Harbottle : The Borough
The medieval settlement at Harbottle, which occupied the site of the present village, had the status of a borough. As such it differed from ordinary agricultural villages. Its property holding inhabitants, known as burgesses or burghers, were effectively freeholders. They owed low fixed rents and otherwise could sell or dispose of their property, or burgage plots, as they wished. The foundation date of the borough is not recorded, but it was certainly in existence by 1245 when it is mentioned in the Inquisition Post Mortem of Gilbert de Umfraville I. Indeed it may have followed relatively soon after the establishment of the castle, or at any rate its refurbishment in stone.
The Umfraville barons who doubtless established the borough did so in order to profit from its commercial activity. The revenues they could extract included the rents paid by the burgesses for their burgage plots and grazing rights, plus the rents and tolls paid by those attending and trading at the periodic market and the annual fair. The sums paid annually by the burghers show remarkable stability:
- 1245 - £2 12s
- 1331 - £2 13s 10d
- 1604 - £2 12s 1d
Markets and Fairs
The right to hold a market in the borough on Tuesday, once every three weeks, and an annual fair (on the feast of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) is referred to by Gilbert de Umfraville II during court proceedings in 1293. The Inquisition Post Mortem for Robert Tailbois in 1495 (see Selected Sources and Surveys no. 13) indicated the Tuesday market was by this time a weekly event.
In the 1604 Border Survey (1604 Survey, 91, 111), the borough was labelled 'the town of Harbottle ... sometimes a market town' suggesting the market was no longer functioning by this time (although, if so, it must have been revived for it was recorded in the 19th century). The 1817 Enclosure Award and 1st edition Ordnance Survey both mark the position of the fair ground, just to the west of the village on the south side of the road heading up the valley towards the border. Although apparently relatively remote, Harbottle was located at the junction of a number of cross-border routes and must have seen quite a lot of traffic.
In 1604 Harbottle had 15 burger freeholders who possessed 23 houses and three outhouses. There is no indication of the number of burghers at an earlier date. The settlement was evidently established immediately below the castle where the Umfraville lords or their bailiffs could keep a close eye on it. The first detailed map evidence - the 1806 map of Harbottle estate, the 1817 Enclosure map and the tithe map surveyed in 1843 - suggests that by that stage the village principally comprised a single street between the old castle and the 17th century hall (also called Harbottle Castle).
A few more houses are evident along the eastern approach road, to the south of the grounds of the new Harbottle Castle. It is unclear whether the latter dwellings represent the remnant of more extensive earlier spread of settlement along the road or perhaps more likely a limited post-medieval expansion. They are located in a series of freehold plots along the road, the majority of which have no buildings within. The main street may originally have continued eastwards, at least as far as the site of the present hall. This route also led, via a ford over the Coquet, to the farm or hamlet of Peels, the site of the medieval settlement of Shirmondesden, which formed the demesne of the Umfraville lordship in place of Harbottle itself.
Field Systems And Common
In 1604 the burgage land included 67 acres of arable land, 9 acres of meadow and 24 acres of pasture (1604 Survey, 91; see Selected Sources and Surveys). The Harbottle Inclosure Map of 1817, shows six, variously sized, elongated plots on the south side of the village, which may represent strips of arable land or meadow within the defined limits of the medieval borough. These strips run for a up to 300m down the slope and across Back Burn.
A further series of plots, much shorter in length, but roughly similar in width, lie to the east of the village, sandwiched between the approach road, on the south side and Back Burn and the grounds of the new Harbottle Castle on the north. Again, these may represent some of the original strips of burgage land. They are shown terminating along the southern limit of the Park or lawn attached to the new Harbottle Castle, which coincides with Back Burn, but like the strips to the west it is possible they once continued northward across the burn. It is conceivable that when the Widdringtons relocated the manorial seat to the new hall they took a substantial chunk out of the burgage lands.
In addition to any meadow or pasture which lay within the borough limits, the burghers would have been able to graze their livestock on the moorland common to the south of the village. The extent of this common was estimated at 700 acres in 1604 (ibid.) and was not enclosed until 1817.