The Debateable Land
About 7 miles north of Canonbie a track leads to a large standing stone which was the northern boundary of the Debatable land.
Map ref: 79 431 839
The Debatable Land extended from Tarras Moss in the north to the Esk estuary in the south. It was about three and a half miles wide.
history of this small but important territory is one of petty warfare
and constant dispute.
When the Border between Scotland and England was
established, three areas along the border remained in dispute.
about the year 1450 when we first hear this district described as the
Debatable Land, which, because of its size and position,
the differences involving the other disputed
areas were settled, this problem remained unresolved until 1551 when
agreement was eventually reached.
Both countries claimed this land but neither had any jurisdiction over it. Both England and Scotland, however, made a joint declaration outlining their involvement, and declared that everyone should refrain from conflict and conduct themselves in an orderly manner.
Elements of the Elliots, Crosiers, Nixons,
Frequent attempts were made to dislodge them by official forces, but most attempts failed and the few successes were temporary. They simply melted into the nearby wastes, and returned to resume their lawless activities when the immediate danger to them was over.
Such was the trouble caused by the Debatable Land that both Scotland and England were forced into making a joint declaration that 'all Scotsmen and Englishmen from this time forth shall be free to rob, burn, spoil and slay any person or animals or goods belonging to all who inhabit the Debatable Lands.'
It was a free for all, an open invitation to take any desired action against those who had settled there and had used it as a base from which to launch their pillaging.
That didn't work, either.
It wasn’t until agreement was
reached to share out the land, that each country assumed responsibility
for enforcing the law in their portion.