infobox UK place
country = England
official_name= Berwick-upon-Tweed
scots_name= Berwick
latitude= 55.771
longitude= -2.007
population = 11,665 (2001 Census)
shire_district= Berwick-upon-Tweed
shire_county = Northumberland
region= North East England
constituency_westminster= Berwick-upon-Tweed
postcode_district = TD15
postcode_area= TD
dial_code= 01289
os_grid_reference= NT995525

Berwick-upon-Tweed (Audio|En-uk-BerwickUponTweed.ogg|pronunciation; IPAEng|ˈbɛrɪk-), (Scots: "Berwick" or historically "South Berwick"), situated in the county of Northumberland, is the northernmost town in England, on the east coast at the mouth of the River Tweed. It is situated 2.5 miles (4 km) south of the Scottish border and forms part of the wider Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed local government district.

Berwick-Upon-Tweed, the former county town of Berwickshire, had a population of 11,665 at the time of the United Kingdom Census 2001. The wider Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed has a population of 25,949. There is consideration in Berwick about the possibility of creating a parish council for the town. [ [ Parishing the Communities of Berwick, Spittal and Tweedmouth ] ]

Being central to a border war between the Kingdoms of Scotland and England since the 11th century, the town has lain within England since 1482. However, Berwick has strong cultural links with Scotland. Berwick remains a traditional market town. It also boasts some notable architectural features, in particular its defence ramparts and barrack buildings.


Early history

The origin of the town's name is probably Norse, or Anglo-Saxon, 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 either barley (baer) or the headland ("bar") which cuts across the Tweed estuary. Another interpretation claims "Corn Farm" as the meaning of Berwick. [Cite web |url= | title = Berwick upon Tweed: a town of two nations | format = HTML | accessdate = 2008-03-09]

In the post-Roman period, the area would have been inhabited by the Brythons of Bryneich, who were in turn conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, who created the kingdom of Bernicia, which united with the Kingdom of Deira to form Northumbria. The area was then settled by the Norse, mainly Danes.

In 1018, Northumbria north of the Tweed was ceded to Scotland, after the Scots defeated the Northumbrians at the Battle of Carham, which occurred across the River Tweed opposite Coldstream.

Middle Ages

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. Between 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 wars. 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 Independence.

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 walls". [] . 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 Scotland 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, 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."

truggles for control

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 England, 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."

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 I of Scotland (John Balliol) to abdicate at Kincardine Castle the following July. (The first town walls were built during the reign of Edward I.) The "homage" was not received well, and the "Ragman Roll" 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 was displayed at Berwick after his execution and quartering on 5 August 1305. In 1314 Edward II of England mustered 25,000 men at Berwick, who later fought in (and lost) the Battle of Bannockburn.

On 1 April 1318, it was captured by the Scots; Berwick Castle was also taken after a three-month siege. In 1330 "Domino Roberto de Lawedre" of The Bass, described as Custodian or Keeper of the Marches and the Castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed, received, apparently upon the termination of his employment there, £33.6s.8d, plus a similar amount, from the Scottish Exchequer. [ Stuart, John, LL.D., and Burnett, George, Lord Lyon King of Arms, "The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland", vol.1, 1264-1359, Edinburgh, 1878, pps 279,313,339]

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.

In 1461/2 Berwick was recovered by the Scots and Robert Lauder of Edrington was put in charge of the castle. Scott relates: "About 1462 Berwick Castle was put into the hands of Robert Lauder of Edrington, an important official and soldier in Scotland at that time. 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 Castle."

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.

English rule

In 1482 the town was captured by Richard Duke of Gloucester, the future King Richard III, although not officially merged into England. England has administered the town since this date.

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. 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 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.

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' 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 Scottish Parliament.

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 Dunbar.

Modern history

Berwick was never annexed to England. Contention about whether the town belongs 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 (since 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, the area consisting of the counties established by section 1 of that Act, Greater London and the Isles of Scilly." [ [ Schedule 1 of The Interpretation Act 1978] ] ,which thus includes Berwick.)

Berwick 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.

On 1 April 1974, the current 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.

The 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).

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." [cite web | url = | title = 'Return to fold' call for Berwick | accessdate = 2008-07-15 ]

However, Alan Beith, the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, said the move would require a massive legal upheaval and is not realistic. [cite web
title = Berwick thinks it's time to change sides ... again
accessdate = 2008-02-14
] 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." ["The Sunday Post", Feb 10, 2008, "Scots plan to capture 20 miles of England"]

According to a poll conducted by a TV company, 60% of residents favoured Berwick rejoining Scotland. [ [ TV poll backs Berwick border move] BBC News, 17th February 2008] The issue is to be the centre of a new BBC comedy-drama series, "A Free Country", commissioned in 2008 from writer Tony Saint. [cite news |first=Leigh |last=Holmwood |title=A Free Country: BBC lines up new series by Tony Saint |url= |work=The Guardian |date=29 May 2008 |accessdate=2008-06-05 ]


Berwick 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. [ [] Samuel Lewis, "A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland" (1846)] When a county council was established in 1890 the county town once more became Duns.

The Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 that abolished Berwickshire incorporated its area into the Borders Region. The region existed from 1975 until 1996, and was divided into four districts, one of which was named Berwickshire. The District of Berwickshire was not identical with the former county however.

The town 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 April 1, 1974 it was merged with Belford Rural District, Glendale Rural District and Norham and Islandshires Rural District. There is currently talk of abolishing this council area, and merging it with ones to the south.

Confusingly, during this period, Berwick borough council and Berwickshire existed on either side of the border, both named after the same town, but covering entirely different areas.

The name "Berwickshire" is still in common, though unofficial, usage. "The Berwickshire News" is still published weekly, and numerous organisations and groups have retained Berwickshire in their titles (i.e.: the Berwickshire Housing Association, Berwickshire Sports Council). The Berwickshire Civic Society is currently (2007) campaigning for road signs at the entrances to the old county to have notices added saying 'You are now entering the ancient county of Berwickshire', and they hold an annual "Keep Berwickshire Tidy Campaign", judged each April.

tate of war with Russia

There is a curious 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". However, 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 of 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.

Nevertheless, in 1966 a Soviet official waited upon the Mayor of Berwick, Councillor Robert Knox, and a peace treaty was formally signed. Mr 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. The whole curious scenario was the focus of a question on the third series of the gameshow "QI".


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. [ [ Employment] ] 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 vincity too. A new office development is due to be built in the Walker Gate. [ [ Berwick Advertiser] ]

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 [ [ Berwick Advertiser] ] , later giving Tesco the green light for their new store in the town. [ [ Berwick Advertiser] ]

A Morrison's 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.


Berwick dialect

The local dialect, known as "Berwick", is a combination of Lowland Scots and the North East accent.Fact|date=June 2008 The accent appears to be leaning more and more towards the south with each generation. [ [ Rhoticity in four Scottish/English border localities ] ]


The town is represented by Berwick Rangers F.C., who play in the Scottish Football League. The club's home stadium is Shielfield Park.

The town also has a rugby union side, Berwick RFC who play in Scottish Rugby Union's Premiership Division Three.

Motorcycle 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 is unique for an English town in that both their football and rugby teams play their matches in the Scottish leagues.


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 station. A small sea-port at Tweedmouth facilitates the import and export of goods, but provides no passenger services.


*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 was once painted by LS Lowry. []

Notable people

*Writer Alan Martin, co-creator of the cult-comic and Hollywood movie character Tank Girl currently lives and writes in Berwick.
*Berwick was the first parish in which John Knox, the 16th century Scottish religious reformer, who founded the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, was appointed a preacher.
*Mason Jackson, engraver, was born in Berwick in about 1820.
*Alan Beith is currently the Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed.
*John Campbell Renton of Lamberton and Mordington (born 1814), Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed.
*William Beveridge, economist and social reformer, author of The Beveridge Report, was Member of Parliament 1944 - 1945.
*Alexander Knox, Canadian actor, died at Berwick in 1995
*Eric Lomax, author of "The Railway Man", lives in Berwick.
*L. S. Lowry holidayed in Berwick regularly, and painted a number of pictures of the town and beaches. []
*Wendy Wood, controversial founder of the "Scottish Patriots" was arrested on more than one occasion for moving the border signs to the old bridge over the Tweed.
*The sitcom "Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?" also featured an episode where the 'lads' visited Berwick. In it, the two northern Englishmen refer to Berwick as "Scottish".
*Trevor Steven, (born Berwick-upon-Tweed, September 21, 1963) was a highly-regarded England footballer who played in the Everton side of the 1980s.
*Peter Ramage lived in Berwick for the majority of his childhood. He is now a professional football player for Queens Park Rangers.
*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 Life" (1946).
*Antony Lambton, Lord Lambton, was the controversial Tory Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed from 1951 until 1973. Lambton was a cousin of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the former Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary; he resigned from Parliament and ministerial office in 1973 following a scandal involving his liaisons with prostitutes.
*Gavin Kerr lived in Berwick for most of his childhood, went on to play professional rugby for Leeds Tykes followed by Border Reivers and now the Edinburgh Gunners (now just plain Edinburgh), a regular in the Scotland rugby team has 36 caps and 1 try.
*Craig Smith lived in Berwick for most of his childhood and attended Berwick County High School, went on to play professional rugby union for the Edinburgh Gunners (now just plain Edinburgh), a regular in the Scotland rugby team with 18 caps.
*Jeremy Purvis, Liberal Democrat MSP, and youngest person in Scottish Parliament at time of election.
*Natalie Pike, FHM High Street Honey winner and subsequent glamour model; used to live in Berwick.
*Ian Ferguson: Scottish former professional footballer, ended his professional career in 2004 with Berwick Rangers.

"See also" Berwick Castle "for Governors of the castle and Berwick-upon-Tweed (UK Parliament constituency) for a list of former MPs."

ee also

* Berwick-upon-Tweed (UK Parliament constituency)
* Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station
* Debatable Lands
* Scottish Marches
* Scots' Dike
* Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years' War


* 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.
first = R
last = Hewlings
author-link =
editor-last = Bold
editor-first = J
editor2-last = Cheney
editor2-first = E
contribution = Hawksmoor’s Brave Designs for the Police
contribution-url =
title =English Architecture Public and Private: Essays for Kerry Downes
year = 1993
pages = 214 - 229
place = London
publisher = Hambledon Press
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 1-85285-095-7

External links

* [ The Lowry Trail around the town]
* [ Images and the history of Berwick's shipbuilding]
* [ Explore Berwick]
* [ Images of the 'Berwick Bounds' English–Scottish border]
* [ 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.
* [ Berwick Photos]
* [ A photographic tour of Berwick]
* [ "We can learn a lot from Scotland's "lost limb"]

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