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History of the Town and Castle of Dumbarton
Part III. History of the Town and Castle of Dumbarton

The Collegiate Church at Dunbrltton, founded by Isabella, Duchess of Albany and Countess of Lennox—Hospital or Almshouse attached—Superiority and Patronage of this Religious Establishment in the hands of the Dukes of Lennox—Gifted by them to the Monks of Kilwinning—the Lady Altar—the Altar of the Holy Cross—a Chapel founded in the Castle at an early age—Adam, a Chaplain, mentioned—the Patronage of the Parish Church rested In the Magistrates by Royal Charter in the year 1619—Claimed by the Earl of Eglintoun in 1739—Description of the Old Parish Church and Erection of the New in 1811—a Relique of Antiquity.

IN the year 1450, the Collegiate Church of Dunbritton was founded by Lady Isabella, Duchess of Albany and Countess of Lennox, widow of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, who was beheaded at Stirling in 1425. To this church' were attached a small chapel and chaplain, and also an hospital Or' "almshouse" for poor "beadmen." "Beadmen" were those of the Catholic persuasion who regularly said their Rosaries, or told or counted their beads, or probably they were the poor of the flock. The Earls of Lennox held the patronage of these • establishments probably till near the period of the Reformation. During the long era of the domination of the Roman Catholic Church, the Sovereigns of Scotland, among other important privileges, frequently conferred very extensive civil powers on the Abbots of Monasteries, which they had a right to exercise over all those different territories they had acquired, as well as within the bounds of their immediate charge. Privileges of this nature, in the remote days of antiquity, obtained the name of powers of regality. The jurisdiction so granted, seems to have been extended not only to mere civil cases, but also to capital crimes. At and before the Reformation, these very peculiar jurisdictions did not cease—they merely passed into the hands of influential noblemen or others; but they were generally accompanied with the temporal possessions of the exiled monks. The ancient Earls of Lennox held a castle at Catter, on the banks of the Endrick, a considerable stream which flows hto Lochlomond. Here, in the vicinity of the castle, and on an artificial mound of earth where justice was administered in former days, stood the Earl's Gallows, the necessary associate of the earl's courts, as well as the courts of his vassals. "Maurice Buchanan obtained from his superior, Donald, Earl of Lennox, a charter of confirmation of the lands of Buchanan, with the powers of jurisdiction over life and members; but all persons who should be condemned to death in the court of Maurice and his heirs were to be executed on the Earl's Gallows at Cathyr." (See Chartulary of Lennox.) The Earl of Lennox, about the commencement of the sixteenth century, gifted the patronage and temporalities of this collegiate church of Dumbarton to the monks of Kilwinning. At the period of the Reformation it appears that this establishment yielded to these monks and friars a clear revenue of £66: 13: 4d. sterling money annually. This church and hospital was originally dedicated to Saint Patrick the apostle of Ireland. The chapter consisted of a provost and several prebendaries, and it was endowed with the parish churches of Bonhill, Fintry, and Strathblane, together with the following lands—to wit, part of the lands of Strathblano; the five-merk lands of Lady-town, in the parish of Bonhill; the forty-shilling lands of Ferkinch; the forty-shilling lands of Struckroger, also in the parish of Bonhill; the forty-shilling lands of Ballerney bogs, in the parish of Row; and the five-merk lands of Knockdowie, in the parish of Roseneath; besides a suitable mansion with gardens and an orchard at Dumbarton; and also some of the rigs of the bogs, which regularly furnished so much wax annually for the service of the altar. The farm of Auchendenan, on the banks of Lochlomond, furnished also so many creels of peats yearly to the parish teacher for fuel to the school, to warm the little childrens' toes during the cold winter months. This latter bonus appears to have been given annually from time immemorial. The peats however have, in more modern times, been converted into sterling money, which is claimed by the burgh, and now goes into the Corporation Fund. In the burgh records this item is curiously stated "Conversion of Peats, £1 10:." The hospital, or alms'-house, connected with the old parish church, remained till the period of the Reformation, when it and the small chapel adjoining were torn down and partially destroyed. These buildings thus lay in a confused state of ruin and dilapidation till the year 1758, when, by consent of the Mortification Fund managers, they were entirely demolished, and the stones partly taken to erect the bridge called the "Know! Burn," and sometimes the "Gallows' Mollan Bridge," now called the East Bridge; and partly to erect that line of small houses for dwellings to the poor situated on the south side of Castle Street, which line of buildings were executed and reared at the earnest request of the late amiable and devoted Mr. Freebairn, minister of the parish. One shilling of annual feu-duty is owing to the managers of the Mortification Fund from the ground on which the above line of small houses is erected, viz, from the year 1758 to 1846, a period of eighty-eight years, being the sum of £4: 8:. To corroborate these last statements, I shall here give two brief excerpts of minutes from the Mortification Fund records. The dilapidation and consequent entire demolition of this ancient religious and charitable edifice is noticed in the following excerpts of minutes taken from the Mortification Fund records, 22d Dec. 1758:—

"The magistrates represented to the managers that they had contracted for a new bridge to favour the entry and policies of the town, and as the stones about the ruinous alms'-house, belonging to the Mortification, were presently useless, they would be glad the meeting would encourage a public good, as far as to part with these stones for carrying their plan of the bridge at the Gallows' Mollan, or Knowl Burn, into execution, which being considered, the meeting did agree that these stones were just now useless, and that if the magistrates would pass from their claim upon the desks on the south side of the church, commonly called 'the Schooller's Seats,' 'which might be fitted up and set up for a considerable interest for the poor, and to allow the kirk session to set and repair them for that purpose, they would grant their desire of applying the stones aforesaid for the purpose of the new bridge." "6th March, 1760.—It was reported to the meeting, that, at the magistrates and Town Council were going just now to pusup a dyke on the ground where the alms'-house stood, if the managers thought it would be for the benefit of the funds, they take this opportunity, as they had the ground of their own, to accept of a piece of money in place of the said dyke, and fill up the ground with a range of small houses, to sell for the benefit of the poor, which the meeting considering, they so far agreed to the motion as to appoint William Muir, mason, the two William Wilsons, wrights, and William Davidson, sclater, to give in such estimates of the expense as they, for their own parts, would execute this work for—referring to the subsequent meeting to judge whether the thing appears to them to be really for the benefit of the poor or not.

(Signed) JOHN FREEBAIRN, Minister.

"1761, Jan. 6.—Upon reading the minutes of the committee's transactions, the general meeting approves of the whole, and particularly ratifies the transaction with respect to the waiste ground on which the alms'-house stood; and as the magistrates and town council have passed an act for granting ane disposition to Mr. Freebairn to the said ground, and others, as far as they have interest, which disposition being produced and read, bearing a hold off the town of Dumbarton as superiors, and a shilling sterling of ground annual to this Mortification yearly,—the meeting unanimously agree to sign the said disposition, which was done accordingly."

In the year 1570, John Cunningham, of Drumquhassel, pro.-cured for his son Cuthbert, a boy under age, a presentation to the provostry, or chief of this collegiate church, in order to be a support for him, while at his education, till he would attain twenty-six years of age. For this infant provost his father, above-mentioned, obtained also a grant in feu-farm of a great part of the lands which anciently belonged to the collegiate establishment, to be held by this young provost for payment of a fen-duty of £30 : 6: 8d. yearly, and this extensive grant was afterwards confirmed by Royal Charter from the Crown, on the 10th of March, 1571.

The superiority and feu-duties of the previously-mentioned lands attached to the collegiate church subsequently fell into the hands of the succeeding Dukes of Lennox, as the patrons of the provostry; and they also received and held all the patronages and other emoluments belonging to all the other stir-rounding parish churches connected with this church. There was, as we have formerly observed, at an early period, a church at Dumbarton, and this burgh was also, from a very remote time, the ancient seat of the Reguli of the Strathclyde Britons. The church, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was arectory under lay patronage. In the year 1296, Allan De Danfres, parson of the church of Dumbarton, swore fealty to Edward the First, in consequence of which he obtained from his Majesty a write or order to the Sheriff of Dumbarton for the immediate delivery of all his money and other property which he had previously forfeited by sedition and rebellion.. Towards the end of the sixteenth century this church, with all the tithes and pertinents thereto belonging, was again bequeathed by the Duke of Lennox to the monastery of Xiiwinning, as we previously remarked, and they held it till the dawn of the Reformation in 1688. These monks received and enjoyed all the varied revenues accruing from this establishment till the above eventful era, and the church was regularly served by a curate, who was paid by them. (See Chartulary of Lennox, II. page 130.) Within this church there were, before the Reformation, several altars at which the Roman Catholic services were performed by chaplains, who were generally supported by the bequeathnients and endowments of dying and deceased friends, who were supposed to be pious individuals. One of these altars was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and was called the Lady Altar. A chaplain who officiated at this altar received 20s. yearly out of the king's rents from the burgh funds. (See the Burgh Treasurer's Account for the year 1520.) There was another chaplainry, which was founded at this altar, and was endowed with certain annual rents from property within the town. In the church there was also a second altar dedicated to the Holy Cross, called the Rood Altar. At the Reformation, the chaplainry of the Rood Altar was held by Sir Robert Watson, who reported its revenues to be £20 sterling yearly.

Within the castle of Dunbreton, in early times, there was a chapel founded, which was originally dedicated to Saint Patrick. A chaplain of the fortress, of the name of Adam, appears as a witness to a deed in the year 1271. The patronage of this chapel seems originally to have belonged to the crown; but, precious to the Reformation, it appears to have been acquired in some manner, either by charter or otherwise, as it had fallen into the possession of the Archbishop of Glasgow. Robert the Third, in the year 1390, granted to Saint Patrick's chapel, in the castle, ten merks sterling yearly, out of the king's rents, from the burgh of Dumbarton.

The magistrates and community of the Royal Burgh of Dumbarton, in the year 1618, obtained a Royal grant from King James the Sith of the advowson or patronage of the parish church, with all the tithes, parsonages, and vicarages; and also of all the lands, tenements, and revenues of the altars and chaplainries, which, in preceding centuries, had been founded on or belonging to that church. Under this said Royal Charter, the magistrates and town council of this burgh, for the time being, continue to exercise the patronage of the parish church till the present day.

The Burgh, for the privilege of holding this patronage, remits annually to Her Majesty's Exchequer the sum of 12 punds Soots, or 1d. sterling, being a regular yearly charge made against her by the Crown, with 1:. 1d. sterling, or one merk Scots, as the amount of the feu-duties of five tenements of lands—of old belonging to the Conirnendator of Kilwinning;—for which we the town treasurer's accounts for the year 1834. A commendator is the title of an ecclesiastic who holds a principal benefice in the Episcopal Church. The five tenements of lands above referred to, as being within the burgh, cannot now be indicated. This Coimnendator of Kilwinning was John, Archbishop of Saint Andrew's, who held not only this title, but also held and collected all the revenues of the Monastery of the former place. Whether this said archbishop and pluralist sold, or pretended to have sold, these several feu-duties, revenues, and patronage pertaining to the parish church of Dumbarton, or whether on his death they reverted to the Crown, or came into the hands of the Earl of Eglinton, does not appear, as history is silent on the matter. When documents are silent, conjecture may be ingenious, but it is seldom safe on the part of a historian to indulge it. Nevertheless, this said Earl pretended to have become possessed of them at an early age; for in the Burgh Records, of date 1739, we find it mentioned that he claimed title to a portion, nay, even the whole of the tiends or tithes of lands in the parish of Dumbarton, and also the exclusive patrearage of the parish church. In consequence of this unfounded claim, the then magistrates and council were served each with a summons to the Court of Session, at the instance of the said Earl. The town council, however, nobly and indignantly spurned the very idea of being thus sacriligiously deprived of a privilege which they conscientiously believed was held by them and their predecessors in office immediately. from the Crown by Royal Charter; they therefore instructed the town-clerk, that, with all necessary speed, he should select the Charter, with other important papers referring to the subject, from out of the "Charter Chest," "and a man fitted to defend the town employed." These are the words of the minute of council written on the occasion. The result was, that the magistrates were victorious in court over the Earl of Eglinton.(See Burgh Records, of date 1739.)

This church and alms'-house, with the other buildings therewith connected, were originally erected, as we formerly stated, under the auspices and direction, and at the sole expense of the Duchess of Lennox. Being old and in disrepair, they were taken down and the present substantial new building erected on the same site in the year 1811, being, as was correctly supposed, about 369 years old. The old church was in the form of a cross, surmounted with a spire at the West end. Its internal appearance was very unique and ancient. The pulpit stood on the South side of the building, or in the Nave of the edifice, and immediately in front of it, to the North, were Mr. Campbell of Stonefleld's Gallery and Aisle and also the Magistrates' and Town Council's Gallery. The galleries to the West of the pulpit belonged in property to, and were occupied. chiefly by, the members of the four incorporated trades of the burgh. The Incorporation of Shoemakers held their property and sittings nearly under these galleries. To the East of the pulpit was the gallery for the accommodation of the officers and infantry of the Castle, or Soldier's Loft, and the gallery for the Dean of Guild Court, and the Guild Brethren. These two galleries were again overtopped by another small gallery, which ascended to nearly the roof of the church. This latter gallery, from its having a commanding view of the whole congregation, and from its being chiefly occupied by single ladies, was ludicrously denominated "the hen bank?' Around the upper part of the walls of the sacred edifice were suspended a number of painted boards, each of which indicated in large letters a gift of so many merks Scots, or punds Scots, bequeathed by some charitable deceased friend to the poor.

It would appear that church accommodation in former days was very much required, as an honourable lady of wealth and influence in our neighbourhood pet1tioed the Kirk Session of Dumbarton, about 224 years ago for a sitting in the parish church, which she could scarcely obtain. The following is an extraét from the Kirk Session Records in reference to this subject:—"March 20th, 1622.—The whilk day Dame Jean Hamiltone, Lady of Luss, in respect of her residence amangst us, and yet having no convenient place wherein to sit in ye kirk, desired that ye Kirk Session would design and appoint som room for her; whilk desire the Session fand very reasonable, and grants hir libertie to build ane seat for hirsel, upon ye tap of the East gavil."

It appears that the old steeple attached to the church often required repair, and we find that the poor's money was often borrowed for that purpose. A minute of 30th April, 1620, says, "The whilk day there was delivert to Robt. Coiquhoun, in compleat payment for his thicken the steeple, 40 merks; whereof 14 merks and half were taken out of the penalty box, and 17 borrowed out of the poor folkes silver." This "thicking the auld kirk steeple" has been matter of great moment during several generations. At one time, Indeed, it almost led to a disruption of the Church and State here, at least their representatives within this Burgh—we mean the Kirk Session and the Town Council. Here is an instance of this, in the following extract from he Burgh Records, May 30, 1756:—"The steeple of the Parish Kirk being in a ruinous state, the Town Council hereby order it to be repaired, and the trees in the kirk yeard to be cut down and applied for that purpose; and on the Kirk Session refusing to allow this, a process to be immediately instituted to compel them; and this will and resolution of the Town Council to be intimated to them accordingly." It may be safely inferred, we think, in this matter, that the Kirk rulers quietly obeyed the State.

A RELIQUE OF ANTIQUITY.—The following original charter, granted by King Malcolm Kanmore, in the year 1057, of the lands of Powmode, was by accident lately discovered in an old oak chest.

"I, Malcom Kaninore the King, the first year of my reign, give to thee, Barron Hunter, the upper and nether lands of Powmode, and all the bounds within the flood, with the hoop and the Hooptown, and all the other bounds up and down, above the earth to heaven, and all below the earth to hell, as free to thee and thine as ever God gave to me and mine; and that for a bow and a broad arrow when I come to hunt upon Yarrow. And for the mair faith of this, I bite this white wax with my ain teeth, before Margaret my wife and Mall my nurse.

"Sic Subacribitur, MALCOLM KANMORE, King.
MARGARET, Witness.
MALL, Witness."

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