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Tracing the Busy Gap Rogues


Busy Gap is one of the earliest attested place names located along the line of the central sector of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, yet in Newcastle during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was a term of abuse, applied collectively to those who came from upland Tynedale and was synonymous with the Border Reivers. Archaeological and historical sources indicate that throughout the Middle Ages the place was located in a zone of seasonal settlement, characterized by groups of shielings probably associated with townships located in the valley of the South Tyne. The question is how to understand the role of Busy Gap, a place identified with a triangular earthwork on the north side of the Roman Wall. This paper will consider the results of recent archaeological investigations carried out by the author on the site and will investigate the place and its setting within the archaeological and historical context of early-modern Northumberland.

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The project was supported and financed by English Heritage, the National Trust, and Northumberland National Park Authority and I would like to thank their staff, especially Paul Frodsham and Neil Rimmington for the interest and assistance they gave us. The work was carried out by students from the Department of Archaeology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, under the direction of the writer and Dr Carolyn Ware. The survey was undertaken by Keith Blood and an important source for the archaeology of Busy Gap is a series of air photographs taken by Tim Gates. We are grateful to Andrew Poad and Harry Beamish of the National Trust for their practical support throughout the project and to John Patterson, the tenant farmer at Hotbank whose sheep and cattle restrained their natural inquisitiveness until the very final days of the project. Finally publication was encouraged by the Concealed Communities conference at Newcastle and I’d especially wish to thank Sam Turner and other speakers for inspiration and community on that day; all errors remain the author’s.

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Correspondence to Jim Crow.

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Crow, J. Tracing the Busy Gap Rogues. Int J Histor Archaeol 11, 322–335 (2007).

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  • Anglo-Scottish
  • Border
  • Reiver
  • Transhumance