|HISTORY OF THE BARONY OF
MORDINGTON TO 1636.
References to RMS are to Registrum Magni Sigilli or the Register of the Great Seal; references to SP are references to the Scots Peerage.
It is necessary to understand how the manor place of Nether Mordington came to be known as Edrington House. The James Douglas who acquired the estate of Nether Mordington from Thomas Ramsay in 1658 (being the son of the Thomas Ramsay who acquired Nether Mordington in 1636), as described below, also acquired the adjoining estate of Edrington in 1661, as confirmed by a charter under the Great Seal on 2nd August 1662 (Registrum Magni Sigilli or RMS, XI, 294).
The lands of Edrington are the site of Edrington Castle, which was 'one of the earliest border strongholds' (1) and which was probably built by the Scots to watch the English castle of Norham on the south bank of the Tweed ('the daungerest place in England' - Leland); the two castles are within sight of each other. The castle was held by the Lauders of Bass for nearly 300 years (2) but in 1892 the castle was described as 'A mere fragment of an ancient castle on the rocky bank of the Whitadder, 5 miles N.W. of Berwick. A place of some importance in the Border wars, it continued, till the close of the 18th century, four stories in height' (3). The castle passed through the hands of various owners in the 17th century and was probably not in the best state of repair by the 1660's.
1. 'The Border Line',
James Logan Mack, Edinburgh, 1924.
Whatever the condition of the castle, the owners of the joined estates of Nether Mordington and Edrington clearly preferred to live in the recently-built manor place of Nether Mordington, which they altered and enlarged. Nonetheless, the formal territorial designation 'of Edrington' (with its castle - even if ruinous) was deemed preferable to 'of Nether Mordington' and that designation was therefore adopted (Joseph Douglas is described as 'Joseph Douglas of Edrington' in a petition to the Court of Session in 1748). In any event, the Douglas family of Over Mordington were already known as 'of Mordington'. Being 'of Edrington' the next step was to rename the manor place from 'Nether Mordington' to 'Edrington'. The lands of Edrington were sold off in the 1830's and are now known as Cawderstanes, after a house of that name built near the castle ruins in 1892, probably using stone from the castle. Thus Nether Mordington became Edrington and Edrington became Cawderstanes.
The first mention of Mordington that I can find is in a charter of King Edgar (c.943-975) granting various lands in southern Scotland, including Mordington, to Durham cathedral; this grant was confirmed by William Rufus on 29 August 1095 (Durham University Library Archives & Special Collections, Durham Cathedral Muniments, Miscellaneous Charter 559).
The earliest reference to a possible* Lordship of Mordington occurs in charters (Durham University, Miscellaneous Charters 731, 743, 744, 758, 772, 780) dating from the time of Patrick, 5th Earl of Dunbar (1152-1232), including a charter of Clarebald de Esseby granting two fishponds on the River Tweed to the monks of Coldingham and witnessed by Lord William de Mordington (Misc. Ch. 731).
*The word 'dominus' ('lord') was used somewhat loosely during that period and did not necessarily indicate the existence of a barony or other form of lordship.
The earliest reference to the Barony of Mordingtoun occurs in an index to lost records in the Register of the Great Seal (RMS, I, App. II, 214 & 276) whereby sometime after 12th April 1312 (Scots Peerage or SP, VI, 292), being the last date on which Thomas Randolph was styled 'Sir Thomas Randolph', Agnes de Morthingtoun (evidently the heiress) and her spouse, Henry Haliburton, resigned the Barony of Morthingtoun and Longformacus to the King (Robert the Bruce) for re-grant to Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, who commanded the left wing at Bannockburn and was Regent of Scotland from the death of Robert the Bruce in 1329.
The Barony of Mordingtoun was possibly granted to Thomas Randolph in 1318 when he and Sir James Douglas ('the good Sir James') captured nearby Berwick-upon-Tweed as a result of treachery on the part of one of the burgesses. There seems to be little other reason for such a grant to a man who already held Moray, Annandale and the Isle of Man.
On the death of Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, on 20th July 1332 the Barony of Mordingtoun passed successively to his elder son, Thomas Randolph, 2nd Earl of Moray (killed at Dupplin on 12th August 1332 without issue), then to his younger son, John Randolph, 3rd Earl of Moray and Regent of Scotland from 1335 (killed at the battle of Neville's Cross on 17th October 1346 without issue), and then EITHER (SP, III, 266; SP, VI, 296) to his elder daughter, Agnes Randolph ('Black Agnes of Dunbar'), who married Patrick, 9th Earl of Dunbar (d. 1368), by whom she had no surviving issue, OR to his younger daughter, Isabella Randolph, who married Sir Patrick Dunbar (d. 1356/7), cousin of the 9th Earl of Dunbar, by whom she had issue, George Dunbar, 10th Earl of Dunbar (SP, VI, 294-5).
Note that 'Black Agnes of Dunbar' is reputed to be buried in a vault in the grounds of Mordington House (demolished 1973), which, if true, would strongly support the proposition that the barony passed through her hands. Agnes, Countess of Dunbar, was known as 'Black Agnes' because of her dark hair. When William de Montagu (d. 1343), Earl of Salisbury besieged Dunbar Castle in 1337-8, Black Agnes commanded the castle in the absence of her husband. In response to a demand to surrender, she is said to have replied:
"Of Scotland's King I
haud my house,
She is said to have destroyed a siege engine called 'The Sow' by having a huge stone thrown down on it and to have provocatively dusted off the parapets with a handkerchief where English cannon balls had hit them. When her brother, who had been captured by the English, was brought before the walls she told the attackers that if they killed him she would become Countess of Moray (which was untrue since Moray was a male fief), so his life was spared. The siege was abandoned after 19 weeks.
On 21st November 1372 (SP, III, 261;SP, VI, 346), charter of confirmation under the Great Seal by Robert II dated 6th December 1372 (RMS, I, 521), George Dunbar, 10th Earl of Dunbar (d. after 8th September 1422), granted 'terras nostras de Mordyntona' to Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith (d. 1420), on the occasion of Sir James's marriage to Agnes, the Earl's sister. Since the grant was also 'cum curriis tam de vita et membris' (with jurisdiction of life and limb), that is with baronial jurisdiction, it would seem that the barony itself (not just the lands) passed with this grant.
Note that Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith was granted the barony of Dalkeith on 5th January 1368-9.
The lands of Mordington are said to have passed to William Douglas, second son of Sir James Douglas (SP, VI, 348), who died without issue in his father's lifetime, and then to Sir James Douglas (d. before May 1441), said to have been 1st Lord Dalkeith (SP, VI, 350), elder brother of William Douglas, who, on 24th March 1381-2, received a grant of the lands of Mordington and other lands from Robert II in free regality (SP, VI, 350 referring to Reg. Honor. de Morton; also RMS, II, 993 being a charter of confirmation under the Great Seal by James III dated 9th July 1470 to William Douglas of Morton and Whittingham referring inter alia to baroniam de Mordingtoun and to grants of Mordington in libera regalitate by Robert II and Robert III).
The Barony of Mordingtoun passed successively to William Douglas of Morton and Whittingham, son of Sir James (d. before May 1441) by his second wife and who resigned his rights in favour of his nephew, the 1st Earl of Morton, in 1474 (SP, VI, 352); James Douglas, 1st Earl of Morton (d. before 22nd October 1493); James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Morton (d. before September 1515); James Douglas, 3rd Earl of Morton (d. before 4th November 1550) and James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton and Regent of Scotland from 1572 to 1580 (executed 2nd June 1581), who married Elizabeth, daughter of James Douglas, 3rd Earl of Morton.
A charter under the Great Seal of 17th October 1540 (RMS, III, 2213) by which James Douglas, 3rd Earl of Morton, resigned his lands to the King (James V) in favour of a re-grant to Robert Douglas of Lochleven was subsequently declared null by the Court of Session on 24th April 1543 (SP, VI, 360) and the Earl formally entailed his lands, including terras et baroniam de Mordingtoun on his son-in-law James Douglas, later 4th Earl, and his wife on 22nd April 1543 with a charter of confirmation under the Great Seal by Mary, Queen of Scots, on the same date (RMS, III, 2901).
A charter of confirmation under the Great Seal (RMS, IV, 1535) on 2nd June 1564 by Mary, Queen of Scots, in favour of James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton and his wife, included terras et baroniarum de Mordingtoun.
The charter under the Great Seal of 17th October 1540 (RMS, III, 2213) incorporated the Barony of Mordingtoun and numerous other lands and baronies into the Regality of Dalkeith. Although this charter was later declared null by the Court of Session both the charters of 22nd April 1543 (RMS, III, 2901) and 2nd June 1564 (RMS, IV, 1535) confirm the existence of the Regality of Dalkeith and the incorporation of the Barony of Mordingtoun into that regality.
It would appear on this basis that the Barony of Mordingtoun was subsumed within the Regality of Dalkeith, itself later temporarily subsumed within the Dukedom of Lennox, from 22nd April 1543 until 13th September 1636, for which see below.
Following the execution of James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, on 2nd June 1581 for his part in the murder of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in 1567 the Earl's lands were divided between John Maxwell, 8th Lord Maxwell (killed at Dryfesands on 7th December 1593), and Esmé Stewart, 8th Earl and 1st Duke of Lennox (d. 26th May 1583). By a charter under the Great Seal of 5th June 1581 (RMS, V, 203) some of these lands and baronies were erected into the Earldom of Morton and granted to John Maxwell, 8th Lord Maxwell, and by another charter under the Great Seal of the same date (RMS, V, 204) other of these lands and baronies, including the Barony of Mordingtoun, were erected into the Regality of Dalkeith and granted to Esmé Stewart, 8th Earl and 1st Duke of Lennox.
The Regality of Dalkeith, including the Barony of Mordingtoun, was incorporated of new into the Dukedom of Lennox by a charter under the Great Seal of James VI in favour of Esmé Stewart, 8th Earl and 1st Duke of Lennox on 13th December 1581 (RMS, V, 294).
The Regality of Dalkeith, including the Barony of Mordingtoun, was incorporated of new into the Dukedom of Lennox by a charter under the Great Seal of James VI in favour of Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox on 31st July 1583 (RMS, V, 596).
The forfeiture of James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, in 1581 was rescinded and his forfeited lands (including the Regality of Dalkeith) granted to his nephew, Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus by a charter under the Great Seal of James VI on 29th January 1585-6 (RMS, V, 908) and that in July 1587 Parliament ratified to the Earl the 'lands and honours of his late uncle, the Earl of Morton' (SP, 1, 196).
Note that the title of Earl of Morton continued de jure in the Maxwell family until Robert, 10th Lord Maxwell was created Earl of Nithsdale on 29th August 1620 with precedence from 1581 (SP, VI, 389; SP, VI, 482-3). Thus between 1585-6 and 1620 there were two Earldoms of Morton.
On the death of Archibald Douglas, 8th Earl of Angus, on 4th August 1588 the lands and honours of James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, devolved upon Sir William Douglas of Lochleven (SP, VI, 371) who thereby became the 5th Earl of Morton (of the Douglas of Dalkeith family).
By a charter of novodamus (creating a new root of title) under the Great Seal of James VI on 20th June 1589 (RMS, V, 1674) William Douglas, 5th Earl of Morton, resigned his lands and honours into the hands of the King for re-grant, including 'terras et baroniam de Mordingtoun'.
On the death of William Douglas, 5th Earl of Morton, on 27th September 1606 the Regality of Dalkeith, including the Barony of Mordingtoun, passed to his grandson, William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton (SP, VI, 375), who was served heir to his grandfather 'in terris et baronia de Mordingtoun' on 4th November 1606 ('Inquisitionum Ad Capellam Domini Regis Retornatarum Abbreviatio', Vol.1, Inquisitiones Speciales, Berwick, 63).
Robert Douglas, father of William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton, disappeared while travelling abroad some time after 24th December 1584 with his brother-in-law, the Master of Oliphant, and in 1600 a petition was presented to Elizabeth I for an expedition for the relief of the Master of Morton and the Master of Oliphant, reported to have been made slaves by the Turks, and to be then detained in captivity in the town of Algiers, on the Barbary coast (SP, VI, 375).
By a charter under the Great Seal of Charles I on 23rd August 1634 (RMS, IX, 214; RS1/41 ff. 128v-131v) William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton, resigned lands within the Barony of Mordingtoun (being the lands of Over Mordington and others) into the hands of the King for re-grant to Sir James Douglas of Mordington, second son of William Douglas, 10th Earl of Angus; these lands to be held in free regality.
By a charter under the Great Seal of Charles I on 13th September 1636 (RMS, IX, 589; C2/55/2, no. 245; RS1/45 ff. 144-146) William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton, resigned the remaining lands of the Barony of Mordingtoun (being the lands of Nether Mordington) into the hands of the King for re-grant to Thomas Ramsay, Minister of the Kirk at Foulden, and Helen Kellie, his spouse, to be held by the said Thomas Ramsay and Helen Kellie, his spouse, in conjunct fee.