Ordnance Survey large scale Scottish town plans, 1847-1895

BERWICK-UPON-TWEED (surveyed in 1852)

 

 

Introduction

Berwick, or Berwick-upon-Tweed, lies on a bluff of high ground on the north side of the estuary of the River Tweed, where it enters the North Sea. It has officially been part of England since the fourteenth century, but before that it had been Scottish and a major trading centre of early medieval Scotland.

 

It was one of the earliest two Scottish burghs as David I created it as a royal burgh in the period 1119-24, when he made it the capitol of his kingdom. Sadly, its prosperity was short-lived as it became a pawn in the border warfare between Scotland and England, changing hands between the countries no less than thirteen times.

 

The name Berwick derives from two Old English words bere meaning ‘barley’ or ‘bere’ (an old form of barley) and wic meaning ‘farm’. The name Berwick-upon –Tweed therefore appears to mean, ‘the barley farm by the Tweed’.

 

Town Planning

The main part of the town at the time of the survey was fairly compact and heavily built up around a grid pattern of streets within the confines of the still extant Elizabethan town walls (sheets 5,8,9,11). A further, less crowded area of settlement lay directly to the north, around the old castle site, within the line of the ditches which were all that remained of the earlier, and more extensive, thirteenth-century town wall (sheets 2,4,5).

 

Settlement in Tweedmouth, to the south of the river, was much more spread out, straggling along the river’s edge. There were two bridges across the Tweed at this time;  the railway bridge, built in 1850, and a road bridge, which had been built in 1611.

 

Architecture

By the mid-nineteenth century the castle was a shapeless ruin. Most of its remaining stonework had been robbed to build the railway station on its site. The parish church was a notable building, having been built in 1648 under the puritanical rule of Cromwell, and as a result being very plain, without a tower or spire. In contrast, the town hall, which was built in 1754, had a spire.

 

Trade and Industry

After a period of decline during the late medieval and post-medieval periods, Berwick began to revive in the eighteenth century. This was partly as a result of the increased prosperity brought about by the improvements in farming techniques, and partly resulted from the improvement in roads, which established Berwick as a major staging point on the route between Scotland and the south.

 

In 1846-7 the railway was brought to Berwick on the north side of the Tweed and to Tweedmouth on the south. Passengers being ferried between the two towns until a railway bridge was built over the river in 1850. In the early nineteenth century, the harbour had also been improved.

 

At the time of the survey, agriculture was still important, and the most popular exports were salmon, eggs and wool. There was some boat building from the beginning of the century and there were also two foundries (sheets 7 and 17).

 

Religious Life

In the thirteenth century, Berwick had been an important religious centre with establishments of the Augustinians, the Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans and Sack friars. There was also a Cistercian nunnery and a Trinitarian hospital.

 

In the nineteenth century the parish church was the Church of the Holy Trinity. There was also a Roman Catholic church built in 1829. Berwick's border position meant that there was also a considerable Presbyterian influence.

 

Culture and Society

The chequered history of Berwick meant that culturally it was both Scottish town and English. The Scottish poet Burns is reputed to have described it in the following disparaging words:

 

 

A bridge without a middle arch

A church without a steeple,

A midden heap in every street,

And damned conceited people.

 

The more complimentary, possibly English, version of the rhyme is:

 

Berwick is an ancient town

A church without a steeple

A pretty girl at every door,

And very generous people.

 

 

 

 

Groome, Francis H. (ed.), 1894-5. The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland; a survey of Scottish topography, statistical, biographical, and historical, 2nd ed., (London: William Mackenzie)

 

Mackay, George, 2000. Scottish Place Names (New Lanark: Lomond)

 

Smith, Robert, 2001. The Making of Scotland: a comprehensive guide to the growth of its cities, towns and villages (Edinburgh: Canongate)

 

Wilson, Rev. John Marius (ed.), 1857. The Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland or Dictionary of Scottish Topography (Edinburgh: A. Fullarton & Co.)

 

Edina Website – Online Statistical Accounts of Scotland - http://edina.ac.uk/statacc/