Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Berwick-upon-Tweed is how old?

Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, England, marked its 900th anniversary in 2015. That's right: 900 years. By comparison, Toronto, where I live, was originally settled as the Town of York in 1793, a mere 223 years ago. It's a baby, compared to my maternal grandmother's home.

The town organized a year-long festival to mark the anniversary. Its website describes how the 2015 was selected to commemorate 900 years subce its founding.:
"In 1115 the future King David of Scotland gave a charter to the monks of Selkirk Abbey granting 'a plowgate of land in Berwick, one house   below the Church of St. Lawrence, extending to the Tweed, the one half of a fishery, the seventh part of a mill, and forty shillings out of the yearly revenue of the town.
This was the first official document referring to Berwick as a town...and 1115 marked the beginning of Berwick's golden age as Scotland's richest town and greatest seaport...."
I wish I had known about this anniversary. It would have been so interesting to visit my ancestral town. And just recently, a walking tour of the Greenses, where my Youngs lived for generations, was held in September. How fascinating that would have been.

The whole area is soaked with history. The influence of the Anglo-Saxons, Romans, Vikings and Normans, some of whom lived there over a thousand years ago, are still visible today. In the Middle Ages, Berwick changed hands between England and Scotland at least 13 times through close to 500 years of border wars.

Today, Berwick is just four km from the Scottish border. It's been considered part of England since 1482. But many Scots people and Berwick citizens still today consider it a Scottish town. My grandmother apparently did a not so slow burn when anyone called her an Englishwoman.

My male ancestors in Berwick made their living as primarily fishermen, catching salmon and herring (the latter was the catch for those who lived in the Greenses) before the industrial age and the arrival of trains. Meanwhile, census records reveal that my female ancestors there were sent out as early as age 13 to work as live-in servants.

Berwickshire News 12 Jan 1909
Yes, life was hard for my Berwick ancestors. Just today, I discovered that my 2nd great grandfather died in a workhouse. This astounds me. Why did he not live with one of his children? Why didn't my great grandparents take him in, for example? It's a puzzle.

The never ending story continues....

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