and antiquaries love — just as the corner boys and more
demonstrative part of the population are said to inherit a
special strain of turbulence from the rude past. But one really
does not need to hunt about for Roman arches or the relics
of nunneries or Tudor houses in Carlisle, if time is limited, as
one might do in cities richer in these things, but poorer
infinitely in such records as make it the main story of the
We are facing the north, as is only fitting for such a re-
268 ROMAN CARLISLE chap.
trospect as I am about to indulge in. Below us, through
green meadows, somewhat trimmed and. ornamented for the
outdoor needs of a modern city, winds the broad and stately
Eden. Hurrying from the south to meet it, and thus placing
us in the angle of two streams, come the recently united waters
of the Caldew and the Petterill, whose infant gambols among
the hills which bore them we have looked at in a former
Before recorded history, says Bishop Creighton, a tribe of
the Brigantes had built their huts upon this sandstone bluff,
which Nature had so obviously intended for the secure abode of
man. But this the reader will no doubt resent, being more
than he bargained for. One cannot, however, ignore all
mention of Roman times, seeing what a conspicuous part the
land of Carhsle then played. It was Agricola with his legions
who, about eighty years after Christ, first broke upon the
barbarism of these northern forests, and there was nothing
tentative or half-hearted in the manner of his settlement.
Henceforth the real frontier of Britain was here, and for three
centuries the Solway slope hummed with a life more bustling
and more organised, and certainly far more cosmopolitan,
than would have been found there a thousand years later.
The Roman town of Lugubalia arose therefore on the site of
the old Celtic Caer Lywelydd. Agricola built a line of fortresses
from the Solway to the Tyne, and forty years later came
Hadrian, following the same course with his famous wall, and
including in that monumental structure his predecessor's forts.
One knows too that a second frontier was formed in somewhat
similar fashion from the Firth to the Clyde; but its efficacy was
fitful and life between the two walls so precarious that the Tyne
and Solway, and the "Roman wall" we know so well, may for
practical purposes be regarded as the Roman frontier.
Everything indeed connected with Roman Britain seems to
require a mental effort. But let us make one brief endeavour
to form some idea of this vast defensive work-
X HADRIAN'S WALL 269
Its course was about seventy miles. It was eighteen feet
high and eight feet broad, but its actual height was greatly
increased by a ditch of fifteen feel in depth on the north side.
On the south, a rampart and a wide foss followed the course of
the wall as a protection to its rear, in case an enemy should
perchance break through. Every three miles, speaking broadly,
there was a fortified station garrisoned by 600 men ; at intervals
of less than a mile were big square towers, with gateways
occupied by detachments, while every three hundred yards
stood watch-towers manned by sentinels. The civil population
that a permanent garrison of 15,000 troops would gather round
it must have been very great for the period, speaking rela-
tively, and afforded, no doubt, a strange contrast to the solitude
through which one may now trace what remains of Hadrian's
Wall. It crossed the Eden on a bridge, just beneath the
walls of Carlisle, and it was down yonder at Stanwix, rather
than at the town above, that the Romans had their military
station. But it was not alone the western end of the great
wall that made this " country of Carluel," as it came to be called,
so busy. For the coast of Cumberland was low and exposed
beyond the point where the wall touched the Solway, and was
thickly sprinkled with Roman stations as far as Ravenglass —
at which spot, as well as on the cold stations of the North-
umbrian uplands, Frisians, Batavians, Spaniards and Gauls
shivered in the inclement air. A network of roads covered
the country, four passing through Carlisle alone, along which
must have rumbled continual convoys laden with the products
of the south. Experts have, beyond a doubt, much justification
when they tell us that this was for a time one of the most
populous parts of Roman Britain.
It was when the Romans had gone that Carlisle assumed
some fresh and peculiar importance as a border stronghold, for
it was here that the half- Romanised Britons rallied and fought
Scots, Picts and Saxons, for a long, vague period in vague and
doubtful conflict. With the Arthurian legend we need not con-
270 OUTSIDE THE DOMESDAY SURVEY chap.
cern ourselves. It flourished in the land of Carlisle, as in Wales
and Cornwall. But the Strathclyde Britons, stretching roughly
from the Ribble to the Clyde, had for a time their centre at Dum-
barton, till the Northumbrian Saxons drove a wedge through
their centre and cut off Carlisle and its people from their northern
kinsmen. Egfrith, the Northumbrian king, seems indeed to
have dominated the Cumbrians, while his pious sister, Elfred,
founded the monastery in Carlisle and gave the town its eccles-
iastical distinction. This same influence seems also to have
greatly weakened in Cumbria the old British Church in favour
of its Latin rival. But Egfrith in turn was overthrown by the
Picts and Britons, while in due course the invading Danes
added to the confusion. In 875 they burnt and sacked
Carlisle, leaving the district almost uninhabitable. This ended
the long period of Carlisle's earlier supremacy. For nearly
eight centuries she had been predominant on the north-western
border land. First under the Romans, then as the capital of
Strathclyde, and even afterwards, when under Northumbrian
influences, her ecclesiastical supremacy had remained un-
We took note when crossing Dunmail Raise of how, after
the British defeat upon that mountain pass in 945, the land
of Carlisle was granted by the Saxon conqueror to Malcolm,
King of Scotland. As an appanage of the northern kingdom
it ceased for a time to be a border town, and lost its import-
ance. When Domesday Book was compiled, Carlisle, with
Cumberland and part of Westmorland, found no place in it,
not being English ground. It was William Rufus who put
matters right again, and this with little apparent detriment to
the reigning King of Scotland. For Cumbria was then in the
virtual power of an independent chieftain, one Dolphin, who
ruled over a ruinous town and a district thinly peopled by a
polyglot race, in which Norse blood was the prevailing strain.
Rufus expelled Dolphin, brought fresh settlers into the wasted
country, and built the castle at Carlisle, putting a strong
X SCOTTISH HOLD ON CARLISLE 271
garrison within it. Henry I. created it an earldom of the
Welsh Palatinate type — but this was soon abolished as a
system of defence not always salutary for the Crown, and
the Crown officers introduced. Henry, however, did much
more than this. He introduced the Augustine Order and
started the struggling Church with various endowments of
fisheries, , mills, and parish titles. Glasgow and York had
hitherto contended for the ecclesiastical overlordship of Carlisle.
The King now set the matter at rest by making it a bishopric,
and including in the new see most of the present counties of
Cumberland and Westmorland. During Stephen's troubled
reign Carlisle once more became semi-Scottish, for David of
Scotland seized it in the confusion and made peace witli
Stephen on condition of retaining it as an earldom for
It now became a base for Scottish ravages against England,
an intolerable state of affairs which the vigorous Henry H.
put an end to once and for all, a proceeding made easier by
the youth of Malcolm, his contemporary on the Scottish
throne. It remained however for the third Henry to finally
extinguish all Scottish claims upon Carlisle, and this he did in
peaceful fashion by granting various private manors to his
rival of Scotland to be held direct of the English Crown.
Though ravaged during this contentious period again and
again by the Scots, there was now no longer any question
about Carlisle and Cumberland being wholly English ground.
The precise line of the border, however, above the Solway
estuary was quite another matter, and one can well understand
how little precedent there was for fixing it. It was not like
the case of Wales, where Welshmen and Englishmen were of
a different race and speech. ^Vho was an Englishman and
who was a Scotsman on either bank of the Esk, and
precisely what either term meant, would have been a problem to
the wisest head in the reign of Edward I. And in the mean-
time Carlisle was burnt almost to the ground by a terrible
272 EDWARD I. AT CARLISLE chap.
conflagration, 1,300 houses and the newly -built choir of the
Cathedral being destroyed.
Out of its ashes, however, the border city was to rise to
fresh importance, for the strenuous Edward now came upon the
scene, who by striving to make all Scotland that was worth
fighting for English, settled the matter in unexpected fashion.
For the fierce passions he aroused determined for good and
all who were Scots and who were English, and created a
mutual animosity that it took centuries to cool. One may
question the object of the great Edward's statesmanship or
deplore the bad fortune that cut him off before its fulfilment,
but what chiefly matters here is that Carlisle became for
a long period the base of great operations, the scene of
martial and courtly splendour : and after Edward's dead body
had been carried thither from Burgh-on-Sands, and the
barons of England had sworn fealty to his feeble successor,
it suffered for it. A bloodier time was beginning for the border
than it had ever known, which was saying much. " Carlisle,"
says Bishop Creighton, " had suffered much for Edward the
First, but for a great object ; she was now to suffer more."
It was fortunate the city had already acquired the beginning
of civic and ecclesiastical life. In future they could make but
little headway, for Carlisle, became first and chief a great
garrison town, and the surrounding country, so far as the eye
can range from its lofty ramparts upon both sides of the Solway,
became the abode of men who for generations lived for arms
How tell of the dreadful wars of Bruce and Balliol
and the stormy period of the third Edward, when again and
again the border city was the royal headquarters ; of the
sieges it stood, and the bloody havoc that raged past it, up
the coast to Ravenglass or up the Eden Valley to Appleby?
Every man became a soldier, every house that was not a
mere peasant's hut a fortress. The independence of Scotland,
it is true, was in course of time formally recognised ; but the
X BORDER FEROCITY 273
number of English barons who held property there of the
Scottish king, to say nothing of the irrepressible fighting
instinct of the period, offered a veritable premium on dis-
turbance. But these formal international wars were after
all punctuated with quite respectable periods of truce, and in
these periods the borderers, lest their blood, perchance, should
cool, fought against one another. So fierce and turbulent grew
the people and so local the spirit, that mere national hatreds
faded into those of tribe and name. The difference between
the men on the Annan and those on the Eden might have had
interesting distinctions for a student of folk-lore or vernacular,
but for all practical purposes they were the same people — a fact
which, no doubt, intensified their local hatreds. The borderers be-
came, in time, a thorn in the side of their respective governments.
If England and Scotland were united in nothing else, they
were cordially at one in contriving restraints and framing codes
for these turbulent subjects, whom no ordinary laws could
touch ; and Carlisle represented all that there was of law
and order in this corner of the world, as well as forming the
main barrier against Scottish aggression.
Among the many differences in detail between the North-
umbrian and the Cumbrian marches was the power of a great
earldom, a great feudal house, the Percies, on the east ; where-
as, upon the west, Carlisle under a Crown officer and a minor
bishop was in direct touch and under the direct control of the
King. In a former volume of this series I had to relate how
the Northumbrians marched under the Percies to the bloody
field of Shrewsbury. But though the Cumbrians were as
strong partisans of the second Richard as their neighbours,
Henry, through his officers at Carlisle, had no trouble in over-
awing them. The wars of the Roses, again, which gave the
mass of Englishmen then living their first sight of blood spilt
in serious action, was a mere change in the venue of the war-
seasoned borderers, though they were the means of bringing
Richard of Gloucester to the north, as w^e noted at Penrith.
274 THE LAWS OF THE MARCHES chap.
He was also governor of Carlisle for some time and warden of
the marches, about which famous office and its duties a few
words are necessary.
Both kingdoms, as I have said, were at one as to the urgency
of some special laws for the marches, and a system was devised
that would almost suggest to us, in its ceremonial, the days of
the Druids, and indeed the local civilisation was perhaps well
suited to the primitive forms of that dim period. Three
wardens were appointed upon either side to preside over the
eastern, middle and western marches respectively : the weight-
iest men that could be found. In war time their duties were
obvious, as they represented their sovereign and had almost
absolute power. In time of peace however they were more
curious and delicate, the chief of them being to confer with the
warden of the opposite side and make the customary arrange-
ment for the redress of grievances. They appointed a day for
a court to be held, to which all who had grievances were
invited to resort, and these complaints it is needless to remark
were mostly in connection with four-footed stock. All intend-
ing litigants, however, had previously to lay their charges
before their warden, who forwarded them to his fellow official
across the border ; the day of meeting being in the meantime
posted up in all market towns upon either side.
The rendezvous was usually at a cairn on the open moor-
land in that strip of country which had been long claimed by
both nations, but at length by tacit consent was regarded as
belonging to neither, and was known as the " Debatable land."
It lay just north of the Solway, extending to the junction of the
Liddell and Esk, and was for long regarded as an international
grazing ground between the hours of sunrise and sunset,
though at a later period it became the haunt of ruffians and
outlaws of every type ; it was moreover only distant some eight
miles from the walls of Carlisle. Hither in solemn procession
upon the day appointed rode the two wardens. The Buccleuch
perhaps from the Scottish, and a Dacre of Naworth from the
THE WARDEN'S COURT
English side, attended by a great retinue of knights, gentlemen
and commons. At their respective edges of the " Debatable
land " both parties halted, and four English horsemen pricked
out across the neutral territory and demanded from the
Scottish warden an assurance of peace till the next day at sun-
rise. This granted, four of the Scottish party performed a like
service for their own warden, and then the two great men
moved forward to meet each other at the head of their people,
lifting up their hands as they drew near in token that all was
well. Proclamations were then made to both parties warning
The Market, Carlisle.
them to abstain from those acts of violence which must have
been sorely tempting to many a fiery soul, thus brought in close
contact with some hated, personal enemy. Six Scots were then
chosen by the English warden and six English by the other,
to form a jury. The wardens and their clerks then examined
the cases presented and decided on the order of proceedure.
The method of trying cases seems to have been cumbered with
difficulties. Space does not allow of our entering here into these
mysterious rites. It is sufficient to say that a complainant
got no satisfaction unless he could produce a witness of the
opposite nation— no easy matter, and it is needless to add that
276 THE VERDICT CHAP.
the jurors, unless the testimony was overwhelming, " went solid "
for their own people. The warden himself might acquit a man.
" Clear, as I am being persuaded upon my conscience and
honour" he might write upon the bill, which was sufficient.
In the case of a conviction the warden was responsible for
producing the culprit, and had to deliver up a servant of his
own as hostage to be ransomed by money if the guilty man
was not forthcoming.
When the business was completed the wardens made procla-
mation of their several verdicts : " We do give to wit that the
Lord AVardens of England and Scotland, and Scotland and
England, have very well agreed, and agreeable to the laws of the
marches have made answer and delivery foul or clean of all the
bills enrolled." Then naming another day of truce within
forty days they parted with great ceremony.
But these efforts were spasmodic and depended wholly on
the will of the wardens. It was not indeed till the time of
Elizabeth that really strenuous efforts were made to cope with
the disorder in a legal fashion.
Yet when the border was in a mood to be law-abiding it
stood on its dignity with immense tenacity. The great case of
" Kinmont Willie " has rung down the ages in prose and verse,
and no better spot than Carlisle Castle for the recalling of it
could of a surety be imagined.
The time was that of Elizabeth, whose zealous new-fangled
servants, when there was a really good chance to catch an
offender, were apt to be regardless of ancient ceremonial.
Though we are anticipating a little in our story, border warfare
had by now degenerated into cattle lifting on a lordly scale,
and the Armstrongs, who could put 3,000 horse into the field,
were conspicuous at this distracting work. Prominent among
them was the redoubtable " Willie of Kinmont " — and, perhaps
from mere bravado, he put in an appearance at a warden's court
at Kershopeburn in 1596, where in perfect security he could
thoroughly enjoy the black looks of his many victims from the
X KINMONT WILLIE 277
English side. But he did not know EHzabeth's " new brooms "
and counted without his host. For when the meeting was over
Kinmont WiUie was incautious enough to separate from the
Scottish following, and, though by every sacred law of the
warden courts secure from molestation, since he took a
road on Scottish soil, the temptation was too great for some of
the English when they saw such a notorious marauder at their
mercy. So a party of them stole away, and after a smart chase
captured the redoubted raider and brought him to their deputy
warden at Carlisle, who in his turn could not bring himself to turn
loose upon the world again so notorious an offender, and Willie
was tucked away safely in the dungeon immediately beneath our
feet. But Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, Keeper of Liddesdale,
glad enough as he doubtless would have been to see this curse of
the border brought to the halter by orthodox means, was furious
at such an outrage upon border custom, and his soul burned
within him. He bridled his choler, however, and wrote curtly
to Salkeld of Corby, the deputy warden, demanding Arm-
strong's release. Salkeld referred the matter to Lord Scrope,
chief warden, who told Buccleuch that the case of such a
notorious offender must be referred to the Queen. Here was
a departure from time-honoured traditions that boded well or
ill according as men looked at it ! To Buccleuch it seemed
outrageous, and he appealed to the English Ambassador
at the Scottish Court, who advised Armstrong's release, as
did also the Scottish King. But the haughty Queen who
had refused her liberty to Mary of Scotland was not likely
to soften towards a common bandit ; moreover, she had
her eye on this border country with a view to its reformation,
and she seems to have treated these petitions with contemptuous
Buccleuch then made up his mind to a venture which was as
audacious as to all appearances hopeless. And that he had no
personal interest in Kinmont Willie — quite the contrary — shows
the depth of the border reverence for its code.
278 "THE KINMONT FREED SHALL BE" chap.
Let a justly famous ballad on an episode matchless of its
kind relate Buccleuch's sentiments and intentions :
Now word is gane to the bauld keeper
In Branksome Ha', where that he Iny,
That Lord Scrope has ta'en the Kinmont Willie
Between the hours of night and day.
He has ta'en the table wi' his hand,
He garr'd the red wine spring on hie.
' Now Christ's curse on my head ' he said,
' But avenged of Lord Scrope I'll be.
Oh ! is my basnet a widow's curch,
Or my lance a wand of the willow tree.
Or my arm a ladye's lilye hand.
That an English lord should lightly me ?
And have they ta'en him, Kinmont Willie,
Withouten either dread or fear,
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Can back a steed or shake a spear ?
Oh, were there war between the lands,
As well I wot that there is none,
I would slight Carlisle Castell high.
Though it were gilded of marble stone.
I would set that Castell in a low
And slaken it with English blood ;
There's never a man in Cumberland
Should ken where Carlisle Castell stood.
But since nae war's between the lands
And there is peace and peace should be,
I'll neither harm English lad nor lass
And yet the Kinmont freed shall be.'
Having thus, according to the poet and in language that
leaves nothing to be desired in fire and force, relieved his
feelings, Buccleuch proceeded to take action. He ordered
two hundred and ten of his most trusty followers to meet him
just before sunset at Morton's tower in the " Debatable land,"
X " BUT TWENTY SCOTS AND TEN " 279
about ten miles from Carlisle. There scaling ladders and
breaching tools were braced on spare horses, and in the darkness
of the night the whole band crossed the Esk, and avoiding the
notice of the Grahams of Netherby, who were the watch-dogs
on the English bank, approached Carlisle with much caution,
arriving beneath the castle v/alls about two hours before day-
break. The ladders proved too short, so the pickaxes were
produced and a breach made in the wall by the postern gate.
All this was done without arousing the garrison, and the
sentinels were not alarmed till some of Buccleuch's men had
squeezed through the rent and were breaking open the postern.
It was then too late. Buccleuch, with part of his men, guarded
the approaches to the castle, while the rest rather intimidated
than overpowered the garrison by blowing trumpets and raising
a great commotion, with a view of creating an impression that a
Scotch army had descended upon the castle. Information had
been previously gained through spies of the exact place where
Kinmont Willie was confined. The door of the dungeon was
soon found and as quickly forced, and the celebrated cattle-lifter
was borne off in triumph with his fetters still hanging to his legs.
The whole party, indeed, got clear away and were riding at full
speed for the Scottish border before the men of Carlisle had
fully realised the situation.
They thought King James and a' his men
Had won the house wi' bow and spear ;
It was but twenty Scots and ten
That put a thousand in sic a steer.
As there was no time to knock the fetters off the prisoners
legs, a stout moss-trooper named Rowan was deputed to carry
him on his back.
Then slioulder high with shout and cry
We bore him down the ladder lang,
At every stride Red Rowan made
I wot the Kinmont's chains played clang.
28o BUCCLEUCII AND QUEEN ELIZABETH chap.
Oh many a time, quo' Kinmont Willie,
I have ridden home baith wild and worn,
But a rougher beast than Red Rowan
I ween my legs have ne'er bestroon.
And many a time, quo' Kinmont Willie
I've pricked a horse out o'er the furs,
But since the day I back'd a steed
I never wore sic cumbrous spurs !
The passage of the Eden was disputed by some of the
townsmen, but the mist of morning lay thick on the meadows
and the Scots again were able by shouts and clangour of
trumpets to create the impression of a strong force. They