Glendale Ward - West Division

Carham Parish


carham parish is situated at the north-west angle of the county, being bounded on the north and west by Scotland, on the south by the Beaumont rivulet, and on the east by the parishes of Branxton and Ford. It is about six miles in length by four in breadth, and comprises an area of 10,382 acres. Its population in 1801, was 1192; in 1811, 1,316; in 1821, 1,370; in 1831, 1,174; in 1841, 1,282; and in 1851, 1,362 souls. This parish is not, strictly speaking, divided into, townships, but it contains the following villages and hamlets, viz :- Carham, Downham, Hagg, East and West Learmouth, Mindrum, Moneylaws, Presson, Shidlaw, Tithchill, Wark, and Wark Common, whose returns are all included in those of the parish.

the village of Carham is pleasantly situated on the south bank of the river Tweed, thirteen miles north-west by north of Wooler. A most decisive battle was fought here in the year 1018, between the English and Scots, in which the latter were victorious, and almost all the men capable of bearing arms between the Tees and the Tweed were slain. The death of Bishop Aldhune is ascribed to his violent grief on the issue of this conflict. In 1297 the Scots under Wallace, having made an irruption into England, destroyed a monastery of Black Canons which had been founded here, subordinate to the priory of Kirkham, in Yorkshire. The spot upon which Wallace and his soldiers encamped is, to this day, called Camp Field. At a fair held at Roxburgh, in August, 1371, one of the followers of the Earl of March, was slain by some of the English borderers. The earl applied to Lord Henry Percy, warden of the English Marches, for redress of this injury, but no satisfactory answer being given, the Scot resolved upon revenge. Waiting the return of the fair in the following year, he and his brother the Earl of Murray, accompanied by a considerable body of their friends and followers, attacked the town by surprise, killed all the English they found in it, set it on fire, and carried off in triumph its spoils. The English borderers, in resentment of this outrage, soon after entered Scotland, and ravaged the lands of Sir John Gordon, who in his turn made an incursion into the English borders, but as he was returning with many prisoners and a great train of cattle, he was attacked at Carham by a superior force, under the command of Sir John Lilburn. The conflict was fierce, and its decision long doubtful, the Scots being driven from their ground, and returning again to the charge five different times. At last, however, they prevailed, and added to the number of their prisoners, Sir John Lilburn, his brother, and many of their followers.

the church dedicated to St. Cuthbert, occupies a fine position near the banks of the Tweed. The living is a perpetual curacy in the archdeaconry of Lindisfarne and deanery of Norham; gross income 248. Patrons, the executors of A. Compton, Esq.; incumbent, the Rev. Francis Thompson, L.L.B.; curate, Rev. John Smeddle, B.A. The parish register commences in 1684. carham hall is the seat of Mrs. Catherine Compton.

downham, a hamlet in this parish situated five miles south-east of Carham, is in the occupancy of Robert Hall, farmer.

hagg is a hamlet in this parish five miles E.S.E. of Carham.

learmouth (east) is a hamlet in the above parish situated three miles and three-quarters east of Carham. The principal residents are James Pillar, blacksmith; and William Smith, farmer.

learmouth (west), a small hamlet three miles east of Carham, was at one period a considerable market town; but in consequence of the introduction of the system of throwing several small farms into one of great extent, the adjacent country has become almost depopulated. A neglected burial ground still points out to the traveller the former importance of this place. It is occupied by John Lumsden, farmer.

mindrum, a hamlet in this parish, the property of the Earl of Tankerville, is situated five miles south-east of Carham. Here are the ruins of a chapel and a neglected cemetery. Principal resident, James Thompson, farmer.

moneylaws hamlet is situated five and a half miles east by south of Carham, and is divided into Old and New Moneylaws, which are respectively occupied by John Logan, and A. F. Douglas, farmers.

presson is a hamlet two miles and three-quarters south-east of Carham. It is occupied by William Lumsden, farmer, Presson Mill; and John Taylor, farmer.

shidlaw another hamlet in this parish, is situated one mile east of Carham. Its name is supposed to have been Shield Law, which denotes a guarg hill, and it appears to have been the only place to which the people of Carham, during the border feuds, could retire with their cattle, on the approach of an enemy. There is a beautiful and extensive prospect into Scotland from this hamlet. Thomas Henderson, farmer, is the principal resident.

tithehill, a hamlet two and three-quarter miles south of Cornhill, the occupancy of George Davidson, farmer.

wark, a village in Carham parish, is situated on the southern bank of the Tweed, two miles W.S.W. of Coldstream, and was in ancient times a place of some consequence, but is now inconsiderable. The manor of Wark was formerly held by the Nevilles from whom it passed to the De Ros family, during whose possession it was raised to the rank of a barony, but was subsequently transferred to the Greys of Heton, and is now the property of the Earl of Tankerville. The ruins of Wark Castle occupy a circular eminence near the Tweed, a little to the west of the village. The period of its erection is unknown, but from several notices which we have of it in history, it appears to have been a place of considerable strength at the commencement of the twelfth century. On the accession of Stephen to the English throne, David, king of Scotland, drew the sword for the rights of Matilda the empress. He had sworn to support her claim to the crown, and at the beginning of the year he crossed the borders, reduced Carlisle, Norham, Wark, Alnwick, and Newcastle, compelling the inhabitants to take an oath of fealty to the daughter of Henry. He had reached the walls of Durham, when he was opposed by Stephen at the head of a numerous army. The risk of an engagement obliged him to pause: if he was the uncle of the empress, so was he likewise of the consort of her antagonist; a peace was speedily concluded, and to cement the friendship of the two kings, Henry, Prince of Scotland, did homage to Stephen, and received from him the towns of Carlisle, Doncaster, and Huntingdon. After remaining quiet for nearly two years, David, urged, it is said, by Matilda's letters, once more entered England, and began a series of cruel ravages scarcely to be paralleled in the annals of war. He invested the castle of Wark, but not being able to capture it he marched southward, with the main body of his army, and penetrated as far as Yorkshire. In this expedition the Scots conducted the war with the greatest ferocity. Thurston, the aged archbishop of York, took advantage of the general horror and indignation, and assembling the neighbouring barons, persuaded them to face an enemy whom hitherto they had despaired of vanquishing. Near Northallerton they heard of the approach of the Scots. The English immediately formed in front of the standard, from which the battle has derived its name. It consisted of a strong pole, or rather mast, firmly planted in the framework of a carriage, and surmounted by a cross. In the centre of this cross was fixed a box of silver, containing the sacrament, and below waved the banners of the three patron sainta of the north, Peter, Wilfrid, and John of Beverley.

At the foot of the standard, Walter Espec addressed the troops; and at the conclusion of his speech, turning to another leader, William of Albermarle, he gave him his hand, and exclaimed with a loud voice "I plight thee my troth, to conquer or die." The words were caught up and repeated from mouth to mouth with enthusiastic ardour. The Picts of Galloway commenced the battle, which soon became general. Pressed and overpowered by superior numbers, the English retired slowly towards the standard, and there formed a compact circle. In vain did the enemy try to hew down the forest of spears that projected on every side. Their efforts only exposed them to the unerring aim of the Saxon archers. For two hours they continued their attack, till spent by the useless labour and dismayed by the storm of arrows, they abandoned the contest and fled. Of twenty-seven thousand that began the fight, scarcely one half escaped the carnage. David was still able to continue the fight and sent a body of forces to besiege Wark castle. The assailants closely invested the place and pushed on the siege with great vigour; but the resistance of the garrison proved so stubborn, and their numerous sorties had such an effect upon David's troops, that he was forced to change the siege into a blockade. The brave garrison, however, would not yield, though their sufferings from hunger were most grievous; but, through the intervention of the Abbot of Rievalle, they surrendered upon condition of being allowed to march out with all the honours of war, - terms which David gladly-conceded. On the evacuation of the castle it was immediately demolished by the Scots, but was afterwards repaired by Henry II in whose reign the great convention for the settlement of the tenths, demanded by the English monarch, was held here. King John reduced this castle to ashes, in 1215, but it appears to have been soon restored: for Robert de Ros, the governor, abandoned it, and went over to the Scots in the reign of Edward I. William, the brother of the above Robert, continued in the castle, which he held for Edward to whom he sent a message requesting speedy aid, lest the Scots, prompted and conducted by his brother, should make themselves masters of the place. The king immediately ordered a thousand men to march towards Wark. This force having reached in the evening, a little town in its neighbourhood, took up their quarters there for the night, not dreading any attack. But the traitor Robert de Ros, having intelligence of their situation, led a party of Scots from the garrison of Roxburgh, and having invested the village, set fire to the houses. The English flying from the flames, were slain by their enemies, and some by each other. Edward having intelligence of this disaster the morning after it happened, is said to have given thanks to God, that his adversaries, having entered his kingdom, had been the beginners of the war, which he hoped to conclude happily, and immediately marched with his whole army to Wark, where he kept the festival of Easter.

In 1318, Wark again fell into the hands of the Scots. On the return of David of Scotland from an incursion into England, in 1342, the rear of his army passing by Wark castle, with great loads of plunder, were seen by the garrison with the greatest indignation. Sir William Montague was at that time governor, and the countess of Salisbury, whose lord the fortress then belonged to, was a resident in the castle at the time. The governor, with forty horsemen, made a sally, attended with considerable slaughter, bringing into the castle one hundred and sixty horses laden with booty. King David, incensed at this attack, led his army against Wark, and made a general assault, but met with a repulse, attended with great bloodshed. He then prepared to fill up the ditches, and bring his battering engines to play upon the walls. The imminent danger of the garrison, rendered it necessary to send information of their situation to the English monarch, who was approaching the borders with a great army. The place being closely invested, rendered such an attempt perilous, but it was effected by the governor himself, who, passing through the enemy's line, in the darkness and tumult of a stormy night, carried intelligence to Edward, who redoubled his speed to relieve the place. The Scots, unwilling to hazard the treasures they had reaped in their expedition, persuaded their king to raise the siege and pass the Tweed, which was only effected six hours before the van of the English army appeared. In 1383, the castle was again attacked by the Scots and a portion of its fortifications demolished; they completely destroyed it in 1399, but it was subsequently restored and put in a state of defence by king Henry IV.

In 1419, hostilities having commenced on the borders, William Halliburton, of Fast castle, took the fortress of Wark, which was then in the custody of Robert Ogle, and put all the garrison to the sword; but it was soon recovered by the English, who, from a perfect knowledge of the place, made their way by a sewer which led from a kitchen into the Tweed, and surprising the garrison, put them all to death, in revenge for their cruelty to Ogle's troops. In 1460, the Scots collected great booty in the marches, and among other castles which they assailed, Wark was taken and demolished. It was afterwards repaired by the Earl of Surrey: but, in 1523, the Scottish army, then lying at Coldstream, under the command of the Duke of Albany, resolved to attempt its reduction. At this period we are told that "in the innermost area was a tower of great strength and height, this was encircled by two walls, the outer enclosing a large space, into which the inhabitants of the country used to fly with their cattle, corn, and flocks in time of war, the inner was of much smaller extent, but fortified more strongly by ditches and towers. It had a strong garrison, good store of artillery, and other things necessary for defence." The Scottish commander sent against it battering cannon, and a chosen band of Scots and French to the number of 4,000, under the command of Andrew Ker of Farnherst. The French carried the outer enclosure at the first assault, but they were dislodged by the garrison setting fire to the straw laid up therein. The besiegers soon recovered it, and by their cannon effected a breach in the inner wall. The French, with their usual intrepidity, mounted the breach, sustaining great loss by the shot of those who possessed the tower, or keep, and being warmly received by the forces that defended the inner ballium, were obliged to retire after great slaughter. The attack was to have been renewed on the succeeding day; but a fall of rain in the night, which swelled the Tweed and threatened to cut off the retreat of the assailants to the main army, and the approach of the Earl of Surrey at the head of a strong force, obliged the Duke of Albany to raise the siege and retreat into Scotland. The present remains of Wark castle do not convey an idea that it could possibly at any time have been a considerable fortress, but such it most certainly was. At what time it was dismantled and thus totally destroyed is not known; but most probably it was one of the strongholds ordered to be demolished by king James VI of Scotland, on his accession to the crown of England.

wark school was erected, in 1854, at an expense of 70, and is a neat stone edifice, capable of accommodating about 140 children. It is under the patronage of Lord Ossulston, Earl Grey, and Hodgson Hinde, Esq., and is conducted by Mr. Alexander Simpson.

wark common, where there is a small hamlet, is situated nearly two miles south-east of Carham.



William Whellan & Co., History of Northumberland, 1855



21 February 2010


Parish Listing

Steve Bulman