North East England : Part of Scotland

The North East as Part of Scotland 1135-1157

When Henry I of England died in 1135, he was succeeded by his nephew Stephen instead of his daughter Matilda. David, King of Scotland, Matilda’s uncle, attacked Northumberland to give her his support. It became increasingly apparent that David wanted Northern England for himself. He was defeated in battle near Northallerton in 1138, but was given Northumberland through his son the following year. When the Scottish Chancellor William Cumin seized the Prince Bishop of Durham’s throne in 1141, David’s control of North East England was complete.

Scottish lands in 1135. © David Simpson 2021. It is not clear whether the disputed territory of Tynedale formed part of the Scottish lands at this stage (in all probability they did). Cumbria had belonged to the Scottish kings from about 1018 to 1092.

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Dec 22, 1135 – KING STEPHEN

Stephen, the Count of Blois, in France, becomes king of England following the death of his uncle, King Henry I. The late king Henry had hoped that his daughter, Matilda, would succeed him. King David of Scotland invades England in support of Matilda.

Durham Cathedral from Frankland Lane
Durham. Photo © David Simpson

Feb 5, 1136 – Peace Treaty signed at Durham

Stephen and David sign a treaty at Durham settling land disputes. David’s son Henry is granted Huntingdon, but Stephen keeps Northumberland, which has been claimed by the Scots for many years. Cumberland will form part of the Scottish territory, claimed by the Scots, it had been held by them as recently as 1092. Carlisle Castle is am important possession for King David

1138 – King David invades Northumberland

David invades Northumberland four times in support of Matilda. His aim may be the acquisition of Northern England, which has close religious, linguistic and cultural ties to lowland Scotland. He claims Northern England through his wife who is the grand-daughter of Earl Siward, the pre-conquest ruler of the North.

The village of Sadberge
The village of Sadberge was the centre of a Wapentake that stretched from Hartlepool to the upper reaches of Teesdale. It was an outlying part of Northumberland until 1189 when it became part of County Durham. Photo © David Simpson

Aug, 1138 – Bruce and Balliol plead for David’s retreat

The Scottish army of King David invades as far south as Yorkshire and encamps near the banks of the River Tees as it prepares to do battle with the English who are encamped near Thirsk preparing to resist the invasion.  Norman barons Robert Bruce of Hartness (Hartlepool) and Bernard Balliol of Barnard Castle both own lands along the north bank of the River Tees in the Wapentake of Sadberge. They are sent by the Archbishop of York to meet with David and plead for his retreat. The two barons are also significant landowners in Scotland. David refuses to back down.

Memorial to the Battle of the Standard near Northallerton

Aug 22, 1138 – Battle of the Standard

The English defeat the Scots in a great battle called the Battle of the Standard near Northallerton. The English army is almost entirely composed of Yorkshire barons and their retinues. Before the battle the English leader Thurstan, the Archbishop of York who was once a close friend of David, set up a mast on a chariot with standards (banners) of the Yorkshire saints such as St Wilfrid tied to it for good luck.  David’s army is heavily defeated in the battle and he is forced to retreat to his castle at Carlisle.

1138 St Cuthbert’s ‘standard’ not in the battle

St Cuthbert’s banner was not represented at the battle, suggesting a lack of support in  Durham and Northumberland. Archbishop Thurstan’s supporters had included Yorkshire barons such as the Mowbrays, Lacys and Percys along with the Balliols and Bruces of the Tees valley. David’s supporters were mostly Norman barons from Scotland, but he has some support in Yorkshire.

Sep 26, 1138 – Peace treaty

Alberic, Bishop of Ostia, representing the Pope, negotiates a peace treaty between King Stephen and King David at Carlisle.

Scottish lands in 1139 © David Simpson 2021. Northumberland came under Scottish ownership through its acquisition by Henry, the son of King David. Northumberland then included lands in the Wapentake of Sadberge along the banks of the River Tees. Note that the acquisition did not include Hexhamshire or the Palatine of Durham (which included the districts of  Islandshire and Norhamshire north of Bamburgh along with Bedlingtonshire).

April 9, 1139 – North East under Scottish control

A peace treaty is signed at Durham following constant Scottish raids in the aftermath of the Battle of the Standard. King David’s son Henry is given Northumberland but the castles at Bamburgh and  Newcastle remain property of the English King while the district of Hexhamshire remains the territory of the Archbishops of York. The treaty is witnessed by the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, St Andrews and Glasgow.

1139 – River Tees effectively Scottish border

Following the Durham Treaty, the River Tees now effectively forms a border between England and Scotland as Northumberland’s territory extends to the district of Sadberge on the north side of the river. The district of Sadberge stretches from Hartlepool to Teesdale  but does not include Stockton and Darlington which belong to the Prince Bishop of Durham. The Prince Bishop’s territory remains outside Scottish control.

Beautiful Bamburgh.
In 1139 the castles at Bamburgh and Newcastle along with the County Palatine of Durham and the Archbishop of York’s territory in Hexhamshire all remained in English hands . Photo © David Simpson 2018

Circa 1140 – Scottish Lancashire

The ‘Honor of Lancaster’, part of what will later become Lancashire, very briefly comes under Scottish control from around 1140 until about 1145.

1141 – Scots head for Durham

For most of the year, Matilda is the unofficial Queen of England. She has invaded from France and her supporters have captured King Stephen. Although Stephen regains the crown, unrest spurs on the Scots and King David sets his sights on taking Durham where the Bishop of Durham has recently died. David visits Durham and refuses to allow the burial of the old bishop until his own man has been appointed to the post.

West wing, Durham Castle
Durham Castle. Photo © David Simpson 2017

1141 – Usurper ‘Bishop’ seizes Durham Castle

William Cumin, Chancellor of Scotland, working with King David’s consent, claims to be Prince Bishop of Durham following the untimely death of his former tutor Bishop Geoffrey (Galfrid Rufus). Cumin, who was perhaps the son of Robert Comines who died in the siege of Durham City in 1069, has no real claim but gains the support, or at least the indifference, of a number of local barons including the Balliol family of Teesdale and the Bruces of Hartlepool who both own land in Scotland. The only Durham barons to oppose Cumin are the Escollands, Bulmers and Conyers family. Cumin seizes Durham Castle after ousting Roger Conyers, the Constable of the castle.

Earthworks of motte and bailey castle at Bishopton
Remaining earthworks of Roger Conyers’ impressive motte and bailey castle at Bishopton. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1141 – Conyers’ Castle at Bishopton

Roger Conyers, the ousted Constable of Durham Castle takes refuge at his manor house of Bishopton near Stockton and fortifies it into an impressive motte and bailey castle that will withstand the sieges of the aggressive usurper William Cumin.

Scottish lands in 1141. © David Simpson 2021. The usurpation of the Palatine of Durham by William Cumin, King David of Scotland’s Chancellor, demonstrated Scottish ambitions in the North of England.

1143 – Northallerton Castle

William Cumin builds a castle at Northallerton. The surrounding area called Allertonshire belongs to the Bishops of Durham.

1143 – Pope says Cumin is not a bishop

William Cumin has forged papal documents confirming himself as the Bishop of Durham, but the monks of Durham cathedral monastery refuse to accept him. Cumin surrounds the city with soldiers but some monks escape to Rome where they ask the Pope if Cumin has a legitimate claim. The pope says Cumin is not a bishop and orders the monks to elect a new bishop within 40 days.

St Giles Church, Durham
St Giles Church, Durham. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1143 – Church hosts a battle between bishops

William of St Barbara, Dean of York, is duly elected as Bishop of Durham following the orders of the pope and arrives in Durham where he finds refuge with Roger Conyers at Bishopton. He tries to claim his bishopric from Cumin the usurper but is defeated by Cumin’s retainers at St Giles’ Church, Gilesgate on the outskirts of Durham City. Cumin’s men are terrorising the city and county of Durham.

1143 Thornley Castle

Bishop William St Barbara returns to Bishopton before constructing his own fortification at Thornlaw (Thornley) in the hills to the east of Durham. He attempts to visit Northumberland but is attacked by Border retainers working for Cumin. He takes refuge at Jarrow before heading to Lindisfarne where he learns of the fall and destruction of Thornley Castle to Cumin.

Kirk Merrington church
Kirk Merrington church. Photo © David Simpson 2018

1143 – Cumin turns church into a castle

Cumin’s men have fortified Kirk Merrington church on its commanding position near Spennymoor, converting it into a castle and building a defensive ditch around it. This is considered an act of sacrilege. Here Cumin is besieged by the barons, Roger Conyers, Bertram Bulmer and Gaufred Escolland but Cumin escapes to Durham.

Durham Cathedral © David Simpson 2018

1144 – Cumin relinquishes claim

Although he is still supported by King David’s son, Henry Earl of Northumberland along with Alan the Earl of Richmond in Yorkshire, Cumin no longer has the support of King David. He relinquishes his claim to Durham allowing the true Bishop, William St Barbara to finally take up the post.  Cumin escapes and remarkably, is pardoned for his actions following the intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury. By 1157 Cumin becomes the Archdeacon of Worcester, a post he had previously held before his appointment as David’s chancellor.

1147 – Henry promises North to the Scots

Henry Plantagenet (the future King Henry II) promises David of Scotland that when he is king, he will continue to recognise David’s rights to Cumberland and Northumberland.

1150 – Holy Cross Wallsend

A Norman church called Holy Cross is erected at Wallsend, it is an outlying chapel belonging to Jarrow, a monastic cell of Durham.

Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge
The River Tweed at Berwick. Photo © David Simpson 2018

June 12, 1152 – Scottish Earl of Northumberland buried at Kelso

Henry, the son of King David, has died and is buried at Kelso Abbey near the River Tweed. Meanwhile the Scots recently began the construction of Berwick upon Tweed castle. At this time Berwick is firmly a part of Scotland.

1153 – King David dies

King David of Scotland dies at Carlisle castle. He is succeeded by his 11-year-old grandson, Malcolm IV (Malcolm the Maiden), who inherits Northumberland. The Norman-educated David was one of the most powerful Scottish kings and has increased Norman influence in Scotland as well as establishing several Scottish towns or ‘burghs’.

1153 – King David’s legacy

King David had encouraged the building of great Scottish Border monasteries like Kelso and Melrose, many with strong ties to monasteries in Yorkshire and France. His monasteries were in areas of Scotland that had once been part of the Kingdom of Northumbria and it was as if he was attempting to revive the golden monastic age of Northumbria within his Scottish realm. Ailred, the Abbot of Rievaulx in Yorkshire who was an associate of David writes an epitaph to him which reads: “O desolate Scotia who shall console thee now? He is no more who made an untilled and barren land a land that is pleasant and plenteous.”

Sandwell Gate, Old Hartlepool
Medieval sea wall at Old Hartlepool. Photo © David Simpson 2018.

1153 – Norse pirates attack Hartlepool

Norwegian pirates led by King Eystein attack and plunder Hartlepool after raiding several parts of the Scottish coast. This is the last recorded Viking raid on England.

Oct 25 1154 – KING HENRY II

Henry II becomes King of England. He is the son of Count Geoffrey of Anjou and the Empress Matilda. He is the first member of the Royal dynasty of England known as the House of Anjou (also known as the Plantagenets) who will rule up until the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485. Henry already owns vast dominions in France in his own right and also, through his powerful wife and Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

1154 – King abolishes Earldom of York

Henry II, the new king of England, abolishes the Earldom of York (Yorkshire). William le Gros surrenders Scarborough castle to the king as it was built without Royal permission.

Scottish lands in 1157. © David Simpson 2021. In 1157 only the Liberty of Tynedale stayed in Scottish hands and would remain so until 1296.

1157 – Scots lose Northumberland

Despite his promises in 1147, Henry II reclaims Northumberland from the Scots but allows them to keep Tynedale which the Scottish kings will retain until 1296 as a part of England under Scottish ownership.

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