Little was known about Eyemouth Fort not so long ago, now a wealth of information about its building and the people involved has been unearthed.
Its position on a headland that is under attack from the sea spurred The Friends of Eyemouth Fort and St Andrew’s University staff into action last year to investigate and interpret the site.
Detailed survey work has now been done of the site, with aerial photographs taken by a remote controlled hexactoper hovering above it, and an impressive amount of history about the fort will be revealed at a public meeting in Eyemouth on Friday, February 28) in the Hippodrome at 7pm.
The hexacopter pictures have enabled experts to draw up a three dimensional image of the fort and over the weekend Eyemouth school pupils will be involved in the creation of a 3D virtual reality room of what the fort was like in the 16th century based on the aerial shots taken by the hexacopter. It is hoped the model will be up and running within the next couple of months in Eyemouth Museum.
Two experts will be at Friday’s meeting: David Caldwell from Scottish Natural Heritage, who carried out the last dig at the fort; and Bess Rhodes from St Andrew’s University’s school of history.
David will be there talking about the previous excavations and giving the audience some detailed knowledge about life in the fort, with Bess adding to the scene setting by talking about the building materials and the logistics required when the French fort was being built.
Bess has uncovered detailed information about the materials used to build the French Fort at Eyemouth in 1558 and where they came from, and also about the people involved in the construction, putting it into the political context of that time.
Construction work seems to have started in the spring of 1558, letters having been sent out in the March “ordering (under pain of death) all bakers, brewers and tapsters within the towns of Edinburgh, Leith, Musselburgh, Newbattle, Dalkeith, Preston, Prestonpans, Haddington, Aberlady, Dirleton, North Berwick, Dunbar, and Tranent, to bake bread and brew ale for the towns of Duns, Langtoun, and Eyemouth for “furnesing of men of weir”.
Prior to that, in February 1558 “sixteen score (i.e. 320) oxen were taken to the Castle of Hume in order to transport cannons, battards (small cannons), and moyens (medium sized culverins) from Hume to Eyemouth”.
Detailed invoices of how much iron, wood, steel, slate, how many nails, it took to build the fort have all been found and itemised and a clear picture of the project built up.
The fort was built at a time when Scotland and France were allies against England.
The French Ambassador to Scotland was thought to have been amassing soldiers in Eyemouth ready for an assault on Berwick but it was cancelled when he discovered that the English had sent an additional 2000 men to Berwick.
In November 1557 the Earl of Northumberland reported a garrison of Frenchmen at Eyemouth and a garrison of Scots at Kelso having recently laid waste to the border.
However, the number of French soldiers based at Eyemouth seems to have been constantly over-estimated and Lord Wharton, based in Berwick, began to doubt the reported numbers when three raids he made near Eyemouth and Ayton came within shooting distance of the fort yet the English raiders were never attacked.