The Douglases and the Gladstanes

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One of the few remaining Douglas muniments relating to William, first Earl of Douglas, which has been preserved, requires special notice : It is a letter of protection addressed by the Earl to Sir William of Gledstanes, knight, as his bailie of the barony of Cavers, charging him to defend the abbot and convent of Melrose in their freedoms and privileges, as lords of the lands of Eingwood, within that barony. The letter bears date at Melrose, on the 24th of April 1360. It is written in the French language, which the first Earl of Douglas frequently used, having been educated in France.

The family of Gledstanes of Gledstanes, like that of the Douglases, was connected with the county of Lanark from an early date. Herbert of Gledstanes is the first of the name who has been found on record. The Christian name of Herbert was a very common one in the subsequent history of the family.

Herbert swore fealty to King Edward the First in the year 1296 for lands in the county of Lanark. These were, no doubt, the lands of Gledstanes in the parish of Liberton, now the united parish of Liberton and Quothquan. Besides holding the important office of bailie under the first Earl of Douglas, Sir William of Gledstanes was associated with the Earl in his mliitary exploits in France. He accompanied the Earl to that country in the year 1356, and was belted a knight at the battle of Poitiers.

The office of bailie held by Sir William of Gledstanes under the first Earl of Douglas, was continued in the family of Gledstanes in the time of Archibald, fourth Earl of Douglas, afterwards first Duke of Touraine. This appears from a precept which was granted by that Earl to James of Gledstanes on the 4th November 1413. The connection between the Earls of Douglas and the family of Gledstanes, indeed, appears to have lasted as long as the Earls of Douglas themselves. Forty years after the forfeiture of the ninth Earl and his brothers, in the year 1455, Hugh Douglas, dean of Brechin, who was son of Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormond, brother of the last Earl of Douglas, entered into an indenture at Edinburgh, on the 24th January 1496, with his kinsman Archibald, fifth Earl of Angus, then Chancellor of Scotland, and best known as " Bell the Cat." Amongst other matters agreed on between the two kinsmen, the dean became bound, immediately after entering to the lands of Glenquholm, Pettinane, Gledstanes, or any other lands belonging to the Earls of Douglas, or Earl James, Lord Avondale, or the dean's father, the Earl of Ormond, in the shires of Lanark, or Peebles, or elsewhere in Scotland, to resign into the hands of the king the fee of such lands in favour of the Earl of Angus and his heirs, reserving to the dean only the liferent of the lands resigned till he obtained promotion to a dignity or benefice by the help of the chancellor.

George, fourth Earl of Angus, had obtained from the crown a grant of the forfeited estates of Douglas, in the year 1457, but his son and heir, " Bell the Cat," may have had difficulty in making the grant effectual, in so far as related to Gledstanes and the other two landed estates mentioned in the indenture. The chancellor, therefore, deals with his cousin the dean as heir-male of the Earls of Douglas, Avondale, and Ormond, to complete his feudal title to Gledstanes and the other lands, and thereafter to dispone the fee to Angus.

We know from other records that Pettinain belonged to the Earl of Ormond at the time of his forfeiture. Portions of Pettinain were granted to other persons than the Earl of Angus, and " Bell the Cat " may have wished to dispute these grants, as coming in place of the Earls of Douglas, Avondale, and Ormond. This accounts for Angus dealing with his cousin the dean to assist him in recovering the lands of Gledstanes, and others. From that claim of the Earl of Angus, as coming in place of the Earls of Douglas, to the lands of Gledstanes either in superiority or property, it may be inferred that these lands had originally belonged to the barons of Douglas along with their other Lanarkshire estates, and been granted by them to Herbert of Gledstanes, whose descendants continued to be closely connected officially with the Earls of Douglas.

The descendants of Sir William of Gledstanes continued to make a figure on the Borders for many generations till about the middle of the last (18th) century. Their principal residence was Cocklaw, a castle situated in the parish of Cavers, in Roxburghshire, while their lands lay in the adjoining parish of Kirkton, and also in the parish of Manor, in Peeblesshire. The Gledstanes of Cocklaw were also known by the territorial designation of Gledstanes of that ilk. Another branch of the family of Gledstanes was also known as of that ilk, and latterly of Craigs and Kelwood, or Upper Kelwood, in the parish and shire of Dumfries,—both families being probably descended from the original stock of the name in Lanarkshire.

The Gledstanes of Cocklaw and Craigs failed in the direct male Line, and came to be represented respectively by an heiress and two co-heiresses. Janet Gledstanes, the heiress of Cocklaw, died unmarried about the year 1734, and the property was sold about the year 1741. The two co-heiresses of Craigs, Agnes and Elizabeth Gledstanes, succeeded their father, John Gledstanes, in Craigs and Kelwood about the year 1620.

A third line was the Gledstanes of Akthueshiel, near the old place or castle of Gledstanes, in Lanarkshire. The first of the Gledstanes of Arthurshiel who has been traced was William Gledstanes, who, before the year 1565, was Laird of Arthurshiel. His lineal male descendants continued as owners of that property for many generations, until William Gledstanes disposed of it, and went to reside in the town of Biggar about the year 1679. Sir Thomas Gladstone, Baronet, of Fasque, in the county of Kincardine, and his brother, the Right Hon. William Ewart Gladstone, M.P., of Hawarden, are descended in the direct male line from William Gledstanes of Arthurshiel, in the time of Queen Mary, and William Gledstanes, last of Arthurshiels and of Biggar, who was their great-great-grandfather. Their father, the late Sir John Gladstone, Baronet, of Fasque, obtained a royal licence to drop the final letter s in his surname. Previously the letter e in Gled had been changed to a; and Gladstone is now the prevailing form of using the ancient Scottish name of Gledstanes.

The connection between the three lines of the Gledstanes family which have now been noticed, and Herbert of Gledstanes of 1296, has not been ascertained. But it is probable he was the common ancestor of all those lines of which that of Arthurshiel alone is now represented by male descendants.

•  Andrew Douglas c1519 3rd of Timpendean married c1537 Katherine Gladstanes/Gledstains c1520 in Lanton.  Katherine was the daughter and co-heiress of William
Gladstanes/Gledstains of Lanton.


Sources for this article include:

  • The Douglas Book; William Fraser; Volume I

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    Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024