This perception is in part due to the unity of the region, most of which is drained by the river Tweed and its tributaries, in contrast to the separate river systems of the western marches. It was the Tweed river system which was chosen in the 12th century for the foundation of those abbeys which even today constitute some of Scotland’s finest medieval monuments. Jedburgh, Melrose, Kelso and Dryburgh were model centres of learning, and suited Scotland’s rulers, not only because they impressed visitors from England (as they still do), but because they formed an essential element of the modernisation of the Scottish state, along with tighter control of the land through the feudal system and development of commerce through royal burghs.
From the south heathen Germanic Angli occupied much of the Tweed basin as part of their kingdom of Bernicia (later Northumbria). Between the two was the British kingdom of Strathclyde, where some of the Christian followers of Ninian are still known from stone inscriptions.
The conversion of Northumbria by Paulinus in AD625, was part of a mission from Rome. About ten years later a monastery was established on Lindisfarne by monks from Columba’s monastery of Iona in Dalriada, with Aidan as their leader. Although disagreements between the Irish and Roman churches were aired at the Synod of Whitby (AD664), which judged in favour of Roman custom, the northern clergy maintained an independent spirit.
The Borders contributed to the prestige which Northumbria enjoyed in the 7th and 8th centuries, particularly through monasteries such as those at Old Melrose (Melrose: plate 1) and St Abbs (Coldingham), and through Cuthbert of Lauderdale (died AD687), who became Abbot of Lindisfarne and the most revered Northumbrian saint.
Monks from the abbey of Tiron in Normandy settled near Selkirk in c.1113 in what was probably the first house of a reformed Order to be founded anywhere in Britain. Other Orders which built monasteries in the Borders were the Benedictines, Cistercians, Augustinians and Premonstratensians (fig.4). By the end of the 12th century there were four major abbeys in the Borders which, with lesser priories, owned or controlled very extensive tracts of land.
In the 13th century further reforming movements within the church produced the Orders of mendicant friars, who rejected the introverted life of the cloister and lived among the lay people. Franciscan friars established houses in the Borders at Old Roxburgh, and Jedburgh, and there was a Trinitarian house in Peebles.
The Protestants gained the upper hand, and the outcome was the abolition of the Roman church and its replacement by a new Church of Scotland.
nce separated from Rome, the differences between the various Protestant beliefs became apparent. King James I and his successors, ruling both Scotland and England, sought to keep control of the church through bishops. This was strenuously opposed by Scottish Presbyterians, many of whom signed the National Covenant in 1638 in opposition (thereby gaining the name “Covenanters”). e result of these opposing views were the Bishops Wars of 1638 and 1639, which helped to bring about the Great Civil War (itself partly a sectarian struggle), during which King Charles I lost both his throne and his life.