Davachs in Lennox?

Davachs in Lennox?


We know of arachors and carucates in Lennox. The documents also make clear than an arachor, a carucate and a ploughland were, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, equivalent. (By the seventeenth century a ploughland had come to mean something different). Were there davachs in Lennox? If so, how do they relate to arachors and carucates?


I know of no toponymic evidence for davachs in Lennox. In other areas where davachs are apparently absent from the land-assessment record (Argyll, South-west Scotland) we still find them marking the landscape as place-names. We also find their subdivisions – ceathramh (quarterland) and ochdamh (eighthland) – sometimes frequently. Kintyre and Bute each have several Kerr- place-names indicating former quarterlands; Islay has Octo- place-names. But in Lennox I know of no certain place-names which suggest davachs or their subdivisions.


And of all the documents dealing with mediaeval Lennox I know of only one which implies davachs within its territory. Furthermore if there is only one document offering evidence for such a critical piece in the land-assessment jigsaw you begin to ask yourself if this is exceptional for a reason. Was the scribe or duty clerk using a term which he was familiar with from elsewhere and assuming it could equally apply to Lennox. Are the davachs genuine and indigenous – or are they a foreign projection?


The document in question is printed in RMS VII (190) of 1609. It is a ratification, by James VI, of a number of earlier charters concerning Dumbarton. The document is long and is only printed in part in RMS VII. Joseph Irving gives translations in his History of Dumbartonshire pp 240-252 and in his Book of Dumbartonshire Vol II pp 14-26. Irving only translates parts of the document and omits certain passages which appear in RMS. However between RMS and Irving’s part-translation we can see enough of the evidence to make some comments.


The Latin of RMS VII (190) refers to the 14 ‘davachtis’ of Lennox nearest Dumbarton on the east side of the River Leven. Irving (p 246 or p 20) omits this but further on uses the term ‘davachtarum’ (i.e. of the ‘davachtis’) which he does not try to translate. We have then the old land-assessment term davach – with an extra ‘t’ – used in two cases in a document from the early seventeenth century which is apparently quoting from a document dated 1223. It seems to me very unlikely that this word is a seventeenth-century introduction but the intrusive ‘t’ suggests that it is quite possibly a seventeenth-century misreading. Davachs were still very much a feature of the landscape in the Scotland of 1609 but I doubt the term was being newly coined anywhere. It was used to describe a centuries-old feature of the physical and fiscal environment.


If, then, we assume thst the term davach (however spelled) occurred in Alexander II’s original charter of 1223 how are we to interpret this? Did the clerk who wrote the 1223 document faithfully transcribe what he was told was the term for a local land-assessment unit – or was he puzzled by a local term (such as arachor) and substitute it by another with which he was more familiar? And if so, why did he use the term davach rather than carucate? We are never going to know the answers to these questions so for present purposes I am going to take ‘davachtis’ at face value – that the 14 territories described in the charter by Alexander II were known locally as davachs.


What were the territories? Fortunately they are named and recognizable. The charter assigned to the new burgh of Dumbarton the ‘sequelas’ of 14 ‘davachtis’ of land in Lennox which were nearest Dumbarton on the east side of the water of Leven, namely:
















(for modern forms please see table ‘Davachtis in Lennox’).


I am unsure quite what the ‘sequelas’ were. The word can have a number of meanings and in the Highlands often meant the ‘followers’ (i.e calves) of cattle. In this sense of issue it could describe the family of someone lowly-born or apply to a mill. It could also describe a retinue, a suit of court or an appurtenance. At any rate it must describe some form of benefit or due or right from these properties. Moreover some of them (e.g. the Kilpatrick lands) were demonstrably not royal possessions in 1223. But, whatever the ‘sequelas’ were in practice, they issued from 14 named territories called ‘davachtis’.


These were all davach-names, not farm-names. That is, they were the names of the land-units which were used for assessment purposes by royal and regional authorities. They were relatively large and as time went on were subdivided into individual farm-units with one, perhaps, retaining the name of the original davach. We can pull in other data to substantiate this. We know that Nether Auchencloich was a carucate or arachor-name c. 1285 and we know the names of three quarterlands within it. We also know that Kilmannan was a carucate in the fourteenth century. (Fraser, Lennox, I, pp 28-9, prints a warrant from Robert II to Sir Patrick Graham in 1388 referring to ‘the carucate of Kilmonevane’).


I have argued that a carucate or arachor in Lennox was given an assessment of £20 (30m) in terms of Scottish monetary values. We can match subsequent merkland data with the names of these 14 ‘davachtis’. Drumry, for instance, was certainly a £20 lordship. Over time these 14 ‘davachtis’ had divergent histories. I do not know the precise parochial situation in 1223 but the 14 named places became parts of the separate parishes of Bonhill, Kilmaronock, Kilpatrick and Killearn.


It is also the case that the provision of meal to maintain the garrison in Dumbarton came to be known as the ‘watch meal’ or the ‘watch meal of Kilpatrick’. Certainly there are references to other places such as Cardross and Cumbrae having obligations towards Dumbarton Castle but my impression is of a gradual shift of responsibility towards Paisley Abbey. This may well have been because it proved easier to collect from an organised monastic institution. Paisley Abbey was a well-defined entity and perhaps an easier target for fiscal exaction. So although the original 14 ‘davachtis’ included lots of properties that did not belong in later years to Paisley the slow elision of history meant that the burden slipped onto what were colloquially referred to as the ’14 towns of Kilpatrick’. As early as 1477 Paisley’s contribution of meal was known as ‘le Wache mele’ (RMS II (1309)). Like many an ancient obligation it trundled on long after it was truly a requirement and, as Bruce shows in his ‘History of the parish of West or Old Kilpatrick’, pp 93-99, it was still a live issue, and payable, in the nineteenth century. Moreover, if the ‘sequelas’ evolved into the ‘watch meal’ it does suggest that what was meant in 1223 was to do with the products or issues from mills.


It may in time be possible to plot out the exact shape of these 14 davachs on the basis that each turned into a £20 land in Scottish terms and that merkland valuations survived into the nineteenth century. So for instance Balloch was still a £10 land (or half-davach?) in the sixteenth century and we may be able to fix on those neighbouring farms whose accumulated values take it up to the £20 value of the original davach. (Although davachs and carucates could become fractured I have gone on the basis that in the earliest times they were compact units). The easiest way to display this data is in tabular form so please see the table ‘Davachtis in Lennox’.


Another question which arises is to what extent information about these 14 ‘davachtis’ complicates what we know about Paisley’s legal battle in the thirteenth century to secure its Kilpatrick possessions – in the teeth of opposition from the Earl of Lennox’s family. Kilpatrick Church had apparently been given several properties before Earl Alwin II’s time and to this list he added Cartonvene (Gartconnel) as his own personal contribution. The Paisley Abbey case was quite straightforward. It argued that when Kilpatrick Church was given to Paisley so too were its possessions. The Earl’s family fought them on this issue for much of the thirteenth century and it was many decades before the Abbey was secure in its claim. Strangely it did not obtain Gartconnel itself which became a Galbraith property.


We may never know the full back-story but the following are amongst several possible scenarios:

1) Paisley relinquished its claim to Gartconnel because it was the most recent gift to Kilpatrick and so less well embedded. There may also have been a deal – relinquish Gartconnel in return for the others.

2) That the properties Paisley claimed were not fully ‘given’ to Kilpatrick but only their ‘sequelas’ (which may have been confined to some types of dues or revenues). The family of the Earls of Lennox may have felt Paisley was stretching its claim from revenues to absolute property.

3) The ‘sequelas’ due to Dumbarton burgh from the 14 ‘davachtis’ east of Leven gradually evolved into the ‘watch meal’ to Dumbarton Castle from Paisley’s possessions in Kilpatrick. We do have 14 names in early lists of Paisley’s Kilpatrick possessions (some of which we can match to places, others which we cannot). I think responsibility was gradually slipped onto these simply because Paisley Abbey was more easily held accountable.


There is one other aspect of this charter which is relevant in this context and that is the reference to Dunbarton’s rights between the River Kelvin and the head of Loch Long. The fact that it is the River Kelvin which is the boundary (and not the Yoker Burn or the Whiteinch Burn) suggests that the River Kelvin is the oldest boundary in the area. In other words Kilpatrick parish probably once stretched as far east as the Kelvin.The parts of Renfrew and Govan parishes which lie north of the Clyde between the Yoker Burn on the west and the Kelvin on the east are probably later intrusions.


Arachors, carucates and davachs are nice and specific. We know exactly what we are talking about and they either feature in the documents or they don’t. What about a word like tenementum which means a (feudal) holding? I know of six separate examples of the use of this word in early documents from the Lennox and in two of these it is pretty certain that they are describing an arachor or carucate. Individually these six are as follows:


1) Garchell, Drymen

Cartularium de Levenax pp 75-76, Duncan, earl of Lennox, granted to Arthur (son of Andrew, son of Nigel (Neill)), and Celestine Maclachlane

illa tria quartaria terre in tenemento de Garchellis, videlicet Blarindess, Auchintroig et Garthclachach

(those three quarterlands in the holding of Garchell, viz. Blarindess, Auchintroig and Garthclachach)


Cartularium de Levenax p 76,            Duncan, earl of Lennox confirmed charters of Eugenius of Garchell and Margaret, daughter of Malcolm of Garchell, made to the ancestors of our kinsmen Arthur (son of Andrew, son of Nigel (Neill)) and Celestine Maklachlane:

de tribus quartariis terre in tenemento de Garchell, videlicet Blarindess, Auchintroig et de Gartclachach

(of three quarterlands in the holding of Garchell, viz. Blarindess, Auchintroig and of Gartclachach).


2) Cashlie, Drymen

Reference to tenement of Cashlie in GD198/3 & GD 198/5 of early 14th century.


3) Dolunlach, Inchcailloch (Buchanan)

GD198/3 of early 14th century refers to lands of Herdas (Ardess) in tenement of Dolunlach.


4) ?Sallochy, Inchcailloch (Buchanan)

100s terre in tenemento de Salakhill’

(100 shilling land in the holding of Salakhill)

in RMS I App 1 No 40 (Robert I). Fraser thinks this is Sauchie, Stirlingshire but see notes under Buchanan parish.


5) Kincaid, Campsie

Cartularium de Levenax pp 32-3. Between c. 1272 and c. 1292 Earl Malcolm gave to Patrick Galbraith:

illas tres quartarias terre que fuerunt quondam domini David de Grame, cum illa quartaria terre que vocatur Balecarrage que fuit dicti domini David in tenemento de Kynkaid.

(those three quarterlands which belonged to the late David de Graham, with that quarterland called Balecarrage which belonged to the said David in the holding of Kynkaid).


6) Campsie

Fraser, Lennox, II, gives 3 documents concerning Ballebrochyr:

No 37 p 52, Charter by Malcolm, son of Bernard of Herth, to Giles, the son of the deceased Donald, son of Giles, of the lands of Ballebrochyr (c. 1390-1400). (See also GD220/2/1/37). Ballebrochyr will be Balgrochan in NS 6278.

dimidietatem quarterie terre que vocatur Ballebrochyr, cum pertinenciis, in tenemento de Cailsy

(an eighthland [literally ‘half a quarterland’] called Ballebrochyr, with pertinents, in the holding of Campsie).

No 38 p 53, Resignation by Giles, son of Donald, of Ballebrochyr and Lechad, in favour of Alice of Erth, lady of Cragbernard.  13 February 1400

dimidietatem quarterie terre mee que vocatur Ballebrochyr, cum pertinenciis, in tenemento de Campsy

No 39 pp 54-55, 13 February 1400 Charter by Alice of Erth, lady of Cragbernard, to Sir William of Grahame of:

dimidietatem quarterie terre mee que vocatur Ballebrochyr cum pertinentiis in tenemento de Campsy

Campsie was certainly the name of the parish but it may originally have been the name of a carucate.



Of these Kincaid was certainly a carucate and Garchell was very probably a carucate. I wonder if the term in tenemento de is effectively a euphemism for ‘in the carucate of’.


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