The Carham 1018 Society - The Battle, the Border and the Dawn of Two Nations

The Carham 1018 Society


Working with the Battlefields Trust
Founded in 1992 – born out of the need to protect the battlefield at Naseby against threat of development.
National non-political charity dedicated to the research, preservation and promotion of battlefields and their related history.
Trust’s role is supportive – we work best by encouraging local communities to take an interest in their local conflict history.
The Trust does not try to dictate what happens but will help and provide advice on the basis of many successful nationwide Community Projects

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Carham 1018 Society Events

A place to keep up-to-date with Public Meetings, Commemorative Events and Future Plans. Our Forum Page will keep you informed of the progress the Society has made in it's research into the Battle of Carham nearly 1,000 years ago, and the role Carham played in defining the Border between Scotland and the North of England.
A 2nd Conference and Discussion takes place on 18th April 2015.
More information on our Events and Forum pages

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Very little is known about the Battle of Carham beyond the few historical sources that exist, the place name and traditions. Archaeology can be a key tool in helping to fill in the gaps left in the historical record. There are however difficulties with using traditional archaeological techniques for assessing battlefields in this case, so any investigations that do take place need to use a variety of desk and field based activities that will accumulate a breadth of information and hopefully lead to a much better understanding of this important battle.

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Question – Why is the border between Scotland and England on the River Tweed?
Answer – Because of the battle of Carham.

“The Battle of Carham ——– in the year 1018 was the decisive factor in settling the easterly part of the Border Line, as the Scottish King, Malcolm II, claimed successfully, as a result of his victory, the whole country north of the Tweed.” (Mack 1926 p. 6)

It has been suggested that the battle actually took place in 1016 (Stenton 1943 p.418) but subsequent research has established that this was based on a misreading of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Duncan 1976 p. 20-28). Simeon of Durham, writing in the late eleventh century, says that the battle took place in 1018 after the appearance of a comet; a comet which Woolf dates to August 1018 (Woolf 2007 p.236).
Alastair Moffat says the battle took place on 26 May 1018 but gives no source for this date (Moffat 2007 p.178).

The victorious Scottish forces were led by Malcolm II, King of Scots, and Owen the Bald, King of Strathclyde. The Scots defeated the men “from Tees to Tweed”, led by Uhtred, Earl of Northumbria (Duncan 1975 p.98).
At that time the King of England was the Dane Canute. Neither Canute nor the rest of the English took part.

Carham is on the south bank of the River Tweed, five miles downstream from Kelso, opposite Birgham on the north bank . This area was well known in medieval times as a point where an army could cross the river by ford . At that time the land was less intensively farmed and the river was probably wider, shallower and slower.
In Anglo-Saxon, “Carham” means “settlement by the rocks” (there are rocky outcrops beside the river) and “Birgham” means “settlement by the bridge, or crossing”.

In response to Viking attacks and invasions (the first was in 793 in Lindisfarne) the separate Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms in what became England (Wessex, Mercia, etc) had begun to unite under Alfred the Great of Wessex (871-899) from his court in Winchester (Stenton 1943 passim). However, in November 1016 the English King Edmund Ironside was succeeded forcibly by the Danish King Cnut who, as a consequence, ruled most of England as well as Denmark.

The Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, the Scots, the Northumbrians, the Welsh and the Irish were for ever raiding each other for slaves, cattle, plunder and to expand their own boundaries at the expense of their neighbours.