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Aberdour Castle


Aberdour Barony

The recorded history of the barony of Aberdour begins in the fourteenth century when Thomas Randolph, Earl of
Moray, nephew and loyal supporter of King Robert the Bruce, was granted the lands by his uncle. The details of the transaction are unknown since the original document has been lost, but the charter is listed in the sixteenth-century index and may have been issued in 1325. In 1327 the Earl granted a charter of part of the barony (Culhelach, modem Cullalo) to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey; evidently it was in his hands by that date. The Earl died at Musselburgh in 1332 and the lands passed in
succession to his elder son, also Thomas, killed at Dupplin the same year, and then to his younger son John. The latter granted a charter of the barony dated 18th February 1342, to his friend William Douglas, Knight,
and the property has belonged to one branch or another of the Douglas family ever since.

Sir William, popularly known as the ‘Flower of Chivalry’ and a prominent figure in his day, added to his estates the lordship of Liddesdale and the barony of Dalkeith. On
7th April 1351, he granted a charter of the lands of Aberdour to his nephew James, later Lord of Dalkeith. This charter was confirmed by David II in 1361 and contains the earliest known reference to Aberdour Castle which Sir William reserved to himself. In 1386 the baronies of Aberdour and Dalkeith were united into a single barony of regality with freedom from judicial interference to be known as the Regality of Dalkeith, an
arrangement which lasted until 1642.

Three remarkable documents from this period are preserved among the Morton family papers, one a rental of the barony of Dalkeith, the others testaments prepared by Sir James Douglas in 1390 and 1392. The
rental, dated 1377-8, is the earliest known lay rental to survive and lists the lands contained within the barony of Aberdour as follows:

Dauchy (Dalachy)
Telny
Smithsland
Coteland (cottarland)
Bracina (brewhouse)
Agismart
The Meadow
Moriell (Murrell)
Brekauch
Terre Dominice (Mains)

The lands were valued at £31 10 shillings substantial contributions in kind, and the names of the tenants listed against each property. The testaments, which are also the earliest documents of their kind to survive, contain
further references to Aberdour. Sir James, a scholar, bequeathed all his books on grammar and logic to his natural son; John Douglas of Aberdour, stipulating that all
borrowed books should first be returned to their owners. Sir James also left £3 6s 8d to the church of St Fillan at Aberdour for the purchase of vestments, a reference which incidentally establishes the dedication of the
church.

Sir James, who died of influenza in 1420, married twice, his second wife being Egidia, sister of King Robert II. His son James married Elizabeth, a daughter of Robert III.
Their son, also called James, succeeded about 1440, but was declared insane in Parliament in May 1441, when his father-in-law was constituted his curator and appointed
custodian of the castles of Dalkeith and Aberdour for a term of 19 years. There is some doubt as to whether James was in fact mentally deficient or regarded as in need of protection from his brother Henry who was
also claiming title to the Dalkeith estates.

James, third Lord Dalkeith, succeeded between 1456-8 and in anticipation of his marriage to Joanna, deaf and dumb daughter of James I, was created Earl of Morton (the style was derived from the lands of Morton near East Calder). On 8th September 1456 he received a new charter of all the lands of the lordship and regality of Dalkeith including the barony of Aberdour with its castle. In 1474 his claims were strengthened by the renunciation by his cousin Hugh of any title he might have to them. Thus the quarrel between his father and his uncle Henry was finally resolved in the earl’s favour.

The barony of Aberdour adjoined the lands of Inchcolm Abbey, so that the relationship between the earl and the abbot must necessarily have been close. In 1474 the
former founded the Hospital of St Martha in East Aberdour for the benefit of pilgrims and of the poor. James IV was personally interested in the foundation since in 1488 it received a donation of two pounds ‘at the king’s command’ and he subsequently granted considerable sums towards its upkeep from the customs of Inverkeithing and the grain of Fife. He passed through
Aberdour on 10th July 1497, on his way from Kinghom to Edinburgh, for on that day he is recorded as having spent Sd. ‘giffin to ane pur wife at Aberdour’. The Hospital
survived until 1560 when the lands reverted to the Earl of Morton.

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