‘Againste the Invasion and Incourse of Scottes in tyme of warre’: An examination of motivations behind fortified building in Northumberland, 1296-1415

Goulet Paterson, Olivia Blythe (2023) ‘Againste the Invasion and Incourse of Scottes in tyme of warre’: An examination of motivations behind fortified building in Northumberland, 1296-1415. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Scholarship in recent decades has characterized fortification, beginning in the fourteenth century, as declining in defensibility and erected largely for comfort and status. Most literature on the subject, however, leaves out the border counties of England or dismisses them as not fitting into their narrative, without further investigation. In Northumberland, as with the other border counties, the Anglo-Scottish Wars of Independence and subsequent period of border conflict created a culture of fortification in the north which was largely different from that in the rest of the country both in scale and style.
Frequent Scottish raiding into Northumberland created a reactive pattern of building, with fortification cropping up along invasion routes shortly after incursions took place. By analysing the patterns of raiding during the fourteenth century, this thesis argues for a concrete link between the Anglo-Scottish border conflict and the high level of fortification within Northumberland. While other typical uses for these sites, including the judicial and administrative, do apply, none of these can explain the high number of fortifications built in Northumberland between 1296 and 1415 relative to other counties in England. Nor can Northumberland’s density of castles be attributed to the county’s reputation for supposed lawlessness: there is little evidence that crime rates in the fourteenth century were any higher in the county, nor was the judicial system any weaker there, than anywhere else in the country for the period.
Of the sites themselves, the vast majority were free-standing tower houses, a new form of fortification within England, and one that only became prevalent in the English borders from the early fourteenth century. These towers offered a more affordable alternative for lesser members of the gentry to protect their lands against the threat of raiding, and they proved successful enough that they were used prevalently in Ireland in the fifteenth century, and similar towers were erected widely in Scotland in the sixteenth century. Both in-person investigations of the sites, and archaeological research showed that these tower houses were typically built with at least two external defences, thick walls, narrow windows, and seldom with windows on the ground floor, generally placing the need for defence above a comfortable interior space in their construction.
Both the historical and archaeological examination of these sites reveal strong links between their construction and border conflict. Significantly, nearly no obvious defensive weaknesses are present in any of the sites surveyed, portraying the image of a county still very much in need of practical fortification, and not one whose defensibility is in decline.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Strickland, Professor Matthew and Driscoll, Professor Stephen
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83648
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2023 11:25
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2023 11:25
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83648
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83648

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