Ross in the Exchequer Rolls
We are fortunate in that plenty of evidence concerning rentals for farms in Easter Ross has survived in the Exchequer Rolls. Between 1456 and 1588 we have the following:
1) ER VI pp 216-7 give us rents for some of the farms of the baronies of Avach and Edderdule in Ardmeanach (the Black Isle) in 1456. This data only covers 1 term (i.e. half the year). After excluding a mill, 3 alehouses, 7 crofts, we have 28 farms (or 29 if we include Achalee which doesn’t appear again). Of these 28 farms 24 are mentioned consistently, 4 feature occasionally.
2) ER VI p 463 gives us a full year’s rental for the baronies of Avach and Ettirdule (Ardmeanach) in 1457-8. There are further references in the following pages and a few scattered references in pp 647-664.
3) ER VII pp 235-241 gives us some summary rentals and receipts for Easter Ross. Pages 242-246 give us 2 terms rentals for farms in Ardmeanach.
4) ER VIII pp 536-8 gives us rents from Ardmeanach between 1473 and 1478 – 4½ years or 9 terms; pp 592-599 gives us 4 terms (1476-9) of rents of lands that formerly belonged to John, Lord of the Isles.
5) ER IX pp 58-62, 116-118, 402-407, 529-535
6) ER X pp 23-26, 93-95
7) ER XII pp 660-666 gives us rentals for Ross and Ardmeanach in 1504. (Ross and Ardmeanach were distinguished at the time. Ardmeanach meant the Black Isle. Ross meant the peninsula to the north of this).
8) ER XIII pp 596-8 give us the rental of lands that used to belong to Elizabeth, late Countess of Ross. We have details about these lands in RMS II (1227) 1475-6.
9) ER XVII pp 662-681 give us a rental for Ross and Ardmeanach in 1539.
10) ER XIX pp 233-245 1574-5
11) ER XX pp 233-245 1574-5 Ross
12) ER XX1 pp 327-339 1588 Ross
There are differences between these rentals. The earliest ones tend to just give the silver or cash rent. The later lists include more of the feudal casualties that landlords exacted from their tenants. Some of them (particularly ER XII 1504) have references to bovates, oxgangs and sheaves of land.
This data has to be handled with care. The fact that a farm returned a rent of 10m or 48 poultry or 1 custom mart is not proof that a farm was a davach. But when we compare farms with each other and against other data, the consistency is very convincing. The ER data reinforces the conclusion that a davach in Easter Ross or Ardmeanach was rated at 10m silver rent, returned 1 custom mart, 1 mutton, 48 poultry. It also informs us of local variations. For some reason a davach paid 16s bondage silver in Ross but 20s if in Ardmeanach. I do not know the reason for this but the evidence is consistent. Generally the number of ‘reek hens’ paid matches the number of tenants – so each tenant paid 1 reek hen.
We also have 4 farm names which begin with the word davach. (Davachcarne, Davachmoluag, Davachpollo, Davachcarty). These may have become subdivided over the years but they started off as davachs. Dach Pollo paid no grassum in 1507 because it was reckoned ‘ewill land’. Occasionally we meet female tenants.
There is no doubt that there was such a thing as a standard rental. We can also learn something of the rewards giiven to local officers. We can see what was paid to the mair, or the runner, or forester or chaplain.