Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Charters of the Abbey of Crosraguel
By F. C. Hunter Blair in two volumes (1886)


THIS collection comprises all the documents at present known to exist relative to the history of Crosraguel Abbey. The Chartulary or Register of the Monastery, which was quoted by several writers of last century, and was actually in the possession of the Earl of Cassillis in 1729, has been irretrievably lost; and when I commenced some years ago to collect and edit these Charters, the only materials at hand were a few worthless legends, to be sternly discarded by the historian.

The present collection will, it is hoped, be found to contain much that is entirely new to our local history, and to give a tolerably complete narrative of the fortunes of the Abbey, with many glimpses at its interior economy, for a period of over 350 years. There are many gaps in the sequence of events, notably during the latter part of the fourteenth, and earlier part of the fifteenth centuries. Yet those were the dark ages in our national history, and few monasteries can boast of many memorials of that stormy period, save sacrilege, plunder, and oppression. The cream of the collection is undoubtedly the series of muniments from the charter chest of the Marquess of Ailsa at Culzean, to whose courtesy in allowing the documents to be printed the Association is much indebted.

Looking to the fact that the private collections throughout the country constitute an almost unexplored mine of historical wealth, we cannot too highly commend Lord Ailsa's public spirited example.

The Charters themselves are printed, as usual, without the old contractions, which only serve to puzzle and fail to instruct. I have endeavoured to weave them into a continuous narrative in the Introduction, which, with the Explanatory Notes, will enable the reader, it is hoped, to follow with ease and interest the fortunes of an opulent Ayrshire Abbey from its foundation to its fall.

Engravings are given of many of the most important among the charters, seals, and royal autographs; and the reproduction of several old prints of the Abbey will be found to be of interest.

In conclusion, I must express my thanks to those who have at all times given me generous assistance in the work, which has been essentially a labour of love; especially to Mr. Cochran-Patrick; to the Rev. J. Cameron Lees, D.D., St. Giles, Edinburgh; to Mr. Joseph Bain, London; to Lord Talbot of Malahide; to M. Bruel, Archeviste Publique, Paris; to Mr. Thomas Dickson, of the Register House; to the Rev. Walter Macleod; to Mr. Vans Agnew of Barnbarroch; to the Rev. J. F. S. Gordon, D.D.; to the Keepers of the various Public Libraries; and to many others. A special need of praise is due to Mr. James Morris, FSA Scot., for the care and skill which he has displayed in executing the drawings of the existing ruins of the Abbey buildings, and for his valuable remarks on their architectural history.

F. C. Hunter Blair
Blairquhan, Maybole, April 1886.


THE Abbey of S. Mary of Crosraguel has not hitherto been widely known in Scottish history for two reasons; (1) the loss of the Chartulary and the consequently scattered condition of the Charters and other documents, which have been collected from many different sources, and are now printed together for the first time; (2) the fact that its Abbots did not, with few exceptions, play as important a part in public affairs as the heads of other monastic establishments. Yet they were men held in high honour in their own country. Many of them, as we shall find, sat in the various Parliaments of three hundred years; some of their number were from time to time members of the Privy Council, Commissioners of State, Royal Ambassadors, and high legal functionaries; and under their rule the Abbey was a centre of light to the surrounding districts. The monks of Crosraguel were the agriculturists and the schoolmasters of the time.

Constant instances occur in these papers of the care which they devoted to farming, to the working of the coal-heughes, to the cultivation of woods, orchards, gardens; to the development of the fine arts, such as music and architecture; to philosophy, science, theology, and other literary pursuits. Without doubt they did much to keep alive in the hearts of the country people a knowledge of right and wrong in very stormy times.

We shall find two leading features in tracing the history of Crosraguel from its foundation; first, a continuous endeavour on the part of Paisley Abbey to retain its superiority over its dependent house; secondly, a lasting connection between the Abbey itself and the great House of Kennedy, whose dominant influence was humorously expressed in the old saw:

"From Wigton to the toun of Ayr,
Port Patrick and the cruives of Cree;
Man need not think for to byde there,
Unless he court with Kennedie."

The Kennedies were maternally descended from the old Earl of Carrick who founded the Abbey, and two of the family were Abbots themselves.

The golden age of Scottish ecclesiastical architecture, inaugurated by David the First, the "sair sanct for the Crown," continued long after that monarch's death, and until the country was deluged with the Wars of Independence.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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