The River Tweed has dominated the landscape and the lives of people in Norham Parish for centuries.
When the 1st. Edition of the Ordnance Survey (OS) Map for Norham was being prepared in the early 1860s, the surveyors collected background information about the names that would finally appear on the map. Not surprisingly, a number of names relate to the River Tweed and its tributaries - pools, salmon casts and islands in the river, crossings such as bridges, ferries and fords and buildings associated with the river – shiels and the occasional public house.
THE RIVER TWEED
Norham’s OS Name Book says that, “for a distance of 13 miles and 50 chains, the Tweed separates Norham Parish in Northumberland from the Parishes of Coldstream, Ladykirk and Hutton in Berwickshire." (Norham 41). “It is rather a sluggish slow moving stream in many parts deep and dangerous, but presents a great many places favourable to the Angler.” (Norham 143).
Part of the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of Norham showing shiels, islands, a fords and salmon casts
POOLS, STREAMS AND SALMON CASTS.
Of interest to anglers are the names of the different fishing casts and pools. Many of these are simply given, with no explanation of their meaning - the Pot (Norham 97) the Slap (Norham 86), the Wheel (Norham85), Black Horse and White Cat (both Norham 70), Little Hole and Long Cairn (both Norham 32). Chapel Stream’s name refers to its location. It is described as, “A rapid current on the south side of the Tweed and famed for being a first rate salmon cast. It derives its name from the adjacent Chapel.” (Norham 97). Dreeping Heugh takes its name from a physical feature: “A rocky precipice and Salmon Cast situated on the West of the Tweed. The rocks are perpendicular from which water is oozing, hence the name.” (Norham 84). On the River Till, below Tindle House, the salmon cast ‘Routing Stream’ name is derived from, “the action of the water over the rough rocky bed, meaning roaring or noisy”. (Norham 125).
There is the intriguing name of ‘Wellington’ given to a salmon cast near Cornhill and Coldstream (Norham 84). Norham’s Name book gives no further details, except that it is opposite Tweedhill Quarry. However, Williamson, who has studied the names of salmon pools in Berwickshire, thinks this could commemorate the Duke of Wellington, pointing out that the Coldstream Guards served in Portugal with the Duke in 1809 and also took part in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.) (Williamson (2018) p.94).
PAGE 84 from NORHAM'S NAME BOOK showing Dreeping Heugh and Wellington
Lower Pedwell Shiel, just to the north of Norham Church, is described as, “A small brick building erected in connection with the salmon fishery, the property of Sir Francis Blake, and others”. (Norham 31 – see Map). A similar entry occurs for nearby Upper Pedwell Shiel.(Norham 38 – see Map). To the east, between the Union Bridge and Horncliffe, a cluster of shiels occurs. Under Greenhillshiel is, “A small house, on the South Side of the Tweed, and situated between ‘Wilfordshiel’ and ‘Upper Greenhillshiel’. It was erected for the accommodation of the Water Baliffs when engaged watching the River in the night-time.” (Norham 7).
To the north of Norham village are the large Blout Island (Norham 36), (see Photo on the right) and Willow Island, “studied with willows”. (Norham 35) (Also see Map above).
St Thomas Island just west of Horncliffe is, “covered in good pasture, having on it a small house, for the accommodation of water bailiffs when watching the river in the night time”. (Norham 14). But despite its name, it is noted that “there are no antiquities connected with the name” and that it only got its name 35 years before.
Three main briges across the Tweed are described, with Coldstream Bridge in the west - see below.
Coldstream Bridge is "A very fine bridge of five arches..." (Norham 131).
Ladykirk & Norham Bridge, partly constructed of wood with 4 arches is, "The property of David Robertson Esq. and others.” (Norham31). This bridge resulted in nearby ferries and fords not being used.
More details were provided for Union Bridge in the east of the parish: “A suspension bridge across the Tweed, about 6 miles above Berwick. It was erected in the year 1820 by Captain Samuel Brown of the Royal Navy at the expense of between £7000 and £8000. It is made of malleable iron. Its length is 361 feet and its weight 100 tons”. (Norham4)
In addition to bridges, there were two places where ferries plied their trade. At Norham Boathouse, there was a one-storey house where, “a ferry (was) kept here previous to the erection of the Ladykirk & Norham Bridge”. (Norham 55). Twizell Ferry, however, appeared to be still in use: “A ferry across the Tweed near Twizell Boathouse at which a boat plies for the conveyance of foot passengers only, at a charge of one half penny each.” (Norham 98).
Next to Twizell Ferry, there was also a ford. Twizel Ford, however, “was seldom used since the erection of the Ladykirk & Norham Bridge.”(Norham 98). Another ford, West Ford (Norham55) is a shallow in the river and occurs near Norham Boathouse. Rack Ford (see Map) is, “a shallow in the River Tweed, which was used as a ford previous to the erection of the Ladykirk and Norham Bridge.” (Norham 36).
The name “Straw Ford” was given to a salmon cast on the River Till (a Tweed tributary) between Tiptoe and Tindle House. “Straw Ford is adopted in consequence of a tale respecting the origin of the name viz. that to facilitate the passage of a body of Troops or marauders they placed large bundles of straw across the stream.” (Norham 121).
Despite the number of people who worked in the fisheries on the river or who fished for leisure or who guarded the river, it is surprising that there are only two public houses with names associated with fishing. These are the ‘Salmon Inn’ in Norham village (Norham 37) and the ‘Fishers Arms’ in Horncliffe (Norham 15). Both of these are described in Naming Norham (3), posted on 9th September 2021. The Salmon Inn no longer exists and the Fishers’ Arms has a campaign in process to save it from closure. (See post on Norham Life).
The Tweed is still a barrier to travel today and at times of flood poses a threat to people living near it. The many fords and ferries have now gone and crossings are chiefly confined to bridges. Fishing as an economic activity has dwindled and is now is more related to leisure use. But the Tweed still dominates the landscape of the Parish and in all its moods, is a major focus of attraction and attention.
Previous ‘Naming Norham’ posts from Liz were made on 08/01/21, 03/09/21 and 09/09/21. John’s post on ‘The Border Line’ appeared on 13/12/20; Tory’s post on the ‘Fishers Arms’ and Jim’s post on ‘Blessing of Salmon Fishing’, both on 25/01/22.
The Ordnance Survey Name Books for Northumberland are available to search on https://namebooks.org.uk
The Ordnance Survey Name Books for Scotland are available to search on https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk
First Edition Ordnance Survey (6 inch) maps related to the Norham Name Book can be seen on the National Map Library of Scotland website: https://maps.nls.uk
(For more Information about the Northumberland Name Books.) Whaley, D. (2020). Northumberland through the eyes of the gallant Ordnance Surveyors, c.1860. The Northumbrian 176,14-19
(For more information on the Tweed and salmon pools). Williamson, E. (2018). Names of salmon pools in Berwickshire. Onomastica Uralica 12, 87-100.
My grateful thanks to Diana Whaley, Emeritus Professor at Newcastle University and her team of volunteers who transcribed the handwritten name books for Northumberland from the National Archives and made them easily accessible to view and search.
Parts of the Ordnance Survey map are shown with permission from the National Library of Scotland.