A traditional toran
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The toran is a frieze hanging named after a sacred gateway in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist architecture. In the Gujarati communities of western India, a toran is hung above the doorway to the main room of the house as a sign of welcoming. This particular toran appears to be in the Kathipa style, recognizable by its two crenellated borders, geometric design, and repeating arrangement of diamonds, triangles, and mirrorwork.1 It is silk embroidered on a blue cotton foundation, with mirrors inset around the borders and at the interstices of the design. On the back of the toran is the label “Janeshi Lall and Son,” an art dealership founded in 1845 that is still active today. The nonfigurative design is embroidered in purple and red, with detail triangles in yellow-gold, white, and green. These colors show brightly against the whitewashed walls on which the toran would be hung, as seen below.

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Toran decorating the inner doorway to an Ahir herding caste home, Ratnal village, Kutch. Photo:  John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard, Traditional Indian Textiles (London: Thames and Hudson, 1991), 67.

Women of the Kathi landlord caste were the first to practice embroidery in the Kathipa style, until they switched to beadwork over a century ago. This toran makes use of both, with three of its pennants crafted entirely of beadwork. Traditionally, torans are a work of domestic embroidery. They might be a part of a woman’s dowry, wrapped in an square hanging called a chakla and brought to her in-laws’ home after her wedding. The textile isn’t bought, but made by the hand of the person who will live with it. The use of textiles in important events like weddings reflect the importance of embroidery in the lives of the Kathi people. The toran’s geometric motifs help to tell a history, both now and in its original context(s). Its eight hanging pennants are stylized mango leaves, symbols of love and fertility blessing the happy couple. The essential toran can be made by simply stringing mango leaves. The use of red might evoke reverence for the sun.2

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Another example of a toran in the Kathipa style, Kanbi farming caste, Bhavnagar District, Saurashtra. Photo: John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard, Traditional  Indian Textiles (London: Thames and Hudson, 1991), 68.

The embroidery practices of the communities in the Saurashtra region have changed over time. While this toran from the 19th century is hand-embroidered, this practice is becoming less common as women in agricultural and pastoral societies have begun to work outside their home. With less time and higher income, women opt to have embroideries professional stitched, with the aid of a machine.3 Traditional motifs have changed over time, as well; where one might have seen a haathi (elephant) motif, one can find a saikal (bicycle).4 Embroidered textiles continue to narrate the histories of pastoral communities, now reflecting the move to a market economy, cross-cultural influence, and technological innovation.

Shahzeen Nasim is a summer 2016 Peter Krueger intern in Cooper Hewitt’s Textiles Department. She has a BA in English Literature from Haverford College, Haverford, PA.

[1] John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard, Traditional Indian Textiles (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991), 61.

[2] Victoria Z. Rivers, “Decoding the Divine: Kathi Embroideries of Saurasthra” (2000), Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings, Paper 783,

[3] Judy Frater, “‘This is Ours’: Rabari Tradition and Identity in a Changing World,” Nomadic Peoples 6, no. 2 (2002): 161,

[4] Ibid, 159.

from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


Berwick Castle was probably originally built by David I in about 1120 upon a (then) isolated hill to the north of the town. Unlike most castles, Berwick was never a family seat; it was always a place of administration.

Artist’s impression of Berwick Castle in the 14th century looking from the east, showing the entrance from the Douglas Tower to the Donjon. 

As well as initiating the town walls, Edward I made various modifications to the castle. The White Wall leading to the river was certainly one of his works and it is likely much more was done.

In 1344, we learn the walls were “50 feet height, 12 feet at the foundation and 8 feet at the kernels [crenelations] in breadth”. Throughout the 14th century, strengthening of the walls continued and bratticing was added to the outside of the walls to better defend the base of the walls.

Despite attempts to maintain the castle, changing technology meant that by the 16th century, the castle was obsolete Despite this it was still being used until the 17th century.

Constable Tower


When Edward I attacked in 1296, Berwick was protected only by a ditch and an earth rampart topped by a wooden palisade. It is popularly believed that this ditch is Spades Mire but the evidence for this is not conclusive and this may be a later structure.

Edward stayed in Berwick for a month. Within a week, he ordered a stone wall to be built encircling the town with a ditch 24m (80 feet) wide and 13m (40 feet) deep on the north and east sides of the town. The King himself was said to have wheeled the first barrow-load of earth. This would have had an embankment surmounted by a quickly erected wooden palisade which, in time, would be replaced by a stone wall encircling the town.

Work progressed slowly and by the time Robert the Bruce captured the town in 1318 the walls were not yet built between the quayside and the castle and in most places were barely 3m (10 feet) high. This was remedied by Bruce and between 1318 and 1350 the town walls were raised to a height of 10m (30 feet).

Black Watch House Tower, the only surviving semi-circular medieval tower.

Seventeen semi-circular towers, five main gateways (and other, lesser gateways) were eventually built around the 4km (2½ mile) circuit. Parts of the 14th century wall and ditch can still be seen near the Holiday Centre and Magdalen Fields Golf Course. 

Berwick Castle
a Donjonb Constable Tower, c Postern Tower, d Chapel Tower,
e Buttress Tower, f White Wall, g Angle Tower, h Bakehouse Tower, 
i Bonkhill Tower, j Gunners Tower

Medieval Walls

1 Douglas Tower, 2 St Mary Gate, 3 Broadstairhead Tower, 
4 Tower (later Bell Tower), 5 Wallace Gate, 6 Bell Tower (later Lord’s Mount), 7 Murderer Tower, 8 Middle Tower, 9 Red Tower, 10 Cow Gate, 11 Tower, 
12 Tower, 13 Tower, 14 Conduit Tower, 15 Windmill Tower, 
16 St Nicholas Tower, 17 Black Watch House Tower, 18 Watch House Tower, 19 Plommer’s Tower, 20 Coxon’s Tower, 21 New Tower, 
22 Water Gate, (later Shore Gate), 23 Briggate

Map of Berwick showing the castle and medieval walls.


It is said Berwick is “the most fought over town in Christendom save Jerusalem”.  Sometimes the castle fell but not the town; sometimes the town but not the castle.  In all there were 17 exchanges but it is generally accepted that both the castle and town of Berwick changed hands between Scots and English thirteen times.

  • 1174 English Treaty of Falaise.  Berwick, along with Stirling, Edinburgh, Roxburgh and Jedburgh castles, is part of a ransom to free the Scottish king, William I who was captured at the Battle of Alnwick in 1172.
  • 1189 Scottish Richard I sells Berwick for ten thousand marks (£6,666) to fund the crusades.
  • 1296 English Edward I besieges the town by land and sea.  After a failed assault by sea, Edward attacks the town from the north, slaughtering the inhabitants.  It is said the streets ran red with blood.
  • 1297 Scottish Town falls to William Wallace after the Scottish victory at Stirling Bridge.  Castle retained by English.
  • 1298 English Scots abandon the town upon hearing of English army advancing north.
  • 1318 Scottish At the third attempt, Bruce takes Berwick through the treachery of Peter de Spalding who allowed the Scots over the walls at the Cow Gate for £800.  The Castle held out for 11 weeks before falling through lack of supplies.  Peter de Spalding was killed by the Scots whom he had aided.
  • 1333 English Siege of Berwick and Battle of Halidon Hill by Edward III.  The “Great Siege” of Berwick began on 4th April.  It is said Berwick was the first town in the country to be besieged by cannon.  The English army: 
    “…made meny assautes with gonnes and with othere engynes to the toune, wherwith thai destroiede meny a fair hous…”
    Eventually, the Governor agreed to surrender the town if it was not relieved by 20th July.  A relief force arrived on the eve of the deadline and attempted to break through the encircling English army.  A battle was fought on Halidon Hill, just to the north of the town.  The Scots were heavily defeated and Berwick surrendered on the following day, as agreed.
  • 1355 Scottish Thomas Stewart, Earl of Angus takes the town by scaling the walls at night.  As in 1297, the Scots failed to take the castle.
  • 1356 English Edward III returned from France and marched northwards to the Border.  Facing overwhelming odds, the Scots abandoned Berwick.
  • 1378 French? Berwick castle taken by about 48 Scots who tunnelled their way in.  The Constable, Sir Robert Boynton, was killed when he attempted to escape by leaping from a window.  The Scots declare allegiance only to the King of France!
  • 1378 English After a short siege, the Earl of Northumberland aided by the Scottish Earl of Dunbar retake the castle. The first Englishman through the breach was Harry Hotspur, the 12 year old son of the Earl of Northumberland.
  • 1384 Scottish Scots bribe the Warden of the castle (the Deputy-Governor of Northumberland) to give up Berwick to them.
  • 1384 English After a short, unsuccessful siege, the Earl of Northumberland buys back Berwick for 2000 marks.
  • 1405 Scottish The Earl of Northumberland hands Berwick to the Scots in exchange for his assistance during the rebellion against Henry IV.
  • 1405 English Henry IV retakes the castle by siege.
  • Scottish Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI’s wife negotiates with James II’s widow, Mary of Gueldres, over the gift of Berawick for Scottish assistance against the Yorkists
  • 1482 English Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) besieges and takes town for the final time.