Berwick upon Tweed


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From "The Devil's Causeway. The Continuation in Berwickshire" by Walter Elliot

The Devils’ Causeway can be traced as far as Springhill, about 2 kms from the mouth of The Tweed. There is an earthwork there which was thought to be Roman, mainly on the evidence of two 3rd century Roman coins being found there but this has now been discounted as 3rd/5th Roman coins are fairly frequent finds in the Borders thanks to the efforts of metal detectorists.

Medieval and modern construction in and around the town of Tweedmouth has eradicated any existing traces of the line of Roman road but in several old maps a line denoting the ‘Parliamentary and Municipal Boundary’ extends into the middle of the river. It also marks property divisions of land on the south side of the river. This is likely to have been the Roman road line, so I walked the river bank and found a mound running down to the river at 98605 53026.

There are also interesting marks on Mill Farm and a number of buildings on the southern edge of Yarrow Slake, the partially enclosed pool on the south side of the river which fills up at high tide. If the river hasn’t changed much since Roman times, this area would be a good candidate for the elusive harbour, being sheltered from the river current and tidal waves. This has long been sought as it was the supply base for the Roman forces in the Tweed basin. There is enough evidence to confirm that the fort at Trimontium, 50kms upstream, was provisioned by boat from there. The main depot would be at Arbeia (the fort of the Arabs) 100kms to the south, where a unit of the Barcariorum Tigrisiensium (boatmen from the Tigris) were stationed. It is presumed that they were responsible for supplying the whole East Coast of Scotland.

This is a fascinating area that has still a lot to tell us but further exploration will have to wait for another time.

Air photography has given us a number of Roman temporary camps on the south side of the Tweed; Norham, Carham and East Learmouth in Northumberland and Wooden House Farm in Roxburghshire and there are likely to be more as yet undiscovered. Added to these are a number of sites which have produced Roman coins from the 1 to 5 centuries – Springwood Park site produced 300 plus, Sprouston 21 and some Samian pottery and at Yetholm some minimissimi of the 5th century have recently been found.

With this in mind, I decided to search for the Roman road which must have linked them them and found a fairly convincing route from the English Border to Wooden Home Farm just east of Kelso. I have to re-appraise this before reaching any conclusions but there is enough evidence to say that a Roman road once ran along the south bank of the Tweed.

While wandering around the Tweedmouth/Berwick area, a potentially interesting site caught my eye at Middle Ord where a high bank stood over The Tweed; and Romans tended to build their permanent forts in the Borders in such places.

Despite the fact that the ground had retained its 17th/18th century plough ridges, I found a Roman fort shape measuring about 100m by 80m. This was the usual bank and double ditch with gateways in the centre of each side. Bank and single ditch annexes were on the south, east and west sides and a bathhouse and latrine were in the south-east corner of the south annexe.

Internal co-ordin ates of the fort were S.W. corner 97053 51440, N.W. corner 97033 51505, N.E. corner 97122 51524, S.W. corner 97145. A road was traced south from the fort. This joined the minor modern road south of Middle Ord Farm and follows a straight line to Unthank Moor where there is a Roman watchtower/signal station.

To navigate to the site you can download a gpx file below, for instructions see the Visiting Sites page.

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