As the Lectures published
in this volume were written in the first instance for the entertainment
of a parish auditory, I thought proper in Lecture I. to go a little
beyond my proper subject, and say something about the church of
Mauchline before the Reformation. Not doubting the correctness of what
is a common statement, that there was in Catholic times a Priory at
Mauchline, I endeavoured to describe what on that supposition would be
the form of the buildings around the church, and the life within its
walls. It was not till the whole lecture was printed that I was favoured
by an eminent authority on Monastic Institutions with a note, in which
the writer expresses his belief that there never was at Mauchline any
Monastic establishment, in the popular sense of the terms, as a "place
where monks lived." Considering the source from which it comes this
opinion is, to say the least of it, entitled to very great deference. I
shall accordingly insert it here, but before doing so I shall indicate
the grounds on which the views expressed in the lecture may be said to
In Chalmers' Caledonia, a
book of high authority, it is stated that "The monks of Melros planted
at Mauchline a colony of their own order, and this establishment
continued a cell of the Monastery till the Reformation."
"account of all the religious houses that were in Scotland at the time
of the Reformation"—which is reckoned the chief authority on the subject
of which it treats—it is stated under the head of Cistercians, that the
Cistercians had thirteen monasteries in Scotland. These thirteen
monasteries are then separately named and described, and the one
numbered thirteenth is Mauchline.
For an account of
Ayrshire ruins and Ayrshire antiquities one naturally turns to the
History of Ayrshire, and in Paterson's History of Ayrshire the following
sentences will be found in the chapter on Mauchline, "The parish church,
or Priory of Mauchline, was no doubt erected by the monks of Melrose, as
supposed by Chalmers, after 1165 ; and the village or Kirktoun of
Mauchline gradually sprung up in the vicinity. The church, forming part
of the original priory, it is supposed, and with which the tower at
Mauchline is believed to have been connected, was situated in the middle
of the town, having the churchyard around it."
Just as one goes to
Paterson's History for an account of Ayrshire antiquities, so for an
account of the early churches in Scotland one goes to the pages of Dr.
Walcot, and we there find Mauchline placed in the list of "Priories"
attached to the Abbey of Melrose. What Dr. Walcot says of Mauchline is,
"a cell of Melrose ... no trace of it left." It is proper to say,
however, that Dr. Walcot refers to Chalmers and Paterson as his
authorities for these statements.
Before going to press I
put myself in communication with a Reverend Doctor who has written and
published a great deal on the subject of monasteries, and I asked his
opinion on one or two points about the monastic buildings at Mauchline.
He kindly forwarded to me the notes he had gathered about Mauchline, and
authorised me to use them as I thought proper. The following sentences
are his :—
"The Tower of Mauchline,
or Mauchline Castle, may be said to be the only remains of this ancient
priory, which is still in good preservation. The old parish kirk taken
down many years ago formed part of the original priory, and was
connected with the tower.
"Dugdale puts Mauchline
in the list of monasteries which were founded by David I., and
Spottiswoode says the same. But in the Chartulary of Melrose referred to
(that is, the one 'which was not long since in the hands of the Earl of
Haddington '), which is very imperfect, there is no such statement,
neither does it appear that the Stuarts founded Mauchline and gave it to
"It is therefore probable
that the convent for Cistercian monks there, was established by the
monks of Melrose themselves."
It will thus be seen that
it was not without a good shew of authority that I said there was an old
monastery at Mauchline under the government of a prior. And for any
positive proof that I have to the contrary the statement may yet be
found to be correct. But the eminent authority I have referred to writes
"I think I cannot be in
error in saying that the castle at Mauchline never was a monastic
establishment, in the sense of a place where monks lived. The estate
belonged to the Abbey of Melrose, but the castle was merely the factor's
house and estate office. No doubt the factor was a layman, or at least a
clerk not in holy orders. If the Abbey enjoyed a secular jurisdiction, I
suppose the hall (the large room on the first floor with the groined
ceiling) would have been the place for the legal proceedings, as well as
for other estate business, and was no doubt, like the halls in other
castles, business-room, sitting-room, dining-room, and partly servants'
sleeping place. I don't suppose a monk ever came near the place, unless
it were the Procurator (the member of the community charged with its
worldly affairs) in discharge of his official duties, or the Abbot
making a visitation of the property, or on some other exceptional
In a postscript it is
added that the castle "is a particularly precious monument of Scotch
mediaeval domestic building."
What then are we to say
about the establishment which the monks of Melrose had at Mauchline? Was
it a religious house or not—and if it was—was it a cell, a monastery, a
priory, or what?
The Chartulary of Melrose
will naturally occur to people as a source from which light might be got
on the subject. There may be a great deal left unsaid about Mauchline in
the Chartulary of Melrose. But whatever is said may be relied on. I have
not had it in my power to examine the Chartulary (printed copy) as
carefully and fully as would justify me in speaking confidently of all
the references to Mauchline it contains, but I have looked at it and
noted a few particulars.
The index of the
Chartulary is made out in such a way as to necessitate the recurrence of
the word Mauchline over and over. The term "monasterium," however, is
never in the index associated with Mauchline. We find in the index the
expressions "Monasterium de Fale," Monastery of Fail; "Abbacia de
Dryburgh," Abbey of Dryburgh; "Decanatus de Are," the Deanery of Ayr.
But in the index the only terms associated with the word Mauchline are "terrae,"
lands, and "ecclesia," Church.
In the Chartulary, the
place and date are given at which different documents were signed. One
deed, for instance, is dated "Apud Monasterium de Passelay," at the
Monastery of Paisley. There is another dated at Mauchline, but the words
in the deed are not "Apud Monasterium de Mauchline." They are simply "Apud
Mauchlyn," at Mauchline, the nth July, 1342.
Many persons as well as
places are named in the Chartulary. There is one Bernard Bell,
designated " Monachus Monasterii de Melros ae pensionarius de Mauchlyne,"
Monk of the Monastery of Melrose and Pensioner of Mauchline. What the
word pensioner in this instance may have meant—whether the holding of a
religious office at Mauchline or simply the enjoyment of the rents from
the lands of Mauchline —I will not presume to say. But besides "Magister
Bernardus Bell, pensionarius de Mauchlyne," there is one Richard Biger
mentioned in the Chartulary as having been "Monachus de Mauhelin" in the
reign of Alexander the Second. The clause in which his name occurs is
"Per manum Ricardi de Biger tunc Monachi de Mauhelin." To those
uninitiated in the mysteries of monastic nomenclature, this expression,
Monk of Mauchline, must seem to imply that there was at least one monk,
if not more than one, who lived at Mauchline in the time of Alexander
the Second. And, if monks, there would be monastic life at Mauchline,
such as is described in Lecture I. Now, however, that doubt has been
cast on the common statements about the monastic establishment at
Mauchline, further exploration of the subject is necessary, and it is
not unlikely that in some of the ancient papers and documents that in
recent years have been published, valuable scraps of information will be
In a note on page 27
there is a remark made, not seriously, but in the spirit of the last
clause of Prov. xxvi. 19, about a St. Maughold or Macallius. It may be
stated here that the name of the Mauchline Parish saint occurs in the
Melrose Chartulary. The name was St. Michael, as appears from the
following clause in a deed drawn up in the reign of William the Lion—"Territorium
de Mauchelin et eccle-siam Sancti Michaelis in eo sitam," the district
of Mauchline and the Church of St. Michael therein situated. One of the
wells in Mauchline, that near the U.P. Church, bears the name of St.
Michael's, and is so designated in a precept of Clare Constat from Hugh,
Earl of Loudoun, in 1712. This document is in the hands of the Trustees
of the U.P. Church.