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There is now no trace of William Douglas of Bonjedward’s house at Cunzeirton in the Cheviot Hills, (66) but of its razing and the theft of his cattle in 1540 (cited in Armstrong, 1883, LI, App. XXXIV) we have the following record:
Thai come apon the XXI day of November last bypast, to his house of Cunzertoun, with ledderis, spadis, schobs, gavelockis and axis, cruellie assegit, brak and undirmyndit the said place, to have wynnyn the samyn, and tuik his cornis, and caist to the yettis, and brynt thairin VIIJ ky and oxin, and spulyeit and tuik away with thaime XXVJ ky and oxin, an horss…(67)

Zeune (1992, 168) supposes that Cunzeirton must have been a pele-house or bastle with livestock kept in the ground floor otherwise eight cattle and oxen ‘therein’ would not have been lost. In general, however, the livestock may have been kept on the property or ‘place’ rather than in the house itself. Given that this record is an official complaint lodged by Douglas against English reivers, it may have been exaggerated in the hope of compensation for 34 animals rather than the 26 that may be recovered.

The RCHME (1970, 66) cite two documentary references to support the theory that livestock were housed within the main body of the house. Firstly, the author of ‘A Survey of the Possessions of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland…’, 1570, who stated that lodging of livestock at night is the usual practice – this general observation need not relate to, or only to, the ground floor of stone-built two-storey houses. Secondly, a reference to the losses sustained by one John Sparman, Rothbury, who, in 1586, was said to have had “his house burnt and one hundred sheep in it”. The average space available in the basement of surviving English bastles is 42.6 m2 (ibid, 61); it is conceivable that this number of sheep could be housed inside but it seems more likely that additional accommodation would have been required to house a flock of that size on a nightly basis and, as it is, most English bastles do have associated outbuildings. However, the first secure references to livestock being housed on the ground floor of stone-built houses in Rothbury (Northumberland) and in north-east Cumberland date to the 19th century; therefore the architecture of 16th century examples confirms only that “the lower floor was never intended as living quarters… [and] could be interpreted, like medieval town cellars, as a storehouse” (ibid, 66).


66 Note: Zeune mistakenly ascribes Cunzeirton to Dumfriesshire with the suffix ‘DF’ each time it is mentioned, however, the grid reference provided in the index (NT 741 180) is correct and the house would have been up in the Cheviots with a direct route from Douglas’s seat in Bonjedward (near Jedburgh) along Dere Street.
67 Translation: They come upon the 21st day of November last bypast [past/gone by], to his house of Cunzeirton, with ladders, spades, schobs [?stobs: forked thatching rods], gavelocks [crowbars or heavy hammers] and axes, cruelly assieged [besieged], broke and undermined the said place, to have wynnyn [won] the same, and took his corns, and cast to [threw down] the yetts [gates], and burnt therein eight cattle and oxen, and spulyied [spoiled/plundered] and took away with them 26 cattle and oxen, one horse…

•  In 1537 sheep were stolen from William Douglas. “Andrew Hall, called ‘Fat Cow’ and William Hall ‘Wanton Pintle’ were denounced rebels for stealing sheep from William Douglas of Bon Jedward and his neighbours…” They also stole corn from Douglases’ place at Cunzeirton.

•  In 1540 Cunzeirton was associated with William Douglas of Bonjedward.

‘‘•  William Douglas of Cunyertoun’ was on the Roxburghshire Land Tax Roll between 1645 and 1831. (Scotland's Places).

•  In September 1696, William Douglas of Cunzeirton represented Roxburgh

•  Christian Douglas, spouse to Archibald Douglas of Garvald, lands at Cunzeirtoun, and others, Date of Tailzie: 3 Dec 1705 Date of registration: 6 Nov 1707.

•  In the reign of George III (1760 onwards) there was a ‘Reverend Dr James Douglas of Cunzeirton’, the son of Archibald Douglas of Cavers, who died in 1741 and Anna, daughter of Francis Scott of Gorrenberry.   Prebendary of Durham Cathedral. He was served heir to Archibald Douglas of Cunziertoun 28th September 1736. He married Jean, daughter of Halyburton of Pitcur, but had no issue. He died 1780.

•  In 1992 John Henderson stated that "Cunzeirton Farm is owned by the Misses Douglas who live at Swinside Hall’’.

See also:
•  Cunzeirton - research by Sally Douglas (pdf; updated 5th November 2018)
•  Peles, towers and bastles of the Scottish Borders (pdf)



Sources for this article include:
  • The Laird’s Houses of Scotland: From the Reformation to the Industrial Revolution, 1560–1770; Sabina Ross Strachan

  • Any contributions will be gratefully accepted


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