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27 November 2014

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You are in: Cumbria > History > History features > A village on debatable land...

A village on debatable land...

In the area described at the debatable lands between Scotland and England lies the small hamlet of Bewcastle.

Bewcastle Cross

Bewcastle Cross

The small village of Bewcastle, placed high on the remote fells beyond Brampton in North Cumbria, is surrounded by some of the most rugged and windswept land in England.

This area was part the border territory known for over 100 years as the debatable lands.  Around 3.5 miles across and stretching along the Scottish border with England, this land was subject to many petty crimes and a haven for criminals and general lawlessness.

Visitors travel to the area do so deliberately, as it is not usually on the tourist trail.  Driving along twisting narrow roads, more populated with sheep than cars, you come across a hand painted sign pointing towards the church with a carved stone column in the grounds.

The ancient artwork, thought to have been created between 700 and 800 A.D., is probably the finest, if incomplete, Anglian cross in Britain.

With its interlaced knot work, runic inscriptions and reference to King Alcfrith, the cross was certainly of great significance however, its exact origins are unknown.

Bewcastle Church

The earliest recorded church dates from 1277, though only the east end remains. Building material was taken directly from the Roman fort remains. The present church was rebuilt in 1792

Bewcastle Church

Bewcastle Church

The graveyard contains many interesting illustrations and  the names of the more notable border reivers clans - Armstrong, Elliott, Nixon & Routledge.

The church was altered to its present form in 1901, and a millennium/centenary window added in 2001.

Ongoing repair works are being carried out on the church. These include the replacement of two of the windows shown boarded up in the picture to the right.

The castle at Bewcastle

The castle at Bewcastle

The castle

When Hadrian's wall was built in 122 A.D., three outposts were constructed north of the defences for scouting and intelligence purposes.

The first castle at Bewcastle was possibly built from turf and timber and was unusual as it had six sides.

When Hadrian's wall was overrun, around AD 343, the fort was repaired only to be abandoned around AD 367.

The present stone castle was built, using material from the Roman fort, by one of Edward III's generals, John de Strivelyn between 1340 & 1360.

The castle was again abandoned around 1640 and was demolished, probably through the time-honoured fashion of robbing out the stone for local housing.

Recently repair and safety work has been carried out by English Heritage.

last updated: 20/05/2008 at 14:26
created: 13/09/2006

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