There are a few additional Corbet/t
items at the end of this article on the Scottish Corbetts.
Parts of the
following have been taken from the 'Glasgow Herald' circa
1906 which date was some years before the publication of
Mrs A E Corbett's book 'The Family of Corbet - Its Life
Also included is additional material, entered in the
relevant time periods covered, extracted from a variety
of sources, a list of which will appear at the end. Often
several references refer to a single occurance and these
are sometimes included which means that some events are
'The race of Corbet or Corbett,
to which the donor of a wild and romantic Highland estate
to the people of Glasgow belong, is more deserving of
being termed a clan than not a few other races who are so
styled. The history of the family has never been written,
yet it is still one of the few still existing that trace
in the male line an undoubted descent from an ancient
race in Normandy, which was Hugh Corbet (or Corbeau)
living 1040, a generation before the Conquest. He is
documented 'a noble Norman', and from his son Roger
descended the baronial house, as well as the families now
existing in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Their
head or chief is Sir Walter Orlando Corbet, J.P., (4th Bt.,
of Acton Reynold, Shropshire, married to Caroline Stewart
of St Fort, Newport, Fife), D.L. [Deputy Lieutenant] of
that county and a magistrate of Fifeshire. The above
Roger was a younger son of Hugh (the oldest was ancestor
of a line of that name in France) and held no fewer than
24 lordships in Shropshire. To this day his descendants
are there the proudest of "proud Salopians",
several families of them together standing credited with
an interest in Shropshire worth at least £42,000 a year.
Few, indeed, are the families in the land who have
maintained themselves to this extent in that county in
which their ancestor was settled by the Conqueror.
Perhaps there is not another instance of this kind.
The arms of old of the Corbets
in Scotland, as in England, were a corbie of natural
colours on a golden shield. The corbie is a bird of prey,
called raven, says Guillims (the herald) for its vapine,
and the ensign of the Danes (the Norsemen, of which stock
were the Normans), when they invaded the British and
Irish coasts. It is also the symbolic bird of the Grahams
as the Magpie is that of the Campbells. It is therefore
not difficult to surmise what the characteristics were of
the man who was termed Corbeau by his contemporaries.
So early in the Norman period
of our island does a member of the family make his
appearance in Scotland that he would be a son or grandson
of Roger of the 24 manors.'
Black: "The first Corbet
came from Shropshire and settled in Teviotdale under Earl
David in the first quarter of the twelfth century. He is
said to have obtained the manor of Foghou which he held
as a vassal under the Earls of Dunbar."
Robert Corbet appeared in
Scotland in about 1116 as one of the retinue of Earl
David who later became King David I.
Augusta Corbet says that Robert
was the son of Roger, Baron of Caus, and so the grandson
of Hugh. He was also said to belong to the family which
held Drayton in Northamptonshire.
Robert Corbet was a witness in
the instrument or Inquisition made by David, Prince of
Cumberland, Earl of Huntingdon, (prior to 1124), into the
lands belonging to the old Church of Glasgow, and is also
a witness in other deeds of that Prince when King of
Scotland (1124-53). Robert was still alive in 1147.
'The Cumberland or Cumbria of
those days extended to the Clyde, and included Glasgow,
which was not in Scotland until David made it so. That
King, it will be remembered, constituted another
Salopian, Walter Fitz Alan, his High Steward, [hereditory
High Steward of Scotland and a forbear of the Royal House
of Stewart] and he seems to have allotted to Robert
Corbet lands in the shire of Roxburgh. In the South
Robert's descendants were great lords of several
It will be noted that no
mention is made at any time, in the extracts quoted from
the newspaper article, of an earlier Corbet, Sibylla, who
married Alexander I (1107-1124). She was, of course, the
illegitimate daughter of Sibylla Corbet (1) who was the
daughter of Robert and grand-daughter of Hugh. Sibylla (1),
sometimes referred to as Adela, Julian, Annora and Lucia,
and Henry I had several illegitimate children as well as
Sibylla (2). In case readers are under the impression
that Alexander and Sibylla were a romantic and loving
couple I fear I shall have to disillusion them. The
marriage was arranged by Henry I to further his policy of
friendliness with Scotland. A common occurance in those
times. In the Charter of Alexander at the founding of the
abbey of Scone c 1120 Sibylla is referred to as 'daughter
of Henry, King of England. Witnessing their signatures is
one who is styled ' William the Queen's brother'. This
William married Alice and 40 years later was holding land
in Devon and Cornwall as did two other children of
Sibylla the first.
Stewart Ross in 'Monarchs of
Scotland' says "Mention in the chronicles of the
presence of Arab horses and Turkish arms suggests that
Alexander kept a court of some splendour. Unfortunately
he was not possessed of a wife capable of matching this
magnificence. Queen Sibylla was an ugly and flighty
illegitimate daughter of Henry I of England."
R L G Ritchie says "Sibylla
.... was not very high on the list of daughters [in order
of importance so far as marriage alliances were concerned],
or possessed of much personal charm..... Her shortcomings
were in deportment and style, the very matters in which
Norman ladies were supposed to shine most dazzlingly, but
in the twelfth century view her presence alone [as
daughter of the King of England] sufficed to shed lustre
upon a Court and it must be allowed that the double title
makes a brave show: "Ego Sibylla, Dei gratia Regina
Scottorum, filia Henrici Regis Angliae". [I Sibylla,
by the grace of God Queen of Scotland, daughter of Henry
King of England.] [There appears to be some dispute as to
the authenticity of this document because of the wording.]
She died in isolation on the
island of Eilean nam Ban (the Island of Women) in Loch
Tay". It was common in those times for monarchs to
commemorate their grief by the founding of some religious
establishment and Alexander founded at Loch Tay cell or
Priory, belonging to the abbey of Scone. Poor Sibylla,
unappreciated, it appears, in life and in death.
In 1166 Walter (1) Corbet who
married Asa, the daughter of Gilbert d'Umfraville, was in
Annandale when William the Lion granted to Robert De Brus
the land there which his father and himself held. Walter
was Lord of Mackerstoun and of Glendale in Northumberland
and was a benefactor of the Abbey of Kelso.
The earlier Robert Corbet's (grandson
of Hugh) and (apparently) his son Walter's seals are
attached to charters of Cliftun lands granted to the
Abbey of Melrose c 1170 and a Patrick Corbet also put his
seal to a charter about the same date. (A tree supported
on each side by a lion rampant and in the branches two corbeau.)
Walter owned the manor of
Malcarveston. (Spelt variously Malkarveston, Malcariston,
Mackerstoun, Malkariston) Augusta Corbet assumes that
Robert was dead by 1159 when 'Sir Walter Corbet' granted
the Church of Malcariston to the monks of Kelso. He also
witnessed charters between 1179 and 1189.
Augusta Corbet refers to
Matilda who married firstly Sayer de Seton/Say, secondly
William de Ridale and thirdly Roger Lardener. Matilda and
Roger transferred part of their lands in Cliftun to
Christina, of whom more later. She also suggests that a
Randolph Corbet was a brother of Walter's. (Randolph
being a name which was continued frequently in the French
line.) Randolph (Raan/Ranulph) was Master of the Templars
of Scotland and his name appears in a Charter drawn up in
the reign of William the Lion.
In 1173/4 King William the Lion
of Scotland was captured by the English. He had made a
foray into Northumberland to restore his lands with his
men creating devastation as they went. So sure of
themselves and careless with security were they that the
king was riding at the head of about 60 men at Alnwick.
The morning mist lying heavy and thick suddenly lifted
and four hundred Border men riding to relieve Alnwick
were found to be close upon them. King William was taken
to Northampton where Henry II sat with his Court. He was
then moved, for security, to Falaise and it is here with
him that we find Walter Corbett in 1175. He owed homage
to both kingdoms and was persona non grata at the English
Court following this episode although his allegiance had
been in question for some years. In the next few years he
would be called upon to pay for his disloyalty to the
English throne several times. He also witnessed charters
between 1179 and 1189.
Avicia de Corbet was the wife
of Richard Morville, the High Constable of Scotland who
died in 1191.
Walter (1) had two sons Robert
and Walter (2). Robert died leaving no issue; Walter (2)
married Alice/Aliz de Valoines. Their son died during his
father's lifetime and their daughter was Christina (Christian,
Christiana) who married William Cospatric, the second son
of Patrick, the earl of Dunbar. Upon this marriage
Patrick conveyed the manor of Foghou in Berwickshire upon
Her mother Alice de Valoines,
Augusta Corbett suggests, after Walter's death became the
second wife of Patrick, (also referred to as William Fitz
Count) earl of Dunbar. She cites a document in which
Patrick, earl of Dunbar, refers "Ada the Countess my
late wife and his wife Christiana". She confuses the
matter by saying that Alice was sometimes referred to as
Christina! Did William become known as Patrick following
his father's death. The fact that he was the son of
another Ada, daughter of William the Lion may have added
to the confusion for Augusta appears to assume that Ada
his late wife is the same.
Christina Corbet was buried in
the chapter house of Melrose Abbey in 1241 and the
Scottish Corbet male line may have been broken. She had
two sons Patrick and Nicholas, who were descendants, as
mentioned earlier, through their grandfather's marriage
to Ada, from King William the Lion and the Earls of
Dunbar. They took their mother's maiden name of Corbet.
Nicholas is frequently
mentioned as a witness in many charters.
Avicia/Hawisa de Corbet was the
wife of Richard Morville, the hereditary High Constable
of Scotland who died in 1191. Augusta Corbet suggests
that she was another daughter of the Robert and sister to
Walter. Malkariston was bounded on one side by the land
of the de Morevilles.
"A hundred years later (one
hundred years after 1166) Sir Nicholas Corbet who had
inherited the Barony of Mackerston and his brother Walter
the Barony of Foghou lived, and a lustre is shed upon the
name by the fact that he was a cousin of King Alexander
III, the last descendant of David in Male line."
Nicholas was 'in curia regis'
at Berwick in 1248 and as Nicholas Corbeth he witnessed a
(de warenna de Muskilburg) charter in 1249 to the monks
"Alexander's Queen was a
daughter of Henry III, of England, descended of David's
sister Matilda or Maud; and in 1262 there was some
trouble on hand for in that year, on behalf of Sir
Nicholas, the Bishop of St Andrews wrote to Henry's
Chancellor, and so did the Bishop of Glasgow. Four years
later there was a fine by Sir Nicholas in Roxburghshire,
the occasion on which he is called the King's cousin. His
wife was Lady Margaret, a De Bolebek, [daughter of Hugh
de Bolebec] to whom in 1329 either Robert I, or his son
David II, made a gift.
Nicholas's son, Robert/Rogier
of Mackerstoun, Roxburghshire, swore fealty to Edward I (the
Hammer of the Scots) in the Ragman's Roll of 1296.
Rogier's seal is 'a warrior arming himself, shield at his
An Adam Corbet of Hardgray in
Annandale and Johan Corbet of Roxburghshire also swore
fealty at the same time. The Corbets were flexible in
their loyalties, a necessity for border families, and
because they had signed the Ragmans Roll they were
dispossessed following the victory of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.
By the 13th century the family
of Corbet was already established on the estate of
In 1296 an Alexander Corbet was
a prisoner in Windsor Castle. The farm of Barchar (Barchain),
1 mile south of Buittle church (midway between Dalbeattie
and Castle Douglas in Kircudbright), was granted to
Robert Corbet in 1309. The Balliol family recovered the
estate in 1346.
The former Monarch gave the
lands of Morebattle (1329), in Roxburghshire, which were
Roger Corbet's, to Archibald Douglas, while his son David
granted to Robert Corbet the forfeited lands of Barchar (between
Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas), in the shire of Dumfries.
David is also found giving the annual rent of McCrastoun
forfeited by William Beaton, to Margaret Corbet, Lady
McCrastoun (McKerston?)" (Said by some to be
Following Douglas's death in
1333 at the Scottish defeat at Halidon Hill, and Edward
III's new regime, the Corbet fortunes changed.
A William Corbet attended an
inquest in 1361. Thomas Corbet was given Hardgray, 11
miles east of Dumfries, before 1405. He was possibly
descended from Adam of Berwickshire. Thomas passed his
lands on to his son John of Limekilns, Annandale.
About a century later one of
the name had gone north of the Forth, Constantine Corbet
being in 1457 a landowner in Fifeshire. Donald Corbatt
held a charter of lands in 1483.
In 1486 a Walter Corbet
possibly the son of Robert is at Lochmaben in Annandale
and witnessed an inquisition made by David, Prince of
In Morebattle parish,
Teviotdale, Roxburghshire, there is a free standing
structure called Corbet Tower which stands on the left
bank of the Corbet burn. It measures 16 feet 3 inches by
22 feet 3 inches and contains three storeys and a garret.
It was burned by the English in 1522 who ravaged the
banks of Cayle and Beaumont in retaliation for an inroad
into Northumberland by Lancelot Ker and again 1545 and
rebuilt in 1575. The Tower seems to have been the
principal mansion of the estate at this time. It
gradually fell into decay but was renovated (modernised)
in 1820 by the addition, amongst other things, of a roof
and gable crow steps. (See 'An inventory of the ancient
and historical monuments of Roxburghshire', Vol. 2. for a
In 1544 Corbett House was burnt
by the English under Sir George Bowes. The ruins were
still evident in 1795. Towards the close of the 16th
century the Kers were Lairds of Corbet.
Hardgray was surrendered by
Robert Corbet in 1540. Symont Corbet's testament (will)
was proved in 1574 at Hamilton, the earliest mention of a
Corbet in the Clydesdale area. He was possibly the son of
Robert of Hardgray.
Gabriel Corbet of Hardgray
occupied lands at Towcors by 1580 in which year he was
granted a feu charter (payment in grain or money rather
than knight service). He surrendered Towcors to his
kinsman James Corbat in 1591 and in 1612 he had a summons
pinned to his door at his house in Carmyle (2 miles south
east of Tollcross).
In 1639 John Corbet, minister
of Benhill published 'The Ungirdling of the Scottish
armour' (Dublin) and later 'A Vindication of the
Magistrates and Ministers of the city of Gloucester' (London).
Between 1649 and 1754 eleven
Corbets were burgesses (freemen or citizens of the
borough) of Dumfries. Andrew in 1649, John in 1654, Adam,
a merchant, in 1655 (and living in 1657), Robert in 1688
and John in 1689, both merchants, Andrew in 1715, William
and John in 1727, Robert in 1733, James in 1749 and
Thomas in 1754, both merchants.
In 1672 Hew Corbet of Hardgray
and Walter Corbet of Tollcross (and who also owned
Auchinraith and other lands between Hamilton and Blantre)
registered their arms with the Lord Lyon. Hew's being
argent a Raven sable with helmet befitting his degree
with a mantle Gules doubled Argent. Walter's was a Raven
Sable betwixt three mullets Gules. "Above ye shield
ane helmet befitting his degree mantled Gules doubled
Argent. The motto - In ane escroll. SAVE ME LORD.
"Thereafter, for a time,
the Scottish branch seems to have been of little
importance; but in the seventeenth century a prominent
family flourished near Glasgow. In 1686 Walter Corbet, of
Tollcross died, who had a large estate in Lanarkshire,
which included the lands and barony of Blantyre. He was
succeeded therein by his son John, and his arms were a
black raven between three red stars (mullets) on a silver
In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie
Prince Charlie - the Pretender) landed in Scotland.
Robert Corbet was the Provost (Chief Magistrate) of
Dumfries, and he rode out at the head of his men to warn
the Prince to turn aside as Dumfries would have nothing
to do with him. He returned to Dumfries and locked the
gates against the Pretender!
Not quite so honourable were
the brothers James, who was Provost, and Thomas Corbet,
Treasurer, also of Dumfries who were charged with
soliciting votes by payment of bribes during the 1757
Dumfries Town Council election!
'The evidence brought against
James Corbet, Provost, amounts to this, That in a meeting
with some weavers, where the Provost and his brother
solicited votes for Deacon Edgar, several of the company
were offered wood to make beams to their looms by Mr
Thomas Corbet, Treasurer, which was understood by them
there present as offers of bribes, while the Provost by
his presence gave countenance to what was done. That one
Lookup, a voter in the incorporation of hammermen, who
was brought from Thornhill to Dumfries, for the sole
purpose of voting for Thomas Nairn, a candidate proposed
by Mr Corbet and his friends for the office of deacon of
that incorporation, was desired by the Provost to spend
as much money as he pleased during his stay in Dumfries,
which was upwards of three weeks which the Provost
promised to reimburse him; and accordingly paid him, in
name of expences, a sum ....'
Throughout the 17th and 18th
centuries the Corbets were busy in Scotland in a variety
of occupations. Shipmasters, portioners, tanners,
cordwainers, tailors, schoolmasters, collectors of
excise, shoemakers, writers, maltmen, bakers, merchants,
meal-dealers, curriers, gunmakers, weavers.
Sometime in the eighteenth
century, before 1775, a Corbet of Towcors came across a
smuggler on horseback making for the Dalmarnock Ford with
two casks slung across his saddle. The smuggler paid no
attention to the order to stop and Corbet shot his horse
from under him and seized the casks of spirits. What
happened to them is not recorded.
Janefield, part of the
Tollcross estate and now a cemetery, was occupied and
farmed by a James Corbet in 1751.
In about 1784 James Corbet was
a weaver in Larkhall and in Hamilton other Corbets were
prospering in the late 1700's. New Kilpatrick P.R:
William Corbet, resident of Glasgow married Marion
Brisbane 15 August 1789.
"The Corbets continued to
hold Tollcross till the beginning of the nineteenth
century when it was sold to James Dunlop of Garnkirk who
died at Tollcross in 1816. The last of the Corbets of
this line were Major James Corbet and his brother
Cunningham Corbet and their families." Augusta
Corbett says that this was a separate Corbet line
descended from a Simon Corbet of Shropshire, who settled
in Selkirkshire and Peebleshire. Their arms were the
raven on his field of gold but, she says, the motto was
different. 'Sauve moi Seigneur'. They intermarried with
the Boyds, Cunninghams etc. and were known as Corbets of Tolcorse.
The male Hardgray Corbet line
ended in the early eighteenth century. Hugh Corbet of
Hardgray left two daughters coheiresses of his estate.
The elder married firstly John Douglas of Mains and next
Sir Mungo Stirling of Glorat. The younger married James
Douglas of Mains. New Kilpatrick Parish, Dunbartonshire:
"Sir Mungo Stirling of Glorat in the Parish of
Campsie and Barbra Corbet Relict of the Deceased Laird of
Mayns in this parish gave in their names to be proclaimed
in order to marry April 14 1705."
Old Glasgow Club: 75th Anniversary publication (a
miscellany of history of Glasgow and suburbs);
A Dictionary of Scottish History by Donaldson and
The County of Roxburghshire - Royal Commission on the
Ancient Monuments of Scotland: HMSO 1956;
Scottish Nation by William Anderson, 1860;
Abstract of Protocols of the Town Clerks of Glasgow, 1900;
A Calendar of the Dunlops of Garnkirk and Tollcross
Papers, Mitchell Library, North St, Glasgow;
Caledonia or an account, historical and topographical of
North Britain, George Chalmers, London, 1810;
The Surnames of Scotland, George F Black, 1946;
Trades of Dumfries, Court of Session Papers;
Register of Scottish Arms c 1671.
Glasgow Herald (circa 1906)
The Family of Corbet, Its life and Times by Augusta
Elizabeth Corbet (Copies are obtainable, the two volumes
having recently been reprinted as 1 volume.)
The Normans of Scotland by R L G Ritchie;
The Corbets of Tollcross by John White;
Monarchs of Scotland by Stewart Ross.
NOTES AND QUERIES
Adam Corbet, D.D.,
Estab. Church Divine and Author. Born Bieldside,
Aberdeen, he graduated at Marischal College in 1816, was
ordained at Drumoak parish in 1826, and had D.D. from
Univ. of Aberdeen in 1864. He published 'The Christians'
Truimph' 1855 and wrote the 'Account of the Parish' in
the New Stat Account. He died about 1880.
LIST OF PERSONS
CONCERNED IN THE REBELLION 1745-6
A list from
Stirling district of persons concerned with the rebellion
with evidences to prove the different facts.
John Henderson, Merchant of Clackmannon.
Evidence: 2) Henry Corbet, Excise Officer there.
your Scottish Ancestors
This is an H.M.S.O.
publication (published 1990) and is a guide to the
documents held by the Scottish Record office. Its layout
is similar to the previously reviewed book on the English
Public Record office giving not just details of the
records held but also the references one would use to
order them for viewing. ie IRS.14.
Chapters cover birth, baptisms, marriages and deaths;
inheritances: wills and executries and heirs; owners of
land and houses; tenants and crofters; other legal
transactions; litigants; criminals; taxpayers; government
officials; soldiers and sailors; clergymen and church
members; schoolmasters and scholars; doctors and nurses;
lawyers; architects and surveyors; railwaymen; coal
miners; trade and business; the electors and elected; the
sick and insane; the poor; migrants; and genealogies.
If your search through the births, deaths and marriages
have been unsuccessful so far then you are sure to find
other avenues opening up to you in the chapters of this
At the end of the book is a list of useful addresses
which includes other archival sources.
As an example of the coverage in this book the following
are dealt with in the chapter titled: Inheritance: heirs
Retours (Services of Heirs); Retours before 1700; Retours
from 1700; Inquests; Clare Constat; Tailzies; Beneficium
Inventarii; Ultimus Haeres; Ultimus Haeres before 1834;
Ultimus Haeres from 1834.
The HMSO address for mail orders is: HMSO Publications
Centre, P.O. Box 276, London, SW8 5DT.
Personally if I were researching a Scottish ancestor I
would certainly not arrive at the Scottish Record Office
without a copy under my arm.
NEW KILPATRICK CHURCHYARD
April the 20 1778. This is the bed of 'silence' James
Agnas Paterson who died the 1 May 1768.
(The word 'silence' is almost illegible.)
Bains, The Border
Papers, volume 2 1595-1603:
There are references to: Laird of Greenhead and Corbett
1596 and Laird of Corbytt 1597.
Sept 23 1597: Letter from Ralph Gray to the Commissioner
of the March:
(Sheep of Laird of Corbett seized or trespassing.)
'Art. 10 - That Sheepraykes on his lands of Blackheddon
are let to the Laird of Corbett, a Scotsman. And his
lands of Shotton are let to and inhabited by the Taytes
Scotsmen, and his lands of Heathpoole are also let to
Laird of Corbett in Tyvydale
October 21st 1583: Letter from Cesford to Forster:
'I resavit your lettre the xxi day of this instant daitit
from Annick the xvij of the same, understanding thairby
that Johnne Ker sone to Corbet, and Blak Jok Ker, with
thair complices hes tane fra Ildertoun x scoir of hoggis,
pertaining to your cousing Robert of Roddum. I have
written to the Laird of Corbet according to your
information and hes willit mhis, as caus is, or can be
fund in only of his, to mak restitution in agare
witherways to abyd the danger of the Law.' (Translation:I
received your letter on the 21st October which you sent
from Alnwick on the 17th. I understand that John Ker, son
of Corbett and Black Jock Ker with their accomplices have
taken from Ilderton ten score (200) sheep owned by your
cousin Robert of Roddam. I have written to the Laird of
Corbett accordingly and he has agreed to make restitution
and abide by the Law.'
& Galloway, Scotland:
1 March 1739 John Marshall son to the deceased Andrew
Marshall in the parish of Orr, and Marion Corbet daughter
to the deceased Robert Corbet, in Mosside in this parish.
(Orr is the present day Urr, slightly SW of the town of
Dumfries in the Dumfries & Galloway area of SW
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