1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Berwickshire

BERWICKSHIRE, a county of Scotland, forming its south-eastern extremity, bounded N. by Haddingtonshire and the North Sea; E. by the North Sea; S.E. by the county of the borough and town of Berwick; S. by the Tweed and Roxburghshire, and W. by Mid-Lothian. Its area is 292,577 acres or 457 sq. m., and it has a coast-line of 21 m. The county is naturally divided into three districts: Lauderdale, or the valley of the Leader, in the W.; Lammermuir, the upland district occupied by the hills of that name in the N.; and the Merse (the March or Borderland, giving a title to the earls of Wemyss), the largest district, occupying the S.E. The Lammermuirs are a range of round-backed hills, whose average height is about 1000 ft., while the highest summit, Says Law, reaches 1749 ft. From these hills the Merse stretches to the S. and E., and is a comparatively level tract of country. The coast is lofty, rocky and precipitous, broken by ravines and not accessible, except at Eyemouth Harbour, for small vessels, and at Coldingham and Burnmouth for fishing boats. St Abb’s Head, a promontory with a lighthouse upon it, rises to 310 ft. The Eye is the only river of any size which falls directly into the sea. The others—the Leader, the Eden, the Leet and the Whiteadder with its tributaries, the Blackadder and the Dye—all flow into the Tweed. Of these the largest and most important is the Whiteadder, which has its source in the parish of Whittingehame on the East Lothian side of the Lammermuirs, and, following a sinuous course of 35 m., joins the Tweed within the bounds or liberties of Berwick. There are small lochs at Coldingham, Legerwood, Spottiswoode, the Hirsel, near Coldstream, Hule Moss on Greenlaw Moor, and tiny sheets of water near Duns and Mersington.

Geology.—The north portion of the county embraces that part of the Silurian tableland of the south of Scotland which stretches from the Lammermuir Hills east to St Abb’s Head. The strata consist mainly of grits, greywackes, flags and shales, repeated by innumerable folds, trending north-east and south-west, which are laid bare in the great cliff section between Fast Castle and St Abb’s Head. This section of the tableland includes sediments, chiefly of Tarannon age, which form a belt 10 m. across from the crest of the Lammermuir Hills to a point near Westruther and Longformacus. In the Earnscleuch Burn north-east of Lauder representatives of Llandovery, Caradoc and Llandeilo rocks, together with the Arenig cherts, appear along an anticlinal fold in the midst of the younger strata. Again in the extreme north-west of the county near Channelkirk and to the north of the Tarannon belt radiolarian cherts and black shales with graptolites of Upper Llandeilo and Caradoc age are met with. The Lower Old Red Sandstone rocks, which rest unconformably on the folded and denuded Silurian strata, appear at Eyemouth and Reston Junction, and at St Abb’s Head are associated with contemporaneous volcanic rocks which are evidently on the same horizon as the interbedded lavas of Lower Old Red age in the Cheviots. The intrusive igneous materials of this period are represented by the granitic mass of Cockburn Law and the porphyrites of the Dirrington Laws. The Upper Old Red Sandstone, consisting of conglomerates and sandstones, rest unconformably alike on the Silurian platform as at Siccar Point and on the lower division of that system. The age of these beds has been determined by the occurrence of remains of Holoptychius nobilissimus in the sandstones at Earlston and in the Whiteadder north of Duns. On the Black Hill of Earlston these strata are traversed by a sheet of trachyte resembling the type of rock capping the Eildon Hills (see Roxburghshire: Geology). Overlying the strata just described there is a succession of volcanic rocks extending from Greenlaw southwards by Stichil and Kelso to Carham, which, at several localities, are followed by a band of cornstone resembling that near the top of the Upper Old Red Sandstone in the midland valley of Scotland. Next in order comes a great development of the Cementstone group of the Carboniferous system which spreads over nearly the whole of the low ground of the Merse and attains a great thickness. At Marshall Meadows north of Berwick-on-Tweed, thin bands of marine limestone occur, which probably represent some of the calcareous beds above the Fell sandstones south of Spittal.

Climate and Agriculture.—Owing to the maritime position, the winter is seldom severe in the lowland districts, but spring is a trying season on account of the east winds, which often last into summer. The mean annual rainfall is 301/2 in. and the average temperature for the year is 47° F., for January 37° F., and for July 58·5° F. The climate is excellent as regards both the health of the inhabitants and the growth of vegetation. The soils vary, sometimes even on the same farm. Along the rivers is a deep rich loam, resting on gravel or clay, chiefly the former. The less valuable clay soil of the Merse has been much improved by drainage. The more sandy and gravelly soils are suitable for turnips, of which great quantities are grown. Oats and barley are the principal grain crops, but wheat also is raised. The flocks of sheep are heavy, and cattle are pastured in considerable numbers. Large holdings predominate—indeed, the average size is the highest in Scotland—and scientific farming is the rule. The labourers, who are physically well developed, are as a whole frugal, industrious and intelligent, but somewhat migratory in their habits. This feature in their character, which they may have by inheritance as Borderers, has admirably fitted them for colonial life, to which the scarcity of industrial occupation has largely driven the surplus population.

Other Industries.—Next to agriculture the fisheries are the most important industry. The Tweed salmon fisheries are famous, and the lesser rivers of the Merse are held in high esteem by anglers. Eyemouth, Burnmouth, Coldingham and Cove are engaged in the sea fisheries. Cod, haddock, herring, ling, lobsters and crabs are principally taken. The season for herring is from May to the middle of September and for white fish from October to the end of May. Coal, copper ore and ironstone exist in too small quantities to work, and the limestone is so far from a coal district as to be of little economic value. Earlston sends out ginghams and woollen cloths. At Cumledge on the Whiteadder, blankets and plaids are manufactured, and paper is made at Chirnside. The other manufactures are all connected with agriculture, such as distilleries, breweries, tanneries, &c. The trade is also mainly agricultural. Fairs are held at Duns, Lauder, Coldstream and Greenlaw; but the sales of cattle and sheep mostly take place at the auction marts at Reston, Duns and Earlston. There are grain markets at Duns and Earlston. Berwick, from which the county derives its name, is still its chief market. There is, however, no legal or fiscal connexion between the county and the borough.

The North British railway monopolizes the communications of the county. The system serves the coast districts from Berwick to Cockburnspath, and there is a branch from Reston to St Boswells.

Population and Government.—The population of Berwickshire was 32,290 in 1891 and 30,824 in 1901, in which year the number of persons speaking Gaelic and English was 74, and one person spoke Gaelic only. The only considerable towns are Eyemouth (pop. in 1901, 2436) and Duns (2206). The county returns one member to parliament. Lauder is the only royal burgh, and Duns the county town, a status, however, which was held by Greenlaw from 1696 to 1853, after which date it was shared by both towns until conferred on Duns alone. Berwickshire forms a sheriffdom with Roxburgh and Selkirk shires, and there is a resident sheriff-substitute at Duns, who sits also at Greenlaw, Coldstream, Ayton and Lauder. In addition to board and voluntary schools throughout the county, there is a high school, which is also a technical school, at Duns, and Coldstream and Lauder public schools have secondary departments. Duns school is subsidized by the county council, which pays the expenses of students attending it from a distance.

History.—Traces of Roman occupation and of ancient British settlement exist in various parts of the Merse. Edin’s or Etin’s Hall, on Cockburn Law, 4 m. north of Duns, is still called the Pech’s or Pict’s House, and is one of the very few brochs found in the Lowlands. After the Romans withdrew (409) the country formed part of the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, and the inhabitants were converted to Christianity through the missionary efforts of Modan in the 6th, and Oswald, Aidan and Cuthbert (traditionally believed to have been born in the vale of the Leader) in the 7th centuries. The Northmen invaded the seaboard, but the rugged coast proved an effectual barrier. The Danes, however, landed in 886, and destroyed the nunnery at Coldingham, founded about 650 by Ebba, daughter of Æthelfrith, king of Northumbria, after whom the adjoining promontory of St Abb’s Head was named. After the battle of Carham (1018) the district, which then constituted part of the division of Lothian, was annexed to Scotland. Birgham (pron. Birjam), 31/2 m. west of Coldstream, was the scene of the conference in 1188 between William the Lion and the bishop of Durham, which discussed the attempt of the English church to assert supremacy over the Scottish. Here also met in 1289 a convention of the Scots estates to consider the projected marriage of Prince Edward of England to the Maid of Norway; and here was signed in 1290 the treaty of Birgham, assuring the independence of Scotland. During the long period of international strife the shire was repeatedly overrun by armies of the English and Scots kings, who were constantly fighting for the ancient frontier town of Berwick. It was finally ceded to England in 1482, and the people afterwards gradually settled down to peaceful pursuits. The ford at the confluence of the Leet and Tweed near Coldstream gave access to south-eastern Scotland. Edward I. crossed it with his army in 1296, encamping at Hutton the day before the siege of Berwick, and it was similarly employed as late as 1640, when the marquess of Montrose led the Covenanters on their march to Newcastle, although James VI. had already caused a bridge to be constructed from Berwick to Tweedmouth. There are several places of historic interest in the county. Upon the site of the nunnery at Coldingham King Edgar in 1098 founded a Benedictine priory, which was one of the oldest monastic institutions in Scotland and grew so wealthy that James III. annexed its revenues to defray his extravagance, a step that precipitated the revolt of the nobles (1488). The priory was seriously damaged in the earl of Hertford’s inroad in 1545, and Cromwell blew up part of the church in 1650. The chancel (without aisles) was repaired and used as the parish church. The remains contain some fine architectural features, such as, on the outside, the Romanesque arcades surmounted by lancet windows at the east end, and, in the interior, the Early Pointed triforium. On the coast, about 4 m. north-west of Coldingham, are the ruins of Fast Castle—the “Wolf’s Crag” of Scott’s Bride of Lammermoor—situated on a precipitous headland. From Sir Patrick Hume it passed to Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig, who is alleged to have been one of the Gowrie conspirators, and to have intended to imprison James VI. within its walls (1600). Four miles west is the Pease or Peaths bridge, built by Thomas Telford in 1786 across the deep pass which was of old one of the strongest natural defences of Scotland. The bridge is 123 ft. high, 300 ft. long and 16 ft. wide. Near it are the ruins of Cockburnspath Tower, once a strong fortress and supposed to be the “Ravens wood” of the Bride of Lammermoor. In the south-west of the shire besides Dryburgh Abbey (q.v.) there are, at Earlston, the remains of the castle that was traditionally the residence of Thomas the Rhymer. Hume Castle, the ancient seat of the Home family, a picturesque ruin about 3 m. south of Greenlaw, is so conspicuously situated as to be visible from nearly every part of the county. Coldstream and Lamberton, being close to the Border, were both resorted to (like Gretna Green in the west) by eloping couples for clandestine marriage. In Lamberton church was signed in 1502 the contract for the marriage of James IV. and Margaret Tudor, which led, a century later, to the union of the crowns of Scotland and England.

See W. S. Crockett, Minstrelsy of the Merse, (Paisley, 1893); In Praise of Tweed (Selkirk, 1889); The Scott Country (London, 1902); J. Robson, The Churches and Churchyards of Berwickshire (Kelso, 1893); F. H. Groome, A Short Border History (Kelso, 1887); J. Tait, Two Centuries of Border Church Life (Kelso, 1889); Margaret Warrender, Marchmont and the Humes of Polwarth (Edinburgh, 1894); W. K. Hunter, History of the Priory of Coldingham (Edinburgh, 1858).