Routledges – The Forgotten
By Tom Routledge
When you ask most people to name
Scottish surnames they will ordinarily reply with their own name if it is a
Scottish one, closely followed by McDonald, McGregor, Stewart, Campbell,
Wallace and other such immortalised and stereotypical names. If you were to
ask the people of Hawick at random it would once again be their own followed
by the likes of Scott and Douglas. In Liddesdale they would add to their own
name the infamous Reiver names such as Armstrong, Elliot, Graham and Nixons.
Yet history has done an
injustice to one name as the folk of Liddesdale and Hawick should have
another name come to mind, one who burnt the Scotts of Buccleuch’s castles,
lived in Hawick and Liddesdale while terrorising side by side with the
Armstrongs; the Routledges.
Straight away I hear you dismiss
the name as a Scottish one and think more towards English. This is the
common misconception due to the resources used when researching surnames.
For example, Surnames of Scotland written by George E Black. He wrote that
using only the books he had available to him in the New York library, and
apparently without consulting original texts. The Scotts of Buccleuch was
compiled over two volumes by William Fraser when he had full access to the
Buccleuch family papers; problem with this was that if he didn’t deem them
relative he ignored them. So again the people in between the norm and the
lines on the page fell into obscurity.
The Routledges living on the border were Reivers, and
there lies another reason for how they have come to have been mistaken as
English. The Calendar of Border papers covers the period from 1560 – 1603 so
the Routledges are examined during this period only, along with all other
Reivers. When books talk of the Reivers they give the impression they only
rode and raided in the last 43 years of the 16th
century but in fact they were around from the early 15th
Century. The Border Papers famously contained the line in it which every
Historian loves to use when referring to the Routledges; ‘for they are
everyman’s prey’. Taken out of context we have been left with the place in
history as an insignificant minor Reiving family with no ties or allies,
there for everyone to take advantage. Using all these sources even the name
has failed to be translated correctly. Red pool or stream was the
explanation of the meaning, coming from Rut and letch in old English. The
problem was, the surname came from Scotland 200 years before hand and
therefore need to be translated using lowland Scots not English. In Scots it
can be broke down to ‘Rout’ and ‘lug’, which roughly translates to a “loud
and clumsy” fellow. This is the short overview of why the Routledges
vanished from Scotland before 1560, and their tale is unheard of.
The first Scottish Routledge
recorded was a Roberti Ruloche in 1358 were he is being granted the lands of
Threepwood near Lanark and a place called ‘terris Alite de Quhithead’
near Perth by King David I of Scotland. In 1359 he is once again found being
granted these two lands with his surname varying as ‘Roulouche’ and
‘Rollouche. For a long time it was assumed that these were early versions of
the Scottish surname Rollo, which is sometimes spelt Rolloch in this era,
but upon approaching various members of the Rollo clan, they too also agree
that it is more than likely an earlier version of Routledge, and that
perhaps the original text should be checked in case the ‘ll’ actually read ‘tl’.This
would be the natural course of action as the original record was taken from
the printed, ‘Registrum Magni Sigilli 1306 – 1424’ which is nothing
more than a list of grants. Sadly, due to the fact that they were on board a
ship that was returning documents to Scotland which sank, I am unable to
confirm the spelling.
Roberti is not the first ever Routledge to be recorded in
history. In an over looked, ignored or un-studied source called the Red Book
of Ormond, which was later studied by a Rev Woulfe who wrote ‘Irish
Names and Surnames’ in 1967, can be found the earliest agreed Routledge.
Woufle used names found in the earliest Irish records, such the Red Book,
and gave the modern equivalent, or as best as he could match it up, while
century texts as stepping stones. One of the names he found in the Red Book
was that of a Ricardo Rothlek dated August 11th
1305 in the Manor of Donkeryn. The only match he could make was that of
Rutlech found in the ‘Irish faints’ and it seems that was just an early
Irish version of Rutledge, to which Woulfe claimed was an English name using
the information he had to hand; printed works which knew no better. The
National Archives of Irelands’ experts were too in agreement with Rev Woulfe
that Ricardo Rothlek of August 11th
1305 is a Routledge. Perhaps even the first, although there was no evidence
to suggest he was English, and this was purely assumed by Woulfe.
However with no
context to place these earliest Routledges, there is nothing we can learn
from them. They must, until further discoveries are made, remain just names
with dates. The first Routledges who becomes more than just a names that we
can actually connect to, are those of Hawick in the 15th
Century, some 70 years after Roberti was recorded to the north. The only
tenuous link between Roberti and the Hawick Routledges would be the Douglas
family and their repeated dealings.
Routlugh a Burgess of unknown location is the first to make our acquaintance
in the Hawick area when he listed as a witness to a charter in 1432.
To qualify for burgess-ship and all the privileges that
came with it, Simon would have had to prove that he had been resident in the
relevant burgh for a year and a day.
For many inhabitants of the burgh the
attainment of burgess status was not a crucial goal; they were happy to
leave the political leadership that went with it to the more important
members of the burgh who had the time and money to devote to it. In order
for a town to have Burgesses though it must first receive a Charter
confirming its Burgh status. So with this in mind that must rule out Simon’s
origin being Hawick as it did not receive its first town charter till 1537
and a confirmation in 1545; shouldn’t it?
In among the Scotts of Buccleuch’s family papers dated
1433 can be found a document unused by William Fraser;
“Feu Charter by William
Douglas, laird of Hawik, to Simon de Routluge, burgess of hawik, of the
lands Birkwood called the oxgang, between the water of slittrig and the
lands Whitelaw, burnflat and the Smallburn”
This means there must have been
an earlier charter of Hawick as Simon is listed as a Burgess of Hawick. The
land to which the Feu charter refers to relatively covers pretty much the
same area that Hawick golf course does today as well as the housing estate
nearby named Burnflat Lane and Drive.
William Douglas, an illegitimate son of James Douglas 2nd
Earl of Douglas and Mar received a confirming charter of the Baronies of
Drumlanrig, Hawick and Selkirk by James I in 1412 giving him the title of
1st Baron of Drumlanrig, and Baron of Hawick, while his illegitimate brother
Archibald was given the parish of Cavers. William died in 1421 and left
behind his son, Sir William Douglas the 2nd
Baron of Drumlanrig, and Baron of Hawick who had his Baronies, Drumlanrig
and Hawick, confirmed by his superior, Archibald, Earl of Douglas, in 1428.
It is believed that it is with this William that Hawick first received its
Burgh status during his early years as Baron. This Charter or confirmation
has sadly been lost to the ages and time but Simon listed as a Burgess of
Hawick has put the towns ages back by over a hundred years. It is not just
the once he is listed as a Burgess of Hawick, but continuously until he dies
It is only through the likes of large families such as
the Douglases and Scotts that local records have survived. Those that do
survive from the 14th
century are usually concerning people of status. Serfs, or the common man,
would hardly grace the page unless they were a witness, buying or selling
land, or in trouble. Common day to day events did not survive compared to
the late 16th
and early 17th
century when you can find people making complaints to their local laird
about a neighbour. So with this in mind we can consider it a miracle that
the following was found.
A Margaret Cussing is found being granted permission, by
her son Robert Scott and husband Simon de Routluge a burgess of Hawick, to
sell her land known as Cussinglands near Branxholme to Walter Scott of
Buccleuch, which she received from her father William Cussing. When you pick
all this information apart what you’re left with is a family tree, albeit a
small one, of a medieval commoner. Simon married the widow of a Scott called
Margaret who already had a son called Robert and then went on to have his
own family with her. Simon and Robert granted Margaret permission to sell
her lands to Walter Scott of Buccleuch spread over two charters dated April
The same year also sees Simon selling his lands of
Burnflat on 8th
October 1447 to Walter Scott, which he had bought from William Douglas. With
this document there was no new information within it that was not already
known, but the actual parchment itself did hold something.
Over 200 years before coats of
arms begin to appear on the backs of Routledges grave stones in the English
border parish of Bewcastle Simon leaves us behind a seal with his name
imprnted. It may be faded, hard to read and the design in the centre of some
dispute, but what is not in dispute, is that Simon de Routluge, Burgess of
Hawick deemed himself important enough to bare a seal. The design is a
simple one, a shield with a crown on the top of it and a leaf pattern
encircling it with two crossed objects in the centre of the shield. Whether
they are cross spears, swords, spikes or Burgesses staffs is unclear and
disputed due to the condition of the wax. But what we do have is the first
Routledge artefact, and a Scottish one at that.
As Simons’ surname was on the
seal it means that it is easier to trace him as the spelling of his surname
does not change for the rest of his life with the exception of the ‘e’
appearing and reappearing on the end of his name, Simon appears as a witness
in 1453, 1455 and 1456 all as a Burgess of Hawick with his name remaining
the same. When in 1464 it does change it is with a Simone Routelyech who is
described as a squire, hardly the role associated with a man who would have
been about 50-60 by this time. Simon, husband to Margaret Cussing and step
father to Robert Scott died sometime after 1456 after spanning 25 years’
worth of records and introducing us to the Scottish Routledges.
Regardless as to how much land
they owned in the early days, ultimately the Routledges should be remember
and revered as the notorious reivers that they were. It would be impossible
to name one particular individual as the first Routledge who was a Reiver,
but we can look at the earliest record where they are acting as reivers. A
record of a Walterum Routlege and a David and Archibaldus Armstrong pledging
that Johannes de Routlege will appear a Justice court in Selkirk is the
earliest ‘reiver’ record to be found dated 1471. It is not exactly a typical
tale of death and destruction as we would normally associate with Reivers,
but from humble beginnings they would soon step up and show history just
what they would be capable of.
Riding from their home of Trowis
in the parish of Cavers late in 1493, probably October or November, Symon
Routlage and his son Mathew with accomplices rode west through Hawick
heading for Buccleuch, armed and with flames flickering as their nags
trotted through the dusk and mud. They would have known that the Laird, Sir
David Scott, was away as he so often was at parliament, and the parish of
Buccleuch sat effectively empty and unguarded. Riding alongside the
Buccleuch Burn and past the Mill they would have come over the crest of the
hill and looked down on the manor’s lights piercing the winter’s night.
Pausing for a moment to assess potential danger they dug in their heels,
their swords unsheathed and waving high as they thundered softly towards the
A complaint was lodged against
the Routledges by Walter Scott, David’s grandson, with William Douglas of
Hornyshole in Cavers acting as surety. Walters claim to the Council gave a
lengthy list of what the Routledges had taken;
from the despoiled David Scott and his tenants, of five horses and mares,
forty kye and oxen, forty sheep, household plenishing to the value of fourty
pounds, two chalders of victual, thirty salt martis, eighty stones of cheese
and butter, and two oxen 'besides burning and spoiling of the place and
Manor of Buccleuch” 25th
It would seem that Simon and
Mathew had not just stopped at the Manor but had ridden further down the
valley and plundered the residents of the hamlets in the Rankleburn valley.
The nags would have been heavily laden with their spoils and would have
hampered their retreat, yet no record of whether they paid any punishment
for their crime exists.
The Scotts main residence by
1494 was predominantly Branxholme and they appear to have just abandoned
Buccleuch and made no attempt to restore it as it is never recorded again.
In fact this record is the only source that a Manor ever existed. The raid
had a catastrophic knock on effect in the valley, with the Manor and nothing
for the tenants to support, they would have dwindled in numbers with
ultimately the Kirks abandonment, allowing the parish to be absorbed by the
A feud between the Routledges
and Scotts may have existed before this point or this may have come about as
a result of it, for surely it is of no coincidence that next big raid by the
Routledges was once again targeted against the Scott. This time it was a man
named "Black John Roucleshe" in 1510 who in “Pitcairn’s trials” is said to
have been responsible for the “burning of Branxham”. To burn Branxholme, if
it is referring to the Castle, is no mean feat as the current one was
allegedly not burnt for the first time till 1532 by the Earl of
Northumberland, so the in 1532 it was a either a repair or rebuild after the
damage Black John caused.
Black John, unlike Simon and Mathew, was neither from
Hawick nor the surrounding area. In fact it was not even his trial found in
Pitcairn’s. The trail was that of a John Dagliesh who had been charged with
the treasonable in bringing of Black John of the Leven, and for his crime
Dagliesh was sentenced to be executed. The Leven is a river which runs
through the English border parish of Bewcastle and by the end of the 16th
and well through the 17th
century was synonymous with the name Routledge. Black John however was not
an English man.
The Routledges had originated from Liddesdale but spread
to the north sometime in the late 14th
or early 15th
Century. The evidence for this comes from interpretation of the larger
picture of their early movements and also from how they came to be in
England, namely the parish of Bewcastle. In 1538 a dispute between the two
English families of Musgrave and Dacre over land ownership rights had
produced an 80 year old witness who stated that:
"…60 years bipast when
Liddisdale men came into England and were sworn to King Richard at Carlisle"
that " let all the lands of Bewcastle to Cuthb and John Routlege, Robt
Elwald, and Gerard Nyxon, and before that" as well the said castle as all
the lands belonging to the same of long time lay waste"
For John and Cuthbert to have
had any dealings with the then Duke of Gloucester in 1478 means that that
were not ordinary commoners. They were most likely Bailies or burgess;
enough for them to have importance but not any real power. Alas though the
riches of England would not last as Richard III was killed in 1485 and the
lands of Bewcastle were granted to the Musgrave family by the new
administration. Undeterred, a branch of the Routledges remained in the
little English parish and can be found in 1491 as “men of Leven callit
Rowtleyche” paying taxes to the Scottish crown. Even though they had
lived in England for 13 years by this point the Scottish government still
considered them as their own subjects
“Mathei Routlich, Jacobi
Routlich, Johannis Routlich and Symonins Routlich” however were Scottish,
and all found in 1501 paying taxes on unnamed land. By 1511 Simon had died
though as "Matheo Rouchligis" is listed a Burgess of Hawick alone in a
sasine of William Douglas of Drumlanrig, who in all probability was then
killed two years later at the Battle of Flodden. As for James Routlech he is
found in possession of Crook, near Trowis, after buying it from Martin
Douglas. During 1529 a William Routlech, son of deceased John Routlech is
resigning all claims to the land which John had received in ‘the kindness’
of James. It would seem that it was never Johns to give to William.
Nevertheless though the Routledges seemed to have settled around the parish
of Cavers and some still in Hawick as in the 1537 and 1545 Charter a David
Routlech is the largest single land owner.
Liddesdale was rife with reivers in the 16th
century with the most notorious being the Armstrongs, Grahams, Elliotts and
Nixons. Routledges could often be found living next to, or riding alongside
the Armstrongs and Nixons, not as an inferior family but as equals. Some
raids showed great boldness where others sheer cheek, and after helping a
Graham to escape from Carlisle castle they made a rod for their own back.
Christopher Dacre, deputy warden of the west march at the time, had been
left so humiliated by the jail break in 1528 that he rode with 500 men north
to ‘dislodge’ the Routledges of the Debatable lands.
Some books will tell you that
this crippled, crushed, scattered or even finished the Routledges off for
good and left them as broken men, humbled and weak; even everyman’s prey.
This was simply not the case and has been used as an excuse to try and
justify their absence from Scotland without thorough research into the name.
What ‘Dacre’s 500’ did give us though was two locations that we can
defiantly say that Routledges lived at in Liddesdale. The first was Mere
burn near Whisgills, where the houses of Black Joke’s sons were burnt by the
unsuccessful and retreating Dacre, and the other was Tarras Moss where they
retreated to when he came after them. Dacre’s efforts failed dismally. He
may have burnt a few homes, and forced them to flee the immediate area for a
few days at best, but that was it. The amount of surviving records from the
1530’s and early 1540’s gives testament to this. In 1537 a mass raid took
place where 200 Fosters, Routledges and Armstrongs rode into Tyndale in
broad daylight and took “12 score oxen and kine, and 12 horses and mares,
and slew three men, viz two of the Yarrows and one of the Robsons”.
The same year a man called
Martin de Rotheluge was having success of a greater kind. An intellectual
man of standing and education, in 1537 he was appointed the procurator of
the Scottish nation of the University of Orleans. In Martins acceptance of
his appointment he states
Martin de Rotheluche, of Scottish origin, bachelor of the civil law, was
elected procurator on 10th
Where in Scotland Martin had
come from is a mystery. All we can say is he was a Scotsman, perhaps from
the early Universities, or perhaps he had gone abroad to study when younger
and progressed through the ranks of Law.
French Universities were a world
away from border life in early 1540’s which saw raid after raid recorded
involving the Routledges, but all good things however must come to an end.
In 1525 Gavin Dunbar, the archbishop of Glasgow had placed the well-known
and much reprinted infamous curse upon the Reivers of the West and Middle
marches, but like an infectiously mortal disease, the symptoms are not
always immediately apparent and take time to come to their fatal fruition.
The curse came in the form of Henry’s break from Rome and the divorcing of
his wives. In 1544 Henry VIII wanted his infant child Edward, to marry the
infant monarch Mary queen of Scots so proposed it to the Scottish council.
Even though Mary’s regent originally signed a treaty to allow this to
happen, her mother, Mary de Guise intervened and put a stop to it. Henry
VIII outraged order Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford to ‘burn Scotland’;
and that is just what Hertford did.
Just before the glowing torch of
devastation crossed the border, Henry had offered assurances to the common
men of the Scottish borders in an attempt to weaken and undermine those with
power such as noblemen and Lairds. The offer was simple; pledge allegiance
and men-at-arms to the English crown and any damages suffered as a result of
passing armies or raids would have their losses reimbursed at a set price.
Naivety was defiantly the fuel for this offer as anyone can see that a
Reiver would take the pledge, take the money for losses, then take a hike
when asked for men; and this is Just what the Chiefs of the families in
Chief of the Armestrongs, Rowteleages and Nycsones of Lyddesdale offered Sir
Thos. Wharton to serve the King with 100 Horse and 100 foot and be sworn the
King's Subjects, and dwell in Lyddesdale or the Batable Ground or in
England, if they might have their friends, now prisoners at Carlisle and
Alnwick, relaesed, who were taken at the burning of Sleyley, and to release
four Englishmen whom they took there” 12th
Regardless to the fact they
offered this to have their kinsmen returned, it is proof that the Routledges
were not a broken scattered reminisce but in fact had a Chief, a Heidsman, a
leader of the family who was Scottish. They were not a sept or a broken
family but an independant Scottish family.
No sooner had we staked our
claim in History than Hertford came in what would later come to be known as
the ‘Rough Wooing’, named after the attempted forceful marriage between
Edward and Mary. Hertford was accompanied by meticulous clerks who kept a
boastful list of what they destroyed. 192 towns, villages, farmsteads,
towers and bastle houses were burned and razed. The clerk’s statistics he
sent back are sobering and sounded like an ethnic cleansing;
Scots slain four hundred;
prisoners taken eight hundred and sixteen; cattle, ten thousand three
hundred and eighty six; sheep, twelve thousand and ninety two; nags and
gelding, two thousand, two hundred and niety six; goats, two hundred; bolls
of corn [54 liyres per boll], eight hundred and fifty; insight gear etc, in
The Routledges had nowhere to
go, their homes, goods and livestock were all taken or destroyed. In among
those unnamed dead and captured may very well have been the unfortunate
Routledges which failed to escape the devastation. The Rough Wooing’s was
not over yet. Also going by the name of the ‘eight years’ war’ the flames
campaign came again May 1544 to October 1545, September 1547 to October
1548, June to September 1549, with a final spell in February to April 1550.
In September 1545 among other places sacked by Hertford, was Cavers, the hub
of the Routledges in Teviotdale was raised to the ground. Add to that
Denholme, Minto-Craig, Bedrule, Trowis, Newton, Langeton and Hassenden and
nothing much would have been left in the area. The mental image of a war
torn battle field, with scorched hills and smouldering fires is probably not
far from how the likes of Cavers were left.
So what was left behind after the eight years’ war?
Records seem to dry up completely with only the odd one or two Routledges
for the rest of the century. Where they went to is the answer as to why they
are never considered as Scottish. Some fled south into Bewcastle causing a
population explosion of not just the Routledges in the parish but also other
Reiver names. Some Routledges clashed and were found raiding and killing
each other but on the whole blended in. Some ventured south into Cumberland
and began to spread the name while others headed east and made their home
around Kilham in Northumberland. The remainder headed back to Ireland and
May 9th 1544
we find a pardon to Thomas Rudleche a soldier in Ireland, the first of a new
Irish era. The Heidsman who pledged to Henry VIII, if not killed or captured
fled to Ireland its believed as within 50 years the Routledges had a amassed
a collection of castles and local power.
In Scotland the Routledges had
gone. Allowing for the incompleteness of Scottish records around at the time
you would still expect some records of Reiving to appear, but there is none.
In a 1569 indenture listing the most notorious and outlawed families in
Liddesdale, the Routledges are found surprisingly high up the list. It would
seem then that whatever Reiving the Routledges continued with was carried
out between the surviving pages of History, or simply so common they
remained unrecorded. By the time 1560 came about and the Calendar of Border
papers began there were no Routledges for the Border Historian to read and
research about in this ‘bible’ of reiver history.
The Routledges had been chased
and scattered. Those Routledges of Bewcastle lived in a valley which acted
as revolving door between Liddesdale and England Whenever a raid happened it
was the Routledges that got hit first before the raiders main target, or on
the retreat for good measure. This caused Sir Thomas Wharton to dub them
‘everyman’s prey’ as they were continuously trampled over by other families.
Further into Bewcastle however lay stronger Routledges and ones who often
went raiding into Scotland. Regardless of this historians have chosen to dub
the Routledges as an inferior, weak and English family. They could murder,
kill, burn and steal just as good as the Armstrongs, Elliotts, Grahams and
Nixons. Their only weakness was they left Scotland before modern day
accessible historical sources began. They were no man’s prey!
In conclusion Routledges were a
Scottish Reiving family…not English one!