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18 June 2014
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Immigration and Emigration
David I and the impact of the Norman Conquest

Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey
Melrose Abbey
© Scran
Immigration was also encouraged through the establishment of monasteries. David was a devout man, and the evidence suggests that his faith was the major motivation behind his invitation to 1113 to monks from Tiron near Chartres to found a monastery in the Forest of Selkirk. However, there is no doubt that the monasteries had an important administrative role to play in the feudal society. David established monasteries in the Borders at Jedburgh, Dryburgh, Kelso and Melrose. They contributed to the development of the area by establishing intellectual centres through their scholarship, and to the economic prosperity of the region through trade.

It is through trade, and principally the wool and textile trade, that Flemish immigrants made their biggest contribution to the history of the Scottish Borders. During the Middle Ages the Border Abbeys were amongst the Western World's biggest producers of wool. Around the 12th Century, wool production in England and Scotland began to outstrip demand, and the Border monasteries began to export to Flanders. The most important Abbey involved with the wool trade was Melrose. At one point, Melrose Abbey had over 25,000 sheep, and by the end of the 12th Century, produced 5% of the total Scottish wool output. Wool was exported to Bruges out of Berwick via market towns like Roxburgh. As a consequence, Berwick became the base for a large immigrant population of merchants. Flemish merchants settled at "The Red Hall", which contained domestic accommodation as well as serving as a factory and a fortress, and was where 30 Flemish merchants died defending themselves against an attack on Berwick by the English in 1296.

Flemish tradesmen and craftsmen also settled in the border areas, where their skills in weaving and textile production contributed to the growing borders textile industry. Since the time of Charlemagne, spinning and weaving schools had existed in Flanders. Flemish weavers were in demand and settled in various locations around Britain, but in 1154, Henry II ordered the expulsion of all foreigners from England, which is thought to have encouraged many of them to move north. As this coincided with the beginning of the period of prosperity in the Borders woollen industry, many settled in this region.


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