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Border Reivers
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Border Reivers - Border Reiver Names

Map of the Border Marches

The Border Marches

The Scottish English Border lands were divided into six administrative areas known as Marches. There were three on ech side of the Border- East, Middle and West. These Marches were, and had been,the haunt of the same family for centuries.In July 1583 the principal gentlemen and surnames in each March were named. These are recorded in the Calendar of Border Papers. The entry within the papers is entitled the 'Names on the Marches'.
It reads as follows:
'A note of the gentlemen and surnames in the Marches of England and Scotland'.

East Marches

  • Gentlemen - Fosters, Selbies, Graies, Strouders, Swiners, Mustians.
  • Surmames-Johnsons, Vardes (Wards), Ourdes, Walisses (Wallaces), Stories, Armestronges, Dunnes, Flukes.
  • Gentleman - Humes, Trotters, Bromfields, Dixons, Craws, Crinstons (Cranstons).
Carlisle Castle Liddesdale

West Marches

  • Gentlemen - Musgraves, Loders, (Lowthers), Carwennes, (Curwins), Sawfeldes, (Salkelds).
  • Surnames - Graemes (Grahams), Rutlitches (Routledges) Armestranges, Fosters, Nixons, Tailors, Stories.
  • Gentlemen - Maxwells, Johnsons, Urwens (Irvines), Grames (Grahams), Bells, Carlills (Carlyles),Battisons (Beaties), Littles, Carruders (Carruthers).

Middle Marches

  • Gentlemen - Ogles, Fenickes (Fenwicks), Hernes (Herons), Withringtons (Widdringtons), Medfords, Shafters (Shaftoes), Ridleis, Carnabies.
  • Surnames in Redesdale (Northumberland):
    Halls, Hedleys, Andersons, Potts, Reades, Dunnes, Milburnes.
  • Surnames in Tindale (Tynedale-Northumberland):
    Charletons, Dodds, Milbornes, Robsons, Yarces, Stapiltons.
  • Gentlemen of East Tividale (Teviotdale):
    Carrs, Yongs (Youngs), Pringles, Burnes, Davisons, Gilcries (Gilchrists), Tattes (Tates).
  • Gentlemen of Liddesdale:
    Rudderfords (Rutherfords),Carrs (Kerrs), Dowglasses (Douglasses), Trombles (Turnbulls), Scottes, Piles, Robsons, Halls, Olivers, Ladlers (Laidlaws), Armstrongs, Elwoods (Elliots), Nixons, Crosers(Crosiers), Turners, Fosters.


The list verifies that the calling of Border Reiver encompassed men from all walks of life, from peasant farmer to aristocrat, from 'gentleman' to commoner.

Perhaps this is epitomised in the Scottish West March where both Maxwells and Johnstones,- 'gentleman'- raided each other throughout the 16th century and were constantly at feud. The feud endured even beyond the battle of Dryffe Sands in 1593 where the Johnstones soundly beat the Maxwells even though they fought against a superior force. It would not be resolved until after the first decade of the 17th century.

Liddesdale spawned many of the reiving fraternity and it was a brave man not of the names which inhabited the area who dared to venture within its confines. The Armstrongs, Elliots and Crosiers of the valley of the Liddel were often at feud with the Northumbrian surnames.

In Teviotdale the Scotts and Kerrs were constantly feuding, yet at other times combined for the common good of their survival and often in reprisal against the English surnames.

On the English side of the Border the Grahams were the main power, at feud with both English and Scots.

Following the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603, James V1 and 1 declared that the Border Line was 'vanished and delete' as England and Scotland were now one nation. He set in motion a commission in 1605 to rid the then defunct Border Marches of its worst offenders-the Border Reiver clans and surnames. The chiefs and lairds were apprehended and hanged or drowned most often without trial. Lesser clan and family members were transported to Northern Ireland where they eked out a precarious living from the bogs of Roscommon. Others, the young and able-bodied men were sent to the cautionary towns of the Low Countries to aid the protestant Dutch in their war with catholic Spain.

Today, however, the most common names in the Border country of Scotland and England are the same as they were in the 16th century. Cumbria is still host to the Grahams, Fosters, Storeys and Nixons. Northumberland still abounds with Charltons, Ridleys and Milburns.

On the Scots side I believe the most common name in Hawick is Turnbull whilst in the southwest Maxwell and Johnstone are still prevalent. Curiously whilst the numbers of Armstrongs are still many there is hardly a one in Liddesdale. In 1530 Liddesdale could put 3000 men of the finest horsemen in Europe in the saddle.


Map of the Border Marches