Scottish border region conducted in 2000 found that locals of Alnwick, 30 miles south of Berwick, associated the Berwick accent with Scottish influence. Conversely, those from Eyemouth, Scotland (9 miles north of Berwick) firmly classed Berwick speech as English, identifying it as “Northumbrian or Geordie”.
Berwick Rangers F.C. were formed in the town in 1881. Despite being located in England the club plays in the Scottish Football League to make the distances travelled by fans shorter. The home stadium of Berwick Rangers is Shielfield Park. The club currently plays in the Scottish Third Division.
Speedway has taken place in Berwick in two separate eras. The sport was introduced to Shielfield Park in May 1968. A dispute between the speedway club and the stadium owners ended the first spell. The sport returned to Shielfield Park in the mid-1990s. The lack of a venue in the town saw the team move to a rural location called Berrington Lough. The team, known as the Bandits, have raced at all levels from First Division to Conference League (first to third levels).
Berwick Rangers and Berwick RFC are unique in that they are English teams that operate within Scottish leagues, although at one point the now-defunct Gretna F.C., based in Gretna, played in the English football system.
Relations with Russia
There is an apocryphal story that Berwick is (or recently was) technically at war with Russia. The story tells that since Berwick had changed hands several times, it was traditionally regarded as a special, separate entity, and some proclamations referred to "England, Scotland and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed". One such was the declaration of the Crimean War against Russia in 1853, which Queen Victoria supposedly signed as "Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, Ireland, Berwick-upon-Tweed and all British Dominions". When the Treaty of Paris (1856) was signed to conclude the war, "Berwick-upon-Tweed" was left out. This meant that, supposedly, one of Britain's smallest towns was officially at war with one of the world's largest powers – and the conflict extended by the lack of a peace treaty for over a century.
The BBC programme Nationwide investigated this story in the 1970s, and found that while Berwick was not mentioned in the Treaty of Paris, it was not mentioned in the declaration of war either. The question remained as to whether Berwick had ever been at war with Russia in the first place. The true situation is that since the Wales and Berwick Act 1746 had already made it clear that all references to England included Berwick, the town had no special status at either the start or end of the war. The grain of truth in this legend could be that some important documents from the 17th century did mention Berwick separately, but this became unnecessary after 1746.
According to a story by George Hawthorne in The Guardian of 28 December 1966, the London correspondent of Pravda visited the Mayor of Berwick, Councillor Robert Knox, and the two made a mutual declaration of peace. Knox said "Please tell the Russian people through your newspaper that they can sleep peacefully in their beds." The same story, cited to the Associate Press, appeared in The Baltimore Sun of 17 December 1966; The Washington Post of 18 December 1966; and The Christian Science Monitor of 22 December 1966. At some point in turn the real events seem to have been turned into a story of a "Soviet official" having signed a "peace treaty" with Mayor Knox; Knox's remark to the Pravda correspondent was preserved in this version.
- First schools
- Berwick St Mary C of E
- Holy Island C of E
- Holy Trinity C of E
- Hugh Joicey C of E
- Norham St Celwulfs C of E
- Spittal Community School
- St Cuthbert's RC
- Tweedmouth Prior Park
- Tweedmouth West
- Middle schools
- Berwick Middle School
- Tweedmouth Community
- High Schools
- Berwick Academy
- Independent schools
- Longridge Towers School (co-ed, all ages)
- Special schools
- Berwick, Pennsylvania, United States
- Casey, Victoria, Australia
- Haan, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
- Sarpsborg, Ostfold, Norway
- Trzcianka, Wielkopolskie, Poland
- Berwick Barracks, now maintained by English Heritage, and built between 1717 and 1721, the design attributed to Hawksmoor.
- The ramparts or defensive wall around the town centre.
- The Old Bridge, 15-span sandstone arch bridge measuring 1,164 feet in length, built between 1610 and 1624, at a cost of £15,000. The bridge continues to serve road traffic, but in one direction only. The bridge, part of the main route from London to Edinburgh was ordered by James VI of Scotland.
- The Royal Border Bridge, designed and built under the supervision of Robert Stephenson in 1847 at a cost of £253,000, is a 720-yard-long railway viaduct with 28 arches, carrying the East Coast Main Line 126 feet above the River Tweed. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1850.
- The Royal Tweed Bridge, built in 1925 and in its time having the longest concrete span in the country at 361 feet, was originally designed to carry the A1 road across the Tweed; the town now has a road bypass to the west. In the early 2000s, its fabric was renovated, the road and pavement layout amended, and new street lighting added.
- The Union Bridge (five miles upstream), the world's oldest surviving suspension bridge.
- The Guildhall, built in 1750 in a Classical style, and formerly housing the town's prison on the top floor.
- Berwick Parish Church, unique for having been built during the Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell. The building, constructed around 1650 using stone from the 13th-century castle (parts of which still stand by the railway station), began as a plain preaching box, with no steeple, stained glass or other decorations. Much altered with a conventional interior layout, contents include a pulpit thought to have been built for John Knox during his stay in the town.
- Dewars Lane Runs down Back Street just off Bridge Street, and, like other Berwick locations, was painted by LS Lowry. The painter was a frequent visitor to Berwick, especially in the 1930s, when he stayed at the Castle Hotel.
- Dewars Lane Granary, former granary, now restored as a hotel and art gallery 
- Marshall Meadows Country House Hotel, Georgian mansion to the north of the town is the most northern hotel in England, located just 275 metres from the Scottish border.
- Charles Dickens stayed at the Kings Arms Hotel on Hide Hill down by the main high street in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
- James Cockburn, first speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, born in Berwick
- George Frederick Cooke (1756–1811), widely called the first Romantic actor in England
- Alan Martin, co-creator of the comic and movie character Tank Girl, lives in Berwick
- Jeremy Purvis, Liberal Democrat MSP, and youngest person in Scottish Parliament at time of election
- Ian Sarfas, English darts player played in the 1994 BDO World Darts Championships
- Trevor Steven, England and Everton footballer, born in Berwick
- Joseph Stevenson, prominent English Catholic archivist and Society of Jesus priest, born in Berwick
- Patrick Tonyn, born in Berwick in 1725, a military general and Governor of British East Florida
- Henry Travers, grew up in Berwick (although actually born in Prudhoe), was a character actor, most famously as Clarence the angel in It's a Wonderful Life
- Eric Lomax, the author of The Railway Man lived in Berwick-upon-Tweed
- Berwick-upon-Tweed (UK Parliament constituency)
- Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station
- Scottish Marches
- Scots' Dike
- Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War
- Berwick Annual Film and Media Arts Festival
- Parishing the Communities of Berwick, Spittal and Tweedmouth
- Lepage, Jean-Denis (2011). British Fortifications Through the Reign of Richard III. McFarland. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-7864-5918-6
- Mills, A.D. (2003). A Dictionary of British Place-Names. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-852758-9
- Room, Adrian (2005). Placenames of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for 6, 600 Countries, Cities, Territories, Natural Features and Historic Sites. McFarland & Co. Inc. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-7864-2248-7
- Moffat, Alistair. (2002). The Borders: A History of the Borders from Earliest Times. Deerpark Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-9541979-0-2
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- Kendrick, T. D. (2004). A History of The Vikings: Vol I. Dover Publications. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-486-43396-7
- Cannon, John (2009). A Dictionary of British History. Oxford University Press. p. 474. ISBN 978-0-19-955037-1
- Barrow, G. S. W. (2003). The Kingdom of the Scots: Government, Church and Society from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century. Edinburgh University Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0-7486-1803-3
- Davies, Norman (2000). The Isles: A History. Papermac. ISBN 978-0-333-69283-7
- Lynch, Michael (1992). Scotland: a New History. Pimlico. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-7126-9893-1
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- Dunbar, Sir Archibald H.,Bt., Scottish Kings - A Revised Chronology of Scottish History 1005 - 1625, Edinburgh, 1899: p. 116
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- Rogers, Clifford J. (2010). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. Oxford University Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-19-533403-6
- Watt, Donald E.R. (2000). Medieval Church Councils in Scotland. T & T Clark. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-567-08731-7
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- Mowl, Tim/Earnshaw, Brian (1995). Architecture without Kings: Rise of Puritan Classicism Under Cromwell. Manchester University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-7190-4679-7
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- The Sunday Post, 10 February 2008, Scots plan to capture 20 miles of England
- Hamilton, Alan (13 February 2008). "Berwick thinks it's time to change sides ... again". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-02-14.
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- Employment[dead link]
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- Published on Wednesday 16 January 2008 11:13 (2008-01-16). "Berwick Advertiser". Berwickshire-news.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
- "Snd Maps". Dsl.ac.uk. Retrieved 2013-02-09.
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- Simmelbauer, Andrea (2000). The Dialect of Northumberland: A Lexical Investigation. C. Winter. p. 17. ISBN 978-3-8253-0934-3
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- Llamas, Carmen et al. (2006). The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics. Routledge. p. 7. ISBN 978-0415338509
- Llamas, Carmen et al. (2006). The Routledge Companion to Sociolinguistics. Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 978-0415338509. "Non-rhoticity appears to be (near-)categorical for all speakers. Even the eldest speaker uses non-rhotic pronunciations almost 90 per cent of the time. These data suggest, then, that Berwick English is now effectively established as a non-rhotic variety, and has thereby converged on mainstream English English."
- Rhoticity in four Scottish/English border localities "could be argued on the basis of the data in Watt (2006) that Berwick English is increasingly convergent with other non-rhotic English varieties in northern England, and increasingly divergent from Scottish varieties with which it has traditionally shared numerous properties" April 2008. Verified 23 October 2008.
- Llamas, Carmen and Watt, Dominic (2010). Language and Identities. Edinburgh University Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-7486-3577-1
- Cox, Richard (2002). Encyclopedia of British Football. Routledge. p. 342. ISBN 978-0-7146-5249-8
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- "QI - Season 3 - Episode 7 - Constellations". YouTube. 2012-06-10. Retrieved 2013-03-13.
- Graham, Spicer (2006-07-24). "Myth Or Reality? Berwick Revisits Its 'War With Russia'". Culture 24. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
- www.familytraits.co.uk[dead link]
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- Burnett, George (ed.) (1886). "vol. IX: 1480–1487". The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland. Edinburgh. pp. 63/4. 81, 145 & 157. Record that payments were made to Robert Lauder of The Bass as Captain and Keeper of the castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1480 and 1481.
- Eddington, Alexander (1926). Castles and Historic Homes of the Border (1st ed.). Edinburgh & London. pp. 58–59. Unknown parameter
- Hewlings (1993). "Hawksmoor’s Brave Designs for the Police". In Bold, J; Cheney, E. English Architecture Public and Private: Essays for Kerry Downes. London: Hambledon Press. pp. 214–229. ISBN 1-85285-095-7
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Berwick-upon-Tweed|
- Official Berwick-upon-Tweed tourist information
- Explore Berwick
- Visit Northumberland
- The Lowry Trail around the town
- Images and the history of Berwick's shipbuilding
- Tide times for Berwick
- Berwick Town Council
- Alexander Carrick sculptor of Berwick-upon-Tweed war memorial
- A photographic tour of Berwick
- Berwick Photos
- Images of the 'Berwick Bounds' English–Scottish border[dead link]
- A tale of one town – 2004 BBC news story concerned with a tongue-in-cheek debate about whether Berwick should be part of England or Scotland.
- The Scotsman: We can learn a lot from Scotland's "lost limb"