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A History of the County of Renfrew from the Earliest Times
Chapter XIII.—Social and Domestic


The population of the shire, like that of the country, was divided into the free and the unfree. The free consisted of the greater and lesser vassals, free tenants, burgesses, and other freemen not included in any of the foregoing classes.

Before the accession of Robert II., the chief vassal was, of course, the Steward, who held the whole of his estates in the county for the service of five knights. Afterwards the chief vassals were the Prince of Scotland, and the heads of the great county families already enumerated. The lesser vassals, with the exception of the burgesses, were the smaller landed proprietors. Probably they were those who are designated in the charters probi homines. Among the free tenants the most important were those who held their land by lease for a term of years—or for one or more lives. When the land had been held for more than three generations, a tenure in perpetuity was acquired. The land then became the absolute property of the tenant, and he might sell or alienate it as he chose without consulting his overlord. On the first opportunity this class, as may be readily supposed, converted their tacks or leases into chartered freeholds. A more numerous class, freemen but not chartered freeholders, were the Jirmarii or farmers, who held at will by a tenancy removable from year to year, and paid rent in carriages and kind, and sometimes in money. Such were the tenants of many of the lands of the Abbey of Paisley. Farmers holding in perpetuity, but without a charter were “ fee farmers.” So long as they fulfilled their obligations they could not be removed, and on resigning their holding into the hands of their lord they could “go where they willed.” Next to these came the husbandman. the tenant of a quarter holding or husbandland of twenty-six Scots acres, paying a rent and services, which as time went on were gradually commuted for money. Below the farmers seems to have been the free labourer, the man with a cow and a cow’s grass.

On the church lands, near to each grange or farm-stead of the Abbey, where were gathered the cattle, implements and stores needed for the cultivation of the surrounding estate, and which was generally presided over by a lay brother or conversus who dwelt there, were the cottars, cottiarii, a class a good deal above that which we call cottars, since each of them had from one to nine acres of land along with a cottage, for which he paid rent (though the term “ rent ” was seldom used) in the shape of money and services in seed-time and harvest. Beyond the cottar town were the farms of the husbandmen, each of whom lived at his separated farm-house or steading and held a definite quantity of land. The terms on which the free tenants of the Abbey of Paisley held their lands, are carefully stated in the Rental Book of the Abbey, which was begun by Abbot Henry Crichton, and is now preserved in the British Museum.

The unfree were natives, nativi or neyfs. In a very limited sense they were free; technically they were not. In the laws of William the Conqueror, we read :—“ The nativus who flies from the land on which he was born, let none retain him, or his chattels ” (which in the eyes of the law were his lord’s), “ if the lords will not send these men back to their lands, the King’s officers are to do it.” The terms used to designate this class, however, are but vague and indefinite in their meaning. Two classes of slaves appear to have been recognised—the neyf in gross, “the out and out slave,” and the neyf regardant, that is, astricted to certain land. While the latter could not be removed at the mere will of his lord from the soil on which he was born, the former could be transferred both from one estate to another, and from one owner to another, like any of his lord’s goods and chattels. Both in England and Scotland the nativi are regarded as the remains or descendants of the original Celtic population, whom the invader had reduced to slavery by capture or purchase. Among them were probably many broken men—men who were unable to pay their debts and men who had sold themselves and their families in order to avoid starvation. The status of the nativi descended to their children ; all their posterity, unless the chain was broken by emancipation, were born slaves. Stud books were kept in which their pedigrees were recorded from generation to generation. Steps were taken to prevent their escape, and fugitives were sought for, and claimed in the courts of law. The last claim of neyfship or serfdom proved in a Scottish court of law was in 1364,5 and in that and the following century

the institution appears to have gradually died out, “ not by legislative enactment, nor purely by aid of philanthropy, but mainly by pressure of circumstances and interests.”

The burgesses were a class by themselves, having their own privileges and obligations. The qualification for burgesship was the holding of a rood of land in a burgh and residence upon it.

Burghs were of three kinds—royal burghs, burghs of barony, and burghs of regality. Between the two last there was but little difference, a burgh of regality being a burgh of barony situated in a regality. In royal burghs, as in Renfrew, the burgesses held of the King; in the others, they held of the lord of the barony, or, as in Paisley, of the lord of the regality. The burgesses of a royal burgh had the right to choose their own Provost, Bailies and Town Councillors, and to be governed and judged by the ancient code of laws known as the Leges Burgorum or “ The Burgh Lawis.” Collectively the burgesses were called “the community.” Over them were at first four bailies, one for each of the four wards into which the burgh was divided. Originally the bailies were the King’s officers for the collection of the dues and cess. They were entrusted with the administration of the laws in the burghs, and when the Chamberlain came on ayre, they had to give an account of their stewardship. No King’s bailie or servant could keep a tavern or bake or sell bread in a burgh. Many of the royal burghs enjoyed the protection of the King’s peace ; but their privileges, while in some cases the same, in most they varied according to the terms of their charters.

Renfrew is said to have been a royal burgh as far back as the time of David I. ; but it was not until 1396 that it obtained a charter. Most royal burghs had a merchant gild and crafts. Renfrew would have its crafts and may have had a merchant gild from the earliest times, but it may be doubted whether its gild existed before the year 1614.

The burgesses of Paisley had privileges similar to those of a royal burgh; but the Abbot reserved to himself the right to appoint one of the two bailies authorised to be appointed by the charter ; he also reserved the right to veto the appointment of any of the officials of the town, to dismiss any who were in office, and to appoint others in their place, but otherwise the burgesses

had the right to elect their own rulers and to be ruled and judged by the burgh laws. The Abbots appear never to have exercised their right to veto the appointment of any of the officials of the town, but they appear to have appointed one if not both of the bailies.

Each of the burghs—Paisley as well as Renfrew—had its court of justice, its market day and its market cross, at which all goods brought into the burgh for sale had to be exposed and sold between certain hours, at the prices fixed by the visitors appointed to appraise them. There were obligations of watch and ward. At the stroke of a staff upon the door of a house an inmate was bound to come forth, unless the house was that of a widow, armed with two weapons, to join in keeping watch and ward over the sleeping burgh from couvre feu to cock-crow. Each burgh had also its fair or fairs to which all comers were welcomed, and where pedlars and others offered their wares for sale, and were amenable to the justice of a temporary Court of Dusty Foot.

As a royal burgh Renfrew had, as we have seen, its royal castle. As elsewhere, the constable had a right to three yearly gifts of food from the burgesses, and the burgesses had to keep watch and ward in the castle for forty days, an unpopular service which was later compounded for by a money payment to the constable. Most burghs had their hospitals, chiefly for lepers. There was one probably in Renfrew, but there is no trace of one in Paisley. In the parish of Kilmacolm is a place named Leperstoun. Here, it may be, the lepers of the county resorted or were compelled to live.

The tendency of towns is usually to the expansion of trade. Renfrew appears to have done a fair trade for the time in fish and probably in agricultural products ; but as a town it was soon outstripped by Paisley, which, owing to the beauty of its Abbey and the veneration in which it was held, became one of the chief places of pilgrimage in the country. In Paisley, whatever was the case in Renfrew, there were no crafts, i.e., no societies of workmen with exclusive privileges, and no merchant gild. Many of the burgesses while carrying on a trade or practising a handicraft, were farmers. A good example was set them by the monks, who, besides being farmers, had a fulling mill on the Espedair. In each of the two burghs was a number of individuals, who, though not burgesses, were yet free. These were for the most part children of the burgesses, labourers, and orray men. Beggars, sorners and idle men were numerous.

The streets of the burghs were narrow, crooked, ill paved and ill kept. Down each side of the streets ran a gutter into which all manner of refuse was cast. Standing in front of it on the street, each house had its midden, the favourite hunting-ground of pigs, ducks and geese, and fowls. Butchers slaughtered sheep on the streets, and even on the High Street, or, as it was often called, the King’s High Way, and left the offal upon the road, where it was scavenged by dogs and vermin.

Roads in the country were few and usually in wretched condition. For the most part they were mere tracks—intended for horses, not for wheeled carriages. Travelling was done chiefly on horseback. When the artillery had to be moved in the reign of James IV., men, as we saw, had to go before to “ cast the gait,” and the sheriffs had to provide oxen to draw the guns. As late as the beginning of the seventeenth century, and still later, the roads continued almost impassable for wheeled carriages. In 1612, the Countess of Eglinton applied to her mother, the Countess of Linlithgow, for the loan of carriage horses to convey her from Craigiehall to Linlithgow. The distance is short, but the Countess of Linlithgow promised to send her a dozen horses with panniers and ropes in place of “ tumeler ” (tumbril ?) carts.. Later on, the Earl of Eglinton, when writing to his wife, asks her to send her coach and horses for him and to cause six of the ablest tenants to come with the coach to Glasgow “ to put the coach by all the straits and dangers.”

The houses of the burgesses were usually of one storey, built of rough stone, thatched with heather or straw, and rigged with turfs. The chimneys were generally on a level with the ridge ; the sides of the houses fronting the street were often faced with planks of wood painted or white-washed for protection against the weather. In Paisley two or three houses upon the High Street were built of rough ashlar, were a couple of storeys in height, and were roofed with tiles.

Behind each house was its “ yaird,” in which vegetables and sometimes corn was raised. Each yaird was expected to be securely fenced in ; but the fences were often broken down by cattle, horses, goats and pigs, and the vegetables and corn consumed or destroyed. In the most ancient part of Paisley, now known as the Seedhill, there was a village green. Attached to the houses of the burgesses, which seldom consisted of more than two or three rooms, or separated from them by a short distance in the yaird, was the workshop, in which the burgess and his journeymen and apprentices carried on their business. Sometimes there were also a brewhouse and a barn.

The room most in use in the house was the kitchen, which was usually the most commodious, but dimly lighted, ill ventilated, and having an earthen floor. Plaster was almost unknown, and the walls were bare or hung with cloth or faced with deal boards. The furniture was rough and scanty, consisting usually of a table, a settle, and a few stools or chairs. Utensils were costly, and, except those in common use, would be obtained at the fairs. The floor of the “ben room” would be covered with straw or reeds or rushes— and some slight attempts at comfort and elegance might be visible. In the bedrooms were bedsteads, and feather and other sorts of beds were in use. Sheets were in use and blankets. Most, if not all, of the rooms in the house were furnished with bedsteads built into the walls.

Some idea of the furnishings of a burgess’s house may be derived from the fact that when a burgess died, his heir could always claim the following articles, which are termed “ necessare thyngis ” : the best board (table) with the trestle, a table cloth, towell, bason, lavar, the best bed with the sheets and all the rest of the clothes pertaining to it, the best feather bed (or flock bed if there was no feather bed), a lead with a masking tub, a fermenting vat, a barrel, cauldron, kettle, gridiron, bason or porringer called a “posnet,” a chymney, a stoup, a crook or sway for hanging pots over the fire. These things, it is said, “ ought not to be left in legacy from the house.” The heir was entitled also to everything that was built, set, or sown in the ground. Further, he could claim a chest, a reaping hook, a plough, a wain, cart and waggon, a brass pot, a pan, a roasting iron, a girdle, a mortar and pestal, a large wooden platter, a drinking cup, twelve spoons, a shelf, bench and stool, a set of scales and weights, a spade and an axe.

There were other inhabitants in the burghs, such, for instance, as journeymen and labourers, who were not so well set up as the heir of a burgess. But in those days, as in the present, there would be a good deal of borrowing and mutual accommodation among the poor.

In the rural parts the cottars and tenants of the Abbey, it may be assumed, were better housed than those of the lay proprietors. The Grange was always a substantially built and commodious structure, and the steward and the Abbot’s bailiff would see that the houses of the cottars and tenants were maintained in a fair state of repair and cleanly kept. Fully occupied with their feuds and always impecunious, the lay proprietors left their natives and tenants to take care of themselves. The houses of their natives and labourers were usually of the most wretched kind. They were built of rough stones picked up in the fields, held together by mud or lime or by their own weight, and perhaps faced inside and out with a coating of lime or mud. They were thatched with heather or straw, which was held down by ropes and stones. The floors were of earth ; the rafters were boughs of trees, which formed a convenient roosting-place for the few hens the native possessed and for a a stray pigeon or two from the dovecote attached to the manor house. Light was obtained from the doorway and through unglazed apertures in the walls. The fire often stood in the middle of the floor and sometimes there was no chimney, the soot being allowed to accumulate in the thatch, from which it was collected in the spring and used for fertilizing the land. The fuel used was peat and wood, and sometimes coal, which in places was given away as alms to the poor.1 Outside these wretched hovels was a patch of ground where the native or labourer raised corn and vegetables and kept his pigs.

The houses of many of the farmers or free tenants were not much better than those of the serfs and labourers. Usually they consisted of a long, low building of rough, unhewn stones covered with thatch. What may be called the front of the building was pierced with two and sometimes more windows often unglazed. The door was on the same side and near one of the ends. It opened into the byre, where the cows were kept. Opposite to the stalls was another door which opened into the kitchen, at the further end of which was a third door opening into the “ ben ” room or rooms according to the wealth or taste of the occupier. The kitchen might boast of a chimney or it might not. In the other rooms fires were unknown. They were used as store rooms or as sleeping rooms, and one of them was usually kept for the entertainment of company on high occasions. It is difficult to obtain a description of any of the houses actually inhabited by the farmers or free tenants of the period under review. The description just given applies to the houses of many tenant farmers in the beginning of the last century, and though some of the class might occupy houses of a superior kind during the reigns of the first four Jameses, it is not likely that the houses of the majority of them were in any way better than those described.

The houses most in request among the proprietors were chiefly in the castle or tower style, which was then considered as connected with birth and station. Besides, amid the anarchy and feuds of the time, no one with any pretensions to birth or station thought himself safe or could depend upon sleeping securely at night unless his house was sufficiently strong to withstand the attacks of freebooters or of his private enemies.

These castellated dwellings were of different sizes, according to the wealth of the proprietors. Though not all built upon the same plan, they had certain features in common. They were surrounded by a deep moat, and had walls of great height and thickness. Access by an enemy was made as difficult and dangerous as possible.

The entrance to the building was narrow, and strongly protected by a heavy door, consisting of massive bars of iron. The lower windows were small and carefully guarded; and from these and from the turrets over the entrance and at the adjacent angles, as well as from the battlements, stones and other missiles could be showered upon assailants, while those who were within were under cover. The interior of these buildings usually consisted of three or four floors, the first of which formed a spacious hall, which was used for purposes of hospitality, upon which no expense was spared, and which it was necessary to dispense, in order to caress the vassals and dependants and to secure their assistance. The upper floors were apparently of the same size as the first. The kitchens where the dishes were prepared for the entertainment of the great companies which often assembled, were on the ground floor. They were usually vaulted, and sometimes spacious and lofty.

Most of these towers had their pit or thieves’ hole. They were usually beneath the ground, somewhat in the shape of a bottle, though at times they were above ground, in the form of an oven. They were badly lighted and badly ventilated, and were a reproach to humanity. Men and sometimes women were thrown into them before conviction, merely to gratify the resentment of those into whose hands they had fallen, and many a hapless and innocent victim was allowed to languish in them unheard. Here, too, private enemies taken with arms in their hands or caught in a treacherous ambuscade were thrown, and detained as long as it suited the interest or caprice of their captors.

Parts of a number of these castellated dwellings still remain, from which it is possible to form a fairly accurate conception of what they were. Many of them have been described by Messrs. Macgibbon and Ross in their excellent work on the Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, from the pages of which the materials for the following paragraphs have been taken.

Mearns Tower, which stands in an upland district overlooking the valley of the Clyde, is situated on a small knoll having a level platform round the building, with a precipitous slope of about 25 feet. The tower is oblong, and measures 44 feet from east to west, 29 feet 6 inches from north to south, and 45 feet high to the top of the corbels. It contained three floors, two of which are vaulted, and still remain. The entrance, which is at the east end, leads directly into the basement or lower vault, which is lighted by two widely splayed slits. The eastern wall is here 10 feet in thickness; the other walls are about 8 feet thick. From the entrance passage a straight flight of steps leads to the first floor, and in continuation a corkscrew stair leads to the top. Immediately over the entrance to the basement is the separate round arched doorway, forming the principal entrance to the castle on the first floor. The height from the ground to the door sill is 11 feet. This doorway enters directly into the hall, which occupies the whole of the first floor as a single apartment, measuring 27 feet 9 inches long by 16 feet 6 inches wide, and 21 feet high. The object of the great height of the vaulting appears to have been to introduce in the east wall an entresol, entering off the corkscrew stair, forming what is usually called a minstrel’s gallery and a wall closet. Adjoining the first floor is a lighted wall closet, and at the opposite end is a fire-place with windows in the side walls having stone seats. The upper floor is very similar in arrangement to the first. From its wall closet a garde-robe is projected on the south front. The stair was continued to the battlements, where it was protected by a “ cape house.” Herbert Lord Maxwell was granted a licence to build this tower by James II., on March 15, 1449, and there can be little doubt that it was built shortly after that date. According to the licence, Lord Maxwell was “ to build a castle or fortalice in the Barony of Mearns in Renfrewshire, to surround and fortify it with walls and ditches, to strengthen it by iron gates, and to erect on the top of it all warlike apparatus necessary for its defence.” In 1589 it was one of the castles William, fifth Lord Herries, was called upon by James VI. to surrender. About the middle of the seventeenth century it was sold by the Earl of Nithsdale to Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollok. Shortly afterwards it passed into the possession of the ancestors of its present owner, Sir Hugh Shaw Stewart.

Leven Castle stands upon the steep bank of a stream near Gourock on the Clyde. It consists of a double tower, but appears to have been originally a simple keep similar to the one already described, the wing to the south-east being probably a later addition. The ground floor contains two vaulted cellars, one of which has a private stair communicating with the hall above. The entrance door was on the ground floor, with a narrow straight stair to the first floor landing, which is continued as a newel stair in the south-west angle to the upper floors. The hall windows have square recesses furnished with stone seats. From the style of the corbel table, the south-east wing seems to have been added about the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the old keep appears to have been re-modelled and the same cornice continued all round the building. At this period, too, a kitchen appears to have been added in the form of a wing, and other buildings. Before 1547 this castle belonged to the Mortons. At that date it passed to the Semples, by whom it was probably re-modelled. It is now the property of Sir Hugh Shaw Stewart, Bart.

Crookston Castle was built about the year 1180, when Robert Croc and Henry de Nes asked and obtained permission from Robert, Prior of Paisley, to build chapels within their courts.3 It is very doubtful, however, whether any of the original structure now remains. “ It is not unlikely,” Messrs. Macgibbon and Ross write, “ that the site of the existing structure was occupied with a castle at an even earlier date (than the thirteenth century). The great ditch and mound which still surround the summit of the hill on which the castle stands, seem to point to this as one of the ancient fortresses whose site and defences were made available in connection with a castle of later date.” Some of the features of the existing castle certainly indicate considerable antiquity, but the distinguishing features of thirteenth century castles are entirely wanting. There is no great wall of enceinte with towers and donjon, but simply a central keep. “ The main block of the castle is a parallelogram 60 feet long by 40 feet wide, having in the basement a finely vaulted hall. Over this vault is the great hall, with pointed vault 28 feet high, and the usual large fireplace and windows with stone seats. At each of the four corners was a square tower. One of these towers is still standing, another is in ruins, and the two others can be traced. Over the door from the basement in the north-west tower, is a hole or machicolation in the wall, from which missiles might be thrown on assailants below. The entrance door, which is on the ground level, adjoins the north-east tower, and was defended by two doors and a portcullis, the inner door having the usual sliding bar, which, when drawn back, crosses the staircase of the north-east tower at such a level as to prevent entrance by it. The doorway projects from the face of the wall, so as to leave ample room for the portcullis, and the latter was worked from the window of the hall above.” A straight stair in the thickness of the wall leads from the entrance door to the hall, and under this stair in a well-finished chamber, entering from the basement, is the well. A small stair in the wall of the north-east tower leads to a guard-room in the tower, under which, entering from a trap in the floor, is the vaulted dungeon, with the usual small aperture to the exterior for ventilation. In the basement of the southeast tower is a vaulted cellar. Access to the upper floors of this and of the north-east tower is by a newel staircase entering at the south-east corner of the great hall, from which passages run in the thickness of the east wall to the north-east tower. This stair also conducted to the apartments over the great hall where were a moulded fireplace and a mullioned window. Among the most interesting features connected with this castle are the ditch and mound surrounding it. The ditch is from 12 to 13 feet deep, and the mound on the outside of it is still raised from 2 to 10 feet above the level of the surrounding ground. Being on the top of a hill the ground beyond the ditch slopes somewhat steeply away from it, so that the mound when covered with a formidable palisade, as it no doubt was, would afford a secure defence. The entrance was at the south-west angle. The estate in which the castle stands was purchased in 1330 by Sir Alan Stewart, and granted in 1361 to John Stewart of Darnley. It was held by his descendant, Henry Lord Darnley (1546-67).1 As we have already seen, it was surrendered by the Earl of Lennox to James IV. in 1489.

Newark Castle, a fine specimen of Scottish domestic architecture of the advanced type, is situated at Port-Glasgow, and is now closely surrounded by shipyards. The building is entire, and is partly inhabited. The uninhabited portion is in a state of great dilapidation. The castle is built round a courtyard, and forms three sides of a quadrangle, being open towards the south and partly to the west, the latter side not extending so far south as the eastern side. The courtyard was at one time enclosed, when the principal entrance was through an arched passage in the west range of buildings, with a guard-room entering off it. The castle is of three periods. The oldest part is the keep at the south-eastern corner. It measures 29 feet by 23 feet 1 inch over the walls, and is 48 feet high to the top of the present parapet, which has been raised so as to obtain an additional storey, thus making three stories above the vaulted basement. The present entrance doorway to the keep from the lobby of the more modern buildings is the original one. A corkscrew stair in the north-east corner leads to the upper floors, which contain the usual wall recesses, garde-robes, and fireplaces. The building of the second period is at the south-west corner, and was evidently the gatehouse to the courtyard. It measures 23 feet 6 inches by 20 feet 1 inch over the walls. The passage into the courtyard has the usual stone seat, and a slit so placed as to command the outside of the western enclosing wall. A corkscrew stair leads from the guardroom to the two upper floors, which, like those in the keep, consist of single chambers. The buildings of the third period form the remainder of the castle. These are by far the most important parts of the edifice, and unite the two detached portions into one whole. The principal and only entrance doorway is at the north-east corner of the courtyard. Above it is the date 1597 and the inscription : “ The blessingis of God be heirin.” Inside the door is a small porch, and opposite to it a handsome scale and platt stair leading to the first floor. The whole of the apartments on this floor are vaulted. Above them is the hall, a splendid apartment, measuring 37 feet 4 inches by 20 feet 8 inches, lighted by windows on all sides. The fireplace, which is of good design, is on the north wall and measures about 8 feet 7 inches wide by 7 feet 6 inches high. At the side of the hall door, in the south-east corner of the room, is a small low closet, about two or three feet above the floor, provided with a small spy-window or shot-hole just over the entrance doorway. The upper floor is reached by a separate stair adjoining the landing of the main stair. It is at present open from end to end of the building, and is 83 feet 9 inches long. It appears to have been divided off at one time by moveable partitions into several apartments. Entering off this floor are several fine turret closets. The barony of Newark came into the possession of the Maxwell family about the beginning of the fifteenth century, and the whole building was erected by this family. The keep dates from near the end of the century, probably about the year 1484. The buildings of the third period bear the dates 1597 and 1599. James IV., as we have seen, was here in 1495, when on his way to put down the disturbances in the Western Isles.

Duchal Castle, the stronghold of the Lyles, besieged by James IV. in 1498, and later the residence of Marion Boyd, his mistress, has now almost entirely disappeared. It is situated about two miles south-west from Kilmacolm on a detached mass of rock which is almost entirely surrounded by a deep ravine, through which run the river Gryffe and a confluent. The sides of the rocky site to the height of about 20 feet are either perpendicular or very precipitous. The whole position, which measures about 70 yards in length from east to west by 30 yards wide, was enclosed with a strong wall of enciente, portions of which still remain. Outside this wall to the west, the neck of the peninsula was cut across by a deep ditch. The entrance was probably at the north-west angle. The surface of the enclosure is fairly level except at the south-east angle, where a precipitous pinnacle rises about 20 feet above the courtyard. On this seems to have stood the keep, the foundations of which, surrounded by a higher wall, are yet traceable. The wall of enciente was of a much stronger character than the ordinary enclosing walls of courtyards, and may possibly be the remains of a thirteenth century castle. In 1544 the property passed into the Porterfield family.

Barr Castle, in the parish of Lochwinnoch, is in a fine state of preservation, and though uninhabited is well cared for. It is a simple parallelogram in plan, and measures about 35 feet 6 inches from east to west, and 26 feet from north to south. On the west side it had a courtyard containing buildings. The entrance to the courtyard is by a round arched doorway in the north side, defended with shot-holes in the adjoining wall. There was also a wing on the south side of the keep communicating with it by a doorway on the first floor. The entrance doorway to the keep from the courtyard is by a porch, which is of later construction. The original doorway is above it, entering upon the first floor. Upon the ground floor are two vaulted apartments, one of which is the kitchen, and has a finely arched fireplace, 11 feet wide by 4 feet 6 inches deep. Behind the fireplace is the usual drain and an inflow for water supply. A wheel stair in the north-west comer leads to the upper floors and to the battlements. The hall, which as usual is on the first floor, measures 24 feet by 17 feet. It is lighted by four windows, one on each side, and has a fireplace in the west wall. In the north-east corner is a wall closet. There is a sink in the hall and various cupboards. A narrow private stair in the southwest corner leads to the second and third floors, to which the main stair also gives access. The dates 1680 and 1699 appear on the walls, but the building may be older.

Cathcart Castle occupies a strong position on the steep and lofty banks of the White Cart, which defends it on two sides. The keep is a simple oblong structure, measuring about 51 feet by 30 feet 9 inches, and is surrounded at a distance of about 10 feet by curtain walls, strengthened with round corner towers. The ground floor is vaulted: above it were three floors. The entrance through the curtain was at the east end. and opposite to it is the door to the keep. A passage in the east wall leads to a wheel stair which ascends to the top and served the various floors. Adjoining the door at the south end of the passage is a small chamber, about 6 feet by 5 feet, which was probably used as a guard-room or as a dungeon, with access from above. The hall on the first floor measures about 32 feet 6 inches by 17 feet, and was well lighted with windows. One of the windows had stone seats, and two of the others have lockers in the ingoing. The fireplace stands in the centre of the south wall. The property, as we have seen, passed from the Cathcarts to Gabriel Semple of Ladymure in 1546. The building is apparently of the fifteenth century, and is not likely to have been the one originally erected by the Cathcarts.

Stanely Castle now stands upon a peninsula in the reservoir of the Paisley Water Works, about two miles south of the town, but originally it was in all probability protected by a marsh. The exterior walls are well preserved, but the interior is entirely gutted. The castle is of the L shape, and the doorway is, as usual, in the re-entering angle. The ground floor is pierced with several loops, which have an ancient appearance, being formed with a circular eyelet at the lower end. The walls are built of coursed work, and the parapet has run round the whole castle, with corbelled bartizans at the angles. A similar bartizan is introduced over the entrance doorway, with a machicolation for its defence. In the fourteenth century the castle and barony of Stanely belonged to the Dennistons of that ilk, from whom it passed by marriage to the Maxwells of Calderwood, and through them, in the following century, to the Maxwells of Newark. It is said to belong to the fifteenth century.

Scattered through the county were other of these castles. Some of them are in total ruins; others of them have been restored or are in a fair state of preservation. Among these may be mentioned Haggs Castle, Dargavel Castle, and Johnstone Castle. The ancient house of the Semples of Eliotstoun, of the Erskines of Bishopton, Blackhall—the favourite hunting lodge of the Stewards —Ranfurly Castle, and the Castle of Pulnoon are in various stages of decay.

The site selected for these castles was not always chosen because of its natural beauty. Many of the castles were set down at the very extremity of the estate, next to the most powerful or turbulent neighbour, or to the one who was most likely to encroach. Light was admitted to the apartments from the south, windows being but rarely found on the north side of the buildings, even where the northern prospect is pleasing and picturesque and the southern consists only of barren hills or moor or morass. The kindly influences of the sun and shelter from the bitter north wind appear to have been more highly appreciated than a beautiful prospect. Many other castles, however, are finely situated. Taking the royal castles as their pattern, the builders appear to have chosen the most beautiful sites at their command.

The life led in these somewhat gloomy buildings, though often rude and rough, was usually gay and lively. The standard of comfort changes from age to age, and what was considered comfort or luxury in those days would not be considered such in the present. The walls in the various apartments, including the great reception hall and the rooms above it, were usually roughly plastered and then hung with tapestry, cloth, or stamped leather. A cloth or carpet of small size, called a “ lyare,” with one or more cushions upon it for the feet, was sometimes placed on the floor in front of a chair of state, but otherwise carpets, as usually understood, were unknown ; the floors, even in the greatest houses, being strewn with bent or rushes mingled with sweet herbs. The most conspicuous article of furniture in the hall, besides the table, was the cupboard—“ an open sideboard or buffet, often of considerable size, usually containing three shelves—sometimes a larger number—covered with carpets or rich cloths, on which articles of gold and silver plate . . . were displayed. Above it there was usually a canopy with rich hangings.”  The furniture was substantial and heavy. “ All the furniture that is used in Italy, France, or Spain,” says Don Pedro de Ayala, the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of Scotland in 1497-8, “is to be found in the Scots dwellings.” “ It has not been bought in modern times only,” he adds, “ but inherited from preceding ages.” The windows, which, as we have seen, were usually on the south side of the house, were small, and provided with stone seats. Glass had been in use long before the beginning of the fourteenth century, but was still costly in the fifteenth and sixteenth. The casements were, consequently, often made to fit not only different windows in the same house, but also windows in different houses, and when the owner shifted from one house to another they were taken out and either laid up in store like the moveable furniture, or packed up with the arras and cupboard and carried to the place to which he was removing.

The second floor was probably used as a withdrawing room for the ladies. In some instances the third or uppermost floor bears signs of having been divided off by wooden partitions into smaller apartments, which were probably used as bedrooms or as private sitting-rooms. The bedrooms were usually of scant dimensions, consisting merely of a recess in the thickness of the wall, the bedstead occupying almost the whole of the floor. Light and ventilation from without were obtained through a narrow slit in the wall. Even in the King’s bedchamber the floor was covered with grass.

The beds and bedsteads differed little from those now in use, except that the latter were made of wood. The hangings and furnishings were sometimes sumptuous. Usually the blankets were made of fustian, and were frequently called fustians. They were also made of broad cloth. The sheets were of linen. A narrow sheet called the “ head-sheet ” was spread over the pillows, and a corresponding “foot-sheet” was spread across the foot of the bed. These were generally of cloth or linen, but sometimes of silk or fur, or cloth of gold. “The account of articles furnished for the royal nursery in 1473-4, when Prince James was yet an infant, includes two ells and a half of French brown cloth ‘ to covir my lordis creddill,’ four ells and a half of tartar to be a ‘ sparwort ’ or canopy above it, ‘ bucram ’ to bind the curtains, ‘ small ’ or fine broad cloth—linen or Holland cloth—for sheets, and white fustian ‘ for blan-katis to my lorde.’ His nurse, Agnes Preston, had twelve ells of linen for a pair of sheets.” Infants and nurses in some of the castles would be provided for in a similar way.

The small number of bedrooms in the keeps would at times prove inconvenient ; but on occasions many of the guests would find accommodation on the floor of the hall, which, like the room above it, had at one or at both ends a huge fireplace, in which grates were rarely used, the fire being kindled on the hearthstone. During the long winter evenings the rooms were lighted partly by the blazing logs on the hearthstones, and partly by candles fixed in brass chandeliers, pendant from the ceiling.

The food provided from the vaulted kitchens, if not always delicate, was at least abundant. Besides the ordinary dishes of beef, mutton, venison, grouse and other game, some dishes were served up which are now entirely discarded. A favourite dish at great entertainments was the crane, a bird which was once common in the country, but has now disappeared. The swan, heron, bittern, solan goose and other birds of coarse flavour were also esteemed delicacies. Sturgeon, both fresh and cured, was accounted a dainty. Porpoise during the fourteenth century and later was a regular item at the King’s table. The flesh of the seal was also served. The porpoise and seal continued to be used till the end of the sixteenth century, if not later. Other fish served as food were, besides salmon, herring and trout, bream and ged or pike. In the Archbishop’s Palace at Glasgow when it was sacked by Muir of Caldwell in 1527, there were fifteen swine, valued at ten shillings each, six dozen salmon, each valued at four shillings, a last of salt herrings worth twenty-eight shillings the barrel. .

The chief drink, at least among the upper classes, was wine. In the cellars of Archbishop Beaton in Glasgow, on the occasion just referred to, no less than twelve tuns, valued at 10 the tun, are said to have been destroyed.

In the fifteenth century the wines “ chiefly in use in Scotland,” Dr. Dickson writes, “ were those of Guienne and Gascony, Burgundy, the Rhine countries, and the Levant. Claret, which was most in favour, was imported by French and Scottish traders from Bordeaux. The growths also of Anjou and Poitou found their way to Scotland from Nantes and Rochelle. The Rhine wines were brought from Middleburgh or Campvere, Sluys and ‘ the Dam. The two latter, however, were illegal places of shipment, the trade being rigidly restricted to the Staple. Malmsey—Malvoisie—which was brought from Candia and Cyprus to the chief ports of Europe by the galleys of Genoa, Venice and Pisa, was in high esteem. Muscadel and Bastard are also sometimes mentioned. . . . Much of the wine then in use is not distinguished by name, being merely described as e red ’ and ‘ white. The wines of the Peninsula also were brought from Bayonne, Lisbon, Alicant, and other ports.” Wine could only be sold in towns and in villages where the lord of the manor was a knight, and in such exceptional places as the Monastery of Paisley, which had a charter authorising the Abbot and Convent to sell wine within their gates.

Several statues were passed to encourage the importation of wine. In 1314 Parliament ordained that those who exported salmon should sell or barter it only for English money—silver or gold—for one half of the price, or for Gascon wine, “ or siclyke gude pennyworthis,” for the other half. The importation or sale of corrupt or mixed wine was prohibited under the severest penalties. The mixing of wine was forbidden “ on pane of dede.”

The excessive drinking of the period is referred to by Boece6 and Leslie/ and also by various travellers. In the beginning of the seventeenth century the Privy Council complained of the “ grite excesse of wyne-drinking,” by “ both nobilman, baron, and gentilman,” and imposed a tax of four pounds per tun on all wine sold by retail. Large quantities of aromatic spices and of sugar were imported and mixed with the wines then generally in use, in order to counteract their harsh and acrid qualities.

The drinks of the poorer classes were milk, whey, ale and beer. The ale was home brewed. It could not be sold before it had been proved by the tasters, and to sell it at any other price than that fixed by these officials was an offence, involving fine and confiscation. The beer used during the greater part of the fifteenth century appears to have been imported, chiefly from Germany. In Bishop Leslie’s time (1578) it was extensively made in Govan. “ There was no settled rule,” says Dr. Dickson, “ as to the grain best suited for malting. Ale was made both from oats and barley or bere, or from a mixture of both; and in the absence of hops, it was flavoured with ginger and other spices and aromatic herbs to fit it for keeping. Women—‘browster wives’— were then the only brewers, and most of the alehouses were kept by them.” Excessive drinking occurred among the lower classes as well as among the upper, and in 1436 an Act was passed ordering all taverns to be closed at nine o’clock at night, and directing the bailies to appreheud all who were found drinking in them after the hour had struck.

The food of the lower classes was plain and simple. Bread was made of wheaten flour and from barley. Oatmeal in the shape of porridge and cakes was used extensively. As sold by the baxters or bakers, the bread was of different qualities and prices, and like other articles of food had to be proved and priced by the official visitors before it could be sold. Brose and kail and soup were common dishes. Fish was plentiful and cheap. Hens, capons, ducks and geese found their way to the table of the burgess as well as to the table of the lord. Beef and mutton were sold in the towns, and in the beginning of winter ox and cow beef was salted down by the farmers. Times of dearth were frequent all over the country. The earliest mentioned in Renfrewshire occurred in 1601, but it is scarcely likely that this was the first time the district suffered from famine. It was not the last.

Extravagance in dress was a feature of the times and was frequently inveighed against. An Act of Parliament of the year 1447 begins as follows : “ Since the realm in each estate is greatly impoverished through sumptuous clothing both of men and women, and in special within burghs and commons to landward, the Lords think it speedful that restrictions hereof be made in this manner:—That no man within burgh that lives by merchandise, except he be a person in dignity, as alderman, bailie, or other good worthy men that are of the Council of the town, and their wives, wear clothes of silk nor costly scarlet in gowns, nor furrings of martens.” It then goes on to enjoin the men to make their wives and daughters to be in like manner dressed fitly and corresponding to their estate—“ that is to say, on the head short kerchiefs with little hoods as are used in Flanders, England, and other countries. And as to the gowns, that no woman wear martens nor grey fur nor tails of unbecoming magnitude nor furred under, except on holiday; and in like manner without the burghs of worthy poor gentlemen and their wives that are with xl of auld extent.” On working days labourers and farmers were to be clad in white or grey, and on holidays in light blue or green or red. Their wives were to be clothed in the same colours and in addition might wear upon their heads a kerchief, but of their own making and not of greater value than forty pence. Women were forbidden to attend kirk or market with their faces muffled or covered under pain of escheat of the kerchief. In 1471 the wearing of silk by men in gown, doublet and cloak was forbidden, except knights, minstrels and heralds, unless the wearer could spend a hundred pounds worth of land-rent. In the same way the wives of men with an income of less than a hundred pounds were forbidden to wear silk in lining, and were only to wear it “in collar and sleeves.”

Of female attire during the latter half of the fifteenth century, Dr. Dickson writes : “ The chief items were the kirtle, a close-fitting garment covering the whole body from the neck to the feet, and buttoning at the wrists; and the robe or gown, which was worn over it, generally open in front, showing the kirtle . . . These garments were made of the most showy colours and the costliest materials, and adorned with the most expensive trimmings and embroidery. The kirtle required three ells to seven and a half of satin, velvet, silk, camlet, or other narrow cloth; the gown and riding gown from three and a half to five ells, and the long gown from eight ells and a half to fifteen ells. They were lined with broad cloth, silk, buckram, or fur, and were also trimmed with broad cloth, or with bands of fur at the bottom of the skirt. Five ‘ tymmir,’ or two hundred skins, of cristy gray, were required to line a gown, and as much of gris, merely to ‘ purple ’ a gown of crimson satin for Queen Margaret. A stomacher of satin or velvet, richly ornamented and lined with ermine or other costly fur, was worn over the kirtle, and covered the breast. A tippet, or a collar of satin or velvet similarly lined, worn above, sometimes under, the gown, completed the costume. The cloak of cloth, lined and furred, was worn over all. A collar required one ell of satin, and a tippet two quarters and a half; and twenty-six ‘ bestis ’ or skins of gris sufficed to line it. With collars are found associated ‘birlatis,’ perhaps ruffs, also of satin.” There were no dressmakers, and the dresses of women as well as of men were made by tailors.

Many of the silk stuffs came from the East; others of them came from the looms of Italy and France. They varied in prices according to their colour as well as according to their quality. Taffeta, a light soft silk, sold at 8s. to 20s. an ell. Camlet of silk cost 36s. to 50s. ; damask, 32s. to 50s. ; satin of good quality was sold at from 24s. to 50s.; except crimson-coloured, which, being more expensively dyed, cost from 70s. to 100s., and when pirnit or brocaded with gold thread, 110s. the ell. Velvet, which, like satin, was mostly from Italy, cost from 32s. to 70s., but crimson-coloured velvet cost from 80s. to 100s. Raw silk sold at 5s. 6d. per ounce, and silk thread from 4s. to 5s.

Fine linen or Holland cloth, imported from the Low Countries, of which sheets and kerchiefs and shirts were made, cost from 5s. to 18s. the ell. Home-made linen cost as low as 10d. the ell.

Most of the woollen cloths were imported. The finer cloths of all colours, black, blue, brown, scarlet, etc., came from Lille and Rouen, and cost 20s. to 45s. the ell; ingrained 50s., but scarlet 50s. to 70s. The finer English cloths ranged from 20s. to 35s. Home-made fabric rarely exceeded 13s. or 14s. an ell. French black cost 28s. to 60s., and Rissilis 30s. to 40s.; but Scotch black could be had at from 5s. to 12s. The colours which brought the highest prices were black, brown, green and scarlet. Blue, gray, and russet were worn by the lower orders—gray and russet were the colours for work, and blue for holidays. Spinning went on in most houses. Many farmers’ wives spun and dyed, as in some parts they do now, the wool from their own sheep, and then sent it to the village weaver to be woven. Afterwards the cloth was made up at home or sent to the tailor. Much of the rougher sort of linen was home grown, home spun and home bleached. During the fifteenth century cotton does not appear to have been used as a fabric for clothes.

On March 10, 1633, died Dame Margaret Ross, daughter of Lord James Ross, and wife of Sir George Stirling of Keir. She left behind her an inventory, which is interesting as showing the amount of money spent upon a lady’s dress in her day and the state of her affairs. In the inventory, among other possessions are included “ ane gowne of Flourence setoune in blak and orience flowris layid over with gold leise,” price 133 6s. 8d.; “ane gowne of orience pan velvet laid over with silver leice,” 160 ; “ane petticoat of Millan satine,” 100 ; “ ane uther of grein seitine,” 80 ; “ sextine ellis of fyne florit satine to be another gowne,” 120 ; “Item, ane kirk cushione of red velvet,” 40 ; “ Item, ane chaine and ane pair of braclettis of gold,” 200 ; “ Item, ane compleit holland clothe bed,” 160. Among the debts owing to the deceased was a legacy to her and her husband by the late Dame Jane Hamilton, Lady Ross, namely, “ ane silver baisoune, ane silver laver, twelff silver spunis,” valued at 333 6s. 8d. ; “ Item, als meikle fyne tapestrie as wald hing twa chalmeris, pryce iiij0 lib. ; Item, ane grein dames [damask] bad, viz., bedis, bousteris, codis [pillows] with blankettis, with ane grein dames mat, fyve pair of greine dames courtines, pryce iiij0 lib.” The lady’s debts exceeded her assets by nearly 13,000 Scots.

In the absence of banks, money was usually invested in plate and jewels, but more especially in the latter. With the plate the sideboard or cupboard and the table in the great hall of the castle were on high occasions splendidly garnished. The jewels were worn by the ladies, who sometimes carried on their persons a great part of their own and their husbands’ fortunes. An inventory of the jewels possessed by Lady Ann Hamilton, the first wife of the seventh Earl of Eglinton, at the time of her death, which were seen and entered October 24, 1632, while her husband was still Lord Montgomery, affords some idea of the jewels owned by a young lady of position in the first half of the seventeenth century.

“ Inprimis a great jowall given to her Ladyship be my Lady Eglinton, all set with great diamonds, quhilk was gevin conditionall that it should remain as a jowall dedicat to the house of Eglinton, and to the hopeful young lady, my Lady Anna Montgomerie, her use till the tyme of her marriage, if it sail please God. Item, a great jowall in form of a feather all sett with great and small diamonds, given by my Lady Marquies of Hamilton, her Ladyship’s mother, to her ladyship, quhilk should be furth coming to the said hopefull lady, Lady Anna Montgomerie.” A jewel in form of an S with six diamonds, one pearl and two empty holes; a little jewel in form of an anchor with seven diamonds; “ ane faire emrald ” set in gold, in oval form, with a pearl; a diamond ring containing seventeen diamonds; another with four diamonds in form of a crowned heart; another ring with “elevin diamond sparks,” and a diamond enclosed, in form of a heart; another ring with “ aucht sparks lyke saphirs,” and two empty places. Another with “ thrie little emralds ” and two empty places; another ring “ with a great blood-staine, with a face sunk in it ” ; “ Item ane garnison, conteining in it twintie-sevin peice of gold-smith work of gold, everie ane of them conteining four pearls, and a rubie set in the midst; twa rubies onlie wanting ”; a chain of goldsmith work with agates; a chain of pearl and coral with gold beads intermixed; a chain of small pearl; a chain of greater pearls, “ about twa ells and thrie quarters lenth.” “A great blacke chaine like agates blacke colourit portrait in gold of the Marquis of Hamilton ; a red blood-stone set in gold, in form of a heart; “ a jowall of gold quhilk Grissal Seton affirms to be in my Lady Marqueis of Hamilton’s custodie, sett with diamonds and blew saphire ” ; and lastly, a cup of mother of pearl set in silver gilt, with a corresponding cover.

Jewels and ornaments of gold and silver were often given and taken in pledge for money lent or borrowed among all classes, from the King downwards.

As a rule, the tenants lived on excellent terms with their landlords. It was the interest of the landlord that they should do so, for in the unsettled state of the country during the wars and the long minorities, he never knew how soon he might need their assistance. As in other counties the tenants in Renfrewshire sometimes saw their goods seized for the debts of their landlords, and were at times turned out of their holdings when these changed owners, but on the whole the tenants, and the labourers as well, were fairly well off for the period. They enjoyed life on easier terms than those of the same classes in any other country in Europe. The tenant was always sure of his lord’s protection as long as it could be given, and with his cow and his cow’s grass and field of oats or beans, the labourer was always sure, except in times of dearth, of the bare necessities of life.


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