A Background to The Border Reivers
“If Jesus Christ were emongest them they would deceave him, if he woulde here, trust and followe theire wicked councells!”
(Richard Fenwick 1597)
A brief history lesson
In 1249 The Laws of the Marches were set up jointly by the English & Scottish governments to better manage the Border.
By 1297 there were three main administrative areas on each side of the Border, The East, The Middle and The West Marches overseen by March Wardens. The Heart of Hadrian's Wall lies mainly within the English Middle March. There was also a separate keeper appointed for the more troublesome valley of Liddesdale. For the next three centuries the land North and South of the Anglo-Scottish border was a bad place to live. Bannock Burn in 1314, Flodden in 1513 and other international disputes coloured the landscape and the centuries in more ways than one.
Fuelled by International unrest and ongoing family feuds, a state of lawlessness prevailed until the union of the crowns in the 17th Century. Even in the latter days of Reiving, at the time of the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne, the brief period after Elizabeth’s death was know as “Busy Week” since the Reivers believed that, with no head of state, no law could be enforced and so raided accordingly.
Following a scorched earth policy persued by successive national armies local families were forced to survive by raiding or Reiving cattle and goods from their neighbours. A network of secret trails and pathways developed over the boggy moorlands. The Tarras Moss, Spadeadam Waste and Deadwater Fell became places where herds could be hidden and families could hide out.