THE following pages have been
published chiefly for those who take an interest in the locality of the
ancient and now flourishing town of Arbroath, and also with the view of
removing the obscurity which has hitherto involved the history of its once
magnificent monastery. Among other sources of information the Chartulary of
the Abbey is entitled to stand first in rank. The most interesting portions
of these monastic writings have been digested and arranged in this volume.
An endeavour has thus been made to bring out the points in which they, along
with other authentic documents, tend to illustrate the history of the
In alluding to the history of
past times, our ancestors have been allowed as far as possible to appear in
their own dress, and speak in their own words. This will account for the
number of quotations in the antique style, which may probably render the
perusal of some portions of the book a little difficult to readers otherwise
well educated. But if months or years are spent in the endeavour to acquire
a knowledge of dead languages two or three thousand years old, some trouble
ought to be taken with the view of being able to read with facility our own
living mother tongue, in the garb which it wore two or three centuries ago,
so that it may not be unintelligible unless expressed according to our
present conventional orthography. Many details, which to general readers not
acquainted with the locality may appear sufficiently minute, are inserted in
the text, instead of being placed in foot-notes, as it was considered
desirable to avoid that distraction of attention which numerous notes
invariably occasion. For the same reason references to the pages of the
Arbroath Chartulary have not been made, as these, if introduced, would have
become innumerable and cumbersome. They would, at the same time, have been
of no use to those who do not possess that collection of writings ; and
those, on the other hand, who may wish to verify any statement founded on
it, will be at once able to do so, by the names and dates referred to, with
the help of the tables of contents and indices of the published Chartulary.
It was omitted to be stated
in the tenth chapter that the lands of Aldbar have been ranked among the
possessions of the Abbey on the authority of an entry in the "Charge of the
Temporalitie," 1592, which is not altogether conclusive in the absence of
corroborative evidence; and that although Cotside and others near Barry have
been generally ranked among the Abbey lands, the authority for placing these
lands in the catalogue is not very satisfactory, as they do not appear in
the proper monastic writings under their modern names.
While these sheets were in
course of preparation the Author made every effort to procure definite
information on the subject of the alleged pillage and conflagration of the
Abbey Church about the time of the Reformation. He has not, however,
succeeded in being able to fix the exact manner in which that building was
unroofed and laid desolate. But a careful study of every contemporary record
within his reach has tended to confirm him as to the correctness of the
statements made in the text, that whatever might have been threatened or
attempted, no general pillage or burning of this majestic edifice had taken
place at the period in question; and that its state of ruin can be easily
accounted for on other grounds, by a simple reference to the churches of the
Abbeys of St Andrews, Lindores, Coupar-Angus, and others, where the
demolition is much more complete than at the Church of Arbroath, and where
the agency of fire has never been stated to have been applied.
It need scarcely be explained
that the notices of the town of Arbroath have been in general limited to the
period when the monastic establishment existed in its neighbourhood. The
history of Arbroath during the last hundred and fifty years, including the
extension of its population, buildings, manufactures, and commerce, within
that period, could not have been added without swelling the volume far
beyond the limits originally contemplated; and is a subject which, along
with the traditionary history of the burgh and its vicinity, yet remains to
be taken up by one who can devote to it the necessary amount of time and
The Author does not flatter
himself that what is now given to the public can escape what every book of
the kind is peculiarly liable to, namely, the detection of errors and
omissions. He has endeavoured, however, to make no definite statement,
unless upon good authority: without being deterred from offering this
contribution to the history of the district by that over-scrupulous dread of
mistake which has prevented many persons well read in the affairs of
Scotland from giving to the world the benefit of their researches. There
could not be found a more striking instance of this than in the case of the
late Reverend Principal Lee, who has allowed much of his vast stores of
information to die with him; and who, under the influence of this
sensitiveness, most kindly dissuaded the author several years ago from
engaging in an undertaking of a nature somewhat antiquarian, by referring to
another friend who had devoted much time and labour to the early history of
a northern county, which, when published, "after all contained some
mistakes, and there were several things omitted."
In the preface of a book
devoted to the detail of facts regarding Arbroath, an allusion to a work of
fiction supposed to bear reference to the same place may be allowed. An
attentive reader of Scott's inimitable novel, "The Antiquary," acquainted
with the vicinity of Arbroath, will have little doubt that it contains the
scenery of that story. The allusions to the battery, the common, the Grecian
porch of the new Council-house, the great interest taken in merchandise and
linen manufactures, and the doings of the postmistress, are, among other
marks, quite sufficient to identify the town of Arbroath forty or fifty
years ago with the Fairport of the novel. Auchmithie and Ethie-haven are
described with Scott's usual power in his pictures of the fishing hamlets,
and contain fisherwomen who might sit any day as the originals of Maggie
MIucklebackit. Ethie Rouse is the only mansion in the neighbourhood that
suits the description of Knockwinnock. But the claims of identity with
Monkbarns are divided betwixt Seaton and Anniston, while the description
does not exactly suit either. The high rocky coast between Arbroath Ness and
Redhead will supply Halketheads and Bally-burgh Ness Points in abundance. A
poet's license is taken in placing "the root o' an aik tree" among the
cliffs, and in making the sun set over the waves of the German Ocean during
the storm ; and also in removing the ruins of St Ruth (described as Arbroath
and Melrose Abbeys intermixed) from the bustling vicinity of a large town
into one of the dells of the district, such as the den of Arbirlot. These
liberties were obviously used for greater effect, and probably to involve
the narrative in some degree of disguise. The veil becomes, however, very
transparent when the writer makes Edie Ochiltree meditate on his appearance
in the eyes of the villagers while he was "coming down the edge of
Kinblythemont"—a phrase which will suggest to every inhabitant of the
neighbourhood the bluegown's return toward Arbroath, along the old Brechin
road leading by Chapelton and the policies of Kinblethmont.
The Author takes this
opportunity of returning his thanks to those gentlemen whose subscriptions
have led to the present publication; and also to those who have facilitated
his researches by affording information or access to original documents.
The frontispiece, engraved by
Mr J. Adam, Edinburgh, a native of Arbroath, is from a drawing which the
author made in order to shew the front of the Abbey Church as it now exists.
and would appear to passengers were the view not obstructed by modern
buildings which have been erected within a yard or two of its walls.
1st November 1859.
The Monastic Writings of Arbroath : Historical subjects on which they
supply information: Introduction of surnames: Topographical naives, and
variations, changes and translations of same : Anglo-Norman and other
settlers in Angus: Royal residences from 1178 to 1249: Introduction of
Shires and Sheriffs: Formation of Parishes: Adoption of Tutelar Saints :
Nature of Abthaneries: The Culdees and their Abbes: Culdees of Abernethy
and Brechin: Causes of the fall of their order: Indications of Culdees
at Monifieth and Arbirlot.
Chapter I - The Town
of Arbroath and its Dependencies
1. Origin and Condition till the foundation of the Abbey. 2. The
Harbour. 3. Formation of Older portion of the Burgh. 4. Formation of
Newer portion of the Burgh in the Almory. 5. Local Terms in the Town and
Chapter III - Social
State of Angus in the Twelve Century
Condition of Rural and Urban Population at the time of the foundation of
Arbroath Abbey: Slavery of the Rural Population: Power of the Barons:
Burghs as Fountains of Liberty and Progress: Emblems of Burghal Freedom
in Arbroath and other Burghs: Early state of Urban Inhabitants.
Chapter IV - Arbroath
from 1440 to 1640
Depression of Scotland in the Fifteenth Century: Civil broils:
Chamberlain Aires: Subjects of Investigation: Condition of Craftsmen:
Arbroath at the Reformation, and after its Erection into a Royal Burgh.
Chapter VI - History
of the Abbey Buildings
Accidents to Great Church during the Romish Period: Contract for roofing
the Choir: Damage done at the Reformation: Greater destruction since
that Period: Other Conventual Buildings, Ecclesiastical, and Civil:
Precinct walls and towers: Ruin of the Buildings.
Chapter VIII -
District Chapels in Arbroath and Neighbourhood
1. Chapel of St Vigian at Conon. 2. Chapel of St John Baptist at
Hospitalfield. 3. Chapel of St Michael in the Almory. 4. Chapel of St
Ninian at Seaton Den. 5. Lady Chapel of Arbroath, with the Altars of St
Nicholas and St Dupthacus. 6. Chapel of St Lawrence at Kinblethmont. 7.
Chapel at Whitefield of Boysack. 8. Chapel at Boath, Panbride Parish. 9.
Chapel at Panmure Castle. 10. Chapel at Kelly Castle. 11. Chapel of St
Lawrence at Backboath. 12. Chapel of St Mary at Carmylie.
Chapter IX - Church of
1. Fabric of Church and Old Monuments. 2. Altars of St Vigian and St
Sebastian. 3. Priests and Ministers of St Vigeans since A.D. 1200.
Chapter X -
Possessions of the Abbey
1. Lands, Baronies, Villages, &c.—In Angus, Mearns, Perthshire,
Fifeshire, Lanarkshire, Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Inverness-shire. 2.
Tenements in Burghs. 3. Fishings. 4. Ferryboats. 5. Woods and Forests.
6. Saltworks. 7. Churches, Tithes, &c. 8. Original Annual Rents. 9.
Burghs. 10. Rents at Dissolution of the Abbey.
Chapter XI -
Subordinate Officers of the Abbey
1. Sub-Prior. 2. Steward. 3. Chamberlain. 4. Terrarius or Land-Steward.
5. Sacristan. 6. Granitor. 7. Cellarer. 8. Master of Works. 9. Judge or
Deemster. 10. Justiciar or Bailie. 11. Mair and Coroner.
Chapter XII - The
Abbots of Arbroath
1. Influence and incidental Advantages of Monasteries in early times. 2.
Scottish Ecclesiastics at and previous to the foundation of the Abbey.
3. Biographical Sketch of the Abbots of Arbroath, from 1178 to 1606. 4.
Causes of the Dissolution of the Abbey.
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