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Author Topic:   Anglo -Scottish border, 1066
posted 05-07-2006 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Devine     Edit/Delete Message
Hi, everyone,
Firstly, a big thanks to everone who has offered their responses to my previous posts - it's all been really useful!
In conjunction with my ongoing research into the castles of northern Lancashire, I have currently been looking to establish the precise location of the Scottish border in north west England at the time of the Norman conquest. Though there is much, well documented evidence to permit a detailed study of the border in the north east of the country (north from Durham and Northumberland), There seem to be little matching evidence relating to the frontier in the north west. Despite this, I have recently uncovered an old text book map which places the Anglo-Scottish border, in the NW, much further south than I had previously suspected. And it is the accuracy of this map detail that now becomes the focus of this new post. According to this map, in 1066 the Scottish maintained control of more than half of Cumbria, affording them a significant presence in northern England. In the east, by contrast, the English lands extended much further north, far into Northumberland, whereas across the Pennines, according to the map evidence, the Scots had made and maintained massive advances south. The border appears to have begun at Ravenglass, on the west coast. From here, the frontier cuts east, through the Cumbrian mountains before diverting south into North Yorkshire. At a point approximately where the Rivers Eden and Ure converge, the line of the border turns again, and follows the recognisible county boundaries of Durham and Northumberland north, towards the modern national border. Though I am fully aware that such fiercly contested borders rarely remained secure for very long, I am also extremely fascinated by the possibility that in 1066 (and onwards, for the maps does make reference to the boundary remaining constant until well after Doomsday.) Lancashire was literally a frontier territory. As such, the occupying Normans would have faced the daily threat of a scottish invasion from a enemy force positioned only miles away, just beyond the Cumbrian foothills.
If this was indeed the situation for the Normans in Lancashire, after 1066, then I feel that my research into the Lune Valley fortifications is worthwhile, as these castles might well have represented a coordinated and interdependent line of defences, protecting against external invasion as well as domestic revolt.
Of course, one piece of evidence does not constitute fact. Therefore, I would be delighted to receive any information or ideas relating to this topic. If any one has any further knowledge regarding the Scottish border region around 1066, or is aware of any relevant source materials, I would be, as ever, most grateful. Thanks.


[This message has been edited by Devine (edited 05-07-2006).]

Senior Member
posted 05-07-2006 04:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ElCid     Edit/Delete Message
Interesting topic. N Pounds in his 'The Medieval castle in England and Wales' pp 178 - 183, makes a few comments on the Anglo-Scottish border.

He makes the point that in the early middle ages the roads north were much better (Roman?) on the north east than the north west (with those lakedistrict mountains getting in the way) of the country, enabling a further spread of colonisation from Engand.

He also notes that in the late Anglo-Saxon period (over which many of the Norman boundaries and territories were based) the Scottish kingdom of Strathclyde came well down into current day Cumbria but on the other side the kingdom of Northumbria extended north far beyond the Tweed.

The current approximate boundaries only became established in the early 12th century and were seemingly much more fluid before that time.

Scottish raiding came down as far on the eastern side of England as York and even further south than this. As the border was considerably further north it seems not unreasonable that raiding parties on the western side were active in the Lune valley area of Lancs. Whether they actually established a border that far south is an interesting point.

Keep us updated on your research please.



posted 05-08-2006 12:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Devine     Edit/Delete Message
Hello Peter,
Great to hear from you and thanks a lot for your comments. I really think you made a vital point when you explained how the Cumbrian mountains presented a significant obstacle to Scotland's ambitions in the north of England. In fact, your message has really made me reconsider just how much of a barrier the mountains were - and I've been frantically thumbing through my atlas ever since!
I think it's quite apparent that without the Cumbrian mountains to massively impede their advances, the Scottish armies of Malcolm Canmore would have had a clear corridor of invasion into northern England, down the west side of the Pennine chain. It is also certain that these campaigns into Cumbria and Lancashire, would have been far more substantial and penetrating were it not for the mountains that barred the way. Though there are substantiated accounts of Scottish incursions reaching as far south as Preston, these invasion parties were of limited size and essentially isolated from the main Scottish forces by the natural geography of Cumbria.
While it seems certain that the Norman fortifications of northern Lancashire were indeed established in noteworthy concentrations, and distributed to most effectively defend various vulnerable crossings of the River Lune, the extent of the defensive line was proportionate to the protection afforded by the nearby mountain range. Had the Cumbrian mountains not presented such a formidable obstruction to successive Scottish armies, then the Norman earthwork castles of Lancashire would have quickly proven to be wholly inadequate to manage such a hazardous frontier.
This perspective has really opened up a fascinating avenue of research for me, so many thanks for taking such an insightful interest in this topic! If you have any other information that might further my research, please let me know! Thank you.


[This message has been edited by Devine (edited 05-08-2006).]

Aiken Drum
Senior Member
posted 05-29-2006 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aiken Drum     Edit/Delete Message
That early there was no fixed border, there were varying areas of influence much as the medieval border area which we now recognise as closer to the modern was a sort of fluid 'No man's land into which either claimant would move from time to time to gain that influence.
The actual delineation of a fixed border line was not settled until the 'Debateable Land' question was finally solved around 1551.
The first formal agreement on establishing and marking out a border was The Treaty of York in 1263 which was the first time that the Solway/Tweed line was recognised.
Northumbria of course had a claim via it's Earls to be a separate Kingdom stretching between both countries from Humber to Forth, and it was establihed before either laid claim to it.
When Duncan , Strathclyde's last ruler became Duncan 1 of Scots in 1034 Strathclyde ceased to exist, but it had contorlled the west coast as far south as Morecombe Bay.

posted 05-30-2006 08:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Devine     Edit/Delete Message
Hi, Aiken Drum.
Good to hear from you and thanks for your comments.
As you rightly explained there was certainly no definitive political division between England and Scotland during the early medieval period. When we use the terms frontier and border we are inherently referring to the "fluid, no man's lands" that you describe in your post. All the historical evidence does indeed state that at the time of the Norman Conquest the Anglo-Scottish border did not exist as a distinct political division, but rather as you suggested, regions of unstable affiliations and localised loyalties. For my research however, I am clearly not looking to establish a definitive post conquest Anglo-Scottish border, but rather the far more modest identification of the extent of Scottish control in Cumbria. In 1092 William II returned from Normandy and marched north into Scottish held Cumbria. In only a short time Wiliiam had reclaimed Cumberland from it's then current ruler, Dolfin of Dunbar, a vassal of King Malcolm III. The Scots were forced to retreat beyond Carlisle, and William established an English border, building a castle to consolidate his gains on this new frontier. Therefore, I would be extremely interested to discover how much of northern England the Scots held, under Malcolm Canmore, prior to William's 1092 invasion (the historical maps I have in my possession indicate that much of Cumbria was under Scottish rule, and that further advances into England, along the western side of the Pennines, were only prevented by the natural geography of the Cumbrian mountains). Any new information would be very gratefully received!


Senior Member
posted 05-31-2006 02:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ElCid     Edit/Delete Message
Are you familiar with the paper entitled ' Frontier and Settlement: Which Influenced Which? England and Scotland, 1100 - 1300' by Geoffrey Barrow, published in Medieval frontier Societies by Bartlett & Mackay OUP - 1989?. This seems to be a paper I think you will find interesting if you haven't read it.

The paper argues that the border in this period was indeed very fluid but also rather unmilitarised with few castles and generally a peaceful region except for certain instances of warfare amounting to only a few years in total.

He states that the Scots Kings had difficulty establishing any authority in the western border region due to the 'line of independent rulers of Brittonic-speaking Cumbria', the last of this dynasty being Owain son of Dyfnwal who died in 1018 when the new King of England at the time (Canute of Denmark) was preoccupied with other problems.

This allowed King Malcom II of Scotland to seize control throughout Cumbria as far south as Stainmore Common. This lasted until 1092 when William Rufous of England fixed the north western boundary of his kingdom on the line of the Solway Firth and the river Esk just north of Carlisle.

This in turn lasted until 1157 when the scots regained the pre 1092 territory . . . . .and so on.



Aiken Drum
Senior Member
posted 05-31-2006 04:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aiken Drum     Edit/Delete Message
Not quite, when Owain, or Owen the Bald died at Carham in 1018, Malcolm 2nd put his grandson Duncan on the throne of Strathclyde, the kingdom of the Britons based at Dumbarton. Owen had entered into an alliance with Malcolm to repel an attempt by the Nothrumbrians to regain Lothian, Lothian thereafter being permanently absorbed into Scotland.
Ross and Caithness at this time were still under Norse Rule.
When Malcolm died in 1034, Duncan became Duncan 1st of Scots, and Strathclyde ceased to exist as a nation, being absorbed into Scotland, Cumbria and all.
Note that sovereigns in Scotland were rulers over their subjects, not the land, hence, Mary Queen of Scots, Duncan 1st of Scots etc.

[This message has been edited by Aiken Drum (edited 05-31-2006).]

posted 06-02-2006 10:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Devine     Edit/Delete Message
Thank you!
That's all really useful. I find the comment about Stainmore particularly revealling as it's the 1092 invasion by William II that specifically interests me. My reasearch suggests that after Rufus had taken Cumbria from Dolfin of Dunbar, he granted further lands in northern Lancashire to Roger de Poitou (in part for his assistance in the Cumbrian campaign). And so, after 1092 Roger established his fortified power base at Lancaster and through his own local lords, created the series of earth and timber defences which line the Lune valley, and which remain the focus of my research and ongoing fascination. Thanks for all your help!

All times are PT (US)

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