Auld Wark

Auld Wark

Auld Wark

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According to folk-lore and Pont's Map of 1608, the Auld Wark (Old Work) stood on a flat-topped mound about half a mile to the east of the Castle of Newark. That mound falls steeply to the Yarrow on the North side; less steeply on the East and West sides and gently on the South side.

From surviving documents we know that this must have been an important a settlement. When Sir James Douglas was granted the Forests of Selkirk, Ettrick and Traquair by a grateful Robert I in 1321, he moved the Forest Court there from Selkirk. On St Nicholas Day 1321, he issued a safe-conduct for Richard de Topcliff, a companion and their servants to come to Jedburgh. This was written at Etlebredshelys.

The site was known variously as Etybredcheles 1321, Etybredshiels 1388, Edybredshiels 1393 and Edybredshele 1416 stood on this site. As the area abounds in Anglian placenames, 'Etybredcheles' is likely to have been named after Eadbert, the last expansionist King of Northumbria around 750 AD. Eadbert's second son Oswin was killed at the Battle of Eildon in 761.

Although there is little to be seen on the ground, the use of divining rods suggest an enclosed settlement covering two to three hectares, surrounded by a triple palisade and a further two ditches on the south side where the ground does not fall away sharply; these ditches can be faintly seen on the ground.

Inside the palisade, one hall approximately 20m by 9m, sits on the top of the mound surrounded by a number of lesser structures, approximately 8/9m by 4/5m. There are smaller structures 3.5/4m square inside the palisade and between the ditches.

Recently there has been a rise in the recognised numbers of triple-palisaded sites in the Borders with the speculation that they are likely to have been the stages of Anglian advance up the Tweed valley.

From then until 1455 when the Douglas family forfeited the land (for having become too powerful), the Forest Courts were held here but now under the name of ‘Catkermach’ - I don’t know the derivation either.

When the powerful Douglasfamily decided to build a new castle of stone in 1423, this was the New Wark Newark quickly became the centre of power and the old settlement was named the Auld Wark. Being built of wood, the earlier settlement decayed leaving little trace of its former being.

17 June 2016. Walter Elliot.

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