Later Medieval (14th/15th Centuries) and the Renaissance


William Wallace, following his betrayal by some Scottish nobility, was captured and then executed by the English. He was hung, drawn and quartered, i.e. he was hanged by the neck until he was almost dead, cut down, his bones half pulled apart by horses, then he would have been disembowelled while still alive, probably beheaded and then his body was cut into four quarters with one of these being hung from the gates of Berwick’s town walls, as a warning to the rebellious Scots.


Robert Bruce, son of Robert detailed in the 1286 entry, becomes King of Scotland. Edward I, England’s ageing king, sent his half cousin De Valence to subdue the new King and his supporters. Robert’s wife was captured taken down the great north road to Berwick, where she was placed in a cage and suspended from the towns battlements.


England’s new King, Edward II, attempted to curtail King Robert Bruce’s growing influence and lead an army into Scotland. Declining battle, Robert pursued a Fabian course of action until England’s army withdrew. Robert’s army marched down the great north road and moved into Northumberland looting and pillaging in a revenge raid.


By this date King Robert Bruce had retaken all of Scotland, with the exception of Stirling Castle which was under siege. Edward II in an attempt to relieve the castle assembled an army of 17000 at Wark in Northumberland. This army moved up the great north road, the English fleet in close support. Scotland’s army had prepared a battlefield with concealed pits and traps at the Bannock Burn. The Scottish foot soldiers were deployed in 4 divisions with Sir John Douglas’s borderers in the 3rd division. In the 2-day battle, which followed, the English army was defeated with 4000 dead and Stirling Castle fell into Scottish hands. This victory became known as The Battle of Bannockburn.

King Robert slays Sir Edward de Bohun

Artists impression of English knights faltering on he spears of Scottish foot soldiers


Berwick once more becomes Scottish as Bruce’s army retakes the town.


Declaration of Arbroath was signed by Scotland’s aristocracy, including Patrick Dunbar, the Earl of March.


At Lindisfarne Monastry on Holy Island records show that in 1326 William de Prenderguest – being a border reiver – rendered himself notorious by plundering the brewhouse and bakehouse of that religious establishment. This was the only recorded time in 400 years of reiving that the monastry was plundered.

1333,19th July

The Battle of Halidon Hill was fought because Scotland was attempting to lift the siege of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Sir Archibald Douglas the Scottish commander attacked England’s King Edward III’s army at Halidon Hill. The attack failed due to the accuracy of England’s archers and Berwick surrendered. Scotland’s losses were up to 10,000, while English losses were no more than a few hundred.

The rout which followed the battle continued for 5 corpse strewn miles as the English knights killed at will. Probably the first rear-guard defence was organised around Ayton using the River Eye as a natural defensive barrier. The English installed Edward Balliol as a puppet king and the legitimate air (young King David) was sent to France for safety.


Edward III again sent an army north in support of the puppet king Edward Balliol, who Scotland continued to resist, and laid waste as far as Lochindorb in Moray.


Black Agnes Countess of the East March defied an English army for five months from the walls of Dunbar.


King David, in response to King Philip of France plea, moved his Scottish army through the East March and descended on Northumberland pillaging as far as Hexham and Lanercost. Edward III’s northern barons Neville and Percy organised a defence by deploying a 15,000 strong army close to Durham.

Although Sir William Douglas’ borderers stumbled across this army and were put to flight, they managed to reorganise and Douglas commanded the right flank of the Scottish army at the Battle of Neville’s Cross. The English archers caused havoc in the Scottish ranks, whilst the English cavalry outflanked the Scots. In the carnage which followed King David was captured and remained in the Tower of London for 11 years, until a ransom was agreed.

Scotland was not subdued by the defeat at Neville’s Cross and, in a minor battle at Nesbit Hill near Ayton Parish, they defeated an English army and briefly retook Berwick.

Edward III retaliated to the defeat at Nesbit Hill with vigour and his army rampaged through the Scottish East March laying waste as far as Haddington and Edinburgh.

When King David was released in 1357 he signed the Treaty of Berwick with Edward III.


The Black Death, also known as the English pestilence hit the parish of Ayton for the first time, causing the population to remain virtually constant for nearly 150 years. Due to their remoteness, the Scottish rural communities were less affected than England, where a third of the population was wiped out. The black death visited the area again in both the late fourteenth and late fifteenth centuries.

1388, 19th August

Battle of Otterburn (to add)

1402, June

Battle of Homildon Hill (now Humbleton, near Wooler): the new Earl of Douglas and Sir Alexander Hume join forces and raised an army of 10,000 which looted and pillaged as far as Newcastle. As they withdrew this army encountered Hotspur Percy, who, learning from Otterburn, deployed his Welsh mercenary longbow men with great effect.

Douglas showed no leadership as his lightly armoured border spearmen fell in the arrow storm. The Scottish lines broke, following the death of about 500 spearmen, and in the rout which followed as many as 500 drowned in their escape across the river. Both Douglas and Hume were captured and held to ransom.

It should be noted that once released the two shared life ups and downs and they both met their end in 1424 at the Battle of Verneuil where they were part of a Scottish mercenary army which fought with the French against an English army. This was the first serious attempt to tackle the famous English longbow men blow for blow as the Scottish army entered the fray with a large contingent of their own longbow men. In the battle which followed and to quote a chronicler of the time, the arrow fight was ‘murderous’ and ‘horrible to watch’ and although the English incurred large losses the Scottish army was almost annihilated.


The Earl of Northumberland, England’s East March Warden, at the head of 4,000 riders, attempted to raid the Scottish East and Middle Marches. Douglas, Warden of the Scottish Middle March, with his riders intercepted the Earls army at Piper Dene near Wark in the English East March and put them to flight.


George Hume, son of Sir Alexander Hume of Dunglass, was granted the land around Ayton and so became the ancestral home of the Humes of Ayton.


Sir Alexander Hume becomes Lord Hume.


The Duke of Albany committed treason and conspired with Edward IV of England’s forces and Berwick changed hands for the last time.


Battle of Sauchieburn, near Glasgow: King James III had attempted to curb the financial powers of the Scottish nobles. In response to losing the revenues from Coldingham Priory, Lord Alexander Hume along with other disaffected nobles conspired against their sovereign. At the Battle of Sauchieburn these disaffected nobles defeated the Kings army. The King died in the battle, with Humes East March spearmen contributing to the defeat and death of James. Immediately after the battle Alexander Hume jnr becomes the second Lord Hume.


Lord Hume, at James IV behest, invaded Northern England in support of the pretensions of Perkin Warbeck. Durham and Northumberland were ravaged; in retaliation the Earl of Surrey, the renowned General of Henry VII, laid waste to the estates of the Humes and to quote the chronicler Ford ‘demolished old Ayton Castle, the strongest of their forts’. Although much damage occurred, the village survived, however, Ayton ceased to be a strategic stronghold of the Hume family. In relation to this event Scott notes down in Marmion:

I have not ridden in Scotland since

James back’d the cause of that mock Prince

Warbeck, the Flemish counterfeit

Who on the gibbet paid the cheat

Then did I match with Surrey’s power

What time we razed old Ayton Tower

In September of this year, and probably to alleviate Lord Humes problems, James IV and Henry VII met at Ayton and agreed the terms of a seven year truce. This truce was probably agreed at Ayton church as by this time the castle had been destroyed.


Alexander Hume III, son of the second Lord Hume becomes the third Lord Hume and also the Warden of the East March.

1513, 22 August

The third Lord Hume, at James IV request took 5,000 East March riders into England’s East March pillaging and burning as they went. Whilst returning to Scotland, laden down with booty, the rearguard was attacked by Sir William Bulmer’s force near Wooler. Estimates on Scotland’s casualties range from 200 to 600 and 200 were take prisoner, including Sir George Hume brother of Lord Hume.

1513, 7 September

The Battle of Flodden. A certain mystique revolves around Flodden, as well as a couple of unanswered questions. Like (look at the entry for 1497 above): if England had won the battle so decisively, why did the same not happen again? Henry VIII, who was more aggressive and bombastic than his father, was now on the thrown and the Earl of Surrey was still in charge of the army. Why is it that the tradition of the riding of the bounds in Hawick, Selkirk, etc, stems from turning back the English army after Flodden? It has been suggested that while England’s losses were numerically not as bad as Scotland, a large proportion of their best fighting men were either dead or injured. Scotland lost a King, much of its aristocracy and possibly 10,000 men, yet the English military position was so weakened due to their losses that they were not strong enough to pillage the Scottish marches.

The irony of the battle is that it did not need to be fought in the first place as James IV was married to Henry VII daughter and yet he still went to war in defence of a French quarrel with England. In addition James IV was interested in science, particularly artillery, and had developed some of the most advanced artillery pieces in Europe at Edinburgh Castle. So the scene is set. Scotland, for once a better equipped army than the enemy, are on the high ground at Flodden. Step forward the chivalrous idiosyncratic James IV and as they say the rest is history.

It should also be noted that controversy still surrounds the role that Lord Hume and his East and Middle March men played in the battle. Lord Hume’s men operated under the leadership of Lord Huntly and formed the left flank vanguard for the Scottish army.

James ordered them to advance and they charged forward into England’s right wing, comprising mainly levies (conscripts), who were being marshalled by Sir Edward Howard and began to rout them.

James IV seeing this success committed a masterpiece of reckless folly by placing himself at the head of the centre division, leaving his army without a commander, and charging towards the English centre and to his death. Now here is the controversy: post battle allegations alleged that following the rout of Howard, Lord Humes men took no further part in the battle and in so doing neglected their duty by failing to assist the King. Yet this allegation runs contrary to a letter written by Lord Dacre, the commander of the English reserve who, upon seeing Howards predicament, advanced forward to give him support. The letter then details the Humes who fell in the battle fighting his reserves along with details of the own men captured by the Scots.

Interesting characters also took part in the battle.

On the English side was the bastard Heron, an outlaw, who aided Howard when his levies were being routed. On the Scottish side were the seven spears of Wedderburn. These ‘spears’ were seven Hume brothers from Wedderburn in the East March who fought alongside their father. It should be noted that the father and the eldest brother died in the battle.