Selkirk, Scotland, Welcome to the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk Selkirk, Scotland, Welcome to the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk
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The History of the Royal Burgh of Selkirk

Pre-History and the Romans


The earliest pre-historic settlement in Ettrick Forest was established by bands of early man wandering in search of food in the River Tweed basin. They were basically fisherfolk who lived on the sea shores and who used the rivers as highways into the country.

As their need were simple and their structures flimsy, there is little trace of their existence in the Borders other than flint tools and waste materials at the sites of their former habitations.

The best known site of a pre-historic settlement near to Selkirk is at Rink Farm, in the Tweed Valley.

The excellent site provided a source of hard flint-like rock which could be split to provide sharp edged tools. The location of the settlement, at the confluence of the Rivers Ettrick and Tweed was well above the flood levels and sheltered by the Rink Hill.

This hunting and gathering way of life continued in the Tweed river basin for a long time with the family bands wandering over considerable distances. At the Rink site, tools have been found from the Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Cumberland and the West Coast of Scotland.

By about 3000 BC Tweed valley man started to take more control of his environment. He started to breed animals as well as hunt wild ones; he began to grow crops rather than finding them.

In fields around Selkirk and in the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys flint tools have provided evidence of men living and hunting in these early times.

The Bronze Age

The Bronze Age in Selkirkshire was from around 1700 BC to 300 BC. Very few relics have been found but this period has provided the first evidence of structures in the county. These are all burials comprising four short cists and eleven round cairns. There would be others but they have been destroyed during agricultural improvements.

The Iron Age

In the period from 300 to 100 BC Selkirkshire was technically the Iron Age but is felt that the way of life did not change much from the Neolithic/Bronze Age traditions.

About 100 BC there was a change in the patterns of life. Inhabitants from the south of Great Britain were forced north into Scotland by European invaders and also by the expansion of the Roman Empire.

The inhabitants of the Scottish Borders were considered barbarians by the Romans but were, in fact, a well ordered society. They possessed a high standard of artistic achievement, especially in metalworking and were fearless, though undisciplined warriors. The main way of life was that of hunting and herding with some cultivation.

The Romans

In 80 AD the Roman army advanced through the Scottish Lowlands with little resistance from the Lowland tribes. They reached the Forth/Clyde rivers and had consolidated their position in the Borders by 85 AD.

The only Roman presence in Selkirkshire was a small camp at Oakwood, which held 500 men to watch over the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys.

At nearby Newstead, Melrose, the Romans held a sizeable reservoir of men on easy call.

The Romans withdrew to Hadrians Wall twice over the next 100 years and finally left the area in183 AD.

Next: Selkirk Abbey - The Coming of the Monks

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