Vaccaries and Bercaries
Pastoralist exploitation of the upland demesne was effected by two distinct means. The first was through the establishment of directly managed stock farms, a practice especially associated with great ecclesiastical landowners such as the Cistercian abbeys of Fountains, Rievaulx and, more locally, Newminster.
The Umfravilles themselves definitely ran a herd of mares in the forest on the west side of Cottonshope during the later 12th and 13th centuries. The tithe foals from this herd were granted to the Abbot and Convent of Kelso, probably in the later 12th century, and confirmed by Gilbert de Umfraville in 1227/28 (Liber de Calchou; cf. Hodgson 1827, 15-18), when the Abbey successfully defended its claim to the foals in a dispute with the rector of Elsdon.
There may have been a permanent settlement of some kind associated with the maintenance of the herd, akin to the vaccaries, or demesne cattle farms, common further south in the baronial "forests" of the West Riding's Calder Valley and the Lancashire Pennines (Faull & Woodhouse 1981, 758-761; McDonnell 1988, 8-9; cf. Charlton & Day 1979, 209). Such an installation would clearly be of especial interest if its precise location could be identified and a start might be made by examining the neighbourhood of the present Cottonshope farm.
The existence of 24 'vaccaries or cow pastures' in the manor of Otterburn was noted in the inquisition of Gilbert de Umfraville in 1308 whilst 10 were totalled there in 1330 on the death of his wife, Elizabeth, who had been granted a third of her husband's estate to support her for the remainder of her life as was the normal practice (IPM V, 14, no.47; VII, 156, no.208; cf. Hodgson 1827, 109). No estimation of the number of sheep farms, or berceries, is provided by the inquisitions, but the figure of 1140 sheep suggests these too were probably being herded on the high pastures.
Unfortunately in the absence of any further detail none of these stock farms can be located more precisely within the manor, but it is likely that at least some, and perhaps the majority, lay in the hopes of upper Redesdale. It is noteworthy that the Cottonshope ranch, itself can only be identified because its stock figured in a grant to an ecclesiastical institution, which thereby ensured the preservation of the associated documentation in the Chartulary of the Abbey of Kelso and also gave rise to a legal dispute over the rights to the tithe foals.
Comparable seigniorial and monastic vaccaries in the Western Lake District, at Ennerdale, at Wasdale Head above Wastwater, Gatesgarth in Buttermere, Stonethwaite in Borrowdale and Brotherilkeld in Eskdale were all sited at the head of their respective valleys, where the complementary resources of valley-floor hay meadow and fellside pasture met (cf. Winchester 1987, 42-3).
Equivalent locations in upper Redsdale, at Spithope Head, Cottonshope Head and Featherwood at the head of the Sills Burn, for example, might be promising candidates, but potential sites midway along the hopes (Cottonshope Farm) or even lower down, near their respective confluences with the Rede, also merit consideration. For instance, the ready-made, neatly-bounded enclosure provided by High Rochester Roman fort, is one possible example in the last category. Identifying the location of these vaccaries, a class of site about which relatively little is known, is clearly a major priority for future archaeological investigation in Redesdale.
Nor do we have a detailed understanding of how these vaccaries operated. It is likely that the full range of pasture available in the hopes was exploited, from hay meadows on the valley floor to rough hillside and moorland grazing. In addition, it is possible that at least some of the stock was moved over greater distances and spent only the summer months, from the beginning of April to the 1st August, in upper Redesdale, transhuming seasonally to and from meadowlands lower down the valley, around the manorial centre at Otterburn, and perhaps even beyond.
The Cistercian monks of Newminster Abbey, just west of Morpeth in the lower Wansbeck valley, had rights of passage all the way from the abbey, via their grange at Caistron west of Rothbury, to the vast tracts of upland pasture in Kidland, around the northern headwaters of the Coquet, which they had been granted by the Umfravilles.
With appropriate way-leaves the Umfravilles could have operated a similarly extensive system, moving stock seasonally from the lowland manors of the Barony of Prudhoe - such as Prudhoe itself, Horsley and Welton in Tynedale, Throckrington, Kirkheaton and Whelpington, further north around the headwaters of the Wansbeck, plus Birtley and Chollerton in north Tynedale - to high pastures of the adjacent Redesdale liberty.