Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Cuthbert’s Foster Mum (NU010347)

A little off the B6525 to the NE of Doddington lies the hamlet of Wrangham. One may not immediately associate this rural backwater – now largely a collection of farm outbuildings – with anything too drastic, history-wise, but this lonely spot has a strong link with one of our most famous individuals.

St.Cuthbert needs little in the way of introduction to anyone with even the slightest interest in the history of our region, but biographical detail of his early life is scanty. Born in the Scottish Borders, he is believed to have come from a noble family – if for no other reason than he was raised by a foster mother (a common upbringing for such offspring). Amazingly, we know the woman’s name, Kenswith, and that she lived at a place called Hruringaham – reckoned to be the Wrangham in question.

At age eight, it seems, he was placed in her care, and became a shepherd boy in the surrounding hills. He was something of a gymnast, he and his friends impressing one another with feats of agility and stamina in their spare time. Then, aged 17, he began his religious training and moved away.

He briefly saw military service with the early Northumbrian armies before settling down to his well-known career path – initially via the newly-established monastery at Melrose. As his responsibilities and reputation grew we are told that he still found time to visit Kenswith ‘often’ from ‘the monastery’ – though we do not know which monastery! There used to be a Wrangham near Smailholm in the Borders quite near to Melrose, but the Northumberland option seems to be favoured by most historians.

And, besides, there is a ‘Cuddy’s Well’ and a ‘Cuddy’s Cave’ nearby, which seems to clinch it for the North-East, thank you very much!

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