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NORTHUMBERLAND AND DURHAM.
THE two northern counties of Northumberland and Durham are alike in many points. They are both marked by hill and dale, both are rich in coal and lead, and both have many busy ports on their eastern coast. They have, also, much of their history in common, for Northumberland is a border county, and Durham has shared with it in the fortunes of war.
The title of " border county" has no meaning for us now; because, for nearly three centuries, Scotland has had the same sovereign as England. But before that time, if you had been a borderer, that is, had lived in a border county on either side of the Cheviots, you might, any night, have had your cattle and growing crops carried off, and
head. Three of our kings, the first three Edwards, carried on a long war with Scotland, which they hoped to conquer and add to the English crown. They did not succeed; but, during the two hundred years
which followed the attempt, this war led to constant feuds between the two countries.
In the first place, Scotland was never sure that some other English king would not covet the Scottish crown.
Therefore, she always tried to secure France as her friend, so that if the English king should invade Scotland, France would come to her aid. The consequence of this alliance was, that Scotland had in return to fight for France against England, and this led to frequent wars between the two co ries.
In the second place, the great border families, English and Scotch, learned to hate one another, and were always seeking cause for quarrels. And as the Scotch Douglases and the English Percies, Earls of Northumberland, were both great barons, with many noble friends and many thousands of followers, a quarrel between the two families might at any time lead to a general war.
Thus, while our Edward III. was fighting his French battles, David of Scotland thought he could help France by marching down into England, and, possibly, conquering the country in the king's absence. He marched through Northumberland and Cumberland, burning and slaying as he went. But everybody was not at the wars.
The brave Queen Philippa and the lords Percy and Neville, helped by three or four bishops, raised the north-country folk; a battle was fought on some hills close by the city of Durham; the Scots were beaten, and their king taken prisoner. A beautiful cross, named after the Lord Neville, was built on the spot in memory of the fight, which has since been known as the battle of Neville's Cross.
Three places in Northumberland became famous in these early “ border” wars, Otterburn, in the pleasant valley of the Rede; Humbledown Hill, in the bleak moors to the north; and Flodden Field, near the Cheviot Hills. In 1388 the battle of Otterburn, or
“Chevy Chase,” was fought, in which the Earl Percy was killed, whose death was avenged twenty years after at Humbledown.
“This fight did last from break of day
Till setting of the sun,
The battle scarce was done.
“Of fifteen hundred Englishmen,
Went home but fifty-three;
Under the greenwood tree.”
Another far more terrible border fight took place upon Flodden Field, near the Cheviots.
It was in the reign of the eighth king Henry (1513); England was at war with France; and James of Scotland, in order to help his French allies, gathered all the best men of his kingdom, in number 50,000, crossed the Tweed, and laid waste Northumberland all about the river.
The king of England sent a much smaller army against him under the Earl of Surrey. The armies met at Flodden, and the fight lasted until it grew
too dark for the men to see one another. Nobody knew that night on which side the victory lay; but the sun rose on a day of heavy mourning for Scotland. The “Flowers of the Forest," the bravest and noblest of her sons, lay by hundreds dead upon the field; and, amongst the rest, was the king, so mangled that his friends failed to recognise the body. It is indeed a good thing for both countries that
Scotland and England are now united under one crown. Even in the earliest days of English history, when the Romans ruled, the Picts, that is the savage tribes who inhabited Scotland, were constantly breaking over the border. Agricola, the Roman general who completed the conquest of Britain, built eighteen forts, or towers, between the Solway Firth and the Tyne, so that the Roman soldiers who manned them might keep these barbarians back. A later emperor, Hadrian, built a stone wall nearly in the same place, a great wall, parts of which are still to be seen, a hundred miles long, and nearly wide enough for a carriage road on
The border land, this “debatable land," where the “ rank reivers and moss troopers” used to “gallop over moss and moorland, is now marked by the richest meadows, the fairest fields. The tract which used to lie between the two countries—a blasted and desolate region, ravaged with fire and sword, drenched with blood, and peopled only with horrible memories-is now turned into a garden. Large corn farms extend up to the very ridges of the Cheviots."
There is still a pine wood on Flodden Ridge where King James and his brave Scots rested before the fatal battle; but the field of “red Flodden,” itself, is marked off by hedges, its heather has given place to corn, and there is little in the aspect of the country to remind us
“Of the stern strife and carnage drear
Of Flodden's fatal field.”