The Corbett One Name Study

Scottish Corbetts 

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 and Times'.
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 repeated.

'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 generations.'

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 William.

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 of Dunfermline.

"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 feet.'

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 Clifton.

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 Margaret Corbet.)

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 Cumberland.

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 fuller description.)

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 shield."

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 Morpeth;
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.


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.


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.

Tracing 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 book.
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 in heritage.
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.



April the 20 1778. This is the bed of 'silence' James Corbit and
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 Scots.'
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.'

Orr, Dumfries & 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 Scotland.)

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