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Stanwix – From Romans to Reivers and Beyond

Starting a website about Stanwix, where I used to live was one of those projects that opened unexpected doors and challenged me in ways that were completely unexpected.  I should have known that Stanwix was a bit of a one off place after we very fortuitously managed to move into an amazing old house at the top of Knowe Road to discover that we were sat right on top of the old Roman vallum.  I often tried to imagine the spooky souls of long dead legionnaires but sadly there was no message from the other side.  The closest we got to any weird historical flashback was the frustration of carrying out DIY on a house with the original Victorian plaster and lath – just about attached to the brick work beneath about 15 layers of wallpaper! Initially this site was supposed to lend a bit of moral support to the ailing Stanwix Community Association and to small degree I think it did.  The SCA has gone from strength to strength and even managed to get a rebuild carried out on the Playgroup hut in conjunction with the council and that’s really where the Romans first managed to intrude across the millenia for the first time.  Rebuilding the community huts inspired lots of plans and bright ideas until we started considering the potential hiccups of Petriana beneath our porch!  If we’d built the kind of permanent structure that we really wanted to put into Stanwix; for the community to use, we would have had to get involved in a full on – potentially Jorvik style- archaeological excavation.  I would have loved it!  However it would almost certainly have been the end of the community use of that land.  Wonder who in Carlisle’s got the oomph to turn Petriana into an attraction. Oh I forgot – that would take some collective imagination! A non starter then!

kinmont willie escaping across the river eden at stanwix bank

Fast forwarding a few hundred years, we can’t have been very far at all from the spot where Kinmont Willie and his clan crossed the bank full River Eden on their wild escape ride, the night before his date with the gallows:

We scarce had won the Staneshawbank,

When a’ the Carlisle bells were rung,

And a thousand men, in horse and foot,

Cam wi’ the keen Lord Scrope along.

 

“Buccleuch has turn’d to Eden water,

Even where it flowed frae bank to brim,

And he has plunged in wi’ a’ his band,

And safely swam then thro’ the stream.

 

He turn’d him on the other side,

And at Lord Scrope his glove flung he;

“If ye like na my visit in merry England,

In fair Scotland come visit me!”

In fairness, without the Eden Bridge and Hardwicke Circus to cope with the near flooding R. Eden was probably child’s play to the rugged Reivers.

After the Reivers faded into history and peace finally broke out in the Debatable Lands, nothing much seems to have happened in the area until the Victorians started building their fashionable village of big houses  on the crest of  Staneshawbank.  I would guess the final traces of Hadrian’s Wall finally disappeared in this frenzy of  “keep up with the Joneses” building.

Today, it’s not a bad place to be.  Walking into town, you have the city with the backdrop of the Caldbeck Fells and the Lake District; while on your return, there are the Border Hills framed by the buildings on either side of Scotland Road.