Lennox – General Comments

Lennox: General comments


I chose Lennox for a close study of land-assessment because of its unique system of arachors. I had hoped that, if I was able to evaluate these in relation to the davachs, pennylands and merklands elsewhere, I would end up with a better picture of the overall situation in Scotland. In that I have been spectacularly unsuccessful. With the possible exception of a single rather doubtful place-name there is no toponymic evidence for davachs in Lennox. Moreover I have found only one document which details davachs and that is discussed more fully in the text file ‘Davachs in Lennox?’. So although I suspect davachs and arachors were the same I have found it difficult to offer anything approaching proof.


Likewise I have been able to draw no conclusions about the relationships between arachors and the pennylands found immeditately to the west of them. It is as if there was an Iron Curtain between them. The only line of enquiry that has yielded any results is the relationship between arachors and the Scottish system of merklands that gradually overwhelmed them. However that process is itself revealing and may help us understand how the fiscal ambitions of the Scottish kingdom eventually subsumed the local systems prevalent in the various provinces of Scotland.


Lennox was a province and an earldom. It was divided between the counties of Dunbarton and Stirling but I have chosen to treat it as a unit. I have more information for some parishes than others. The whole point of posting this data in a blog is so that others with particular knowledge may contribute. I hope that in future years we will be able to establish a fuller picture. In the meantime I think this is worth offering as a working template.


By way of preamble I should address some general difficulties. Firstly, what did Lennox include? The following definition is taken from Fraser, Lennox, Volume I p 26:


The Presbytery of Dumbarton, which was formed out of the rural deanery of Lennox, perhaps supplies the means of ascertaining, with the nearest approach to accuracy, the old boundaries of the Earldom, with the addition of the parishes of Campsy and Kilsyth. It embraces the parishes of Arrochar, Baldernock, Balfron, Bonhill, Buchanan, Cardross, Drymen, Dumbarton, Fintry, Killearn, Kilmaronock, New Kilpatrick, Old Kilpatrick, Luss, Roseneath, Row, and Strathblane. The deanery of Lennox, as given in the Origines Parochiales, included also Kilsyth and Campsy, both of which certainly formed part of the ancient inheritance of the Lennox family, and Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld, which were no part of their ancient inheritance.


Without getting bogged down in arguments as to the proper place of Campsy, Kilsyth, Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld I have included them all in this study.


Secondly, do we have any ‘global’ or summary figures for the valuation of Lennox? The Ancient Extent of Dunbartonshire in 1366 was £1442-9-6 (>2163m). The Ancient Extent of Stirlingshire in 1366 was £1749-19-4d (>2624m). Both of these figures exclude some ecclesiastical lands which would have appeared under the bishoprics. Lennox is composed of Dunbartonshire plus some of the parishes of West Stirlingshire. For these reasons it would be very difficult to establish strictly comparable figures for the whole of Lennox.


My Summary Table of Lennox parishes in both Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire shows a little under 2000m. It is, as we would expect, an understatement of what Lennox was worth in 1366. My table suggests a notional total of about 80 carucates for Lennox. If we take the 1366 figure for Dunbartonshire and reckon on 1 carucate to 30m then we can estimate it contained at least 72 carucates. Similarly Stirlingshire contained at least 87 carucates.


The following comes from the National Records of Scotland catalogue entry for GD430/78  of  4/11/1473:


Special retour in favour of Elizabeth Menteith as one of heiresses of Duncan, Earl of Lennox, her great grandfather, in one quarter of lands of earldom and lordship of Lennox, as descending from younger daughter of Earl Duncan; the quarter worth £125 now, as before;


On this basis the whole earldom would be worth £500 or 750 merks. However, my summary table for Lennox shows at least 1847 merklands so plainly these sums do not match. Given the attrition of time, the gaps in the documentary record, and the 1366 data listed above, the actual number of merklands in Lennox must have been well over 2000. How are we to reconcile these figures? Did the earldom only represent a fraction of the province?


Thirdly, are land-assessment terms used consistently over time? Following on from the above retour we have GD430/95  18/6/1492 which is an:


Instrument narrating that in Stirling sheriff court before Alexander Seton of Tullibody, sheriff of Stirling, John Haldane of Gleneagles appeared with James Haldane, his son and heir apparent, portioner and lord of fee of lands of earldom of Lennox, and James presented for execution a Crown brieve of division of said lands between him and John, Earl of Lennox and Lord Darnley and Matthew Stewart, his son and heir apparent, portioner and lord of fee of said lands.


Whereupon also appeared said Matthew for himself and as procurator for his father, and Elizabeth Menteith of Ruskie, spouse of deceased John Napier of Merchiston, and in seeking the division of the previously undivided lands the Haldanes and Matthew Stewart consented to Elizabeth Menteith holding the quarter assigned to her by the earlier brieve of division. The sheriff when elected an assize for serving the brieve, who found that James Haldane and his heirs should have every third carucate of land, called `le ryg’, the third `copula’ of each house, called `a cuppill’, and the third penny of the whole profit of the three parts of the property lands of the earldom, the earl and his son having two parts of the said three parts; and the assize confirmed Elizabeth Menteith in her quarter of the lands.


What is interesting about this document is that it appears that the meaning of ‘carucate’ had changed by 1492. In the thirteenth century it was interchangeable with arachor and ploughland. By the seventeenth century it seems a ploughland or ploughgate was probably only equivalent to a what had been a bovate in earlier times. It is difficult to know quite how much land was envisaged in a ‘rig’ but there appears to be a devaluation. It is important to keep in mind that definitions of land changed over time. They also varied over space. A carucate may have had 12 bovates in one area, 8 in another.


A further interesting question is raised by a phrase in RRS V (194) 1321. It is a charter by Robert I to Malcolm, earl of Lennox, of the earldom of Lennox. Malcolm had to perform the service pertaining to decem plenarias villas (ten full towns) in armies and aids. Firstly it would seem that a villa was a standard unit of reckoning. I know of no comparable document in Lennox so how should we understand it? What did the Latin term villa encompass in native terms? Was it an arachor? Secondly it is plain that there was already a recognised system of service based on the villa. From other contemporary records in Lennox this probably included the supply of men and food – specifically cheese. This service was standardised in the sense that one villa would normally supply the same as another. However the use of the word ‘plenarias’ (full, complete) also suggests there might have been circumstances where a particular villa did not, for some reason or other, supply its full complement.


By the charter printed in Cartularium de Levenax pp 1-2, King Alexander II granted Maldoven, son of Alwin, earl of Lennox, the earldom of Lennox in 1238. Maldowen had to render the forinsec service pertaining to ‘[blank or illegible?] plenarias villas’ in armies and aids. The missing section has been filled in with the words ‘alias nostras’ on the authority of Walter Macfarlan’s manuscript corrections (see pp xvii-xviii, 105, of the Lennox Cartulary). On the basis of Robert’s later charter I think Macfarlan may have got this wrong. If the missing word was ‘decem’ (ten)  then we can extend this standard service back almost another century. Moreover we can draw analogies with another charter of Alexander II which is recorded in RMS VII (190) 1609. The original dates to 1223 and refers to ‘davachtis’ in Lennox. It may be that there really were davachs in Lennox – or it may be that both ‘villas’ and ‘davachtis’ were attempts by outlandish scribes to render an apparently incomprehensible local term such as arachor.


Finally there is the thorny question of Extent. Are we reckoning in terms of Old or New Extent and what did these actually mean? As the parish tables make plain New Extent is only referred to very rarely. For all practical purposes I think we can ignore it. But does that mean we assume everything else is Old Extent? This is a more difficult issue. I have no doubt that the overwhelming number of land-valuations in Lennox are consistent with each other. Equally many of them describe themselves as Old Extent. However there is a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that Lennox, like Kintyre, may have known an earlier Extent before Old Extent. I have discussed this further below.


So before going into points of fine detail we must always ensure that we are comparing like with like, that we are using correct terms, and that we make allowances for variation over space and time.




Land-assessment in Lennox


My data concerning land-assessment in Lennox is overwhelmingly drawn from the documentary record. However it is worth glancing at the place-name evidence first.





As far as arachors are concerned there is the place-name and parish-name of Arrochar as our single concrete example. To this we may possibly add Arrochy in Inchcailloch parish. There are also the two ‘Corriebonnarchies’ in Drymen parish but I attach no weight to these. Although we find ‘Leth-arachors’ or half-arachors in the documents there are none in the place-name record.



There are two place-names called Ardoch (one in Cardross, the other in Kilmaronock). Is the ending derived from Sc.G. dabhach (davach), the land-assessment unit? An alternative derivation would be from Sc.G. àrd (high) + achadh (field). Ardoch Farm (Cardross) is only about 30 metres above sea-level and close to the shore so it is difficult to see this as simply meaning ‘high farm’. The Ardoch in Kilmaronock is on top of a small hillock just over 80 metres above sea-level. However the surrounding countryside is similarly contoured and some of the hills are higher. The only other place-name in Lennox which might include the word dabhach is Awchedauchhannoch in Buchanan but I am very doubtful about this. (See discussion under ‘Problem Names’ text file).


I see no evidence in Lennox for place-names beginning with Gaelic ceathramh (quarter) or ochdamh (eighth). There is undoubtedly confusion between place-names beginning with Gart- and Caer- but I don’t think any of these have anything to do with ceathramh.


There is only one document which points to davachs in Lennox and that is RMS VII (190) 1609. (I have discussed this in the text file ‘Davachs in Lennox?’). The options seem to be that they were either never here, or they were completely expunged before the mid-thirteenth century, or that they were here but were renamed arachors by about the same time.



Although no pennylands or half-pennylands survive either in place-names or the documents we have farthing-lands in both. These are strictly confined to (the old) Rosneath parish (q.v.) so the Norse fiscal system extended no further east.



Despite the fact that merklands overlay the land-assessment system in Lennox for perhaps 700 years they have left virtually no trace in local place-names. We have odd examples such as ‘Half-merk’ in Buchanan and ‘ Tenpence’ in Killearn but generally they are conspicuous by their absence. The documentary record, however, is full of them.



In sum, the place-name evidence for land-assessment in Lennox is pretty thin. It boils down to one, possibly two, arachors; some farthing-lands in Rosneath; the shadows of a few merklands; and virtually nothing else. This situation contrasts with pennylands in the islands, or davachs in the north-east, where land-assessment units were built in to the human structure of the landscape – and so its place-names. We know, from sources like the Lennox Cartulary, that the landscape of Lennox was reckoned in assessment terms from at least the thirteenth century so either this was not entrenched as deeply, or it faded more quickly, than some other parts of Scotland.



The data


In order to draw some conclusions as to the land assessment situation in Lennox I have assembled the data in a number of ways.


Firstly I have listed all known assessments by parish. For each parish there is a summary text file, a table of constituent farms and a map. This gives us some geographical order but unfortunately parishes have histories too and many of them changed significantly over time. This makes it more difficult to work out what the land assessment system was like when first established.


Secondly I have listed, by parish, all examples of arachors, carucates, and their subdivisions, that are known to me. Arachors are not quite unique to Lennox but this was certainly the only province of Scotland in which they were articulated into a permanent and pervasive system.


Thirdly it became plain during the course of this study that a £20 (30m) land in Lennox was often regarded as equivalent to a carucate. There are so many examples supporting this conclusion that I have provided two tables: one of £5 units or quarterlands, another of £10 units or half-arachors.


I have also supplied maps to show the distribution of the various land-assessment units around Lennox.


There are, of course, residual problems. Many relate to gaps in the data and it is to be hoped that with time and study some of these will be filled. Others relate to questions such as Extent where matters may always remain uncertain. For instance there is some slight and indirect evidence from Strathblane that a carucate in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries may have returned 6 merks as a rent and was possibly regarded as a 6 merkland unit. There is an anomaly here between thinking of a carucate as worth 6m and thinking of it as worth £20. This might be because we are dealing with two different Extents.


Bookmark and Share
Posted in General Files

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *