Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle, Berwick-upon-Tweed

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Berwick Castle is situated on a rocky outcrop towering over the River Tweed, built by King David I of Scotland in the early 12th century.

Sadly very little now remains of the medieval castle and town walls, but there remains impressive later bastion fortifications around the town which you can walk around.

The history of Berwick reflects the Wars of Independence between England and Scotland for which Berwick often played centre stage,

~ History ~

1120's ~ King David I of Scotland completes the building of a castle to protect the vitally important harbour town of Berwick.

1160 ~ The castle is used to incarcerate prisoners at the command of King Malcolm IV. The castle, along with the town, passed to the English in 1175 under the terms of the Treaty of Falaise that secured the release of the captured Scottish King.

1189 ~ Desperate to find the finances for the Third Crusade, King Richard sells the castle back to the Scots.

1175 ~ Following the Scottish King William the Lion's capture at Alnwick Castlethe previous year, under the resulting terms of ransom, Berwick Castle is surrendered to King Henry II of England.

1292 ~ A full account of the castle is made by Sir John Potthow on behalf of King Edward I, as the English have been given back control of Berwick, along with other Royal Castles in Scotland, as part of the agreement that he is to arbitrate on the Scottish succession following the death of King Alexander III's only remaing heir Margaret, two years earlier.

King Edward announces his decision in favour of John Balliol within the Great Halo of Berwick.

1296 ~ King Edward I of England captures Berwick Castle from King John Balliol following his rebellion and defeat at the Battle of Dunbar. The Scottish garrison as well as the inhabitants of Berwick are cruelly slaughtered as reprisal and warning to the Scottish cause.

”When the town had been taken in this way and its citizens had submitted, Edward spared no one, whatever the age or sex, and for two days streams of blood flowed from the bodies of the slain, for in his tyrannous rage he ordered 7,500 souls of both sexes to be massacred...So that mills could be turned by the flow of their blood.”

The Great Hall at Berwick Castle is used by King Edward I as the venue to receive the defeated Scottish nobles homage to him. Upgrades are made to the castle including construction of a Water Gate and extension of the curtain wall down to the banks of the River Tweed. Extensive upgrades are also made to Berwick Town Walls.

1297 ~ The Scots rebel under the leadership of William Wallace. Following his success in defeating the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, later in the same year he mounts an attack on Berwick. Despite taking the town the castle holds out.

1298 ~ An English army arrives to relieve the garrison and drive back the Scots. Wallace withdraws his forces.

The English now under the direct Leadership of King Edward I pursue the Scots until they eventually catch up with them and defeat them at the Battle of Falkirk.

1305 ~ William Wallace is eventually betrayed, captured by the English and sent to London, where in Westmister Hall he is trialled for treason. He is crowned with a garland of oak to reflect the English view and mock him as King of outlaws.

He responds to the charge, " I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject ".

Following the trial he is taken to the Tower of London, stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to Smithfield where he is hung, drawn and quartered. His preserved head, dipped in tar, is placed on a spike on London Bridge. It is later joined by the heads of his borther John and SSimon Fraser. His limbs are displayed, seperately, in Newcastle, Stirling, Perth and Berwick.

1306 ~ Robert the Bruce rebels against King Edward I and is crowned King of Scotland. Edward responds by mustering an army but upon ariving in sight of the Scottish coast, the old and ill Edward dies.

1314 ~ After years of systematically capturing and destroying English held castles in Scotland, only Stirling and Berwick castles hold out against Robert the Bruce. Edward's son King Edward II raises a huge army and marches to Scotland but he is heavily defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn by Robert the Bruce's far smaller army. Bruce then takes the fight into Northern England, harrying the nobles and towns in return for money and goods.

1315 ~ Berwick is besieged by Robert the Bruce.

1318 ~ Robert the Bruce returns to Berwick, determined to take this important sea port, which is being supplied by sea. by the English. Eventually laying siege by land and also by sea Berwick is forced to surrender when the Governor betrays the town to the Scots. King Eward II attempts to re-capture Berwick but his attempts to undermine the walls are unsuccessful and is forced to retreat. A Flemish pirate employed by the Scots plays a leading role in the towns defence.

1319 ~ King Eward II attempts to re-capture Berwick but his attempts to undermine the walls are unsuccessful and is forced to retreat. A Flemish pirate employed by the Scots plays a leading role in the towns defence.

1333 ~ The castle and fortified town are finally recaptured by King Edward III of England after defeating the Scots at the Battle of Halidon Hill, breaking through the towns defences with the help of the same Flemish pirate captured some years earlier. Berwick is formally annexed to England.

1355A surprise Scottish attack re-capturs Berwick but, when faced with an advancing English army, withdraw the following year.

1357 ~ The war formally comes to an end with the Treaty of Berwick but border disputes continue. T

1377 ~ A combined force of Scots and French capture the castle. The English governor killing himself by jumping out of the castles upper windows. 

Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, recaptures the castle following an eight day siege and kills the entire garrison of 48 men.

1384 ~ Henry Percy allows the Scots to re-possess the castle and is subsequently charged by King Richard II of treason.

He is only pardoned after he gathers a large army and bribes the Scots into surrendering the castle for 2,000 marks.

1461 ~ The castle is ceded to teh Scots by the Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou, in exchange for Scots support for teh Lancastrian cause.

1482 ~ A Yorkist army led by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, recaptured Berwick for the Yorkist King Edward IV.

1488 ~ Considerable repairs and strengthening of the castles defences are undertaken.

1523 ~ A survery of the castle concludes its defences insufficient to withstand cannonfire.

1539 ~ Some of the recommended repairs from the survey are finally undertaken including the building of a new three storey tower to replace the Water Tower on the river bank. Massive circular fortifications known as the Lord's mount are also erected

1558 ~ Queen Mary of England orders the medieval defences to be replaced with artillery bastioned fortifications.

With the English loss of Calais to the French, the Franch urge the Scots to attack Berwick to open up a second front in their War against the English.

1568 ~ Mary, Queen of Scots, flees to England, the Franco-Scottish threat having subsided. As it becomes clear that King James VI of Scotland will succeed Queen Elizabeth I as King James I of England, no further work is undertaken to the defences.

1605 ~ King James I sells the castle to the Earl of Dunbar. He demolishes much of the building work for its materials for the building of a stately home.

1611 ~ Upon the Earls death the incomplete building passes to Theophilus Howard, Earl of Suffolk.

1745 ~ With the threat of the Jacobite rising the towns defences are maintained and garrisoned readied for an attack.

1843 ~ The North British Railway demolish much of what remains of the castle for a railway line and station.