Berwick steps back to the Middle Ages

For three days this weekend (Sat 2nd, Sun 3rd & Mon 4th May 2015) , Berwick’s ramparts will be the setting for colourful authentic encampments and exciting re-enactments depicting the turbulent period between the 12th and the 16th century, when the town changed hands at least thirteen times between the Scots and the English.

Up to 100 re-enactors from three societies based in northern England and southern Scotland will recreate everyday life in the period and stage demonstrations of crafts and cookery, archery and combat throughout the weekend, from Saturday until Bank Holiday Monday.

The Raiders and Reivers event is part of Our Border Story in the Berwick 900 Festival programme and provides an opportunity for people of all ages to find out how our ancestors lived during those turbulent centuries.

St Cuthbert’s Land represent the time, 900 years ago, when Berwick became one of the first royal burghs of Scotland. It soon grew to be Scotland’s richest seaport and a cosmopolitan town full of foreign merchants exporting local wool, grain and other products and importing raw materials for the industries in the Tweed valley, cloth from Flanders and luxury goods for the court of the Scottish kings in Edinburgh. Members of St Cuthbert’s Land will be showing the craft skills and everyday life of the time, and presenting displays of archery and combat each day.

Knights in Battle have their base in Yorkshire and depict the high Middle Ages and the Wars of the Roses when, in 1482, the future King Richard III captured Berwick from the Scots for the last time. The tented encampment beside the ramparts will form a colourful backdrop for their displays of hand-to-hand combat with sword, spear and shield.

Berwick’s Elizabethan fortifications provide the authentic period setting for Best of Times, Worst of Times, a group who recreate life in the 16th century, the era of the notorious Border raiders known as the “reivers”. Reiver surnames live on in many local families like the Armstrongs, Dodds, Elliots, Forsters and Hepburns.

The Bygone Borderlands exhibition in the Guildhall on Saturday and Sunday (11.00am to 4.00pm each day) features displays illustrating a variety of aspects of local history created by Berwick Record Office and community heritage groups from both sides of the Border.

During the weekend, the Flodden 1513 Education Team is organising Berwick’s Horrible History with creative activities for families to discover Berwick’s exciting and dangerous past, from medieval knights to Tudor queens and spies.

As part of the Bygone Borderlands exhibition in the Guildhall, visitors can explore life in Tudor Berwick through old documents and maps and uncover the mystery of the Scottish spies! Other fun activities include making puppets, recreating characters from Berwick’s Tudor past.

From Saturday to Monday (11.00am-4.00pm each day), there is free admission to Berwick Museum & Art Gallery in the Barracks, where you can explore the Museum’s Medieval Berwick exhibition and discover the town’s brutal past. Younger visitors can try on some replica armour and find out if they would make a good medieval knight, or design their own coat-of-arms and make a shield ready for battle!

For more information about Berwick’s Horrible History, contact Jane Miller, Flodden 1513 Education Officer - [email protected].

The weekend ahead offers a colourful variety of ways for everyone to discover history and a fascinating glimpse of a period when centuries of warfare between the English and the Scots changed Berwick from a prosperous trading port to a frontier garrison town.

The story of Berwick’s military heritage continues next week with Berwick at War and A Day in the 1940s,marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day and the ending of the Second World War in Europe.