Northumbria – Crossing The Border

THERE are many ways of entering the modern county of Northumberland ; through what was once Lamberton Toll, from Durham through Chester-le-Street to Gateshead, from Jedburgh to historic Otterburn; but I have a personal preference for the first mentioned.

Lamberton is about three miles north of Berwick-on-Tweed and in early days its tollgate used to separate England from Scotland. The gate is removed, but the house of its keeper remains. From St. Abb’s Head it is a lovely walk to Lamberton by the wild rocky coast-line. Eyemouth and Burnmouth to be passed on the way will interest those who appreciate the primitive and picturesque. The associations connected with Lamberton form a contrast between the stately and the comically grotesque. Its greatest day in history was the’ 1st of August, 1503. The event was the arrival of the Princess Margaret, eldest daughter of King Henry VII, on her journey to Scotland as the wife of the Scottish king James IV. A vivid account of this stately pageant was written by John Younge, the Somerset Herald, who accompanied the party and acted as its historian. How he delighted to enumerate the great names and the sumptuous trappings of man and horse. To-day the splendour of the pilgrimage does not interest us so much as the consequences, only dimly foreseen by the wise and crafty Henry VII. Sympathy goes out to the child queen, a pawn in the game of politics, sent to marry a prince twice her age, who did not come to take her away. Instead, he sent as his representative ” the Lord Archbishop of Glasco and the Count with a great retinue of knights, gentlemen and squires,” and ” there were five Trumpets or Claryons of the King that blewe at the coming of the said Queen, the which Melodye was good to here and to se.” Her crossing of the Border was celebrated by High Mass at the great Kirk of Lamberton. Kneeling down to the ground, ” they mayd the Receyving,” and when the ceremony was over, ” the said Lord of Northumberland mayd his devoir at the departyng of gambades and lepps as did likewise the Lord Scrop, the father and many others that returned again in making their congé.” The Lord of Northumberland referred to here is the Percy nicknamed the Magnificent. At the time he was a gallant of twenty-four or five and Warden of the East Marches. He had entertained the Queen at Alnwick, to which he returned after the receiving.

Margaret went on to Fast Castle, where she was suitably entertained by its lord, while her retinue lodged at the Abbey of Coldingham. Fast Castle at one time was thought to be Wolf’s Crag in ” The Bride of Lammermoor,” but Sir Walter Scott, while admitting the likeness, declared he had never seen the fortress. No doubt he knew many like it out of which he fashioned a suitable home for his impoverished hero. When the tragic story is read in its neighbourhood it is felt, as it cannot otherwise be, how faithfully he reproduced the character of the rugged coast-line and the melancholy or, to use a word of his coining, the sombrous sea. Margaret became mother of James V and grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots, whose son, James VI, united England and Scotland under one king. But much water was to pass under the bridge before that happened. The Earl of Surrey was one of Margaret’s escorts to whom the King paid particular attention. Ten years only were to pass ere they met in a death grapple, but they did not dream of that in the summer days, when together they witnessed tournaments held in honour of the marriage, were spectators of the plays and moralities deemed appropriate to the occasion, listened to the minstrelsy and rejoiced in the young Queen’s dancing. No one could in 1503 have foreseen the war of 1513 with its one renowned and melancholy battle when the Flowers o’ the Forest were a’ wed awa’, and among them the King himself.

William Dunbar, the King’s Rhymer, may have perished on the same occasion. He was never heard of again after the battle of Flodden. He was greatly attached to Queen Margaret and for her and her Court wrote some of his most frolic verse, as well as that lovely and imperial epithalamium ” The Thrissill and the Rois.” But the national welcome is more felicitously embodied in his lyric beginning

Now fayre, fa yrest off every fayre, Princes most plesant and preclare, The lustyest one alyve that byne, Welcum of Scotland to be Quene !

Younge tendir plant of pulcritud, Descendyd of Imperyalle blude ; Freshe fragrant floure of fayrehede shene, Welcum of Scotland to be Quene !

The Somerset Herald’s description as preserved by Leland is worth reprinting to show what masters of pageant were our forefathers of the sixteenth century and is worth quoting here as far as it relates to Lamberton.

On the XXX and XXXI days of July 1502, the quene tarried at Barwyk, where she had grete chere of the said Capyiteyne of Barwyk (Sir Thomas Darcy) and hyr company in likewys.

That sam day was by the said Capyiteyne, to the pleasure of the said Quene, gyffen corses of chasse within the said town, with other sports of bayrs and of doggs togeder.

The first day of August the Quene departed from Barwyk for to go to Lamberton kerke in varrey fair company and well appoynted.

First of the said Archbyschops and Bischops, the Erles of Surrey and of Northumberland, the Lord Dacres, the Lord Scroop and his son, the Lord Gray, the Lord Latimer, the Lord Chamberlain, Maister Polie, and other Nobles and Knyghts. The young gentylmen were well appoynted at their devises, and ther was fou much of cloth of gold as of other ryche rayments. Their horsys frysks in harnays of the selfe : and of thos orfavery, sum others had campaynes gylt, the others campaynes of sylver. Gambades at plasur that it was a fayr thyng for to se.

The sayd Erie of Northumbrelaund was varey well mounted, hys horse rychly appoynted, his harnays of gold in brodeux, hymselfe in a jakette betten of gold, well wrought in goldsmith werke, and brodery and in a cloke of porple, borded of cloth of gold. His Hensmen appoynted as before mentioned. Incontinently before hym rode the Maister of his Horse, conveying the sam thre Hensmen arayed in jaketts all of orfavery and brodery, and ther harnays of their horsys in such wys of orfavery and brodery full of small bells that maid a grett noyse. After those cam a gentylman ledying in his haund a corser, covered to the grownde of a vary rich trapure betten of gold of orfavery and brodery in oraunge. And ichon of the sam a gren tre in the manere of a pyne, and maid the said Lord pannades and the weighted varey honestly.

After cam the said Qwene varey rychly arayde and enorned with gold and precyous stones, sytting in hyr lytere rychly appoynted. Her fotemen always ny to hyr well appoynted, and monted upon fayr pallefrys, and their harnays ryche in appareyll.

After cam her char rychely appoynted, fournysched of ladyes and gentylwomen well appoynted, and after that sum other gentylwomen on horsebak honorably appoynted.

The said Cappetayne of Barrwyk and my lady hys wyffe accompayned of many gentylmen and gentylwomen rychly arayde and clothed of a liveray went with the said Qwene to Edenburghe.

Before the said Qwene war by ordre Johannes and hys company (of players) and Henry Gloscebery and hys company, the trompette, officers of armes and sergeants of mace, so that at the departing out of the said Barrwyk and at hyr Bedwarde at Lamberton Kirke it was a joy for to see and heare. In such stat and array the said Qwene came out of Barwyk, ichon by ordre, the Lords and Nobles three and three togeder to the said Lamberton kirke, and the company behind well appoynted and in fair array, that it was estemed that thar war of the parte of the said Qwene xviii C or two M Horsys well Appoynted. Before the said Scottysmen passed the Lords knights and gentylmen makynge Gambauds to the grett Gowre. And when the Qwene was come, the said byschop of Morrey, the said archbyschop (of Glasco) and the said Counte of Northumberlaunde avaunced toward hyr, and then knelling downe to the grounde mayde the Receyvinge. Ther was in presence the Archbyschop of York, the Bischop of Durham and the Erie of Surrey. After thys sche was brought to the Pavyllon ordonned for Recreacyon, and ny to that same sche was helped downe and kissed of the said Lords, and by them sche was brought to the Pavyllon wher no body entered except the Lords and Ladyes. And within the same was a Lady of the Countre, clothed with Scarlatte, with Gentylwomen appoynted after ther gyse who had brought sum new Fruyts.

Ny to that sam Pavyllon war other thre. The one for the Panne-try, the tother for the Boutry, the tother for the Kytchen ; And ther ichon delibered hymselfe to make good chere and drynke. For ther was plante of Bred and Wyne so that ichon was contente.

After the Receyving doon, ichon put himself agayn in ordre, and the Qwene monted on Horsebak. The said Lord of Northumberland maid his Devor at the Departying of Gambauds and Lepps, as did lykewyse the Lord Scrop the Father and many others who retorned agayn, in taking their Congies. And of the Companie abydynge the Qwene was conveyed to hyr Lodgynge of Fast Castell, wher she was welcomed by the Lord of the said place and of the Lady sister of the said Bischop of Morrey, heir of Queen Elizabeth.

From Fast Castle this princely train proceeded into Lothian by the Path of Pease, and staid during the night at the nunnery of Haddington. Next day they reached the Scottish Metropolis, where the royal nuptials were completed amid the din of wassail, rout and revelry.”

Exactly a hundred years after this, Margaret Tudor’s great-grandson, son of Mary Queen of Scots and Darnley, heir of George the Steward of Scotland who founded the line of Stuart kings as James VI of Scotland and I of England, travelled the same road, reversing the steps of his progenitor, but he had no Somerset Herald to describe the pageant.

Lamberton has lost its old importance. In the thirteenth century it was part of the Barony of Mordington, and among the family papers of Mr. Campbell Renton and in the charter chest at Wedderburn Castle there are a number of charters relating to the lands of Lamberton. One of Mr. Campbell Renton’s ancestors, John de Raynton, a rich burgess of Berwick-on-Tweed, who was taken prisoner by the Scots just before the battle of Halidon Hill (July 25, 1333), is given the lands and tenements of Over Lamberton of Agnes of Mordington. Another charter makes over to him the lands of Henry Cossar of Trebroun in the same town. From it we learn they were previously in the possession of Roger de Goswyc. Land in Kirk Lamberton was made over to him by William called Brune of the Borough Muir. Adam de Lamberton gave “my whole land of Lamberton in meadows and pastures to Gelfrio de Hessurle.”

Little is left to remind one of Lamberton’s history. A graveyard and some fragments of ruin are scarcely enough to distract attention from the moor and the sea.

Lamberton was notorious in the early half of the nineteenth century for the uproarious race meetings held on the moor and the Border marriages celebrated at the toll-bar. Both were vigorously condemned by the righteous, though there are unregenerates who still cherish memories of the former and philosophers who condone the latter. ” A Toll wedding is better than none,” said a comfortable-looking village woman to the writer; ” they just used to gan thegither in my young days and if after they went sundry nobody cared.” She was a village pagan who did not greatly believe in the niceness and fancy of the generation growing up beside her !

Lamberton and Coldstream Bridge were not gilded with the same air of romance as Gretna. At one period writers of novels were never tired of making the handsome young ensign run off to the Cumberland Border with the rich heiress, pursued, as often as not, by the irate father in his chariot. Very few adventures of this kind are staged at Lamberton. But in the early half of the last century it was not uncommon for the Northumbrian yokel, who still is very secretive about his love affairs, to steal out at one end of the village while his nymph took the opposite direction, the two meeting at an appointed place, whence they trudged together to the toll. At Coldstream the priest was usually a blacksmith. His shop and shoeing forge continued to be used as a smithy up to a very recent date. At Lamberton Toll the ritual was performed by men of various occupations. In the Proceedings of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club for 1857 the advertisement of one of them is printed and runs as follows :



Begs respectfully to intimate that he can be found at his residence Coxon’s Lane adjoining Walken [? Walker] Gate any time his services may be required by any person visiting the Hymeneal Shrine on the Scottish Border.

It was the simplest of ceremonies. Legal marriage in Scotland did not require more than a simple declaration on the part of the man and woman. Andrew Lyon’s ” Hymeneal Altar ” led to many irregularities, yet some regarded its abolition as a mistake, because “couples might ha’ done waur ” Marriage was marriage, even when performed by a barber on the open moorland. An irregular kind of register was kept and is still in existence, although its interest diminishes as the actors die and are forgotten.

A jeweller who is now in a large way of business in another part of the county told the present writer that he served his time in Berwick-on-Tweed and is, indeed, a freeman. He recollected that on market days and holidays the firm for which he worked would sell from twelve to eighteen wedding rings in a morning for use at Lamberton Toll. He also remembered the famous notice stuck in the window of the toll-house : ” Ginger beer sold here and marriages performed “