Berwick-upon-Tweed ( ) or
simply Berwick (Scottish Gaelic "Bearaig" or
"Abaraig"), 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
It is situated 2.5 miles (4 km) south of the
Berwick-Upon-Tweed, the former county town of Berwickshire, had a population of 11,665 at the time of the
United Kingdom Census
A civil parish
town council were created in 2008.
during the time of the kingdom of Northumbria, which was part of the Heptarchy.
The area was central to historic
border war between the Kingdoms of England
for centuries; the last time it
changed hands was when England reconquered it in 1482. Berwick
remains a traditional market town and it also boasts some notable
architectural features, in particular its defence ramparts and
Early history and Northumbrian rule
The origin of the town's name is of Norse
, or Old
, with the second element "wick" either coming from
"vik" meaning a bay
, or a "wic" meaning a
settlement. The first element is also ambiguous, and may refer to
(baer) or the headland ("bar")
which cuts across the Tweed estuary. Another interpretation claims
"Corn Farm" as the meaning of Berwick.
post-Roman period, the area may have been inhabited by the Brythons of Bryneich, who
were in turn conquered by the Angles, who
created the kingdom of Bernicia, which
united with the Kingdom of Deira to
Either 973 or 1018 Northumbria north of the Tweed (known as
) was ceded to Scotland. In 1018 the Scots
defeated the Northumbrians at the Battle of Carham, which occurred across the River Tweed opposite Coldstream to secure possession of Lothian.
was referred to as 'South Berwick' by the Scots, to differentiate
it from the town of North Berwick, in East Lothian, east of Edinburgh 
Middle Ages and Scottish rule
Berwick station stands on the site of a historic medieval castle,
where Robert Bruce's claim was originally declined, and John
Berwick's strategic position on the English-Scottish border during
centuries of war between the two nations and its relatively great
wealth led to a succession of raids, sieges and take-overs.
1147 and 1482 the town changed hands between England and Scotland more than 13 times, and was the location of a
number of momentous events in the English-Scottish border
One of the most brutal sackings was by King Edward I of England
in 1296, and set the
precedent for bitter border conflict in the Scottish Wars of
In the 13th century Berwick was one of the most wealthy trading
ports in Scotland, providing an annual customs value of £2,190,
equivalent to a quarter of all customs revenues received north of
the border. A contemporary description of the town
asserted that "so populous and of such commercial importance that
it might rightly be called another Alexandria, whose riches were the sea and the water its
. Amongst the town's exports were wool, grain and salmon, while
merchants from Germany and the
Low Countries set up businesses in the
town in order to trade.
The Scots also had a mint at Berwick, producing Scottish coinage
. In contrast, under
English rule, Berwick was a garrison town first, and a port second.
In around 1120, King David I of
made Berwick one of Scotland's four royal burghs
, which allowed the town's freemen a
number of rights and privileges.
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
the king's chaplain "Thomas Lauder
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
Struggles for control of Berwick
In 1174, Berwick was paid as part of the ransom of William I of Scotland
to Henry II of England
. It was sold back to
Scotland by Richard I of
, to raise money to pay for Crusades
. It was destroyed in 1216 by King John of England
, who attended in person the
razing of the town with some barbarity.
Eddington remarks, "Berwick, by the middle of the 13th century, was
considered a second Alexandria, so extensive was its commerce."
However, Berwick appended its signature to King John Balliol
's new treaty with France,
England's old enemy, and on March 30, 1296, Edward I
stormed Berwick after a
prolonged siege, sacking it with much bloodshed. His army
slaughtered almost everyone who resided in the town, even if they
fled to the churches, some eight thousand inhabitants being put to
the sword. "From that time", states Eddington, "the greatest
merchant city in Scotland sank into a small seaport."
went again to Berwick in August 1296 to receive formal homage from
some 2,000 Scottish nobles, after defeating the Scots at the
Dunbar in April and forcing John I of Scotland (John
Balliol) to abdicate at Kincardine Castle the following
(The first town walls were built during the reign of
Edward I.) The "homage" was not received well, and the Ragman
as it was known, earned itself a name of notoriety in the
post-independence period of Scotland. Some believe it to be the
origin of the term "rigmarole", although this may be a folk etymology
An arm of William Wallace
displayed at Berwick after his execution and quartering on 5 August
1314 Edward II of England
mustered 25,000 men at Berwick, who later fought in (and lost) the
April 1318, it was recaptured by
the Scots; Berwick
Castle was also taken after a three-month siege.
"Domino Roberto de Lawedre" of The Bass, described as Custodian or Keeper of the Marches
and the Castle of
apparently upon the termination of his employment there,
£33.6s.8d, plus a similar amount, from the
English 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.
Berwick was recovered by the Scots and Robert Lauder of Edrington was put in charge of the castle.
relates: "About 1462 Berwick Castle was put into the hands of Robert Lauder of
Edrington, an important official and soldier in Scotland at that
Lauder kept his position uninterruptedly until 1474
when he was succeeded by David, Earl of Crawford
In 1464 Robert Lauder was paid £20 for repairs made to Berwick
On February 3, 1478 Robert
Lauder of The Bass
and Edrington was again appointed Keeper of
the castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed with a retainer of £250 per annum.
He continued in that position until the last year of Scottish
occupation, when Patrick Hepburn
1st Lord Hailes, had possession.
Part of the town walls
In 1482 the town was captured by Richard Duke of Gloucester, the
future King Richard III
not officially merged into England. England has administered the
town since this date.
In 1551, the town was made a county
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. 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.
United Kingdom rule
In 1603, Berwick was the first English town to greet James VI of Scotland
on his way to being
crowned James I of England - upon crossing Berwick Bridge, James is
supposed to have declared the town neither belonging to England nor
belonging to Scotland but part of the united Crown's domain.
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' control.
The two sides did
not fight, but negotiated a settlement, "the Pacification of
Berwick", in June, under which the King agreed that all disputed
questions should be referred to another General Assembly or to the
Holy Trinity Church was built in 1650–52, on the initiative of the
governor, Colonel George Fenwicke. Churches of the Commonwealth
period are very rare. The church has no steeple, supposedly at the
behest of Oliver Cromwell, who
passed through the town in 1650 on his way to the Battle of
Berwick-upon-Tweed from across the
Berwick was never formally annexed to England. Contention about
whether the town belonged to England or Scotland was ended, though,
in 1707 by the union
of the two.
Berwick remains within the laws and legal system of England and Wales
. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746
repealed) deemed that whenever legislation referred to England, it
applied to Berwick, without attempting to define Berwick as part of
England. (England now is officially defined as "subject to any
alteration of boundaries under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1972
area consisting of the counties established by section 1 of that
Act, Greater London and the Isles of Scilly.",which thus includes
remained a county in its own right, and was not included in
Northumberland for Parliamentary purposes until 1885.
The Redistribution Act 1885
reduced the number of Members of Parliament [MPs] returned by the
town from two to one.
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
Interpretation Act 1978
provides that in legislation passed between 1967 and 1974, "a
reference to England includes Berwick upon Tweed and Monmouthshire" (Monmouthshire is now fully in Wales).
SNP MSP Christine Grahame made calls in the
Parliament for Berwick to become part of Scotland again,
- "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."
However in 2009 Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat
MP for Berwick, said the
move would require a massive legal upheaval and is not realistic.
However he is contradicted by another member of his party, the
Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis
who was born and brought up in Berwick. Purvis has asked for the
border to be moved twenty
miles south (i.e., south of the
Tweed) to include Berwick borough council rather than just the
town, and has said:
- "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."
According to a poll conducted by a TV company, 60% of residents
favoured Berwick rejoining Scotland. The issue is to be the centre
of a new BBC comedy-drama series, A Free Country
commissioned in 2008 from writer Tony
In 2009, the Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed was abolished as part of
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.
was originally the county town of Berwickshire, but from 1482 (when Berwick became part of
England) to its abolition in 1975, Berwickshire had the unique
distinction of being the only UK county named after a town in
another country. After 1482, Berwickshire's administration
was conducted at Duns or Lauder until
Greenlaw became the county town in 1596.
county council was established in 1890 the county town once more
Government Act 1973
incorporated Berwickshire into the Borders Region
, which existed from
1975 until 1996. One of its four districts
was named Berwickshire but was
not identical in area to the county.)
of Berwick was a county corporate
for most purposes from 1482, up until 1885, when it was fully
incorporated into Northumberland. Between 1885, and 1974, Berwick (north of
the Tweed) was a borough council in its own right, and then on 1
April 1, 1974 it was merged with Belford Rural District, Glendale
Rural District and Norham
and Islandshires Rural District.
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.
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.
Berwick-upon-Tweed is in the parliamentary constituency of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
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
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 vincity too. A new office development is due to
be 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.
supermarket and petrol
station, alongside a branch of McDonald's
and a hotel all exist on Loaning Meadows close to the outskirts of
the town near the current 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
A small seaport at Tweedmouth
facilitates the import and export of
goods, but provides no passenger services.
The local dialect
, known as "Berwick", has
elements of Lowland Scots
North East English
accent appears to be leaning more and more towards the south with
The town is represented by Berwick
, who despite been located in England play in the
Scottish Football League
make travelling shorter — Berwick's is not a completely isolated
case, for instance Gretna
a Scottish club
previously played in the English leagues. The home stadium of
Berwick Rangers is Shielfield Park.
The town also has a rugby union side, Berwick RFC
who play in Scottish Rugby Union
League Division One
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 is unique for an English town in that both their football
and rugby teams play their matches in the Scottish leagues.
Relations with Russia
There is a curious apocryphal
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".
the Treaty of Paris
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.
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
Nevertheless, reportedly in 1966 a Soviet official waited upon the Mayor of Berwick,
Councillor Robert Knox, and
a peace treaty was formally signed.
Knox is reputed to have
said "Please tell the Russian people that they can sleep peacefully
in their beds." To complicate the issue, some have noted that Knox
did not have any authority with regard to foreign relations
, and thus may have exceeded his powers
as mayor in concluding a
peace treaty. However, Jim Herbert of the Berwick Borough Museum
said in 2006 that contemporary newspaper reports did not confirm
that a treaty had been signed, nor could Knox's remark to the
Soviet official be verified, presuming a Soviet official came to
- 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.
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.
bridge, part of the main route from London to Edinburgh was ordered by James VI of Scotland.
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.
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
Bridge (five miles upstream), the world's oldest surviving
- 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.
Castle for Governors of the castle and Berwick-upon-Tweed for a list of former MPs.
- Writer Alan Martin, co-creator of
the cult-comic and Hollywood movie character Tank Girl currently lives and writes in
- Mason Jackson, engraver, was born in Berwick in about 1820.
- Trevor Steven, (born
Berwick-upon-Tweed, September 21, 1963) was a highly-regarded
England footballer who played in the Everton side of the
- Joseph Stevenson, born in the
town in 1806, prominent English Catholic archivist and Society of
- Henry Travers,
born in Berwick in 1874, was a character actor best known for his
roles in Hollywood film productions, most famously as Clarence the
angel in It's a Wonderful
- Patrick Tonyn, born in Berwick in
1725, a military general and Governor of British East Florida.
- Jeremy Purvis,
Liberal Democrat MSP, and youngest person in Scottish
Parliament at time of election.
- 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