The Uttermost Plenished Town
The 16th century brought further carnage, beginning with the devastation unleashed by the Scottish invasion which culminated in the battle of Floddon. By 1541, the township had been restocked with tenants, as Sir William Eure reported, declaring that the Scots no longer pastured their cattle along the East March with impunity. These were presumably the ‘six husband lands newe plenyshed’ recorded by Bowes and Ellerker in the same year. However, a month or two after his first report, Eure was obliged to relate how a large party of Scottis raiders, predominantly from the Ker surname, had plundered Mindrum and Hethpool, ‘twoo of you gracis uttermoste plenishide townes’, burning one house and carrying off prisoners and cattle (LP Hen VIII, xvi, 478, 589; Bates 1891, 32; NCH XI (1922), 250).
More raids followed in the course of the century (NCH XI (1922), 250-1). In 1568 it was reported that ‘the Scots ran (a foray) at Hethpool, and slew one man and hurt others and drove away threescore nolte’. Although pursued and engaged the raiders could not be pressed hard enough to give up the stolen cattle (Cal SP, For, 1556-1558, 515). Similar losses were endured on 9th June 1596, when ‘the Carres, Younges and Burnes took away from Hethpoole 40 kyen and oxen, and killed one man shot with a piece’ (CBP, II, 137, 148). The last decades of the 16th century were particularly difficult for the English border townships, with the royal administration increasingly unwilling to risk antagonising their likely future monarch, James VI of Scotland, by mounting any kind of firm response to the Scottish raiding. Ultimately it was only the Union of the Crowns, with the accession of the Scottish king to the English throne as James I, in 1603, which brought an end to the suffering of the border townships.
However Hethpool remained an inhabited (or ‘plenished’) settlement unlike a number of other medieval townships in the northern Cheviots which had decayed completely by the 16th century and ceased to exist as distinct communities. Thus Antechester is still depicted as a plenyshed township on Dacre’s plat of the Border in 1584, but the Border commissioners, Bowes and Ellerker, reported in 1541 that the estimated eight husbandlands there had lain waste and unplenished ‘since before the remembrance of any man now living’ (cf. Bates 1891, 32; see Selected Sources and Surveys no.3).
The same was the case in Elterton, Heddon, Alesdon (Elsdonburn) and Trohope (Trowupburn). In contrast Hethpool had been replenished after Floddon. In these circumstances, the strategic significance of Hethpool’s position as one of the ‘uttermost plenished towns’ is immediately apparent. Not to have replenished it with tenants would have had the effect of abandoning much of the Cheviots to Scottish encroachment.
Many lowland townships, such as Carham, Mindrum and Presson, were of course equally exposed to Scottish raids, but the better quality of their agricultural land made them worth reoccupying, whereas the marginality of the Cheviot townships, particularly those in the most remote locations, made them especially vulnerable to abandonment, as landlord and tenant alike gave up the struggle to maintain them (Dixon 1985, I, chap. 4).