Spring Break

The blog preparation team is taking a spring break. The next blog posting will be on Friday the 18th of April.

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Baldwin and the 12th Century Incomers to Upper Clydesdale Revisited

For many years it was thought that Baldwin of Biggar was the same person as Baldwin the Fleming and that the latter was the progenitor of the Fleming family in Scotland. It is an important debate in that the Fleming line in question gave rise to the Earls of Wigtown, who have played a significant role in the history of Scotland. In this blog posting Charles Rigg examines the debate over whether they are the same person or two separate ones and other evidence relating to the 12th century ‘Flemish settlement’ of Upper Clydesdale. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the St. Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research.

Baldwin from the perspective of 25 years ago

If I had been asked 25 years ago to write a supporting information pamphlet on ‘Baldwin and the 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale’, I would have been able to state unequivocally the Flemish character of Baldwin and the other 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale. My sources of references would rely heavily on the research and writings of Scottish medieval historians, A.A.M. Duncan, G.W.S. Barrow, and Graham Ritchie; but also archaeologist Christopher Tabraham, and specialists in the Flemish in Scotland, J. Arnold Fleming and Beryl Platt. In addition, from the 19th century, the works of Scottish historian George Chalmers, genealogist John Burke, and local historian William Hunter, would illuminate some of the thinking that influenced these later writers. From these points of references the following profile would take shape:

  • The first proprietor of Biggar of whom we know anything was Baldwin Flamingus, who, as was the usual custom of the period, took the title of Biggar from his lands.[[1]]
  • He was the younger son of Stephen Flandrenis of Bratton, Devonshire and was regarded as one of the most distinguished of the militant Flemings expelled by Henry II. He was an outstanding and renowned leader among the Flemings.[[2]]
  • The first record of him in Scotland was as a witness to a charter dated 1150 by Bishop Robert of St. Andrews.[[3]]
  • He was given the onerous sheriffdom of Lanarkshire by David I and kept that office under David’s successors, Malcolm IV and William the Lion.[[4]]
  • As lord of Biggar, he was the most important of a group who settled within a distance of ten miles of each other, giving their names to these villages – Crawfordjohn (John, stepson of Baldwin); Roberton (Robert); Lamington (Lambin, brother of Robert); Wiston (Wice); Symington (Simon Loccard); and Thankerton (Tancred).[[5]]
  • Baldwin had his castle built in Biggar on a grand scale, with a summit area measuring 32m by 20m; in contrast, his countrymen built more modest mottes, none exceeding 3 m in height.[[6]]
  • The Flemish character of the colony has long been recognized because the names of the settlers echoed with the Fleming names in Pembroke, in particular Wizo and Tancred.[[7]]
  • The arrival of these incomers was part of a systematic attempt by David I (1124-53) and Malcolm IV (1153-65) to implant a new and foreign aristocracy and gentry in which Baldwin was perhaps the organiser.[[8]]
  • It was from the cathedral church of Glasgow that the king took land for these incomers.[[9]]
  • Baldwin’s descendants abandoned the name they received from the locality (Biggar) and resumed the one derived from their nationality (Fleming) at the beginning of the 14th century.[[10]]

A more recent perspective on Baldwin

25 years on, the above profile requires careful reconsideration. A comparison of Duncan’s Edinburgh History of Scotland (1975) to Richard Oram’s New Edinburgh History of Scotland (2011), suggests a shift in interpretation. Duncan refers to the ‘Flemish Baldwin of Biggar’ as ‘lord of Biggar’ and the ‘most important of a group’ who settled within a distance of ten miles of each other in Upper Clydesdale.[[11]] In contrast, Oram appears less willing to acknowledge the Flemishness of Baldwin, referring to him only as ‘Baldwin of Biggar’ and is cautious in going no further than stating that the incomers to Upper Clydesdale were ‘probably of Flemish background’. On the question of Baldwin’s possible role in being the locator or populator responsible for finding these incomers, Oram reminds us of the ‘absence of documentary proof’ (my italics).[[12]]

In actual fact, such a difference of opinion is not new. As early as 1864 archaeologist George Vere Irving cast doubts on the assumption that ‘Baldwin of Biggar’ was the same person as the ‘Baldwin the Fleming’ who witnessed the 1150 charter. By tracing the male line started by Baldwin of Biggar down to the death of Nicholas of Biggar, about 1292, he was able to show two things. Firstly, Nicholas died without any male heirs, leaving behind a widow, Marie, and two heiresses, Margerie and Alde, as wards granted by Edward I of England to Robert, Bishop of Glasgow.[[13]] The significance of this is that it brought the male line started by Baldwin of Biggar to an end, something missed by Chalmers, Burke and to a certain extent Hunter. Secondly, the Fleming line was started with the marriage of a Patrick Fleming to one of Nicholas’ heiresses, most likely Margerie, the elder daughter. What we know about this Sir Patrick Fleming of Biggar is that he was the second son of Sir Robert Fleming, loyal supporter of Robert de Bruce, and younger brother of Malcolm, Earl of Wigtown.

Tracing Baldwin’s ancestry through to Nicholas and the beginning of a new male line is helpful in dismissing the argument put forward by George Chalmers in 1824 that at the beginning of the fourteenth century, Baldwin’s ancestors abandoned the name they received from the locality (Biggar) and resumed the one they derived from their nationality (Fleming). It is also helpful in reminding ourselves that there is no evidence to assert that ‘Baldwin of Biggar’ and ‘Baldwin the Fleming’ were one and the same person but from two different families.

More recently, Lauran Toorians in his reappraisal of 12th century Flemish settlements in Scotland highlighted the fact that we can only name with confidence two incomers to Clydesdale as being Flemings, Lambin and his brother Robert, as they were actually named as Flemings.[[14]] The case for adding Baldwin was not totally convincing and for the others, like Wico or Locard, it can only be said that they were ‘possible, but unproven Flemings.’[[15]] In other words, with the exception of Robert and Lambin, there is no hard evidence that these incomers to Upper Clydesdale were Flemings.

So where does this leave my revised information pamphlet on Baldwin and the 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale?

Baldwin – A revision

The research and writings of the past 25 years from medieval historians Richard Oram, Andrew Barrell, Lauran Toorians, and D.G. Scott provide some important sources of reference which need to be taken into account. Additionally, by accepting Irving’s well researched findings against those of Hunter’s completely unreferenced local history, a different profile takes shape:

  • The first proprietor of Biggar was Baldwin of Biggar.[[16]] Unfortunately, no charter exists to inform us when exactly he was granted the lordship of Biggar, what land was involved and under what terms.
  • The first record of Baldwin appears in 1162 when he is named as sheriff of Lanark.[[17]] This was an important position which carried the responsibility of ‘raising military forces, collecting crown revenues, conducting inquests and assizes, and administering justice’.[[18]]
  • We also know that his landed interest was not restricted to that from the king as he held land from fitz Allan to the west of Biggar which Baldwin then granted to Hugh of Pettinain; and his lands extended further west as a later charter gave notice that Baldwin, Sheriff of Lanark, gave to the Church of St Mirin, the parish and lands of Inverkip church.[[19]]
  • Two other incomers to upper Clydesdale at this time were Flemings, Lambin the Fleming and his brother Robert the Fleming, who gave their names to Lamington and Roberton.[[20]]
  • In addition to Lambin and Robert, other settlers to upper Clydesdale who gave their names to local villages were John, stepson of Baldwin, at Crawford John, Simon Locard at Symington, Tancred at Thankerton, and Wice at Wiston.
  • Within that group Wico may have become more powerful than the others as he was in a position to grant to Kelso Abbey the parish church of Wiston and the chapels of Roberton, Symington and Crawfordjohn in the reign of Malcolm IV.[[21]]
  • The person responsible for bringing these incomers to this area that was formerly part of the kingdom of Strathclyde was probably Baldwin of Biggar, who was given the task to find colonists willing to develop the land and keep routes open.[[22]]
  • Baldwin’s line of succession can be traced to Nicholas of Biggar, either a great-great-grandson of Baldwin or a great-great-great-grandson,[[23]] who held lands in the Garioch, Aberdeenshire, an area with strong Flemish connections.[[24]]
  • The death of Nicholas in 1292 brought the male line started by Baldwin to an end as he died without any male heirs.[[25]]
  • A new line was started when Patrick Fleming married a daughter of Nicholas of Biggar.[[26]]


The above throws up the need to look afresh at two distinct lines of enquiry. The first relates to Baldwin himself; the second, to the 12th century colony of incomers that arrived in Upper Clydesdale.

We should now accept that Irving was right in advancing the theory that the line started by Baldwin ended with Nicholas; indeed, it is a view that both Hunter and Arnold Fleming believed to be far from improbable.[[27]] What is needed is a fresh look at the evidence relating to Baldwin in order to produce a narrative that describes his background and sphere of influence.

On the colonization of Upper Clydesdale, there is a need to remind ourselves that there is a list of ‘mainly possible, but unproven, Flemings’ who ‘formed a closely knit community consisting of people who had numerous relationships of all sort with one another, and who were actively involved in other areas with important settlements, as in Moray, Cunningham and Annandale’.[[28]] Again, there is a need to re-examine the evidence and acknowledge the limitations of it in writing a narrative covering the 12th century colonization of Upper Clydesdale.

Charles Rigg, the author of this blog posting, is a Trustee of Biggar Museums. At present the Trust is involved in a £2million project to relocate two museums to a new purpose built site on the main street. As one of the project’s interpretative design team he is especially interested in re-assessing the evidence relating to Baldwin of Biggar and the 12th century incomers to Upper Clydesdale.

[1] William Hunter, Biggar and the House of Fleming (1867), 465.
[2] J. Arnold Fleming, Flemish Influence in Britain, vol. 11 (Glasgow 1930), 13.
[3] R.L.G. Ritchie, The Normans in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1954), 375.
[4] Beryl Platt, Scottish Hazard:The Flemish Nobility and their impact on Scotland, vol. 1 (Proctor Press 1985), 152.
[5] A.A.M. Duncan, Scotland:The Making of the Kingdom (Edinburgh, 1978), 137.
[6] Christopher J. Tabraham, ‘Norman Settlement in Upper Clydesdale: Recent Archaeological Fieldwork’ in Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, (1977-78), 127.
[7] G.W.S. Barrow, The Kingdom of the Scots: Government, Church and Society from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century (London, 1973), 290; and Ritchie, 376.
[8] Duncan, 137.
[9] Barrow, 290.
[10] George Chalmers, Caledonia, or an account, historical and topographic, of North Britain, from the most ancient to the present times (1824).
[11] Duncan, 137.
[12] Richard Oram, Domination and Lordship: Scotland 1070-1230 (Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 316.
[13] George Vere Irving, The Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, Described and Delineated (1862), 305-6.
[14] Lauran Toorians, ‘Twelfth-century Flemish Settlement in Scotland’, in Grant Simpson (ed.) Scotland and the Low Countries 1124-1994 (Tuckwell 1993), 4.
[15] Toorians, 7-9.
[16] Irving, 304.
[17] RRS, 1, nos 184, see Barrow (ed.), 197.
[18] A.D.M. Barrell, Medieval Scotland (Cambridge University Press 2000), 34.
[19] Ritchie, 375.
[20] Toorians, 7-8.
[21] J.G.Scott., ‘The Partition of a kingdom: Strathclyde 1092-1153’ in Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society (1997), 34. See also Barrow, 289.
[22] Oram, 316.
[23] The forty year gap between mention of Hugh of Biggar and Nicholas of Biggar raises a question as to whether Nicholas was the son or grandson of Hugh. See Irving, 305.
[24] John Davidson, Inverurie and the Earldom of The Garioch (A.Brown & Co, 1878), 21.
[25] Irving, 305; Rot. Scot, i, 14a; see also F. Lawrence Fleming, The Ancestry of the Earl of Wigton and Other essays relating to the family history of Flemings (Paragon, 2011), 90.
[26] Irving, 307.
[27] Hunter, 467; Arnold Fleming, 19.
[28] Toorians, 9.

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The Other Flemish Origin Families in Scotland: Next Steps

Some of the key issues that the project team would like to address over the next 2 years relate to the Flemish origin families in Scotland that do not carry the name Fleming, or what we call here “the other Flemish families”.  In this posting we show the current list of such families and discuss next steps in validating their Flemish origins.

The other Flemish families

Over the past eighteen months a regularly updated list of “probable” and “possible” Flemish origin families has been kept.  The list contained the name Fleming and its numerous variants but most families on the list were what might be called the “other Flemish families” in Scotland

Some family names have been found in relevant books/documents and others have been communicated to us by family members or family history specialists.  This list has been published in earlier blog postings (dated 27 September and 8 November 2013), but the current list—Box 1 below—differs from the earlier one in that it excludes the Fleming name but also:

  1. It includes some new families that have been communicated to us recently, and excludes some that have already been found to be non-Flemish, and
  2. It eliminates the distinction between “probable” and “possible” because the Flemish origins of some names on the original probable list have been questioned.  Accordingly all names are considered, for now, to be “possible”.


Box 1: Other possible Flemish origin families in Scotland
Balliol/Bell and variants
Binnie/Binning and variants
Bremner/Bremmer and variants
Crawford and variants
Dewar/De War
Hazel and variants
Preynne/Prain and variants
Waddell, Woodall and variants

Next Steps

Over the next two years we plan to make contact with as many as possible of the above families—or people familiar with them—in order to document work that has already been done to identify their origins.  We are hoping to be able to examine for specific families the results of genealogical/family history research as well as any genetic genealogical analyses that have been carried out to date. Other information we would like to glean is when the family may have come to Scotland, where the family settled, and if possible what they did. We would publish the findings as a series of blog postings.

As a second strand of our investigations we want to encourage as many male members of the above families as possible to test as part of our Y-DNA project.  This will help us discern any common ancestors among participating families and also possibly determine, as genetic science advances, whether a family had its roots in Flanders.  Details of how to join the Y-DNA project are shown in Box 2 at the end of this posting.

We would like to enlist your support in this work.  So if you have have any information of the type mentioned above about any of the listed families (or indeed any other families not in the list but which you believe may have a Flemish origin), please contact Alex Fleming at the following Email address:



Box 2: DNA Testing for the Scotland and the Flemish People Project

The DNA test involves a simple swab on the inside of the cheek. There are two levels of test for genealogical research. If you are interested in getting tested we recommend you purchase the 37 marker Y-DNA test as the minimum for surname research which may well identify distant relatives within Family Tree DNA’s extensive database. The 67 marker test provides extra data and will help us in our analytic work.

This test may give you an indication of your “deep ancestry” by matching with other participants who have been found positive for advanced “deep ancestry” markers. These advanced markers can be ordered at a later date if required. The test kit can be obtained direct by contacting Alasdair Macdonald or via the join tab at http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Flemish_in_Scotland There is a small discount by ordering through either route (£13-£20 or $20-$30).

The project is administered by Alasdair Macdonald from the University of Strathclyde (Department of Genealogical Studies). He is a leading authority in Scotland on DNA. Should you have any questions please contact Alasdair at scottishdna@strath.ac.uk. Alternatively feel free to contact co-administrator Alex Fleming aefleming007@comcast.net.

Alex Fleming

March 2014

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Place-Names as a Clue to the Flemish Presence in Scotland

In recent years significant academic work has been done on place-names in Scotland with a view to understanding their origins. Place-names can potentially shed light on patterns of medieval settlement. Scholars have found that toponyms—that is place-names—provide valuable insight into the historical geography of a particular region. Toponyms not only illustrate ethnic settlement patterns, but they can also help identify discrete periods of immigration. This blog posting draws on the findings of author Peadar Morgan’s PhD thesis in this field.

Identifying Flemish Place-Names

In a recent publication, Andrew Smith (2008 and 2008b) discussed the relationship between upper Clydesdale Flemish landowners and Kelso Abbey. He speculated that these Flemings acted as “middlemen in the wool industry” for the monks, adding that this “will forever remain uncertain unless new evidence is uncovered.” One potential source of evidence may lie in the toponymic record (see definitional box below), that is, the place-names that have survived the vagaries of time and documentation. Such studies can be a useful mine of information on ethnic histories. So it is for the Flemish in Scotland, although, as shown below, the evidence is not plentiful or totally conclusive.


Toponymy is the study of place-names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use and typology. A toponymist is one who studies toponymy.

Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

An ethnonym is the name applied to a given ethnic group.

Orthography is the conventional spelling system of a language.

An ethnonym is a proper name by which a people or ethnic group is known (OED, s.v.), whether coined by the ethnic group itself — in this case the Flemings or Flemish — or given to it by others. The interaction between ethnic groups has led to several ethnonyms being used to form place-names in Scotland over the centuries and in the various languages that have been present here. But simply finding “Fleming” in a place-name on the map is no guarantee that it has an ethnic derivation.

Only two current Scottish place-names can be said, with confidence, to have an ethnic origin: Flemington in Ayton parish in former Berwickshire,[[1]] and Flemyland in Dalry, Ayrshire.[[2]] Three others, no longer on the map, might well also count as ethnic: Fleming-Beath† in Beath, Fife;[[3]] Flemingis-land†[[4]]> in Kettins, Angus;[[5]] and Flemingtoun† in Roxburghshire.[[6]] Taking the modern border with England out of the equation brings three more names into a wider picture, in former Cumberland: Flimby[[7]] and Flamiggs[[8]] near Cockermouth, and Fleming Hall near Gosforth.[[9]] All of the above place-names have been designated as “probable”—meaning probably having an ethnic reference—in the map below.

There are others names, however, that while lacking evidence to link them directly with the Flemish ethnicity, cannot be ruled out either: Fleminghill in Kilmarnock parish, Ayrshire,[[10]] and five of the places called Flemington, in Aberlemno in Angus,[[11]] Petty in Inverness-shire,[[12]] Cambuslang[[13]] and Dalziel[[14]] Lanarkshire; and Newlands in Peebleshire.[[15]] Likewise, the former settlement of Fleemington† in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire,[[16]] Towart-Fleeming† (now Toward Taynuilt) in Dunoon & Kilmun, Argyll,[[17]] and, near Carlisle in Cumberland, the inlet Fleming Halse†.[[18]] The place-names described in this paragraph are considered to be “possible” in the map below.

The main difficulty with interpreting Fleming as an ethnonym lies in the fact that the word is also used as a surname. A reference to an individual as “the Fleming”—such as Berowald the Fleming—cannot be taken as an ethnic description. Sometimes the definite article “the” is used somewhat randomly in recording medieval surnames. With the ethnic label, there was a tendency towards using the noun Fleming as a prefix with the force of an adjective (OED, s.v.), already apparent in Older Scots as in Fleming lauch (‘law’, 1357), Flemying schip (‘ship’, 1544), Fleming berge (‘barge’, by 1568) and Flemyng wobster (‘weaver’, 1600) (DOST, s.v.).

Place-names of special interest

The Fleming surname arose from the adoption of the ethnonymic label as a surname by families of immigrants, with several, perhaps unrelated, individuals appearing on record with the name in the second half of the twelfth century (Black 1946, 268). Hammond (2007, 39) has pointed out, however, that there is only evidence for the surname developing in one noble family, that of the knight Berowald the Fleming (alias Berewald Fleming, floruit 1160 Moray; PoMS, person 333). F. Lawrence Fleming (2011) takes a similar position in his books on the genealogy of the Fleming family.

But the label for the knight Bartholomew Fleming (floruit 1235–64; PoMS, person 4710) did continue in his line to at least Robert Fleming (floruit 1270–82; PoMS, person 12826). Their residence of Warderis-Fleming† in Insch, Aberdeenshire,[[19]] would seem to preserve this family name as an affix, and this was retained even after the family name of the owner changed. An Older Scots affix is also found in the village and parish-name Kirkpatrick-Fleming, in Dumfriesshire,[[20]] in which parish were also to be found Flemyng-landis†[[21]] and Flemyngraw†[[22]] in that parish are presumably to be associated. These are most likely surname oriented place-names given their late appearance and the strong local tradition that a family of the name Fleming had been a major landowner in the area. It is safe to assume that Fleming place-names not recorded before the start of the Scottish Standard English period, c.1700, are named for the family.[[23]] In 1881, the surname Fleming was common across Scotland other than the northern Highlands, a pattern that extended into former Cumberland, but not Northumberland; the greatest incidence was in central Scotland and Lanarkshire (GBFNP).

The one Gaelic place-name referring to a Flemish link is A’ Mhòine Fhlanrasach, ‘the peatbog associated with (the) Flemish’.[[24]] This is the equivalent of the English name for Flanders Moss, a wide area in the parishes of Drymen, Kippen and Port of Menteith in former Stirlingshire and Perthshire earlier called Tilly-Moss.[[25]] It has been suggested that Flanders is invoked in the English name because of association with Flemish immigration and/or drainage expertise; but in fact the reason for the name is unknown. The Gaelic name, with an adjective, may imply a topographical comparison with the raised bogs of Flanders, perhaps bestowed by soldiers returning from the European wars of the seventeenth century, rather than referring to people. However, the late-recorded Gaelic name might have arisen as a translation of Flanders Moss, as the tradition of incorporating a country-name to indicate association with an alien ethnicity is unknown in Gaelic.

Flemish immigration is, however, cautiously considered by English authorities to have left its mark in place-names, as in Flempton in Suffolk.[[26]] Despite arriving in the train of the Norman Conquest of England of 1066, the Flemings still had an impact on the Old English toponymy of the far north of England in Flimby. Though seemingly re-analysed with the Middle English reflex Flemynge used attributively,[[27]] it is likely to date to the late eleventh century, when the personal names of colonists in Cumberland were likewise being attached to the Old Danish settlement generic noun (Parsons & Styles 2000, 105).

The tendency towards the use of the Fleming ethnonym before a noun appears in the place-name Flemyland. Also, land possession and/or settlement may be signified by the genitive in Flemingis-land† (though occupied by one Alexander Scot in 1547) and in Fleminghill (1654 Fleamingshill). An adjective appears in reference to land possession only once, as flemisse (for the Older Scots adjective Flemis). Fleming-Beath† is a variable thirteenth and fourteenth-century name at the start of numerous divisions of the lands of Beath with familial affixes often added to the existing name. As pointed out by Taylor (PNF i, 312), it is found in its first few years as a recorded name with an affix preceding it, an affix following it, or with the Older Scots genitive ending is. However, it also has the form flemisse Beeth, recorded sometime between 1230 and 1239, showing the name of the proprietor, former Dunfermline Abbey tenant William (the) Fleming, to be more than just a surname (contra loc. cit.). He had perhaps come to the Benedictine institution from a similar institution in Flanders.

In analysing those Fleming-names containing a noun meaning a settlement, three patterns emerge. First, there is no indication of settlements being named for immigrant Flemish colonisers.[[28]] Of the thirty-six individuals recorded as “(the) Fleming” from 1093 to 1286 (PoMS), remarkably only one shows any correlation with these locations, but this three times. However, William Fleming, floruit 1196–1229 (PoMS, person 1066), is unlikely to be commemorated in these names. He is only a witness in respect of transactions affecting places close to, but not including, Flemington in Aberlemno (the gift sometime between 1196×99 of the church of Guthrie to Arbroath Abbey, PoMS, factoid 4564), Fleemington† (the confirmation in 1195×99 of the land of Moniabrock NS352632, Lochwinnoch, PoMS, factoid 4116) and Flemington in Avondale (the gift in 1229 of teinds of grain in Avondale, PoMS, factoid 44274), all first recorded later, in 1331×72, 1544 and 1816 respectively.

Second, a geographical association, and some known tenurial links, with religious houses are revealed in several instances. These houses belong to:
1) the Benedictines in Dunfermline Abbey (Fleming-Beath† created from within abbey lands for one of its tenants) and Coldingham Priory (Flemington, Ayton, within 6.5km);
2) the Cistercians in Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumberland (Flimby, with nearby Grange Farm serving the abbey (c.1215), and with its deer-park of Flemeby Parke† (1538 PNCu 2, 299), if correctly identified, located near the abbey), Calder Abbey in Cumberland (Fleming Hall, 3km) and Coupar Angus Abbey (Flemingis-land†, ½–6km);
3) the Premonstratensians in Dryburgh Abbey (Flemingtoun†, in Roxburghshire and paying annual dues); and
4) the Tironensians in Kilwinning Abbey (Flemyland, 2km, and marching with a place called Monkredding NS323454 in Kilwinning).
Note also Fleminghill, 1.2km from a place called Monkland NS468396 in the same parish of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire.

Proximity in itself does not demonstrate tenurial or other association, but the case of Flimby serves to remind that links may exist even when there is a separation of 22.5km. The most likely nature of this link is the medieval export of wool to the cloth industries of Flanders, identified by A.A.M. Duncan (Atlas 1996, 237) as having been undertaken, inter alia, by the Benedictines in Dunfermline and Coldingham and the Cistercians in Coupar Angus (Holm Cultram and Calder being outwith his survey area). As mentioned above, Smith (2008 and 2008b) has demonstrated a tenurial association of upper Clydesdale Flemish landowners with Kelso Abbey, and has speculated that they acted as “middlemen in the wool industry” for the monks. It is suggested that for all the monasteries listed above, and not just those identified by Duncan, the place-names give at least a hint of association in wool production.[[29]]

As part of a third pattern, two settlements in Lanarkshire, Flemington in Avondale and Flemington in Cambuslang, have reported links to the weaving trade, with weaving forming the greatest employment in the former in 1843, and a cotton mill having been in the latter. There was settlement of foreign craftsmen, including Flemish weavers, in Scotland as a result of legislation to encourage such immigration in 1582, 1594 and 1600 (Donaldson 1976, 244), but this scarcely explains either. Flemington, Avondale, is a small settlement of perhaps just three buildings, first recorded in 1816. It cannot be assumed, given the lapse of 200 years, that the name is settlement related, and like Flemington† in Glasgow (apparently post-dating the 1773 Ross Map), is likely to be surname related. Flemington, Cambuslang, on the other hand, was first recorded in 1440, well before the immigration acts. Indeed, the three Flemington-names in Aberlemno, Cambuslang and Petty, are not in the proximity of a monastery, and are in any case recorded before the sixteenth century. Flemington in Peebleshire is known to date from before 1583 (Canmore, 49968), when some houses were burnt down, and is on record as 1755 Fleemington Mills (Roy Map), by 1767 Flemington Mill (GC iii, 148), and 1858 Flemington-mill (manuscript Ordnance Survey Original Object Name Books, 32:15), though by 1858 there was no longer a mill in operation. But it is not known what kind of mill was at this relatively remote rural location. The immigration encouraged in 1582 may already have been under way, if not with the intensity deemed necessary for the economic aims of the Government. So it is not impossible that Fleming-names from earlier in the sixteenth century referred to economic migrants. But that weaving possibility for some names, and that of a wool trade association with religious houses for others, remains to be evidenced. Which is where the Scotland and the Flemish People project can prove so important.

Dr Peadar Morgan has recently completed a part-time Ph.D. with the School of History at the University of St Andrews. His thesis, on Ethnonyms in the Place-names of Scotland and the Border Counties of England, is available at http://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/4164. Peadar is Research and Corpus Planning Manager with Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

- Adair Map 3: ‘A Mape of the countries about Stirling’, by John Adair, 1680s, at, held by the National Library of Scotland, Adv.MS.70.2.11.
- Addison, William, 1978, Understanding English Place-names (London).
- Atlas 1996: Atlas of Scottish History to 1707, eds Peter G.B. McNeill and Hector L. MacQueen, with Anona Lyons, 1996 (Edinburgh).
- Black, D.D., 1857, ‘Notice of the Excavation of a “Pict’s House,” on the Farm of Stensall of Kergord, Zetland’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2, 452–4.
- Black, George Fraser, 1946, The Surnames of Scotland – Their Origin, Meaning, and History (New York), repub. 1996 (Edinburgh).
- Blaeu Map: Atlas novus, Vol. 5, Atlas of Scotland, by Joan Blaeu, 1654 (Amsterdam), at the National Library of Scotland.
- Canmore: sites database, at , Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
- Cold. Corr.: The Priory of Coldingham: the correspondence, inventories, account rolls, and law proceedings, of the Priory of Coldingham, ed. James Rain, 1841, Surtees Society, 12.
- Donaldson, Gordon, 1978, Scotland: James V-James VII, Edinburgh History of Scotland, Vol. 3, paperback edn (Edinburgh; hardback edn 1976). Follows earlier edns in 1965 and 1971.
- DOST: A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue from the Twelfth Century to the End of the Seventeenth, eds William Alexander Craigie et al., 1931–2002, at Dictionary of the Scots Language ~ Dictionar o the Scots Leid.
- Dunf. Reg.: Registrum de Dunfermelyn: liber cartarum abbatie Benedictine s. s. Trinitatis et b. Margarete Regine de Dunfermelyn, ed. anon., 1842, Bannatyne Club, 74.
- ER: The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland (Edinburgh).
- Fleming, F. Lawrence, 2011, The ancestry of the Earl of Wigton and other essays relating to the family history of the Flemings (Northampton).
- Forrest Map, 1816: The county of Lanark from actual survey, by William Forrest, 1816 (Edinburgh), at the National Library of Scotland.
- GBFNP: Great Britain Family Names Profiling, at University College London. Formerly “National Trust Names”. A research project for the web-based dissemination of the geography of genealogy. 1881 data from the UK Census, and 1998 from Experian International Ltd, presented by frequency per modern postal area.
- GC iii: Geographical Collections Relating to Scotland Made By Walter Macfarlane, Vol. 3, by W. Macfarlane, eds Arthur Mitchell and James Toshach Clark, 1908, Scottish History Society, 1st series, 53.
- Hammond, Matthew H., 2007, ‘The use of the name Scot in the Central Middle Ages’, Part 1, ‘Scot as a by-name’, Journal of Scottish Name Studies 1, 37–60.
- Holm Cultram Reg.: Register & Records of Holm Cultram: the cartulary and other records of the important Cistercian house of Holm Cultram, eds Francis Grainger and W.G. Collingwood, 1929, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 7, at , Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust.
- Mills, A.D., 1998, A Dictionary of English Place-names, 2nd edn (Oxford).
- Nimmo, William, and Gillespie, R., ed., 1880, History of Stirlingshire, 3rd edn (London and Glasgow; 1st edn 1777; 2nd edn 1817).
- OED: Oxford English Dictionary, 1928–, at Oxford University Press.
- OSnb: Ordnance Survey Original Object Name Books, county surveys as below, 1845–78 (see NAS MSS, above). Consulted on microfilm copies and photocopied indices in the library of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh.
- Parsons, David, and Styles, Tania, eds, 2000, The Vocabulary of English Place-names: brace-cæster (Nottingham).
- PNCu: The Place-names of Cumberland, Parts 1–2, by Bruce Dickins et al., 1950, English Place-Name Society xx–xxi.
- PNF i: The Place-names of Fife, Vol. 1, West Fife between Leven and Forth, by Simon Taylor, with Gilbert Márkus, 2006 (Donington).
- PoMS: Paradox of Medieval Scotland 1093–1286, bibliographical database by Dauvit Broun et al., 2010, at , University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh and King’s College London.
- RMS: Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum ~ The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland (Edinburgh).
- Ross Map, 1773: A map of the shire of Lanark, by Charles Ross, 1773 (s.l.), at , National Library of Scotland.
- Roy Map: ‘[Roy Military Survey of Scotland]‘ by William Roy, 1747–55, at , National Library of Scotland, held by the British Museum, K.Top.48.25-1.a-f.
- RSS: Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum ~ The Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland (Edinburgh).
- St Bees Reg.: Register of the Priory of St Bees, ed. James Wilson, 1915, Surtees Society, 126.
- Smith, Andrew T., 2008 and 2008b, ‘The Extra-Monetary Dimensions of the Lesmahagow Feu-Fermes’, Part 1, History Scotland 8:1, 31–7, and 8:2, 14–20.
- TCWAAS: transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 1866–.
- Watson, William John, 1909, ‘Topographical Varia, [1 and 2]‘, Celtic Review 5, 148–54, 337–42.

[1] At grid reference NT940608; the earliest record collected by me being in 1235, as Flemigtona (Cold. Corr., 241).
[2] NS309453; 1755 Fleymilland, (Roy Map).
[3] NT140890; 1220×35 Beeth Fleming (Dunf. Reg. no. 177).
[4] The symbol † is used here to indicate an obsolete name.
[5] NO237390; 1574 copy of 1547 Flemingis-land (RMS iv no. 2252).
[6] Near NT591316; c.1535 Flemingtoune (Dunf. Reg. no. 331).
[7] NY023333; 1333 copy of 1171‒5 Flemyngeby (TCWAAS 3, cited in PNCu 2, 286).
[8] NY057330; 1652 Flemrigge (PNCu 2, 274).
[9] NY050032; 1419 Flemynghall (St Bees Reg., cited in PNCu 2, 395.)
[10] NS478388; 1654 Fleamingshill (Blaeu Map).
[11] NO526556; 1331×72 Flemyngtoune (RMS i App. 2 no. 1523a.)
[12] NH802536; 1456 Flemyngtoun (ER vi, 215).
[13] NS665593; 1440 confirming a charter of 1421 Flemyngton (RMS ii no. 254).
[14] NS767560; 1513 Flemyngtoun (RMS ii no. 3882).
[15] NT167451; 1583 Flemington (Canmore, 49968).
[16] NS366603: 1544 Flemingstoun (RSS iii no. 854).
[17] NS133683; 1513 Tollart Flemyng [recte: given as two names] (ER xiv, 518).
[18] NY319635; c.1234 Fleming halse (Holm Cultram Reg. no. 25).
[19] NJ593288; first with “Fleming” in 1492 Wardris Flemyng (ER x, 767).
[20] NY276700; first with “Fleming” in 1509 Kirpatrik-Flemyng (RSS i, 1905).
[21] NY250753; 1462 Kircconveth ['Kirkconnel'] a.k.a. le Flemyng-landis, owned by the Fleming family of Kirkconnel (RMS ii no. 85). Kirkconnel was at the centre of its own parish till 1609, when it was united with Kirkpatrick-Fleming (Canmore, 67053).
[22] Near NY264729; 1492 Flemyngraw (ER x, 766).
[23] Unmapped Fleming, near NY617325 in Cumberland, 1950 (PNCu 1, 244); Fleming Hill†, Kettle, Fife, near NO300064, 1836 (Fraser Map, cited in pers. comm., Simon Taylor 2010); Fleming Strip NT560382, Melrose, Roxburghshire (Ordnance Survey mapping); Fleming’s Wood NT401661, Cranston, Midlothian (Ordnance Survey mapping); Flemington NS706449, Avondale, Lanarkshire, 1816 (Forrest Map); and Flemington† NS604674, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, 1816 Flimington (Forrest Map). Fleming Mill† NY275697, 1858 (OS 6″ 1st edn), was named from its location in Kirkpatrick-Fleming; Flemington† HU393546, Tingwall, Shetland, is due to landowner-imposed renaming in the nineteenth century, of unknown motivation (Black 1857, 453).
[24] 1909 A’ Mhòine Fhlànrasach (Watson 1909, 153).
[25] 1680s flandersmoss (Adair Map 3), 1777 Tilly-Moss, replaced by Moss-Flanders (Nimmo 1880 i, 17, 217).
[26] 1098 Flemingtuna; interpreted as the ‘settlement of the Flemings’ in Addison 1978, 94, and, with less certainty, in Mills 1998, s.n.).
[27] Though the medial vowel e of some early forms appears to show the a of the Old Norse genitive plural, its presence is inconsistent and not securely recorded before 1201. A final e is found in variant forms of the Older Scots, Middle English and English Standard English ethnonym.
[28] Note that the lands held by four new twelfth-century Flemish landlords in Clydesdale, investigated in detail by Smith (2008 and 2008b), bear no relationship to the corpus of Fleming-names.
[29] Flamiggs (1652 Flemrigge, with rig ‘ridge’) might also qualify as grazing, if correctly identified by the study as applying to the upland area of Broughton Moor. It lies on the border of the parish named for Flimby, so could otherwise (or also) mark the limit of the territory of that community. Flamiggs, therefore, probably belongs with the only set of Fleming-names likely to contain the ethnonym, those that might be associated with medieval religious houses that were involved in the wool industry. Fleming Halse was recorded c.1234, but the Flemings were already in Cumberland in the late eleventh century, as shown by Flimby, so a derivative family-name is also possible. The nature and location of the tidal inlet, with a long but narrow feeder stream near the end of the headland formed by Rockcliffe Marsh, suggests that this area was grazing land for the Fleming(s).

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The Flemish in Dundee and Surrounding Areas

This is the second of a series of blog postings that are focused on evidence of Flemish involvement in specific areas of Scotland.  In this posting John Irvine examines the Flemish influence,  from the 12th century onwards, on Dundee and its surrounding areas.

The research on the influence of the Flemish on Dundee and the surrounding area has drawn upon a wide range of primary and secondary sources (see the list of references at the end). Up to now the work has concentrated primarily, but not totally, on people with the name Fleming and its variants, although there is a number of other Flemish rooted names that are common in the area – Bell, Erskine, Lindsay, Murray, Spalding, and Sutherland, to name a few.

The Earliest Flemings

The Flemish people may have settled in the area around Dundee as long ago as the 12th and 13th centuries.

In the time of King Alexander II (1198 – 1249) a knight called Bartholomew of Flanders, or the Fleming, can be found in Angus.1 & 2 Where he settled initially is not known with certainty, but probably the lands of Flemington, near Forfar, had belonged to him, and received their name from his nationality (see box below).  Bartholomew later settled with his followers in the district of the Garioch, Aberdeenshire.  By one account his son, Malcolm de Leslie, was the progenitor of the Leslie family, although this is disputed in some quarters.

Flemington: Flemington is situated in Aberlemno, Angus. “Fleming Toun” literally means “settlement associated with Flemings”. Flemington comprises a farm and Flemington Castle (or tower house) that is of late sixteenth or early seventeenth century build. The castle was therefore not built by the original Flemish owner of the land, Bartholomew, but by a later resident of the area. It is about three storeys in height and stands on the left bank of the rivulet called Henwellburn, which flows through the Parish and passes Melgund castle. One author described Flemington as “a nice compact little property, the land being of good quality and the situation pleasant”. The name itself likely goes back to at least 1331 when the area was known as “Flemyngtoune”. However the name has been recorded in many different forms since that time, for instance Flemyingtoun and Flemyngtoun, until by 1861 it had been transformed into the present Flemington.

Another local Fleming of note is Michael De Fleming.  He was one of six barons of the name, who — following the English invasion of Scotland in 1296 — “submitted” to King Edward I at Berwick in 1296; and the remaining five, with two others who took the oaths at Aberdeen, were all from counties in the south and west of Scotland, and among them was the ancestor of the Earls of Wigton. Ironically it was Scotland’s close links with Flanders, including its trading relationship, which was one of the factors leading to the invasion of Scotland.3

Trade with Flanders

For much of the period from the 12th century through to the late 15th century the wool trade with Flanders – with good quality Scottish wools being sent primarily to Bruges – was effectively the engine of growth for the Scottish economy.  During that period it was often the Abbeys that farmed the sheep and took the initiative to ship the wool to Flanders. Coupar Angus Abbey, it is thought, produced wool that was shipped through Perth or Dundee.

AC Lamb in his Dundee book 4 examines the nature of the trade with Flanders. He consulted customs records dating back to the 14th century. Entries include payments made to Faskyn, Merchant of Bruges, for importation of materials for the King. The principle exports at the time were wool, sheepskins and hides, up to the middle of the 15th century.

The shipping records from the Dundee City Archives and work on shipping lists undertaken by Dr. David Dobson — for 1580-1589 and 1612-1618 — confirm that relatively strong trading links between Dundee and Flanders were maintained through to the late medieval/early modern periods.

Immigrants from Flanders

As noted above, some of the earliest Flemish arrived in Scotland in the 12th and 13th centuries. Later with the significant growth in trade there may have been Flemish seamen and merchants living in Dundee to facilitate the trade between Scotland and Flanders.  Some of these may have stayed in Scotland.  Others will have returned to Flanders in due course.

The Scots decided that there was value to be had from not just farming sheep but also by weaving the wool.  Accordingly, AC Lamb 4 tells us that in 1601, it was arranged that twelve Flemings should be sent from Leiden to Scotland, and distributed to various parts of Scotland so that they might teach the natives the art of weaving. Three were named as being sent to Dundee: Claus Lossier, Cornelius Dermis, and Henry De Turk.

A slightly different version of events is given by Warden. 3 His interpretation was that a number of “strangers” were brought in 1609 headed by a John Sutherland and a Fleming named John Van Headen, and in 1601 seven Flemings were introduced to improve cloth manufacture in Scotland.

AC Lamb also tells us that Flemings, who had been settled in small colonies around Scotland, were weaving cloth to be exported.  Interestingly, in an Act of Parliament in 1587, aimed at the Flemish weavers in Scotland, all cloth manufactured by them had the same duty levied on it as cloth made and imported from Flanders, Holland and England.

Immigration of Flemish tradesmen was not confined to the weaving trade but also, during late 1500s, the malting trade. This led to Flemings being involved in the setting up of the Maltman Incorporation in Dundee in 1623, Thomas Fleming and David Fleming swearing to uphold various acts of trade at that time.The list of masters, apprentices, and excise men shows they continued in the trade for at least another 200 years.

The Burgess Rolls 6 for Dundee show that a number of Flemings are recorded, having gained the rights to become a burgess in the early 1600s. These included Merchants, Maltmen, a Brassworker and other occupations.

Migration from Surrounding Areas

By the 18th century the number of families with the name Fleming in Dundee had reached more than a hundred.

Where did they come from? It is unlikely that they were direct immigrants from Flanders by that stage. Some of the increase in the number of families reflects the organic growth of existing families. It is noteworthy, for instance, that the number of surviving children in families began to rise in the late 1600s and more so in the 1700s and 1800s. This of course would have spawned a general growth in the population and in family numbers.

Some of the Fleming family growth is likely to reflect movement to Dundee from rural areas. The industrialisation of Scotland began in late 18th century and early 19th century and this would have created an incentive for people to move from the rural areas of Angus, Perthshire, and Forfarshire. It is likely that many of those migrants with the name Fleming would have come from the “Flemings of Moness” lineage that was dominant in Northern Perthshire, while those coming from Central Angus may have been descendants of Flemings from the Flemington area.

Some of the migrants will have been poorer Flemings seeking work and better pay in some of the evolving industries of the time. Meanwhile, family history resources shed light on the movement of some notable and ultimately very successful Fleming families into Dundee. John Fleming of Kirkmichael in Perthshire, for instance, was one such migrant.  His two surviving sons Robert and John became well known, John as head of one of the most prominent timber importers and suppliers in Scotland, and, Robert as one of the founders of the financial trusts in Dundee, later founder of Flemings Bank (as well as being grandfather to Ian Fleming of James Bond fame). Both sons were to become philanthropists in Dundee and one of the first modern housing developments was sponsored by The Fleming Trust and is still occupied to this day.

Another major family moved to Dundee from Inverarity, Angus. It was the family of David Hood Fleming, a manufacturer who was head of the firm DH Fleming Sons & Co., spinners and manufacturers Gray Street, Lochee. It is believed this branch is also connected with the Orkneys and Fife.


To conclude, there had been people with Flemish ancestry in Dundee and surrounding areas from the earliest recorded times in the town’s history. The area was likely the beneficiary of all of the phases of Flemish immigration: the original settlers in the 12th century as well as the weavers and religiously persecuted in the late middle ages and early modern period. The name Fleming remains a common one in Dundee and the surrounding areas to this day and some of the families of that name — while likely no longer feeling any identity with their distant Flemish roots — have had a noteworthy impact on the city.


John Irvine is a member of the project team for the “Scotland and the Flemish People Project”.  He is a genealogist and local historian and is currently Chairman of the Local History Forum. He has written articles for local history journals on a wide range of topics. He has also published widely in the genealogy field and has researched the genealogy of both illustrious Dundee locals and the common man.


Key References

  1. A.J. Warden, Angus or Forfarshire the Land and People (Charles Alexander, Dundee 1881), vol. 2, p. 315
  2. D.M. Peter, Baronage of Angus & Mearns (Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh 1861), p. 61
  3. A.J. Warden, Angus or Forfarshire the Land and People (Charles Alexander, Dundee 1881), vol. 2, p. 349
  4. A.C. Lamb, Dundee, Its Quaint and Historic Buildings (George Petrie, Dundee 1895)
  5. A. Pellow, The Maltmen, Customs & Excise men of Dunee 1700-1850 (Tay Valley Family History Society, 1991)
  6. Burgess Rolls, Friends of Dundee City Archives Records. Examples from Burgess Roll of Dundee are:
    1. Thomas Fleming entered 18th April 1615 – son of Thomas Fleming
    2. George Fleming, 23rd September 1609 – son of Thomas Fleming
    3. John Fleming entered 24th November 1561
    4. Alexander Fleming, Maltman, entered 1695 – his grandfather
    5. James Fleming – 20th June 1531 – simple burgess

Research for this blog post also drew on a range of other books and documents. A list of these additional references are available on request.

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Commenting on Posts

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DNA Testing of the Fleming Family: Interpreting the Findings

Genetic analysis is increasingly being used to complement more traditional studies of specific families and people groups.  The Scotland and the Flemish People Project includes a DNA project that readers, who believe they may have Flemish roots, are encouraged to join.  A primary goal of the DNA project is to determine whether an individual has a genetic match with a control group with origins in Flanders.  It is too early to report on the full results of the analysis, but an interesting early finding confirms what some other studies have found regarding the Fleming surname.

These are very early days in the Scotland – Flanders DNA project, which is part of the broader project aiming to understand the impact of the immigration of Flemish people on Scotland.  A preliminary examination of the DNA results suggests that, like earlier studies comparing the relationship between Y-DNA and surnames, people with the family name of Fleming do not all share a common male ancestor.

Before looking at some possible explanations for the lack of matching between men sharing the Fleming name, let us start with some of the basic science of genetic genealogy.  The Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) is only carried by men who pass it unchanged to their sons, who in turn pass it to their sons. As surnames are traditionally inherited by a son from his father, it follows that—unless there are exceptional circumstances of the sort discussed below—there is correlation between the Y-chromosome and a surname borne by a man.

Analysis of a man’s Y-chromosome yields the haplotype (signature) of his lineage. This so-called “genetic signature” can then be compared between men of the same surname.  When results for different men are compared, a computation is made to determine the probability that they shared the same paternal ancestor during the time-frame of the existence of their surname (i.e. Fleming).

F. Lawrence Fleming suggests (in blogs dated the 22nd and 29th of November 2013) that virtually all people who possess the surname Fleming are descended from one man, specifically Erkenbald the Fleming who came to Britain with William the Conqueror in 1066. If this were the case there would be a strong presumption that people with the surname Fleming would be related and that this would be reflected in men bearing the Fleming surname also sharing the same Y-chromosome signature. But this is not the case. From the evidence of Y-DNA analysis undertaken so far the Fleming name clearly has multiple origins. This evidence will be further reviewed as additional men with the surname Fleming are tested. The proportion of Fleming surname men with roots in Scotland and who can be attributed as having a geographical origin in Flanders is still to be determined.  The project is also, of course, looking at the probability that men with certain other surnames have Flemish roots.

So what are possible explanations for, in general, a lack of a DNA match between men with the Fleming surname?  First, it should be noted that evidence from other Y-DNA surname projects confirms that name bearers will share a variety of paternal ancestors.  That said, some possible explanations for the Fleming surname findings include:

  • Individual adoptions into a family:  It is possible that a male child may have been adopted into a Fleming family. If his biological father died and his mother married a Fleming then his Y-DNA signature would naturally be different from other men in the new family unit.
  • Other non-paternal events:  Sometimes illegitimacy occurs whereby a man would carry the Fleming name despite the fact that it was not the surname of his biological father.
  • The adoption of the Fleming surname by new immigrants to Scotland. There is debate about whether a newly arriving immigrant to Scotland would have adopted the Fleming name given that it was a family of some history and stature. However adoption of names describing ethnic and geographical origin was common practice, for example Inglis, Wallace (Walensis meaning Welsh), or Scott.
  • Certain lineages are under-represented in matching databases. Although Y-chromosome testing has been around since 1999 it may well be that some Fleming lineages are under-represented due to fewer males being produced over the centuries. It is a truism that some male lineages eventually go extinct. The paucity of potential male testers can therefore limit some participants from obtaining matching.
  • Fealtic and locational surnames. A final factor to consider is that with the way surnames developed in early Scotland, the indigenous population had the habit of adopting their masters’ names (fealtic surnames) or took place names for their surnames, therefore some of the early Fleming surnamed families may not have been of Flemish descent originally.

Despite a number of lineages being found not to match, several distinct family groups are emerging from the Y-DNA data. We will report on these in future blog posts.

While the findings to date on the Fleming surname may seem surprising, they should not in any way be construed as an indictment of the techniques of genetic DNA analysis.  The lack of a DNA match is as important as a match in that it can shed light on existing hypotheses and point to new avenues for traditional genealogical research to follow.

Alasdair Macdonald and Alex Fleming
February 2014

The DNA test involves a simple swab on the inside of the cheek. There are two levels of test for genealogical research. If you are interested in getting tested we recommend you purchase the 37 marker Y-DNA test as the minimum for surname research, which may well identify distant relatives within Family Tree DNA’s extensive database. The 67 marker test provides extra data and will help us in our analytic work.

This test may give you an indication of your “deep ancestry” by matching with other participants who have been found positive for advanced “deep ancestry” markers. These advanced markers can be ordered at a later date if required. The test kit can be obtained directly by contacting Alasdair Macdonald or via the join tab at http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Flemish_in_Scotland. There is a small discount by ordering through either route (£13-£20 or $20-$30).

The project is administered by Alasdair Macdonald from the University of Strathclyde (Department of Genealogical Studies). He is a leading authority in Scotland on DNA. Should you have any questions please contact Alasdair at scottishdna@strath.ac.uk. Alternatively feel free to contact co-administrator Alex Fleming at aefleming007@comcast.net.

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Flemish Religious Emigration in the 16th/17th Centuries

The blog posting two weeks ago by David Dobson focused on Flemish immigration to Scotland in the late medieval, early modern period.  Religiously persecuted Flemish fleeing Flanders over this period will account for some of this immigration. This week’s posting, prepared by George English, provides the historical backdrop for this phase of emigration from Flanders.  


Flemish emigration in the 16th and early 17th centuries was mostly Protestants fleeing from religious persecution by the Spanish and Catholics. It is impossible to understand the time without looking at the reordering of religion and society that took place during the fast-changing world of the 16th century Reformation in Europe.

As noted in last week’s blog about defining Flanders and the Flemish, the area of Northern Europe that constituted Flanders has evolved significantly under the pressure of war and political pressures.  In the 16th century, the Low Countries were then seventeen provinces; and the province of Flanders spoke Flemish in the north but French in the southern part (see map below).

The Reformation, Flanders and the Revolt of the Spanish Netherlands

The Reformation was an age of discovery. Countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Britain were exploring the world. Spain, in her “Age of Expansion,” conquered large parts of South America and their wealth helped her to become the most powerful country in Europe. Advances in paper manufacture and printing technology were revolutionizing communication. This would play a crucial part in the speed with which the messages of the Reformation spread.

In the early 16th century, most of Europe was adherent to the Church of Rome, that is Roman Catholic. Then, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous ninety-five theses to the Castle Church doors in Wittenberg, Germany. There was a strong mood for religious reform and this “caught the imagination of central Europe as a symbol of social transformation.”[[1]]

Map of the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries in 1579

Map of the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries in 1579

In 1522, King Charles Quint[[2]] instituted the Inquisition in the Low Countries for the suppression of heretics, which came to include the emerging Protestants. The imperial edict, in 1535, condemned all heretics to death; repentant males to be executed with the sword, repentant females to be buried alive, the obstinate, of both sexes, to be burned.[[3]]

The number of people who were burned, strangled, beheaded, or buried alive for religious reasons, as a result of Charles V’s actions, has been estimated at between fifty and a hundred thousand. These were violent times. Protestant leaders such as Luther and Calvin also advocated the execution of those who did not adhere to their own doctrines.

In 1556, Philip II became sovereign of the Netherlands and Spain, as well as other countries, after his father Charles V abdicated. Charles urged his son Philip to “Take all the means in your power to cut out the root of the Evil with vigour and rude handling.” The ideas of Luther and Calvin continued to take hold. The first public Protestant services were in 1562. Meanwhile, Scotland had become Protestant in 1560, following the lead of John Knox.

In 1566, a climax was reached with the year of the “iconoclasts”.[[4]] “Hedge-preaching”[[5]] convinced people that the central government and the Catholic Church were powerless to stop the Protestant advance. Churches at Lille, Valenciennes, Antwerp, Ghent, and many others were “purified” for Calvinist worship by destroying their icons and statues.[[6]] Philip II was warned that “if the Netherlands situation is not remedied, it will bring about the loss of Spain and all the rest.”[[7]]

In 1567, the Duke of Alba[[8]] was appointed as Governor by Philip II. The Revolt of the Spanish Netherlands, led by William of Orange, was gathering momentum in the northern provinces. It was, in part, led by Catholic nobles who valued religious freedom and were against the extreme measures of the Spanish. Alba started a reign of terror and set up the Council of Troubles. This became known as the “Council of Blood” because of the thousands of people who were executed or exiled by it. In 1568, Alba executed the Counts of Egmont and Hornes in Brussels; and the Eighty Years War between the Netherlands and Spain began.

Although Alba’s policy of selective brutality had success, “The great Revolt was triggered by the Sea-Beggars. On 1 April 1572, six hundred Gueux,[[9]] recently expelled from the English Channel ports, on Queen Elizabeth’s orders … seized the small port of Brill, in Holland, which had been temporarily left without a Spanish garrison.”[[10]] However, in August, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of the Huguenots in France removed their support. The hatred of the Spanish was now intense.

In 1576, the provinces of the Netherlands signed the Pacification of Ghent with the aim of driving the Spanish from the country. Alessandro Farnese (later made Duke of Parma), was made governor by Philip II and negotiated the 1579 Treaty of Arras with southern French-speaking provinces and towns. This gave the areas autonomy, but the Catholic religion was imposed and the Calvinist leaders were banished. In response to the Treaty of Arras, the Union of Utrecht was signed by the northern provinces, and a few others, in the same year.

Parma then set about re-conquering the remaining parts of Flanders and Brabant; and his Catholic “Army of Flanders” progressively captured town after town. Maastricht was taken in March 1579 with the loss of 4,000 Spanish soldiers; as a reprisal, the Spanish slaughtered 8,000 inhabitants. At first, many Protestants fled north to cities like Brussels and Antwerp or abroad to countries such as England. In 1581, the Dutch provinces declared independence. William of Orange was assassinated in 1584, which dealt a heavy blow to the resistance movement.

From 1584 to 1585, Ghent, Bruges, Brussels, and Antwerp also fell, and the flow of refugees became a flood. They went further north to the provinces of Holland and Zeeland, which were the only main areas not to fall, or abroad. http://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/Between 1583 and 1589, the population of Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges halved, while that of Amsterdam, Haarlem and Leiden doubled. It was not until 1648 that the Treaty of Munster finally put an end to more than a century of religious wars across the Low Countries, France, and Germany. The Treaty recognized, among other things, the independence of the seven provinces of the Dutch Republic.

The Flemish should not be confused with the Huguenots, who were from France.[[11]]

Flemish Immigrants in the 16th/17th centuries

In some of the countries where the Protestant refugees went, formal arrangements were made for them.

In England, Henry VIII allowed them to settle and refused all requests from Charles V that they should be forbidden to remain there. Between 1535 and 1550, about 5,000 Flemish and Walloon refugees living in the London area were granted citizenship and there were many more living in country towns.

The need was realized for them to be able to have church services in their own language, so in 1550, the first Strangers’ Church was established at Austin Friars Church in London, which was a Dutch (Flemish) Church. Other Flemish or French (Walloon) churches were established at Sandwich, Norwich (in 1565), Southampton and Canterbury. In 1568, an order was issued that all Strangers must become members of the Strangers’ Church or leave the kingdom.[[12]] The Church was important to the immigrants, with elders and deacons visiting the flock regularly. Money was collected, clothing was distributed and they maintained their own elderly and sick.[[13]] Their textile skills were much appreciated in the places where they settled.

The United Provinces of the Dutch Republic were a natural place for the Flemish to flee to, particularly after they had declared independence in 1581. They could attend services of the Dutch Reformed Church in their own language. Many Walloon Churches were also established for the immigrants from French Flanders and other French-speaking provinces.

Emigration to England fell away rapidly in the 17th century; whereas that to the Dutch Republic reached a peak in the first half of the 17th century and continued into the 18th century. The balance changed, so eventually most emigration was for economic i.e. work reasons rather than religious ones. Many Flemings and Walloons who had fled first from Flanders to England, later returned to the Dutch Republic as the situation there improved.[[14]]

Flemish Immigrants to Scotland

The contrast with England and other countries is interesting. David Dobson’s excellent recent blog suggests that “Flemish immigration into Scotland in the early modern period was relatively small scale.” “In 1594 an Act authorising them to have their own church and minister was passed”, which was many years after the various Strangers’ Churches were established in England. Dobson states that “Some Flemings arrived directly from Flanders, others arrived via the Flemish communities in England, specifically from Norwich and London.

George English is a director of the Family History service Research Through People (www.researchthroughpeople.co.uk). He has undertaken extensive genealogical and historical research and published work in United Kingdom, United States and Europe. He can be reached at 9 Glebe Avenue, Mauchline, Ayrshire, KA5 6AF or by email at george1english@gmail.com.


[1] Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation, Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700 (London, 2004), xxiii.
[2] Charles V was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 to 1556. He was known as ‘Quint’, a version of the French for fifth. He inherited the Kingdom of Spain from his mother. In 1556 he divided his holdings and the Spanish crown went to his son Philip II and his Austrian holdings went to his brother Ferdinand I.
[3] John Lothrop Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic: a History (London, 1856), Historical Introduction, Part 2, xii.
[4] The term “iconoclast” describes people who destroy “icons” i.e. religious images or sacred objects.
[5] “Hedge-preaching” was the practice of preachers holding meetings in the fields and woods of the countryside in order to escape the attentions of the authorities.
[6] Solange Deyon and Alain Lottin, Les casseurs de l’été 1566: l’iconoclasme dans le nord (Paris, 1981), 213.
[7] Fernando González de León and Geoffrey Parker, The Grand Strategy of Philip II and the Revolt of the Netherlands, 1559-1584 in Philip Benedict, Guido Marnef, Henk van Nierop and Marc Venard, eds., Reformation, Revolt and Civil War in France and the Netherlands 1555-1585 (Amsterdam, 1999), 222-223.
[8] Fernando de Toledo (1507-82) was the 3rd Duke of Alba in western Spain.
[9] Gueux was the French for beggars. The name arose after a Petition demanding the dismantlement of the Inquisition was presented to the then Governor, Margaret of Parma in 1566; and an advisor said aloud “What madam! Afraid of these beggars?”
[10] Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806 (Oxford, Eng., 1995), 170.
[11] In France, there were eight Wars of Religion between the Catholic government and protestant Huguenots between 1562 and 1598. The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572 led to many Huguenots fleeing from France. Then the Edict of Nantes in 1598 gave the Huguenots religious freedom. It was not until 1685, that Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, causing some 200,000 Huguenots to flee from France.
[12] G. B. Beeman, The Early History of the Strangers’ Church, 1550 to 1561, part of the Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. XV, no. 2 (London, 1935), 261-282.
[13] W. H. Manchée, Dutch, Walloon, and Flemish Clergy List. 1550-1874, part of the Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, vol. XI, no. 3 (London, 1917), 402.
[14] Johanna W. Tammel, The Pilgrims and other people from the British Isles in Leiden 1576-1640, (Peel, Isle of Man, 1989).

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Defining Flanders and the Flemish

There are two key issues that need to be addressed at this stage in the Scotland and the Flemish People Project. The first is to identify the geographical scope of Flanders in the medieval and early modern periods and the second is to define precisely who the Flemish are for the purpose of the Project. Neither have straightforward answers. This blog posting, which draws heavily on the helpful inputs of George English and F. Lawrence Fleming, explores the two issues.


Today Flanders – which has a population of some 6.3 million – is a well-defined part of Belgium comprising five provinces: West Flanders, East Flanders, Antwerp, Flemish Brabant and Limburg. But it has not always been so well defined. Flanders is situated in a very vulnerable part of Northern Europe. Because of its location it has seen many wars and invading armies throughout its history. It has also been the subject of shifting alliances. So the borders of Flanders have moved over time and the region has experienced periods of independence and of subservience.


From around the 11th century Flanders, or more precisely the County of Flanders, was considered to be the land situated along the North Sea from the Strait of Dover to the Scheldt estuary, with ill-defined southern borders. Through marriage the County of Flanders was joined with most of the rest of the Low Countries around the 15th century, and it lost its independence.


In the 16th century the Low Countries comprised seventeen provinces that encompassed what we now know as the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, plus parts of France. The province of Flanders included Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres where they spoke Flemish [a dialect of Dutch], but also the southern French Flanders, including Lille and Douai, most of which became part of France in 1668. Since the establishment of the independent country of Belgium in 1830, Flanders has been the northern area of that country that covers mainly the Flemish speaking inhabitants.


The lack of a geographical scoping of Flanders through time or a precise definition of who the Flemish are has not to date impinged on the progress of the Scotland and the Flemish People Project. Up to now the work has mostly been focused within Scotland. A range of medieval Scottish sources has been used and reference is usually made in them rather generically to “the Flemish”, “X the Fleming”, or “Y from Flanders”. There is no way to tell whether these terms accurately reflect the origin of, say, a person or import at a particular point in history.


As the historical analysis under the Project proceeds, however, it will be examining the relationship between Flanders and Scotland in various dimensions: trade, culture, religion etc. For this purpose it will be important to get an accurate handle of how Flanders has changed over time. Accordingly, in the next stage of research an effort will be made to define, for each century: what the borders of Flanders were; who ruled Flanders; what influences were there that would have influenced emigration; and why some went to Scotland rather than another country.


The second issue is one of how to define the Flemish. Within Flanders there has historically been two primary sets of inhabitants, the French speaking population in the south and the Flemish (a Dutch dialect) speaking population in the northern area. The issue comes down to whether the Flemish should be defined for purposes of the Project simply as the Flemish speaking inhabitants of Flanders or whether the definition should include the French speakers also. The criteria for inclusion are whether an immigrant group is of measurable size and brings something noteworthy to Scotland.


Most of the weavers and religious émigrés that came to Scotland in the late middle ages and early modern period had Dutch sounding names and so many of them likely came from the Flemish speaking part of Flanders. These immigrants are clearly a group of interest for the research being undertaken as part of the Project and meet the criteria.


Many of the early immigrants to Scotland came up from England and were descended from people who had arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror. Some may have come north following David I’s ascent to the throne of Scotland. These were perhaps kinsmen of David’s Flemish queen consort. These would have almost certainly have been either French speakers from Flanders or people from France who would have had Flemish roots. These early immigrants are also people of interest to the Project because they gave rise to some of the most important Flemish families in Scotland. This group of immigrants also meets the criteria. From the Project perspective therefore it is important to include both French speaking and Dutch speaking people in a definition of Flemish.


In summary, as the Project unfolds further work will be undertaken to get a good fix on the changing boundaries of Flanders during the period under consideration. A broad definition of the Flemish will also be adopted comprising both Flemish and French speakers.


Alex Fleming

January 2014.

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Berwick-upon-Tweed and the Torching of the Red Hall

In this first posting devoted to examining the Flemish influence in different parts of Scotland, Jim Herbert looks at Berwick-upon-Tweed and in particular the torching of the Red Hall that has been the subject of varying accounts in books on Scottish history. While Berwick is no longer a part of Scotland, its geographic location on the border of Scotland and England resulted in it changing hands over time. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the University of St Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research.

Berwick’s story possibly begins in the 9th century. The name comes from the Viking “Berevic” meaning “barley farm”. Berwick is mentioned as early as 833 when a Danish king, Oseth, attacked Bernicia1. There are other mentions of Berwick in the 870s2, then part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. A Saxon village called Bondington existed north of the area Berwick then occupied by the river Tweed. What the relationship between the two was is unknown. One theory is that “Berwick” was a fishing area used by the people of Bondington that then grew in importance while Bondington’s fortunes declined. The earliest contemporary and reliable mention of Berwick can be found in a charter created by King Edgar of Scotland in 10953 in which the town is granted to Bishop William of Durham.

In 1113, with the backing of Henry I of England, David (later David I of Scotland) became Prince of Cumbria, an area encompassing the Borders and Lothian. Within his new power base, David founded the Border abbeys of Dryburgh, Selkirk, Kelso, Melrose and Jedburgh. David made Berwick a Royal Burgh by 1119 and this indicates that the town must then have been one of great importance.

The Tweed valley provided excellent pasture for sheep farming that led to the development of the wool trade with Flanders. One of the earliest mentions of the Flemings dates from 1248 when Alexander II instructed Robert Bernham, then Mayor of Berwick, not to stop foreign merchants coming to Coldingham Priory (near Berwick) to buy wool and other goods4.

Another piece of evidence regarding Flemish settlement about this time is the village of Flemington5, situated a little to the east of Ayton. Not much is known about it. Now it is merely a farmstead but there is evidence of a tower house, and in 1583 it is recorded that certain houses in the “toun” of Flemington were burnt6, suggesting a settlement of some sort existed earlier.

Berwick was at the height of its prosperity in the late 13th century, during the reign of Alexander III. His death in 1284, the eventual crowning of John Balliol in 1292, and Balliol’s subsequent downfall led to Edward I’s invasion of Scotland which began at Berwick on 30th March 1296. Possibly the best-known story involving the Flemish merchants resident in the town at the time – that of their Red Hall – stems from this very bloody episode of Berwick’s history.

Yet much of the accepted story probably owes as much to the imagination as history. The Red Hall is first mentioned in “modern” histories of Berwick in Dr John Fuller’s History of Berwick (1799). All that is said is that the land of the Red Hall was given to the Flemish merchants in exchange for their pledge to defend the town against the English, and that when Edward I attacked the town thirty of them held the Red Hall for a day before it was burnt to the ground, killing them all.

The young John Mackay Wilson, who wrote a romanticized account in the early 1830s, would certainly have read this history. He wrote:

“This state of prosperity it owed almost solely to Alexander III, who did more for Berwick than any sovereign that has since claimed its allegiance. He brought over a colony of wealthy Flemings, for whom he erected an immense building, called the Red Hall (situated where the Woolmarket now stands), and which at once served as dwelling-houses, factories, and a fortress. The terms upon which he granted a charter to this company of merchants, were, that they should defend, even unto death, their Red Hall against every attack of an enemy, and of the English in particular.”7

This, in turn, was likely to have provided material for John Rennison’s Border Magazine (vol. 1) (1833)8 and Frederick Sheldon’s History of Berwick-upon-Tweed (1849). Sheldon’s “sketches” of Berwick’s history are written in an equally romantic style, even embellishing Wilson’s version of events!

One of these is the notion that it was named after the reddish local sandstone – that is not impossible.  However, another description with a theory about the colour is:

“Probably the greatest of the “halls” in Berwick was the Red Hall of the Flemings. Certainly it is the most frequently mentioned and was a factory with its own palisading and trench. It would have had two or three inner courts smeared with red paint as was the custom of the Low Countries.”9

The original accounts however bear out Fuller’s version of events.

“And soon, the trumpets sounding, they [the English] crossed as nothing an embankment which the Scots had made with boards, and attacked the enemy, slaughtering them from here to the sea. The Scots were astonished by their onset, and there was not one of them who raised a sword or threw a spear, but they stood dumbfounded like men beside themselves.  But thirty Flemings, who had received the Red Hall on condition that they should defend it against the English King at all times, defended the house manfully until evening, but at length it was set on fire, and they were burnt with it…”10


“But Flemish merchants who had a very strong house in that town, in the manner of a tower, threw bolts and spears at the English, and by chance struck Richard de Cornubia, the Earl of Cornwalls brother, with a dart; and since it was not easy to get at them, fire was brought, and they were destroyed by the flames.”11

There is no evidence for the Red Hall being located in Woolmarket as suggested by Wilson, presumably because of the association with wool (the medieval name for this Woolmarket was Crossgate12). It is far more likely, however, to have been located in the area now occupied by Bridge Street. It is theorized that long before the medieval walls were built, the River Tweed flowed along what is now Bridge Street and that over time land was reclaimed allowing warehouses to be built serving the port. The Flemings were not, incidentally, the only overseas traders in the town. The White Hall belonging to merchants from Cologne was located in Segate, the medieval equivalent of today’s Sandgate that leads through the walls at the quayside.

Medieval Berwick

Medieval Berwick

Assuming that it is a reference to a replacement building in the same location, a clue comes from about 1314 when we are told that the wall needs to be repaired between John de Weston’s house and the Red Hall and from the Red Hall to the Segate. The Red Hall (Rodehawell) is also mentioned in a document of works as late as 1445 but whether by then there was still any Flemish involvement in it at that time is not known.

A number of renowned Flemings have been associated with Berwick over time. For instance, Mainard the Fleming was the King’s burgess of the town in the 12th century and is credited with having laid out its plan.  He was then moved to St. Andrews where he was appointed provost and had much to do with its layout also.

Later, in 1316 Flemish pirates, including John Crabbe, blockaded Berwick and the English had to move their forward supply depot back south to Newcastle.

The Fleming family prospered in Berwick. They were Freemen of Berwick and indeed the name is today displayed on the portico of Berwick Town Hall — that of Joseph Fleming who was Mayor of Berwick in the mid-19th century when the Town Hall was restored.

Berwick Town Hall

Berwick Town Hall


Jim Herbert
January 2014

Jim Herbert is a local historian who has lived in Berwick-upon-Tweed for over 30 years and works at Berwick Museum. He is especially interested in discovering and bringing to life Berwicks rich and colourful medieval past. Through his regular blog, Berwick Time Lines, he shares some of his discoveries with the interested public.

For more about Berwick-upon-Tweeds rich history, visit Jims blog at:
Web:  www.berwicktimelines.tumblr.com
Facebook: Jim Herbert – Berwick Time Lines
witter:  @berwicktimeline

(1)      Langtoff Chronicle.  Quoted in Berwick-upon-Tweed: The History of the Town and Guild (1888), J Scott.
(2)        History of the Guild of Berwick-upon-Tweed, John Scott (1888)
(3)        NCC, Berwick-upon-Tweed Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey
(4)        History of the Guild of Berwick-upon-Tweed, John Scott (1888)
(5)        http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/49968/details/flemington/
(7)        The Red Hall; or, Berwick in 1296, Tales of The Borders, (vol. 11), John Mackay Wilson (1804-1835)
(8)        https://archive.org/details/historyberwicku00shelgoog
(9)        The Life and Times of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Raymond Lamont-Brown (1988)
(10)      The Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough H.Rothwell (ed.) (Camden Third Series Vol.89, 1957)
(11)      Willelmi Rishanger Chronica et Annales (1296), ed. H T Riley (1865)
(12)      History of the Guild of Berwick-upon-Tweed, John Scott (1888)


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