BERWICKSHIRE, a maritime county, in the south-east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the German Ocean and the county of Haddington; on the east and north-east, by the German Ocean; on the south, by the river Tweed, which separates it from the English counties of Durham and Northumberland; and on the west and south-west, by the counties of Edinburgh and Roxburgh. It lies between 55° 36' 30" and 55° 58' 30" (N. Lat.), and 1° 41' and 2° 34' (W. Long.), and is about thirty-five miles in length, and twenty-two miles in extreme breadth; comprising about 4465 square miles, or 285,760 acres, and 7408 inhabited houses, and 381 uninhabited; and containing a population of 34,438, of whom 16,558 are males, and 17,880 females. The county derives its name from the ancient town of Berwick, formerly the county town, and was originally inhabited by the Ottadini. After the Roman invasion it formed part of the province of Valentia; and though not the site of any station of importance, it is intersected by several Roman roads. Subsequently to the departure of the Romans from Britain, this part of the country was continually exposed to the predatory incursions of the Saxons, by whom, about the middle of the sixth century, it was subdued, and annexed to the kingdom of Northumbria, of which it continued to form part till the year 1020, when it was ceded to Malcolm II., King of Scotland, by Cospatrick, Earl of Northumberland, whom that monarch made Earl of Dunbar.
From its situation on the borders, the county was the scene of frequent hostilities, and an object of continual dispute between the Scots and the English. In 1176, it was surrendered by William the Lion to Henry II. of England, by whom he had been made prisoner in battle, as security for the performance of the treaty of Falaise, on failure of which it was for ever to remain a part of the kingdom of England. On payment of a ransom, it was restored to the Scots by Richard I. In 1216 it suffered greatly from the army of John, who, to punish the barons of Northumberland for having done homage to Alexander, King of Scotland, burnt the towns of Roxburgh, Mitford, and Morpeth, and laid waste nearly the whole county of Northumberland. During the disputed succession to the Scottish throne, after the death of Alexander III., this district suffered materially from the contending parties; and in 1291 the town of Berwick was surrendered to Edward I. of England, who, as lord paramount of Scotland, received the oaths of fealty and allegiance from many of the Scottish nobility. The inhabitants soon after revoking their allegiance to the English crown, Edward advanced with his army to Berwick, which he took by assault, and held a parliament in the castle, in 1296, when he received the oath of allegiance; and in the year following he made Berwick the metropolis of the English government in Scotland. The town was restored to the Scots in 1318, but, after the death of James III., was finally ceded by treaty to the English, in 1482. In 1551, the town, with a district adjoining, called the liberties of Berwick, was made independent of both kingdoms, and invested with peculiar privileges. After Berwick ceased to be the county town, the general business of the county was transacted at Dunse or Lauder, till the year 1596, when Greenlaw was selected by James VI. as the most appropriate for the purpose; and that arrangement was ratified by act of parliament in 1600.
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