English Historical Fiction Authors
If I asked you to name a historic settlement in Scotland, chances are you would immediately react with ‘Edinburgh’ or ‘Stirling,’ because they are the places that immediately pop into your head. But there’s a lot more to Scottish history than the well-trodden and the celebrated. My post today is devoted to a more humble aspect of Scottish medieval life: the burgh. Some have been around for almost one thousand years, and most survive in a few forms or other still. They’ve modernized and grew and they’ve been transformed through the centuries, but underneath a late 18th/19th century veneer, their medieval or post-medieval past could still be identified – if you know what you’re looking for.
The middle ages burgh in Scotland represents a seriously underused and under-represented resource in historical fiction, which is a real shame, because in archaeological terms, it’s one of the most widely-studied areas of medieval life we’ve got. It’s certainly one of the most satisfying to explore upon the bottom. Today is to help introduce you to these treasures and to do this My aim, I’m going to take a multi-disciplinary approach. Where in fact the burghs probably departed from their predecessors was in the known fact that they shared a very formalized layout.
Each consisted of a collection of ordered plots set out to a standard design. Whether the burgh in question is Aberdeen or Lanark or any number of cities among, the form is similar. As the burghs grew and prospered, new streets might be organized running to the primary or High Street – Saint Andrews parallel, using its three parallel roads, is a good example of how this growth manifested itself. However, regardless of the varying layouts, the utilization of linear plots continued to be consistent until well into the modern period.
At the heart of each burgh was its market. Here the main street was broader, to support an area where business could be conducted on market days and fair days. The marketplace place was where the three key elements of the burgh life were located: the mercat cross, the ‘tron’ (the burgh weighing machine) and the tolbooth.
In the early days, burghs might conduct their business within open up spaces such as churchyards, but most aspiring burghs opted to construct a tollbooth at some point. The tolbooth was the burgh’s beating heart, the building where its day-to-day running was completed by its officers. Legal disputes were dealt with in its chambers; there is an on-site jail for the abuse of offenders and transgressors. The burgh’s laws were strict but fair. First to advantage following the intro of the burghs were immigrants from the Low Countries, who were encouraged to stay there. This first influx of burghs comprised the Royal burghs, where duties and taxes were collected with respect to the ruler.
The intro of the ‘burghs of barony’ implemented, with these foundations are becoming increasingly popular from the late 15th hundred years onwards: here, the beneficiary was a local landowner like the church or a member of the nobility. But it wasn’t just the foundation of the burgh of barony which brought advantages to the landed classes: they’d already been profiting following the growth of the Royal burghs. The power and impact could be earned through service to the King as a burgh servant, with offices such as families and Sheriffs being sought-after positions that have been often hereditary highly, the possession of which sparked long-running and violent disputes sometimes.
1: Today, it is often still possible to determine whether a burgh originated as a burgh of barony or a Royal burgh from the design of its mercat cross. After the reformation, middle ages merchant crosses, with their spiritual imagery, were superseded by a secularized version featuring a stone shaft with a heraldic beast sitting at the top. Royal burghs are graced with a unicorn (like the meat combination at Stirling with its unicorn), while burghs of barony have a lion. From the outset, the burgh’s key function was as a center for trade and business.
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The burgh got a monopoly on produce derived from its rural hinterland, with suppliers only permitted to ply their wares within the limits of the burgh on recognized market and reasonable days. Foreign trade was even more fiercely secured, allowing only within the Royal burghs. 2: Luxury goods for the Scottish market were often delivered in vessels which carried a ballast of roofing tiles.
Much can be learned about Scotland’s burghs by studying the towns themselves and interpreting their road plans and the standing-up structures which still survive there. Right from the outset, life in the burgh became a nice-looking option for Scots. For the peasant linked with the land and the incessant needs of landowners and agricultural cycle, the freedom to go after an art or a trade within the burgh must have seemed enticing. Throughout the centuries, the burghs modified and changed as the requirements of their inhabitants shifted. Early changes were largely material: thatched roofs were replaced by slates or parties; wattle and timber buildings were replaced in rock in the past due middle ages and post-medieval periods.