Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Scotland in the Middle Ages
Chapter IV - Scotland in the time of David I.


Short period of prosperity under Macbeth — David's reign the beginning of a new policy and of long prosperity — Royal progresses — Great officers of state — The king's household — Sources of revenue — Demesne lands — Burghs — Feudal casualties — Customs and duties — Fines and escheats — Items of royal expenditure — Warlike defence — Hunting and hawking — Gardening — The king's tailor — Gascon wine — Meat — Salted marts — Fish — Country life of the king — Royal parks — At Stirling — At Jedburgh — Nobles of the Scotch court — Great earls of Stratherne — The Bruces — The Stewarts and their followers — Knightly occupations — War — The chase — The Stewarts' preserved forest and park — Studs of horses — The Church — The secular clergy — Parish churches bestowed on monasteries — The Church — Monachism in Scotland — Monasteries — Their education — Schools — The arts and trades practised in the Convent — Life in the Convent — Early rental of Kelso — Rural population under the monks — Nativi — Serfs — Price of serfs — Serfs emancipated by the Church — Some light on the condition of serfs — Emancipation of serfs — Agriculture — Roads — Carriages — Mills — Agriculture of the monks.

There is a curious glimpse of national prosperity in Scotland, in the reign of one whom we are almost bound to believe a usurper and bloody tyrant. Our old chronicles all agree, that the reign of Macbeth, of seventeen years' duration, was a time of great abundance and strict administration of justice. Old Winton tells us that—

"All his time was great plenty,
Abounding both on land and sea.
He was in justice right lawful,
And til his lieges all, awful."

But that period of national prosperity and fabulous wealth is but a bright spot in a dark picture. The defeat and death of Macbeth were the commencement of great troubles to Scotland, which became the scene of constant disputed successions and civil wars—the deadly war of hostile races, which continued with little intermission till the accession of David; and all we know of the domestic history at the commencement of his reign, shows a state of things such as we should expect to follow a long period of disastrous foreign war and civil commotions. The reign of David is the beginning of a new policy, vigorously and consistently enforced; and its effects upon the country are to be traced in nearly two centuries of steady and progressive prosperity, contrasting equally with the century that had passed, and with the dreadful distress that followed, during the wars of the succession and the long war of independence.

I will endeavour to show you such light as our records furnish, upon the state of the different classes of society during that time.

Of David himself I have already spoken. I hope that you consider him not as the mere monk or priest-ridden king. His life seems to have been one of constant action and activity. Besides the movements, which we learn from the public or historic events of his reign, his private charters show a continual change of residence. I cannot trace him indeed so much in the north, which was probably the stronghold of the opposite and Celtic faction. But in the southern provinces his court was constantly in motion. He was attached to Dunfermline, as the favoured foundation of his parents. He lived a great deal at Stirling, from whose battlements he could look down upon his own abbey of Cambuskenneth, and the little chapel of Saint Serf, the confessor of Culross, amidst as fair a scene as ever churchman cultivated, or monarch ruled over. It is remarkable how many of the favourite residences of our ancient kings are distinguished for their natural beauty. David frequently resided at Scone and Perth, in the midst of that rich champaign, watered by the majestic Tay, and bounded by its noble amphitheatre of mountains; and at our own Edinburgh, perhaps the most striking situation in which a city was ever built. We find David and his son Henry, and his whole court, at Berwick, Roxburgh, Traquair and Elbottle; at Glasgow and Cadyhow and Strath-Irewin, at Abernethy and Banff. The bounds of civilization were extending in the reign of his grandson William, and we have charters marking that king's frequent residence at Selkirk, Melrose, Traquair, Roxburgh, Lanark, Rutherglen; at Stirling, Linlithgow, Clackmannan, Edinburgh, Haddington; at Dunfermline, St. Andrews and Kinghorn; at Forfar, Aberdeen, Elgin, Forres, Nairn, Inverness.

Before the reign of David, we meet with no great officers of the Crown, but a chancellor to look to the rights of the Crown and royal charters; a constable, and a justiciar. In David's reign, such was the progress of feudalism and hereditary institutions, the offices of great steward and high constable had become hereditary in the families of Stewart and De Morevil. The office of marischal was probably introduced also in his reign. The great chamberlain, as the name implies, had the general control of the treasury; but his functions, both administrative and judicial, had more particular reference to the affairs of the burghs, a considerable source of revenue, and the defined constitution of which is one of the remarkable features of this reign.

When we first have information on the matter, in the reign of Alexander III., the annual salary of the Chancellor of Scotland was £100, and about the same period, we have the earliest notice of the Chamberlain's fee, which long continued to be £200 per annum.

These great officers, with their attendants and followers, with numerous churchmen, the men of letters of the day, and the ordinary crowd of nobles and courtiers, formed a large body in attendance upon the king; and their support (some part of which was extorted from the country, under the names of kain and conveth: prism et cariagia, imposts not altogether abolished till a much later period) was felt so heavy a burden, that it afforded an additional motive for their frequent changes of residence.

The chief support of the king's household, undoubtedly, was from the demesne lands of the Crown, furnishing the necessaries of life in kind, and a considerable revenue in rents or ferme. The mails of the royal burghs might come under the same head. To these were added, perhaps as early as the reign of David, the feudal casualties of ward, relief, marriage, and monentry—payments arising to the sovereign as superior of lands held immediately of the Crown. We must not allow too much for the customs and duties of merchandise, although I shall have occasion to show you that these were more productive than is generally imagined. Another source of income, and not the least in importance, was from the fines and escheats of the king's courts, which seem to have been chiefly converted into money. In a single year, in the reign of Alexander III., the chamberlain accounted for the receipt of £5313 in money.

In the chamberlain's column of expenditure that year, we have the following articles:— "Servants' wages, four score pounds. Gifts by the king, six score pounds. King's messengers (probably heralds or ambassadors), £150. Pay to soldiers, £180. Ten pounds to Luke de Gizors for harness for the king. Eight score and eighteen hogsheads of wine, £439. The king's expenses at play, the moderate sum of £16 : 2 : 9. To Alexander the Queen's clerk, for the expenses of the Queen, £795. The expenses of the household, £2224. Silk stuffs, furs, spices, preserves, or sweetmeats, and other small expenses, £410."
We find a considerable expense for repairing and maintaining the royal castles, and for victualling and paying their garrisons. In the year 1264, the year of the Norwegian invasion and of the battle of Largs, the accounts of the Sheriff of Ayr contain a note of the expenses of the master gunner, [Balistarins.] with his two watchmen and porter in the king's castle of Ayr; the expense of repairing the castle itself; a payment of messengers, who thrice went as spies on the king of Norway; wages to the watchers of the king's ships for twenty-three weeks; three dozen of bow-staves; and the price of oatmeal, wheat, cows, salt, and wine for the garrison; and there is a payment of fourteen shillings and eight pence for cleaning of the king's own arms.

When the king moved in peace, he was accompanied by his hawks and hounds, and their train of attendants. Forfar and Glammis were ancient demesnes of the Crown. In the time of Alexander III., Edward de Montealto, sheriff of Forfar, stated as part of the expenses for the year 1263, eight and a half chalders of corn, consumed by William de Hamyl during his stay at Forfar with the king's falcons for twenty-nine weeks; four chalders for the food of seven puppies and their dam; twenty-four chalders for the king's horses, and four and a half chalders for the wild boars, porci silvestres. Are we to conclude from this last, that the native wild boar of the Caledonian forest had become extinct or scarce in the valley of Strathmore, and that a supply was reared for sport?

There is a payment allowed also, at the king's castle of Forfar, for a gardener, which always marks a certain degree of civilization. When Augustin, the king's tailor, required to purchase cloth and furs for the king's use, he repaired to the fair of Dundee; and thither also went the king's wain, drawn by oxen, to bring home the casks of wine of Gascony for his majesty's summer drink. The meat, then, as for ages afterwards in Scotland, was eaten fresh only during the season of pasture. "When that was over, which was about the feast of Martinmas, the good man killed his mart, which was salted by for winter use; and the king fared no otherwise.

He had fish, however, in abundance, salmon, lamprey, and the royal sturgeon, then, as now probably, valued for its rarity. The western lochs furnished herring, which were, even at that early period, an important article for the support of the people; and the king's household accounts notice the consumption of myriads of eels, furnished by the inland lakes. The lake of Cluny, in Stormonth, in particular, produced a large quantity of this fish, which is now hardly used by the people in Scotland. When hard pressed, the court had recourse to grosser viands. So late as the reigns of the Jameses, the c clerk of the kitchen sometimes notes among the contents of the royal larder, with other strange food, dimidium phocae — a side of seal. We do not find purchases of vegetables. They were probably reared round the castle. We find the hortus olerum an appendage of our better dwellings from the earliest records; and some kinds of "kail" have been used in Scotland by all classes, as far back as we have any knowledge of.

In 1263, the sheriff of Stirling was employed in repairing the ancient park, and in constructing a new park there for Alexander III., and was allowed in his accounts an outlay on that head of £80. Twenty years later, when the king was dead, there was an allowance for two park-keepers, and one hunter of wolves at Stirling; and for the expenses of four hundred perches of palisade round the new park; and for mowing and carrying hay and litter for the use of the fallow-deer in winter.

I do not think it is generally known that Alexander III. and his queen, the daughter of the lordly De Coucy, chose Jedburgh and its lovely valley as a favourite residence. After the death of that king, John Cumin rendered his account as bailiff of the king's manor of Jedworth, in which he charges himself with 66s. 8d. as the rent of the new park which used to be the place of the queen's v. stud (equicium regimae), 26s. 8d. for the sales of dead wood; and states his outlay for mowing 66 acres of meadow, and for winning and carrying it for forage for the castle. Item, for nine hundred perches of ditch and hedge (fosse et haye), constructed about both the wood and the meadows of Jedworth, 116s. 6d. I think I cannot be mistaken in translating these words ditch and hedge, and if so, you have by far the earliest instance of such a fence on record. I suppose the wood so enclosed may have been the bank of Fernyhurst, still a bank of magnificent oaks, and the meadows those fairy fields by the side of Jed, which form one of the most beautiful and peculiarly Scotch scenes I have ever seen.

I think these details, however individually trifling, give us a useful insight into the real home life of royalty in the thirteenth century; but its state and grandeur are better gathered from the habits of the nobles, who thought it not unworthy of them to follow the court of the Scotch monarch. Many of those great lords had estates, that for extent, and even for value, would make a modern principality, and were attended in war and peace by trains of knightly followers as noble as themselves.

The earls of the great earldom of Stratherne were of the old native race; but conforming to the manners of the times, and connecting themselves with all the highest families of the Norman c chivalry. It was, in later times, the only palatinate in Scotland, and the family, even in the twelfth century, were not without something of royal style and pretension. They seem to have founded and endowed a bishopric of their own, and they were for centuries, patrons and superiors of the bishops of Dunblane, who were sometimes called bishops of Stratherne. Earl Malis made a muni-ficent endowment to the abbey of Inchaffray, to commemorate worthily the place of sepulture of his eldest son, which he had also chosen for his own. Under the protection of that great house grew up the knightly stocks from which the present great families of Perthshire are descended; two branches of the wide spreading De Moravias, of whom the Dukes of Athole are the Perthshire chiefs, the various families of Drummonds, and many others.

The Bruces, already great proprietors in Yorkshire, acquired the magnificent valley of Annandale by the gift of David, whom they had served so well; and their followers whom they settled there, took so firm a hold of the soil, that it became a remark, ages afterwards, that all the lairds of Annandale bore the arms of Bruce.

The Stewarts, amongst the other Norman nobles, whom David paid for their services with territorial  grants, had all that which is still called the "barony" of Renfrew, equivalent to the whole shire of that name; immense territories in Ayrshire; with the barony of Innerwik, Hassenden and other great estates in the Merse and Teviotdale. They held these lands, and the stewardry of Scotland, for performing the service of a certain number of knights, and at one time, in the reign of William the Lion, we learn from charters, that some of the knights, who actually performed that service for the Stewarts were two brothers, called indifferently Falconer or De Halkerston, taking their surname at one time from their office and again from the lands attached to it, a Montgomery, an Avenel, and a Roland. These and their other followers had manors and estates, held by military service, which can be still traced with great accuracy, and from the dependant knights and squires of the Stewarts have descended the best gentry of the western shires, the noble houses of Eglintoun, Cathcart, Cochrane, Boyle, and many a name, like that of Avenel, remembered only in tradition, or embalmed by one who could control and direct even the current of popular tradition.

Of the service of those nobles and their followers in war, it is not very necessary for me to speak; for there was nothing peculiar to Scotland in tactics before the days of Robert Bruce. The knight and noble rode armed in mail, always of foreign manufacture, from Flanders or Italy. Without denying them the proud feeling of doing battle for their country and defending their homes against an invader, it must be confessed, that those knightly soldiers were often animated by baser motives. They looked to the camp as their profession, bound to maintain them. The spoils of the rich fields of England; the miserable peasant, swept off with the marauding army; above all, the ransom of some higher or more wealthy captive, were willingly weighed in the scale against their own risk and probable loss in battle. But it would be unjust to deny them the lighter feelings of the gallant warrior. The pride of strength and courage, the enjoyment even of danger, the fierce delight in the whirl and shout of battle, were the highest enjoyments of a high nature, not yet schooled to anything of intellectual or refined pleasure.

Kindred to the passion for war, was the passion for the chase. The Norman knights brought it with them from Normandy and England, and it could not fail to take root in a country which nature seems to have formed for the hunter. When the family of Avenel granted the territory of Eskdale to the monks of Melrose, they reserved to themselves the right of game, specifying hart and hind, boar and roe, the eyries of falcons and tercels. The monks were excluded from hunting, or allowing others to hunt with hounds or nets, from setting traps, except only for the wolves, and from taking the eyries of hawks. Even the trees in which hawks usually built, were to be held sacred, and those in which they had built one year, were on no account to be felled, till it should be found whether they were about to build there the next year or no. The early grants, by the Stewarts, to the same abbey, of their great territories in Ayrshire, expressed the same reservation. The monks had a right of pasture within the forest, but were prohibited from hunting and taking hawks—"Hoc enim illorum ordini non convenit."

We have some interesting notices of forest matters in the Chartulary of Paisley. Among their munificent gifts to that abbey, the Stewarts reserved to themselves the manor long known by the name of Blackhall, with its park and forest. Blackhall itself was evidently a hunting residence of the Stewarts, even before the foundation of the abbey. At its foundation, Walter Fitzalan gave to the monks a dwelling upon the rock, where his hall was founded, together with the tithe of all his hunting, and all the skins of deer taken in the forest of Fereneze, and pasture for their cattle and swine through all his forest of Paisley. The succeeding Stewarts, in addition to that extensive and wild range of forest, established a more exclusive tract for game, which they called their park, on the west c bank of the river Espedare. The monks and their servants required a license to pass through the forest, with their wains, horses, or oxen, for the carriage of their necessaries, and by the customary roads and tracks of the country; they were allowed to pass armed like other travellers, and to take with them their grey-hounds and other dogs. But if they passed through the park or preserved forest, they must lead their hounds in the leash, and unstring their bows.

There are several interesting notices of the attention paid by the kings and great lords of Scotland, during the thirteenth century, to the breeding of horses. Roger Avenel, the lord of Eskdale, had a stud in that valley. Patrick, Earl of Dunbar, in preparation for his departure to the Holy Land, sold to the monks of Melrose his stud of brood mares in Lauderdale, for the considerable sum of one hundred merks sterling. Alexander III. had several establishments for rearing horses, to be used in hunting, doubtless, as well as in war. The king himself lost his life in a rash midnight ride.

In our hasty glance at the elements of society in old Scotland, we must not pass over the Church and its clergy.

The oblations and offerings to the altar and the priest were as old as the introduction of Christianity; but the first enforcement of tithes—the first division of parishes, or the appropriation of definite districts to a baptismal church — cannot be placed higher in Scotland than the age of David I. To him we are indebted for the very foundation and framework of our national establishment and parochial divisions. Under his care, the more distant districts of Moray and Galloway were brought to pay the dues exacted by the Church, as they had been long paid in the civilized dioceses of St. Andrews and Dunkeld. Every lord's manor became a parish, and the Church divided the respect of the people with the Castle. Of the early independent secular clergy we know but little. They were frequently of the family of the patron; and it is to be remarked how seldom, in the earlier times of record, a secular clergyman was distinguished in any way, or rose to the higher offices of the Church, which were all filled by the Regulars. At a very early period — as early, indeed, as our records reach — it had become the custom for the patrons of churches, with the consent of the bishop, to confer them in property upon the great monasteries and religious houses of Regulars. Thus Paisley had its thirty parish churches; Holyrood, twenty-seven; Melrose and Kelso, each as many ; and to such an extent did this prevail, that in some districts two-thirds of the parish churches were in the hands of the monks. This was probably the greatest evil of monachism, though but an accident. The duties of the distant rural parish, whether performed by a monk of the convent or by a vicar dependent upon it and paid with a grudging and grinding parsimony, were always made subservient to the interests of the monastery. The incumbent was looked to as the steward for ingathering the profits of the parish — that is, his own vicarial part — the small tithes, the altar offerings, the Pasque presents, the funeral and baptismal dues; and the convent concerned itself but little as to the manner in which he discharged his duties amongst the poor people committed to his charge. Amongst the innumerable disputes recorded between convents and their rural vicars, I believe there is not one that turns upon any question as to how the cure of souls was performed.

It is difficult, at the present day, to consider the monastic institutions apart from the change of religion which overthrew them. I fear that it is almost as rare now as in the heat and zeal of the Reformation, to find the freedom from passion and prejudice, necessary for forming a correct estimate of the good and evil of the convent. I wish to consider the institution only as it was exemplified in Scotland, after the great spread of monasteries during the time of king David and his grandsons; and we have abundant materials for testing its operation. I think it is a mistake to suppose that any great body of men, professing a common object, and that a high and sacred one, are ever wholly insincere. I apprehend another mistake consists in our misapprehending the duties which the monks themselves professed to consider the objects of a monastic life. If we were to consider the monks in Scotland, as charged with the instruction and religious discipline of the people, we should at once pronounce them inefficient, and all but useless; but if it be held that that duty did not lie upon them, but chiefly, at least, upon the secular clergy, we begin to view the monastery with more favour. We regard the monks as a set of religious men, freed from domestic and worldly ties, whose time ought to be devoted, first, to divine exercises and contemplation, and afterwards, to the duties of their society, to the duties imposed upon them by their relations as neighbours and as great landholders. All the monasteries were zealous agriculturists and gardeners, at a time when we have no proof that the lay lord knew anything of the soil beyond consuming its fruits. They were good neighbours and kind landlords, so that the kindly tenant of the church was considered the most favoured of agriculturists. Their charity and hospitality have been acknowledged by their enemies. Above all, they were by their profession and situation addicted to peace. Surrounded by warlike nobles, unarmed themselves, they had nothing to gain by war, and it is not easy to over-estimate the advantage to a half-civilized country, of a great and influential class, determined supporters of peace and order.

The learning of the Scotch Convent may not have been carried to a high pitch; but such learning as there was, was always found there. An abbot of Melrose, visiting the dependent house of Home Cultram, laid down rules for the indefatigable reading of sacred literature, and founded his rule upon the quaint and probably proverbial gingle, "claustrum sine literatura, vivi hominis est sepultura." They cultivated and promoted such education as was then known. Kelso had schools in the town of Roxburgh, in the time of William the Lion, and Dunfermline had endowed schools in the city of Perth, at least as early; and they furnished instruction within the monastery, to a higher class than those who benefited by their burghal schools. In the thirteenth century, the widowed lady of Molle, a great proprietor in the Merse, resigned to Kelso a part of her dowry lands, on condition that the monks should maintain her son among the scholars of the best rank in their monastery. This education consisted a good deal in the studies preparatory for the Church. There were schools for teaching singing and chanting in the different cathedral cities, and the term "sang-school" is not yet forgotten in the north, where the choral school has often been the ground-work of our burgh grammar schools. The education, even of the chorister, required a knowledge of reading, not a very valuable acquisition for the laity when books were so scarce; and to this was added instruction in the principles of grammar, and the beginning of classical learning. But surely I need not impress upon you, that in a good school the amount of knowledge acquired is not to be measured by the extent of learning ; and that any possible amount of knowledge and learning are as nothing, compared with the industrial training, the moral discipline which these are chiefly useful to convey, but which may be acquired without them.

That some of the arts, moreover, were cultivated within the abbey walls, we may conclude without much extrinsic evidence. The great interest of the monk was for the honour of his monastery; and everything that tended to its grandeur and embellishment was a praiseworthy service. The erection of one of our great abbeys was often a work of centuries, and during all that time, its members were in the midst of the work of the most exquisite artists in every department, and assisted with their own hands. That could not fail to raise the taste and cultivate the minds of the inmates of the cloister. It would be a grievous mistake to suppose, that the effect was merely that of living and working in an artist's shop. The fine arts — the high imaginative and intellectual arts of architure, painting and sculpture — were not yet separated from the other ornamental hand-works. They were carried on together, and all tended to elevate and refine those who lived among them. But, indeed, the interest and honour of the convent, the honest rivalry with neighbouring houses, and other orders; above all, the zeal for religion, which was honoured by their efforts, the strong desire to render its rites magnificent, and to set forth in a worthy manner the worship of the Deity | all these gave to the works of the old monks a principle and a feeling above what modern art must ever hope to reach.

It was a common practice to obtain by gifts to the Church, a participation in the prayers of the convent, and permission to rank as a brother of the order; and the Church records of that time, present us with innumerable instances of men, who had lived in the throng of life, brave warriors and wise statesmen, sick of the world, or willing to prepare for another, retiring to the quiet and contemplation of the cloister. These things are inconsistent with any general opinion of vice, sloth, or irreligion in the monasteries; and, in truth, such imputations were not cast upon them for a long time afterwards. We may be satisfied, then, that the monastery was fit for its time. It kept alive the flickering light of literature. It gathered together and protected the spirits too delicate for a rough season. It reared up a barrier against oppression, and taught the strong to respect the meek and gentle. The monastery was the sphere of mind, when all around was material and gross.

There is preserved a curious Rental of the great abbacy of Kelso, of the end of the thirteenth century, which gives us some insight into the rural affairs of the monks. At that time and probably always, they held a great part of their ample lands and baronies in their own hands, and cultivated them by their villeins from their several Granges.

The Grange itself, the chief house of each of the abbey baronies, must have been a spacious farm-steading. In it were gathered the cattle, implements, and stores needed for the cultivation of their demesne lands or mains; their corn and produce, the serfs or carls who cultivated it, and their women and families. A monk or lay brother of the abbey superintended the whole.

Adjoining the Grange was a mill, with all its pertinents and appearance and reality of comfort, and a hamlet occupied by the cottars, sometimes from thirty to forty families in number. The situation of these was far above the class now known by that name. Under the monks of Kelso, each cottar occupied from one to nine acres of land, along with his cottage. Their rents varied from one to six shillings yearly, with services not exceeding nine days' labour. The tenants of twenty-one cottages at Clarilaw, having each three acres of land, minus a rood, and pasture for two cows, paid each two bolls of meal yearly, and were bound to shear the whole corn of the abbey Grange at Newton.

Beyond the hamlet or cottar town, were scattered in small groups, the farm steadings of the husbandi or husbandmen, the next class of the rural population. Each of these held of the abbey a definite quantity of land, called a husbandland. Each tenant of a husbandland kept two oxen; and six united their oxen to work the common plough. The Scotch plough of the thirteenth century was a ponderous machine, drawn, when the team was complete, by twelve oxen. The husbandland was estimated long ago in the Merse, as twenty-six acres, "where scythe and plough may gang." The husbandmen were bound to keep good neighbourhood, the first point of which consisted in contributing sufficient oxen and service to the common plough.

As a fair specimen of the rents at which these tenants sat, we may take the barony of Bowden, which, I believe, is now the property of the Duke of Roxburghe.

The monks had twenty-eight husbandlands there, each of which paid 6s. 8d. of money rent; but to this were added considerable services in harvest and sheep-shearing, in carrying peats and carting wool, and fetching the abbot's commodities from Berwick. These stipulations are exceedingly precise, fixing even the service, in which the husbandman was to have his food from the abbey, and where he was to maintain himself.

In the whole catalogue, no service is imposed on women except harvest work, and I believe agriculturists will agree that we have a still more decided proof of advancing civilization in the fact, that at the period of the rental, the whole services were in the process of being commuted for money.

Above the class of husbandmen was that of the yeoman or bonnet-laird, as he is now called in primitive parts of Scotland. Such an one was that Hosbernus, whom Abbot John of Kelso styles "Homo noster" — "our man," — and who got a half plough of land in heritage and perpetuity in Middle-ham, and became the liege vassal of the abbey, paying a reddendo of eight shillings, and giving certain services in ploughing time and harvest. He no doubt paid for his hereditary right to the lands, and felt himself much above the husbandmen whose title was precarious.

Still higher in the scale were the great Church vassals, who held a place only second to the baronage and freeholders of the Crown. These generally had their lands free of all service, and paid only a nominal quit-rent.

I have said that of the inhabitants of the Grange, the lowest in the scale was the carl, bond, serf, or villein, who was transferred like the land on which he laboured, and who might be caught and brought back if he attempted to escape, like a stray ox or sheep. Their legal name of nativus, or neyf, which I have not found but in Britain, seems to point to their origin in the native race, the original possessors of the soil. Earl Waldev of Dunbar, in a deed of four lines, made over a whole tribe to the Abbot of Kelso:—"I give and confirm to the abbot and monks of Kelso, Halden and his brother William, and all their children and all their descendants." ["Sequaces eorum," as we follower, — Register of Kelso, speak now of a mare and her p. 98.] Another later benefactor of the abbey, after convey- a. ing lands in Gordun (by a boundary so plain, that it must be still easily traced at the distance of five centuries), throws into the bargain two crofts, occupied by Adam of the Hog, and William son of Lethe, "and Adam of the Hog himself, my native, with all his following," with pasture in the mains for forty beasts, with all their followers of one year, etc.; and then he warrants to the abbey, "the said lands, meadows, men, and pastures." Richard de Morvil, the constable, sold to Henry St. Clair, Edmund, the son of Bonda, and Gillemichel his brother, and their sons and daughters, and all their progeny, for the sum of three merks; but on this condition, that if they leave St. Clair by his consent, they shall not pass to the lordship of any other lord, nor to any other lord or land than De Morvil. In the Register of Dunfermline are numerous "genealogies," or stud-books, for enabling the lord to trace and reclaim his stock of serfs by descent. It is observable that most of them are of Celtic names.

We learn something of the price of the serf from the efforts which were made by the Church for his manumission. Their own people were evidently in progress of emancipation at the period of the rental I have been quoting from. The stipulation of a certain amount of service implies that the rest was free. But when the Church wished to emancipate the slaves of others, it was necessary first to purchase them. Adam de Prendergest sold to the Almoner of Coldingham Stephen Fitz Waldev, with his following and goods. [Servum meum et ejus sequelam et catalla.] In 1247, Patrick de Prendergest, burgess of Berwick, bought the freedom of Renaldus a slave, with his whole following, for twenty merks sterling. This is a remarkable transaction; for Patrick, the burgess, had formerly been a slave, or at least a native, and obtained his liberty through the house of Coldingham; but what is more curious, Reynald, who was thus emancipated for a sum of money, is styled in the charter prepositus, meaning, no doubt, alderman or bailie of the town of Berwick; and that accounts for the greatness of his price; for about the same time, the Abbey of Coldingham purchased the freedom of Joseph, the son of Elwald, and all his posterity, for the price of three merks ; of Roger Fitz Walter and all his posterity for two merks: and Eustace of Newbigging sold to the Prior of Coldingham the freedom of William of New-bigging, and Brunhild his wife, and Walter and Mabil their children, and all their issue, for the sum of fifteen shillings. These are instances of purchased emancipation.

Two entries in the ancient Register of Dunfermline, seem to me to mark the progress from servitude to freedom very graphically.

In 1320, on the feast of St. Peter ad vincula, an inquest was held in the chapel of Logy concerning the liberties which the Abbot of Dunfermline's men of Tweeddale claimed from the Abbot. First, they sought to have a bailiff, appointed by the abbot, of their own race, who should repledge them from more oppressive lay courts to the Abbot's court. To that the assize of inquest made answer, that such bailiff should be given them, not of fee, but of usage. Their second demand was, that if any one of their race verge to poverty, or fall into helpless old age, v. he shall have support from the monastery. To this the jury replied, that the abbey was not bound to this as of right, but from affection, because they were its men. The third article was, that if any of their race slay a man, or commit any other crime for which he must seek the immunity of holy church, if he come to Dunfermline for that immunity, he shall be sustained as long as he stays there, at the expense of the monastery. The jury declared that the abbey would do so to a stranger, much more to a man of their own, and of the race of the claimants. Lastly, they claimed, that if any of their race commit homicide, and incur a fine therefor, the Abbot and convent shall be bound to contribute twelve merks toward payment of the fine. To which the jury made answer, that they never heard such a thing all the days of their lives —nunquam tale quid omnibus diebus vite sue audierunt. [Register of Dunfermline, 354.] Twenty years later, Alexander, Abbot of Dunfermline and his convent, declare by a formal charter, that Marcormi and Edmund and Michael his son and heir, and the brothers and sisters of the said Michael and Mervyn and Gyllemycael and Malmuren and Gyllecriste and Gylmahagu, and all their progeny, are our free men, and are in our peace and the peace of the Church, with all their posterity, whom king David gave to our church, along with Crebarryn (Carberry), in perpetual alms; they only paying to us yearly, an ox of two years old, four shillings.

It was in such transactions, as I have before mentioned, we perceive the chief opening for escape from villeinage. It is manifest, that the cottar who was able to stipulate regarding the amount of his service, was far advanced towards entire freedom.

The Church was one great means of emancipation. But the free institutions of burghs not only afforded the machinery, but supplied the spirit and motive for it. Men perhaps also found by experience, what political economists have proved in their science, that slave labour is not cheaper than that of the free workman. At any rate, the curse of hereditary servitude, for which "the air of Britain was too pure," died out among us, without any special enactment. The last case I have met with, of proceedings under the formerly well-known brief for recovering fugitive slaves, was in the court of the Sheriff of Banffshire in 1364.

Great attention was bestowed upon agriculture from the earliest period of our records. The same corn was grown as is now used. "Wheat was grown even in Morayshire in the thirteenth century. We find everywhere strict rules for the protection of growing corn and hay meadows, which were rendered more necessary by the existence of a custom, formally sanctioned under Alexander III., who declared it was of use, by ancient custom and the common law throughout Scotland, that travellers, passing through the country, might quarter for one night on any barony, and there pasture their beasts-saving only growing corns and hay meadow. Roads appear to have been frequent, and though some are called the green road, viridis via, and by other names indicating rather a track for cattle, others, bearing the style of "high way," alta via, " the king's road," via regia — via regalis, and still more, the caulsey or calceia, must have been of more careful construction, and some of them fit for wheel carriages. We find agricultural carriages of various names and descriptions, during the thirteenth century — plaustrum —  quadriga — charete — carecta — biga — used not only for harvest and for carriage of peats from the moss, but for carrying the wool of the monastery to the seaport, and bringing in exchange, salt, coals, and sea-borne commodities. The abbey of Kelso had a road for waggons, to Berwick on the one hand, and across the moorland to its cell of Lesmahagow in Clydesdale. A right of way was frequently bargained for and even purchased at a considerable price. [The road leading south from Inverness is called via Scoticana in a charter of 1376.]

On the estates of the monasteries, water-mills and wind-mills were used for grinding corn in the thirteenth century and previously, though the rude process of the hand-mill kept its ground in some districts of Scotland to a recent period. In the reign of Alexander II., the monks of Melrose purchased the right of straighting a stream that bounded their lands of Bele in East-Lothian, on account of the frequent injury done by its inundations to the hay-meadows and growing corns of the Abbey.

The Monasteries of Teviotdale had necessarily a great extent of pasture land; and the minute and careful arrangement of folds on their mountain pastures for sheep, and byres for cattle, and of the lodges or temporary dwellings for their keepers and attendants, shows that they paid the greatest attention to this part of their extensive farming. But the immense number and variety of agricultural transactions, the frequent transference of lands, the disputes and settlements regarding marches, the precision and evident care of leases, the very occurrence, so frequently, of the names of field divisions, and of the boundaries between farms, settled by King David in person — show an enlightened attention and interest in agricultural affairs, that seem to have spread from the monastery and reached the whole population during that period of national peace and good government, which was so rudely terminated by the war of the Succession.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast