King John and Henry III : 1199 – 1272

North East England during the reigns of King John and Henry III

Tensions between the Scots and the English were high during the reigns of King John and King Henry III and there were many disagreements over the exact course of the Scottish border. Meanwhile Newcastle’s importance as a town and port was increasing and important new defences were added in 1247 and 1265.

St Nicholas Cathedral and Blackgate Newcastle
The Blackgate at Newcastle was built during the reign of Henry III  © David

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Apr 6, 1199 – KING JOHN

Prince John, the son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and the brother of the late Richard I, becomes King of England. He will be crowned on May 27 at Westminster Abbey.

1199 – Pilgrim’s Street

Pilgrim Street, the ‘Via Perogronium’ is among Newcastle’s streets. It is the site of inns and places of hospitality used by travellers and pilgrims.

1199 – Morpeth market

King John grants Robert De Merley the rights for the Northumberland town of Morpeth to hold a market.

Morpeth Clock Tower.
Morpeth © David Simpson

1199 – Wooler market

Robert Muschamp is granted a licence by King John to hold a market at Wooler. A mighty baron, Muschamp was a benefactor of the abbey at Melrose in the Scottish borders where he was later buried.

Wooler High Street
Wooler High Street © David Simpson

Circa 1200 – Ferry kills last wild boar

According to the Durham historian, Robert Surtees (1779-1834), Roger de Fery killed the last of Durham’s wild boars in this year. The site of the slaying of the ‘brawn of Brancepeth‘ (boars were known as brawns), is marked by Cleve’s Cross at Ferryhill. It is possible, however, that Surtees made the story up or that it was passed down as an oral tradition.

Plaque commemorating the Brancepeth Brawn at Ferryhill © David Simpson

Nov 22, 1200 – Scots claim the North

William of Scotland claims Northumberland as his own in a meeting with King John at Lincoln.

1201 – Corbridge Fair and Market

King John grants Corbridge a charter, a weekly market and a fair.

Market Cross, Corbridge
Market Cross, Corbridge © David Simpson

1201 – Hartlepool becomes a burgh

King John grants Hartlepool ‘Royal  Burgh’ status giving its merchants the same rights as Newcastle. Normally, in Durham burgh or borough status could only be confirmed by a charter of the bishop. The Bishop of Durham claims Hartlepool should be a ‘bishop’s burgh’. Hartlepool’s political status at this time is ambiguous because the district of ‘Hartness’, as part of the Wapentake of Sadberge had only recently been acquired by the Prince Bishops of Durham in 1189. It might still be regarded as independent of the bishop’s political territory

Sea wall, Old Hartlepool
Sea wall, Old Hartlepool © David Simpson

1203 – Two kings meet

King John holds a conference at Norham-on-Tweed with King William of Scotland to ensure peace, but tensions continue to mount.

Norham Castle
Norham Castle © David Simpson

1207 – Yarm fair and market

Peter De Brus grants a fair and market to Yarm, ensuring growth and prosperity for this little town situated within a loop of the Tees on the Yorkshire side of the river.

Yarm High
Yarm High Street © David Simpson

1209 – Scots king submits to John

King John marched to Norham to prepare for an invasion of Scotland but William has submitted to him.

Norham Castle
Norham Castle © David Simpson

1210 – Allegiance from Alexander

Alexander, son of William of Scotland and  a future Scottish king, gives his allegiance to King John at Alnwick.

1212 – John seeks Corbridge treasure

King John visits Corbridge in the hope of finding Roman treasure which is said to be buried there. It follows similar searches in 1202 and 1208 but he finds nothing. Meanwhile John confirms certain privileges held by the leading merchants at Newcastle. John also strengthens Newcastle castle.

Corbridge bridge
The bridge across the Tyne at Corbridge dates from 1674 © David Simpson

1214 – Alexander is new king in Scotland

Alexander II becomes the new king of Scotland.

June 15, 1215 – Magna Carta

The Magna Carta is signed at Runnymede near Windsor in the Thames valley by King John in the presence of the barons. It reduces the excesses and abuses of the monarch’s power. In the North, the Northumberland barons are still not happy and transfer allegiance from John to Alexander of Scotland. Alexander raids as far south as Newcastle.

1216 – John attacks Northumberland

John burns Morpeth, Alnwick and Berwick and drives out the Scots and then attacks the Scottish lowlands. Cumbria is harried by the Scots as John returns to England and Bowes Castle, a royal stronghold in Teesdale is attacked by John’s enemies.

Oldgate Bridge, Morpeth is a modern bridge.
The River Wansbeck at Morpeth © David Simpson

1216 – Guild merchant status for Newcastle

King John bestows guild merchant status on Newcastle.

1216 – Morpeth burned

The town of Morpeth was raided and burned by the Scots this year and the castle destroyed.

Ha Hill, Morpeth, site of Morpeth Castle
Ha Hill, Morpeth, site of Morpeth Castle © David Simpson

Oct 18, 1216 – KING HENRY III

King John dies and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son who becomes Henry III. The Scots raid the north throughout the following year.

1220 – White Mere Pool

A lake called the White Mere Pool is mentioned at this time. It is situated between Boldon and Heworth and will later be called the White Mare Pool.

1220 – Chillingham wild cattle enclosed

A wandering herd of wild cattle are said to have been permanently captured at Chillingham following the enclosure of parkland there at around this time.

A Thomas Bewick engraving of a Chillingham wild cattle bull

1221 – Anglo-Scottish marriage

Alexander II of Scotland marries Henry III’s sister, Joan, at York.

York Minster
York Minster © David Simpson

1228 – South Shields

At this time the name of South Shields is recorded as ‘the Sheales upon the South’.

1229 – Wearmouth Rector

William of Durham became Rector of Wearmouth this year. On his death he left a bequest for the founding of what would become University College, Oxford.

1223 – Stokesley Fair

The Eure family secure the establishment of a fair at Stokesley in the Cleveland district of Yorkshire in a charter granted by Henry III.

Stokesley © David Simpson

Circa 1230 – Weardale hunting park

The Bishop of Durham sets aside an extensive area of Weardale as a hunting ground. Meanwhile the official residence of the Archbishop of York has been established at Bishopthorpe just outside York.

Upper Weardale scenery near Westgate.
Upper Weardale scenery near Westgate © David Simpson

1230 – Robin Hood a Yorkshire rebel

Although normally associated with Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and the reign of Richard I, most of Robin Hood’s activities seem to have taken place in the  forests of southern Yorkshire during Henry III’s reign. Robin may also have been involved with smuggling at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast.

1234 – Plague at Newcastle

Plague breaks out in populous Newcastle, killing many over three years.

1237 – Greyfriars in Newcastle

Franciscan Greyfriars settled in Newcastle in 1237 (in the area that is now Tyneside Cinema).

Sep 1237 – The Scottish Border

The Treaty of York recognises the rights of Scottish kings in Tynedale and Cumberland but not sovereignty. Henry III and Alexander II agree that the Scottish border should be fixed along the Tweed-Esk-Solway line.

1239 – Newcastle Blackfriars

Dominican friars known as ‘Blackfriars‘ establish a friary in Newcastle.

Blackfriars, Newcastle
Blackfriars, Stowell Street, Newcastle © David Simpson

1240 – Hulne Priory

Hulne Priory (a Carmelite friary) is established in Alnwick by Ralph Fresborn on land granted by William De Vesci.

Aug 14, 1244 – Border truce at Newcastle

Disputes over the exact course of the Scottish border arise but Henry III and Alexander II meet at Newcastle to declare a truce. Alexander’s troops have been threatening the border all year and had besieged Prudhoe Castle.

Prudhoe Castle.
Prudhoe Castle © David Simpson

1246 – Gateshead Market

A Tuesday and Friday market was held in Gateshead from at least as early as 1246. The market stretched across the Tyne Bridge to the Blue Stone which marked the end of the Prince Bishop of Durham’s jurisdiction.

1247 – Newcastle Blackgate

Henry III builds builds an impressive defensive gateway called Blackgate as an extension to the castle at Newcastle.

Blackgate Newcastle
The Blackgate, Newcastle © David Simpson

1247 – Medieval Hospital at Gateshead

A medieval hospital, dedicated to St Edmund has been founded by Nicholas Farnham, Bishop of Durham at Gateshead.

1248 – Tyne Bridge fire at Newcastle

Work on a new bridge in Newcastle begins after a fire destroys the old Tyne bridge. The damaged stone bridge is medieval and of uncertain date, having replaced an earlier Roman bridge. The bridge has 12 arches.

1249 – Fixing the Border

Alexander II of Scotland dies and is replaced by his eight-year-old son, Alexander III. An attempt is made to fix a proper Scottish border in a treaty with the new king. Border laws are established including the rights of masters to reclaim servants who seek refuge across the border within 40 days. The treaty between Alexander and Henry III also creates the Border marches in which each side of the border is divided into an east, west and middle march where justice and resolution of disputes is placed in the hands of border wardens.

Borderland and the North in medieval times showing some of the major northern English and border shires, liberties and counties.
The Borderland and the North in medieval times showing some of the major northern English and border shires, liberties and counties as well as the English and Scottish marches © David Simpson and Tangled Worm 2022 Click on the image to see larger version of of the map

1249 – Rector funds Oxford’s first college

William, Rector of Wearmouth, establishes the first College at Oxford University, bequeathing money for the maintenance of ten theological students.

1251 – Newcastle mint and mayor

Newcastle’s civic status is increasing. In 1249 Henry III established a mint here and this year the Chief Bailiff earned the title of mayor.

St John's church. Newcastle
St John’s, one of Newcastle’s medieval churches © David Simpson

Dec 25, 1251 – Anglo-Scottish marriage

Alexander III of Scotland marries Henry III’s daughter Margaret at York. The marriage takes place in St Mary’s abbey for a dowry of 5,000 marks. Alex is ten years old, Margaret is 11.

1258 – Franciscans

A community of Franciscan friars is recorded at Hartlepool.

1259 – Brewing restrictions at South Shields

Threatened by the possibility of a port and trade developing at the mouth of the Tyne Newcastle makes an order to the Priors of Durham at South Shields that they can only bake or brew for themselves and not for visitors.

1260 – Dominicans at Yarm

A Dominican Friary is established at Yarm on Tees. The establishment of a friary is often the sign of a thriving town.

1262 – Adam’s Camera

Sheriff of Northumberland, Adam of Jesmond establishes a home at Heaton. Some remains of his house called Adam’s Camera can still be seen.

Adam of Jesmond's House
Adam of Jesmond’s House © David Simpson

1262 – Carmelite friars in Newcastle

A friary of Carmelite Whitefriars is established in Newcastle near the Pandon Burn. Franciscan friars are already based in the town.

1263 – Balliol College founded as penance

Baliol College is established at Oxford after John Balliol of Barnard Castle insulted Walter Kirkham, the Bishop of Durham, in a land dispute. As a penance, Balliol agrees to finance students at Oxford to form what becomes Balliol College.

1265 – Newcastle town walls

The burgesses of Newcastle commence the construction of the town walls. A tax is implemented for the payment of their construction. They will be 25 feet high and never less than 7 feet thick.

Newcastle Town Wall
Newcastle town walls showing defensive ditch in foreground, turret on the right and the Morden Tower to the left with battlements between © David Simpson

1266 – Scotland gains Viking islands

The Isle of Man and the Hebrides are sold by Norway to Alexander of Scotland. Held by Norway since Viking times, they still speak Norse.

1267 – ‘Satan’s satellites of Newcastle’

Determined to sabotage and curtail developments further down the Tyne, the Newcastle mayor, Nicholas Scott and the town’s burgesses head for North Shields where they beat up the Tynemouth monks, set alight to the huts of the fishermen and burn the nearby mills. They then steal a vessel full of coal. The assailants are described as ‘Satan’s satellites of Newcastle-upon-Tyne’. The Newcastle men aim to prevent the threat of a rival port developing in competition with their own town.

1270 – Nevilles inherit Wensleydale castle

Middleham Castle in Wensleydale passes into the hands of the powerful Neville family of Raby Castle by marriage.

Middleham Castle
Middleham Castle © David Simpson

1272 – Greatham Hospital

Bishop Stitchill of Durham establishes a hospital at Greatham near Hartlepool.

Greatham Hospital, the building itself dates from a later period © David Simpson.

Nov 1272 – Edward I is king

Edward I becomes the new King of England following the death of King Henry III.

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