History

History of East Berwickshire

Religion, warfare and the sea have all shaped this area’s history. Every community has its story to tell, and many interesting buildings and monuments can still be seen. Information on places to visit and the history behind them can be found in Eyemouth Museum and the Visitor Information Centre.

Many churches have been built over the remains of much earlier buildings. Coldingham Priory was originally founded in 1098, but over the years it has been destroyed by attackers and rebuilt several times. Cockburnspath Parish Church dates from the 1500s, but was not the first building on that site.

The Borders saw countless struggles between England and Scotland before the two countries were united in 1707. Fortified castles were built, destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries. Visit the ruins at Fast Castle, which inspired Sir Walter Scott, and Fort Point on the cliffs above Eyemouth.

Free trade (smuggling), fair trade and fishing enabled this part of Scotland to prosper in the 18th and 19th centuries. The port of Eyemouth provided a safe haven for merchants and fishermen, while the rocky coastline helped smugglers evade customs officers. Duty had to be paid not only on luxury items but on everyday goods such as tea, coal, salt and candles so both rich and poor were involved. Gunsgreen House in Eyemouth is the grandest monument to this illegal trade.