Wednesday, 16 July 2008

King's hired thugs

A FASCINATING new book about the Border Reivers shatters the popular perception that the lawless families of the North were indigenous.
Julia Grint’s book Bastles explains: “During the 14th century, in an attempt to repopulate an area made a dangerous economic desert by Anglo-Scots warfare, Edward III encouraged what we would term ‘relocation’ to the Border region.”
“The people were chosen quite deliberately as being capable of brutish and violent behaviour; the settlers were brought in to form a protective ‘pale’ or bulwark and needed to be suitable for that purpose.”
In exchange for land and low rents, the King required military service on demand, and at first that worked well.

Taken together with a fascinating introduction that helps you step into the shoes of the Charltons, the Fenwicks, the Armstrongs, Royal machinations, the politics of the time and the geography that dictated the lifestyle, the book sets the scene.
The focus then narrows until it is on the holders of the names and graynes themselves – the bearers of the main surnames and subgroups formed by their descendents.
We learn about their activities, houses and even their clothes.
Bastles is published by Ergo Press, priced £7.99, and available from Cogito Books in Hexham, among other outlets.
See the full report at: helen.compson@hexham-courant.co.uk
Friday 11th July 2008

I can think of some local families who won't be too pleased at having their forebears labelled thugs.

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