Droving

As well as general traffic, the Border Roads would have been used for the movement of livestock, ranging from long distance droving south from Scotland to the movement of sheep and cattle to nearby markets or between pastures for better grazing.

There is evidence of medieval droving with the cattle fair at Stagshaw Bank, above Corbridge, dating from 1204.

Droving developed further in the 18th century, after political union had removed trade barriers between Scotland and England. Cattle became Scotland’s major export to England and by the end of the century some 100,000 head were being moved south each year. These would have been collected from many farms and brought to markets at places like Falkirk before crossing the Cheviots to English markets such as Newcastle and Stagshaw Bank.

Cattle were moved at a gentle pace, a benefit being that the animals did not lose condition before being sold. It seems likely that a daily leg of 12-15 miles was the most achieved, with overnight stops being governed by the availability of grazing, and ideally the presence of an inn. Progress over the hills may have been even slower, although some routes dip into valleys that provide sheltered places to stop overnight.

The Industrial Revolution and the increasingly urban nature of English society further developed the demand for meat; drovers brought ever more cattle south and added larger numbers of sheep. However, from the middle of the 19th century the expanding railway network could move cattle more quickly and deliver them in better condition; large-scale droving disappeared fairly quickly.

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