Southern Uplands Partnership - living land, living community
Home | About us | Newsletters | Publications | Membership | Our Patrons | Contact us

Shadows on the landscape - History

Eildon Hills in Winter, the remains of a hillfort stand out in the foreground
Eildon Hills in Winter,
the remains of a hillfort
stand out in the foreground

When the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago plants quickly colonised bare ground and as trees covered the land, animals and people arrived.

Hut reconstruction at Clatteringshaws, Galloway Forest Park
Hut reconstruction at
Clatterigshaws,
Galloway Forest Park

Glimpses of the past can still be seen today; 10,000 years of human activity are imprinted upon the landscape. Over time, cultivation has erased most of the traces of early farmers' homes but on the treeless hills, many prominent Iron Age hillforts remain, providing wonderful views of the surrounding land. Remnants of the forts' defensive encircling earthwork ramparts and ditches can still be seen, sometimes with traces of round houses inside, more than 2,000 years after they were built.

Between the late 1st and early 3rd centuries AD, the Roman army stationed garrisons throughout the Southern Uplands, during those periods when the northern frontier of their empire extended beyond Hadrian's Wall into the Forth-Clyde area.

Cairnholy in Galloway, the site of two impressive chambered cairns
Cairnholy in Galloway, the site of two
impressive chambered cairns

After the Romans, Britain broke up once more into small kingdoms which were threatened by invading Scots and Angles. The Scots of Dalriada in Ulster eventually dominated the western Southern Uplands and the Angles of Northumbria the east, eclipsing native British power. Classical knowledge was preserved in Christian monasteries, such as St Ninian's house at Whithorn and at Old Melrose, associated with St Aidan and St Cuthbert. During the 9th -10th centuries, Viking invasions weakened the Anglian dominion and by the mid-11th century Scotland and England had emerged as separate kingdoms on either side of the Solway-Tweed line.

Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey

The 12th and 13th centuries were, in general, a period of peaceful prosperity. Between 1124 and 1153 David I, King of Scots, sponsored great abbeys at Dundrennan, Melrose and Kelso as sources of spirituality and learning, granted lands to Anglo-Normans, who built the Scotland's first castles and introduced the feudal system, and he established Royal burghs as centres of trade, industry and local government.

The years around 1300 were dominated by the Wars of Independence. Two Ayrshire men, Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, were heroes of this age and both campaigned in the Southern Uplands. Independence for Scotland was won but had to be sustained through more than two and a half centuries of intermittent warfare with England.

Bothwell Castle, South Lanarkshire owes its origins to Walter of Moray who acquired the Lordship of Bothwell in 1242 and created the castle as a fortified residence
Bothwell Castle, South
Lanarkshire owes its origins
to Walter of Moray
who acquired the Lordship
of Bothwell in 1242 and
created the castle as a
fortified residence.

Few Norman castles survived the 14th century but numerous tower houses and pele towers were built in the 15-16th centuries, when 'Border Reivers' were a constant menace, rustling livestock, pillaging, kidnapping and extorting protection money. The most notorious reiving clan, the Armstrongs, used strongholds like Langholm Castle as a base to attack Scots and English alike. In 1552, to discourage such reivers, the Scottish and English kingdoms finally agreed the line of the border within the notorious "Debatable Land" and marked it with the 'Scots Dyke', an earthwork near Canonbie.

After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the borders settled and tower houses were abandoned for mansions and stately homes, reflecting the growing wealth of minor aristocracy. However, further troubles erupted in the 17th century when Covenanters rebelled against the impositions of the English Bishops. The many martyrs' memorials throughout the Southern Uplands reflect the violence of those 'killing times'.

New Lanark World Heritage Village built by social pioneer Robert Owen
New Lanark World Heritage
Village builtby social
pioneer Robert Owen
 

By the 18th and early 19th the Agricultural Revolution had completely altered the landscape with the enclosure of farmland, intake of moorland and marsh, plantations of trees and massive rebuilding.

The Industrial Revolution was represented in the Southern Uplands by the woollen and textile industries in towns like Walkerburn, Hawick, Galashiels and Innerleithen. One of the world's most famous mills is at New Lanark, where in 1785, cotton spinning mills and houses for the workforce were built close to the famous falls of Clyde. In an age of 'dark, satanic mills' the owner, Robert Owen, was a social pioneer, providing decent homes, fair wages, free health care and a new education system for villagers, that included the world's first nursery school.

The Industrial Revolution improved coal mining through pumping engines and other mechanisation. Railways were developed to transport the coal mined in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Nithsdale and the Lothians.

"Wha for Scotland's King and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw
Freeman stand, or freemen fa',
Let him on wi' me!"

Robert Burns,
'Bruce's Address before Bannockburn

Reiver Monument at Hawick
Covenanters graves in Nithsdale
Dalserf Church in South Lanarkshire dates back to 1655, the Tev John McMillan known as the 'last covenanter was kirk minister here
Reiver Monument at Hawick
Covenanters graves in Nithsdale
Dalserf Church in South Lanarkshire
dates back to 1655, the Rev John
McMillan known as the 'last covenanter'
was kirk minister here.

Useful links:

www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory
www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
www.nts.org.uk
www.scottishbordersheritage.co.uk
www.leadminingmuseum.co.uk - Wanlockhead museum of leadmining
www.whithorn.com - Whithorn
www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk
www.orgs.man.ac.uk/research/dunragit - Prehistoric excavation near Stranraer
www.rcahms.gov.uk - RCAHMS
www.britarch.ac.uk/csa - Council for Scottish Archaeology
www.newlanark.org

 

Designed by Creative Station