Tunneling Into Time

A friend asked me via my Facebook page Jim Herbert – Berwick Time Lines about the history of Marshall Meadows. 

Say the name today or put it in a search engine and Marshall Meadows Country House Hotel is about the only thing that comes to mind, real or virtual.  A great walk can be had from Berwick along a cliff top path which gives some fantastic views of the coast.  

The building itself was built in the 1780s although not much of its history or owners is known.  One interesting note is that it seems to have become a TB hospital shortly after WWI.  Today though it is one of the premium hotels and venues in the area so please don’t let that put you off!

So why is the area, the most northern in England, called Marshall Meadows anyway?  One might assume it is the land that once belonged to a Mr Marshall, but part of the 1604 Charter granted to the Freemen of Berwick by James VI & I (in a grant of land) refers to:

“…le Mawdlen Feild, le Coneygarthes and le Marshalles Meadow near Lamberton.”

Royal Orders for Berwick dated 1560, demand that under the Governor there be a High Marshall.  The extract seems to infer the possessive – the meadow belonging to the Marshall and hence Marshall’s Meadows.

Between the hotel and the Scottish border is something of  a curiosity. A tunnel in the middle of a small caravan park.  This is a quite remarkable feature hewn from the sandstone cliffs and running down at approximately 40º from a “pit” at the cliff top to emerge above the shore line.

Of course, the moment anyone says “tunnel” in the same breath as “coast” you can expect a chorus of “Aargh Jim Lad!  It be the smugglers!  Ahaar!”.

While this is a lovely idea, I find that tunnels are very rarely the work of smugglers and this is no exception.  It is though, just as strange in a way.  It has long been an agricultural tradition near coastal areas, certainly on the east coast either side of the border, to use seaweed as a fertiliser on the fields and here this had to be gathered from below the cliffs.  A feature at the south end of the caravan park may have been the original path down to the shoreline (see map below).

In the 1830s the North British Railway was built and rather than build an access bridge over the railway, the tunnel was dug as an underpass.  According to Raymond Lamont Brown in The Life and Times of Berwick-upon-Tweed there was a wagon way inside to haul the harvest up.  On one hand this seems a little over the top but on the other, so is digging a tunnel, so why not?  The railway was later realigned due to coastal erosion and a bridge was built over the new line.

However this oddity remains.

IMPORTANT.  This tunnel is potentially very dangerous and this author takes no responsibility for any accidents here or elsewhere.  

While the coastal path is a right of way, the caravan park is on private land and out of courtesy, the owners permission should be obtained before visiting.  Details below.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s