Northumberland is the northernmost county of England. Its unique geographical position gave the area an interesting history after serving as a frontier and borderland between Scotland and England. The most notable among the historical sites of Northumberland concerns are Hadrian’s Wall and the Border Reivers.
The Hadrian Wall
The Hadrian Wall is not a border wall that serves to delineate the boundary between England and Scotland. The border that the wall protects was the northern extent of the Roman Empire when it settled in the country and named its territories the province of Britannia. This wall was built to protect the local people and defense against the Romans during the rule of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD).
The Hadrian Wall ran for 73 miles from Solway Firth, a boundary point in the Irish Sea, all the way to the River Tyne’s banks near the North Sea. The wall and its base were built entirely of stone. Along the lengths of the wall, forts, turrets, and castles can be found every few miles. As it was a defensive wall, the forts and palaces were armed with static and fighting garrisons composed of cavalry and infantry. A large part of the wall still stands today. Along the Northumberland countryside, it stands as the largest remains of the architectural structures built by the Romans. This building is called an icon of British cultural heritage and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. Among several Roman forts constructed along the Hadrian Wall, the best-preserved one is the Housesteads that attracts thousands of visitors annually.
The Border Reivers
During the middle ages, England and Scotland had frequent wars with each other. These wars affected the villages and people who lived among the borderlands. Their livelihood was devastated by the ongoing battles, not to mention that the land itself was pretty hard to toil on. As a result, Border Reivers was created to protect the daily life. The Border Reivers were a group of raiders composed of both Scottish and Englishmen that plundered the border of Scotland and England from the 13th to the 17th century. The Raiders’ name came from the noun reive that came from the Middle English verb reifen which means ‘to rob’ or ‘to plunder’.
The Border Reivers did not discriminate between nationalities as they wreaked havoc along the countryside. Their raids reached the area of Edinburgh in the north and Yorkshire in the south. Their most well-known feat was The Great Raid of 1322, coinciding with the Scottish Wars of Independence, reaching the southern town of Chorley. Although the Reivers had an infamous representation, some armies recognized their skills and potential as cavalrymen. They rode on ponies or nags while wearing light armor and armed with longbows, crossbows, dirks, swords, and small shields. They were occasionally hired as mercenaries among both the English and Scottish armies. Most of them were willing to serve as soldiers to avoid the punishments that would have been given to them and their families if they refused.