North East England : Part of Scotland

The North East England 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.
Scottish lands in 1135 © David Simpson/2022. It is not clear whether the disputed territory of Tynedale formed part of the Scottish lands at this stage (in all probability it did). Cumbria 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.

Feb 5, 1136 – Peace Treaty 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 an important possession for King David.

Owengate and Durham Cathedral
Durham © David Simpson

1136 – Wark Castle

A formidable castle is built by Walter Espec on the banks of the Tweed at Wark in north Northumberland. It will be attacked and rebuilt several times in its history.

Earthworks of Wark on Tweed castle
Earthworks of Wark on Tweed castle © David Simpson

1137 – Newminster Abbey

Newminster Abbey, a Cistercian abbey is founded by Ranulf Merley, the Lord of Morpeth.

1138 – 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, particularly through the Yorkshire and Scottish Border monasteries. David claims Northern England through his wife who is the grand-daughter of Earl Siward, the pre-conquest ruler of the North.

Aug 1138 – Bruce and Balliol address David

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 (the Hartlepool area) and Bernard Balliol of Barnard Castle both own lands along the north bank of the River Tees in the Wapentake of Sadberge, an outlying part of Northumberland. 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.

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 © David Simpson

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.

Memorial to the Battle of the Standard near Northallerton

1138 – Cuthbert’s ‘standard’ not at battle

St Cuthbert’s banner was not represented at the battle, perhaps 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.

April 9, 1139 – Scots gain Northumberland

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 the 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.

Scottish land in 1139
Scottish lands in 1139 © David Simpson/2022. 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 Bedlingtonshire and the districts of  Islandshire and Norhamshire between Bamburgh and Berwick).

1139 – 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 © David Simpson

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.

1140 – Skelton Castle

A castle is built by Robert De Brus at Skelton in Cleveland.

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.

1141 – Usurper ‘Bishop’ seizes Durham

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.

Durham Castle keep from Gilesgate
Durham Castle keep from Gilesgate © David Simpson

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.

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

1141 – North East under virtual Scottish rule

As a civil war rages on in England, much of the far north of England has now come under the virtual control of the Scots under King David. The Scottish king’s son is the Earl of Northumberland, a position that makes him virtual ruler there while David’s Chancellor, William Cumin has become the Prince Bishop of Durham following his recent usurpation. The powers of Prince Bishop are similar to those of the king.

Scottish lands in 1141
Scottish lands in 1141 © David Simpson. The usurpation of the Palatine lands of Durham by William Cumin, King David of Scotland’s Chancellor, demonstrated Scottish ambitions in the North of England. The Honour of Lancaster up to the River Ribble was also briefly in Scottish hands although this was disputed with the Earl of Chester.

1143 – Northallerton Castle

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

1143 – Bolbec grants monks land

Norman baron Walter De Bolbec grants land to Premontratensian monks in the Derwent valley at what will become the abbey of Blanchland.

1143 – Pope says Cumin not 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.

1143 – Church hosts bishop battle

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.

St Giles church
St Giles church, Gilesgate, Durham © David Simpson

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.

1143 – Cumin makes church 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.

Kirk Merrington church
Kirk Merrington church © David Simpson

1144 – Cumin relinquishes Durham 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.

View of Durham Cathedral, Castle and Cathedral from the Millburngate-Framwellgate waterside
View of Durham Cathedral and castle © David Simpson

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.

1147 – Alnwick Abbey

Alnwick Abbey of the Premonstratensian order is established by Eustace Fitz John and his wife Beatrice.

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.

The ruins of Holy Cross church, Wallsend
The ruins of Holy Cross church, Wallsend © David Simpson

June 12, 1152 – Earl buried at Kelso

Henry, Earl of Northumberland, the son of King David of Scotland, 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 a part of Scotland.

Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge
Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge © David Simpson

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.”

Rievaulx Abbey
Rievaulx Abbey © David Simpson

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.

View of the Headland at Old Hartlepool from Seaton Carew
View of the Headland at Old Hartlepool from Seaton Carew © David Simpson

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.

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.

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

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