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The Middle March of England

Map of the Middle March of England; boundaries and generalities.

The English Middle March was that part of Northumberland not included in the East March. The Cheviots formed most of the frontier line and though they were a barrier to an army encumbered with artillery, there were many passages convenient for the predatory thieves of Liddesdale and Teviotdale.

Alnwick was the most important town of the northern part of the March and it was here at Alnwick Abbey that the Warden resided. His chief cares were Redesdale and North Tynedale, both of which dales bred “notable light horsemen” and provided a refuge for Reivers.

The Middle Marches confronted each other across the Cheviots and raids were frequent for the broken country was ideal for reiving. The Middle March frontier was wide and desolate and crossed by the secret ways of the raiders through the mosses and twisting passes of the Cheviots. Great forays of Reivers made up of scores of lances swept over the moors to harry Coquetdale or to make a smoking waste from Teviothead to Jed Water. No Warden carried such a burden as those of the Middle Marches; it was as one of them said “an unchristened country”. The centres of law and order were at Alnwick, Otterburn and Harbottle though the latter castle was kept in such a state of disrepair that its Captain had to move for the winter and “lye at Otterburn”. Today its condition is hopelessly ruinous.

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