Eyemouth Fort, Berwick, is regarded as the first 'Trace Italienne' fortification in Britain. The local museum has launched an interactive exhibit where visitors are able to watch a guided tour of the fort and 'play' the fort via an Xbox controller!
Visitors view the Fort's history through the 'War of the Rough Wooing' - the attempt by Henry VIII to force a marriage between his son, Edward, and the infant Mary of Scotland.
See more at the University of St Andrews Virtual Histories Project website. Click here to view a virtual representation of how the fort may have looked in 1557.
Henry VIII was not a man to be trifled with and, when the Scots refused his offer of marriage and a political union, he declared war but died in January 1547 before hostilities could begin. His 9-year-old son became King and the boy's uncle, Edward Seymour, newly created Duke of Somerset and Protector, continued the late King's policy.
On 'Black Friday', 10th September 1547, Somerset won an overwhelming victory over the Scots at the Battle of Pinkie. Still, the Scots would not agree to the marriage and Somerset resolved to remain in Scotland until they did so. Having failed to capture either Edinburgh or Dunbar Castles, he hit upon Eyemouth as a suitable place to garrison.
Here was a site just one day's march from Berwick. A narrow, elevated peninsula, jutted into the sea and overlooked the harbour; only the landward side required fortification. Somerset, with his knowledge of Italian fortification, constructed a massive, single bastion at the neck of the peninsula, but it was a flawed design. Notably it could not be flanked, the gun rooms were cramped; the sight lines restricted and a nearby peninsula offered a gun platform to any attacking force.
By January 1548, the fort was complete but to no purpose. The war had taken on a momentum that Somerset could never have imagined. The French landed at Leith to support the Scots and fought him to a standstill. Mary was in France where she was to marry the Dauphin. His policy in tatters, the war was over and it was time to go home. Somerset did not last long, he was beheaded in 1552.
War resumed in 1557 and, this time, it was the French who occupied Eyemouth. They rebuilt the fort and added a new curtain wall flanked with bastions to the front of Somerset's work.
This was a marked improvement as the fort was increased in size; the curtain wall was flanked; heavier weapons could be mounted and the problem of the nearby peninsula was solved simply by enclosing it within the new works.
The English made no attempt to capture the fort and by 1560 the war was over. Both the English and the French returned to their respective countries and, by treaty, Eyemouth Fort was pulled down.
Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle
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