Berwick-upon-Tweed is an archetypal border town on the frontier between England and Scotland. Since 1482 it has been part of England and enjoyed the status of a county corporate until 1885 when for local government purposes it became part of the county of Northumberland. The town lies on the north bank of the River Tweed 4 km. south of the Scottish Border. Berwick has many cultural links with Scotland, and its football and rugby union teams both play in Scottish leagues.Berwick is important both in military history and in the history of transport. During the sustained tension between England and Scotland during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the second half of the sixteenth century it was heavily fortified by the English Crown. The extensive ramparts in the Italian style are some of the most impressive in Europe. Until recent times Berwick was a garrison town and its barracks, built in 1717-21 to the design of Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1736), was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. The barracks currently houses three museums, the regimental collection of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, a display entitled ‘By Beat of Drum’ managed by English Heritage which tells the story of the British infantryman, and the Berwick-upon-Tweed Museum & Art Gallery, which is concerned with the social history of the town, and includes a collection of works of art from all over the world donated by Sir William Burrell (1861-1958).
Four bridges of historical importance cross the River Tweed at and near Berwick. The Old Bridge of 1610-24, is characteristic of its time, and consists of 15 arches built from local sandstone, with a total length of 335m. It still carries vehicular traffic although in one direction only. Robert Stephenson (1803-59) built the Royal Border Bridge to carry the Newcastle & Berwick Railway in 1850. It consists of 28 stone arches with a total length of 658m. and still carries express trains on the main line between Edinburgh and the south. The Royal Tweed Bridge was built by L G Mouchel & Partners to carry traffic on the main road to and from Scotland in 1925-29. The concrete structure has a total length of nearly 430m. and consists of four unequal arches, the longest having a span of 108.5m. The Union Bridge of 1820 between Horncliffe in England and Fishwick in Scotland crosses the Tweed some 8km. upstream from Berwick. It was one of the earliest suspension bridges and was designed by a Royal Navy captain, Samuel Brown (1776-1852), with modifications by John Rennie (1761-1821). It spans 137m. and is incorporated in several long-distance cycling routes.