Border Reivers

by Jacquie (Hedley) Emerson,

The Rouchester and the Dinley Hill Farms may date as far back as the 1600's, when border reiving was a constant ordeal for the people who lived in the North Tyne Valley.  Although England and Scotland were officially at peace with one another, feuds between individuals and families were common, long-lasting and deadly.  Robbery, raids, murder, kidnapping and arson were everyday hazards for border families, and the area along the North Tyne saw some of the most severe attacks.  The Ordnance Survey Map, "In Search of the Border Reivers, 800 Reiver Sites," prepared in 1998 by Ted Liddle and others, states, "After the Union of Scotland and England in 1603, King James set about disarming the Borders and breaking up the power of the Reiving families through ruthless pursuit, banishment, imprisonment and hanging of  large numbers."  The map indicates that the surnames in the North Tyne area included the Fosters, Fenwicks, Halls, Milburns, Potts, Dunns, Hedleys, Storeys, Collingwoods, Reades, Yarrows, Herons, Shaftoes, Ogles, Woodringtons, Carnabys, Charltons, Robsons, Dodds, Nixons, Armstrongs and Ridleys.  The book Highways and Byways in Northumberland by Peter Anderson Graham, Spredden Press, Stocksfield, Northumberland, pp. 274-5, in discussing the region along the north Tyne during this period, states, "...the Reeds ranked with the Hedleys, Fletchers and Spoors as next to the Halls, the most powerful family..."

Rouchester Farm and Dinley Hill are typical of the fortified farmhouses in the region.  Their very thick walls were constructed of rough-hewn local stone and originally had two doorways, one to the basement where animals and supplies could be secured and an upper-level door reached by a ladder that could be pulled up to prevent intruders from reaching the living quarters.  Both of these farms today consist of a central two-storey dwelling with several chimneys, indicating numerous fireplaces, adjoined by "cottages" constructed for farm labourers and, on the opposite side, adjoining farm buildings of the same rough-hewn stone. The roofs of the farm buildings are of slate with numerous skylights.  Presumably the owners and farm workers could move from the warmth and safety of their farmhouses to their remotest farm building without facing the dangers of night raiders or the cold winds of Northumberland winters.   From either Rouchester Farm or Dinley Hill, the other can be seen across the valley, a distance of about half a kilometer.

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page updated Jan. 19, 2009