Berwick-Upon-Tweed: The border town with a bloody role in British history

Tom Barton looks at the role Berwick has played in British history for ITVX

Berwick-Upon-Tweed is a small town with a big history.

With a strategic geographical position - as the last town in England before the Scottish Border - it has frequently been fought over through the centuries.

In the 300 years from 1296, Berwick changed hands between the Scottish and English 13 times.

The castle has been home to both Scottish and English Royalty over the years. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Derek Sharman MBE is a tour guide in the town and said it "wasn't a place for a quiet life".

"People here on the borders wouldn't actually consider themselves really English or Scots, they're Borderer's," he added.

"What mattered really was who was in charge at the time - you'd just keep your head down and do what they were told to do.

"Even when the town was captured by siege and slaughter, people still had to be left here to carry on producing the food and doing the things that people needed so you couldn't kill everybody. It wasn't a nice place to live in the middle ages."

Tom Barton is shown the ruins of Berwick castle by local tour guide Derek Sharman MBE Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

The remains of Berwick castle still stand in the town today. The fortress was at times home to both English and Scottish royalty.

Built by Edward I of England, it was once one of the strongest castles in the North of Britain.

Mr Sharman continued: "If the French had captured Berwick, the whole of British and European history would be very different.

"If the Scots had held onto Berwick then Scottish history would be very different. Who knows what the country could have developed into.

"It's a place people feel very proud of because of this history and they know how important it was. It's not as important today in that sense, but it's crucial to the history of the country."

Justin Gudgeon runs the Castle Vale House B&B which sits next to the castle ruins and says the area's history is a huge draw for tourists.

"I think the best part about it is being able to share it, because nobody knows we're here," he said.

"Even people who've lived all their life in Berwick have never been down here [around the castle.]"

'Star Wars technology'

Determined to keep Berwick in English hands, Elizabeth I built a series of defence bastions throughout the town.

"Scots and English had been fighting for nearly 300 years and warfares change," continued Mr Sharman.

"It was the time of artillery and not catapults and people climbing up ladders. As a result this new state of the art defence system was built.

"Italian engineers were brought across the help to supervise this 'Star Wars Technology' to keep Berwick in English hands.

The town walls and bastions built to protect Berwick were state of the art when they were constructed. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"It was the only town in England that had a set of walls like this built around it during this period and shows how important it was strategically.

"It shows why so much money was spent here. It was the most expensive project in the whole of Elizabeth I reign was building the town's walls. "

According to Mr Sharman, the defence walls were considered so impressive that the Scots did not try and attack Berwick afterwards.

By 1603 England and Scotland came together under one king, and since the 1700s an army regiment was based at the Barracks right up to the 1960s.

The Time bandits reenactment group depict periods of the town's history Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

Locals are extremely proud of the area's rich history.

John Sadler, part of the reenactment group the Time Bandits, told ITV Tyne Tees: "Stones almost resonate with the history and it's almost like an actor having a set - if you're on a stage perfectly adapted to the role you're trying to deliver then history has created a fantastic stage for us here. It's superb.

"We like to think that we do it seriously. We try to bring history to life to allow people to get a view as to what it would have been like in a particular era and to keep the thing fresh and lively. It's a pleasure just to be here."

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