Border Warfare


The Redeswire Affray

Without doubt the most spectacular crossing into Scotland is by Carter Bar on the A68 from Newcastle. At the border there is ample parking from both directions and a halt is well worth while.

From the south bound lay-by a footpath leads to the scene of the Redeswire Affray, a violent incident, which occurred in 1575. 



The Wardens of the Marches from each country were required to meet every 40 days or so, together with their attendants to sort out problems and to deal with 'bills' or complaints.

Border Law for a more detailed account.

On this particular occasion, the wardens and officials had assembled for the scheduled meeting. They were joined by a large gathering, a motley assortment of English and Scots, witnesses, prisoners, supporters and accusers, friends and foes, peddlers and the curious, all mingling together in an uneasy peace, 
a very temporary arrangement for truce days only.

The proceedings got under. The accusers and the accused had their say. Justice was meted out. All was going well, when an argument broke out between the two senior officials, the Keeper of Liddesdale and the Warden of the English Middle March, John Forster.

It became heated, and these were the very men who were employed to keep the peace on their respective sides of the Border.

The atmosphere was explosive. Among the gathering were many who were at deadly feuds and were, with difficulty, restraining themselves.

The inevitable happened. What had been a reasonable ordered affair broke out into a riot. The English contingent was initially successful and there was a danger of the Scots being routed. The Borderers of Redesdale and Tynedale, feeling that they had subdued the Scots, took to one of their occupations-plundering. The being rifles the stalls and belongings of the merchants present, and were so pre-occupied with this activity that they failed to notice that a force of locals from nearby Jedburgh had arrive, in the nick of time for the Scots. 
A short skirmish ended on complete victory for the Scots.

At the end of the conflict the English who were largely unarmed came off worst. A high official, George Heron of Chipchase, Keeper of Tynedale mad Redesdale was killed. Forster and many of his officials were taken prisoner.

Not quite a battle but a notable conflict, the Redeswire Affray could have had dire consequences. Many wars have been ignited for less. That the situation was contained was due to the prudent (temporary?) diplomacy pursued by both sides.

Serious though the incident was both governments saw the dangers of escalation and everything possible was done to calm the situation. 
All the prisoners were released without punishment or payment of ransom and life went on.


Swire means the head of a valley, the watershed, and this is at the head of Redesdale.