Border Life   

          The Wardens of the Marches


For the purpose of administering the Borders, the land was divided into three Marches, East, Middle and West, on either side of the Border.

Each country appointed officials to administer their marches with a warden in charge. It was the warden's duty to see that peace was maintained, to administer justice and to deal with 'bills' or complaints.

The Scottish authorities were inclined to appoint their wardens from the gentry who lived locally, whereas the English wardens were usually appointed from posts held in the south. 
Both methods had their disadvantages. 

The Scottish wardens, being in familiar territory tended to favour their friends and there was, for them, greater opportunity to becoming involved in malpractices to further their positions.

The English wardens, on the other hand, had no or little knowledge of the ways of the Borderers and often blundered their way along creating more problems than they solved.

Keeping the peace was a hopeless task. All their efforts met with little success and they were constantly striving with an insolvable situation.

The common people found it impossible to rely on their government for care and support and so they sought some kind of security within their family group. Thus their loyalty to their clan or family surmounted that of the allegiance to their country. Indeed, some of the clans, especially those more closely involved in reiving, would quite readily change their allegiance to the other country if is suited their purpose.


In the 16th century especially, the wardens were particularly corrupt. It was then that reiving was at its peak and the wardens were amongst the most active and violent of the reivers.