Coldingknowes:

a focus for Border feuds

Coldingknowes Tower
A FASCINATING SCOTTISH BARONY now come to market, one full of romance and history, tragedy and treachery, torture and turmoil, is that of Coldingknowes, just a little to the south of Earlston in the Borders (or, as once would have been said, in the East March). It lies in what was once the territory held by the Earls of Dunbar, near the River Tweed, but the first name associated with it was Richard(?) Gordon who would have been the local laird. (Earlston, of course, was anciently the abode of Thomas the Rhymer.)
Subsequently it passed into the hands of the Homes (pronounced and sometimes spelt as Humes). This justly famous Border family was descended from Patrick de Home, the second son of Cospatrick, 2nd Earl (by modern reckoning) of Dunbar (died 1166). Of them Sir Herbert Maxwell wrote ~
Cowdenknowes, once the principal dwelling of the Homes, has passed into other hands now, but the interesting tower [above right - Ed.] of the 17th century has been preserved and incorporated with the modern house, the ground floor having been adapted as an entrance hall.
Arms of Gordon of that Ilk
That the Homes were harsh rulers and hard riders is one of the clearest lessons of Border history, though some of their neighbours ran them hard in both respects. Dismal stories still float round the old tower of Cowdenknowes ~ stories of horrible cruelty passed upon prisoners in its dungeons, and of kindly Scots swinging on the “burrow’s tree” before the door.
Gordon of that Ilk
The Homes expanded their territory with fire and sword (and with marriages such as those with the heiresses of Dunglas and Broxmouth), aided initially by the influence of their Dunbar cousins and the immense political power the Dunbars held (until they backed King Edward I in the War of Independence, instead of Robert the Bruce).
Arms of the Earls of Dunbar
Arms of Patrick de Home Home-Pepdie arms Home-Pepdie-Hay arms
The Earls of Dunbar, progenitors of this powerful Border clan
Patrick de Home, founder of the Homes
Home quartering Pepdie of Dunglas
Home quartering Pepdie of Dunglas and Hay of Broxmouth
Some notes on the heraldry ~ Patrick de Home, a second son, differenced the arms of his father and elder brother by changing the colour of the field from Gules to Vert, this being one of the earliest forms of differencing.

The birds in the arms of Pepdie of Dunglas are today blazoned as parrots, but were then papingoes (a word that was later developed into popinjay to describe a brightly dressed and foolish young man). The brightly coloured papingo copied the popularly rumoured appearance of parrots and, stuffed with straw, was used as an archery target.

The Hay of Broxmouth arms follow the arms of Hay of Erroll, but are differenced by changing the colour of the three escutcheons from Gules to Vert.

The Leader Water at Coldingknowes
The view left shows part of the ruined battlements overlooking the Leader Water where it flows southward into the fertile lands then known as the Melrose granary, lands held by the monks of Melrose Abbey. The “knowe” in Coldingknowes (or Cowdenknowes, the alternative spelling) means a hilltop, and it was from this eminence that the Homes first unleashed their ambitions.
With the Homes safe in castles at Home, Wedderburn, Fastcastle and elsewhere, and still expanding, Coldingknowes was given by the 2nd Lord Home to his brother John, Ambassador to England in 1491. John’s grandson, another John, an unpleasant man even by the standards of the times, was the author of many vile deeds that included the slaughter of the Abbot of Melrose and contriving the burning of the beautiful Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis.
During the first part of the 17th century the Homes incurred financial difficulties and parts of the lands of Coldingknowes were mortgaged and foreclosed and sold to several different families who included Naesmyth of Posso, Boswell of Pittedie, Murray de Trioun, Livingston of Biel (brother of Sir John Livingston of Kinnaird), Hope of Grantoun (descending from Thomas Hope of Craighall), and Scott of Harden.
The lands and castle of Coldingknowes had always been part of the barony of Ercildone (which through many different spellings became eventually Earlston), but in 1634 they were erected into a separate barony (with Ersiltoun [sic] being recreated as a burgh of barony) in favour of Thomas Hamilton, 1st Earl of Haddington, son of Thomas Hamilton of Priestfield.
Arms of the Earl of Melrose
The new owner had been, as a Lord of Session, originally styled Lord Drumcairn, but in 1613 he was raised to the peerage as Lord Binning, and in 1619 he was created Earl of Melrose (and granted as a coat of augmentation the arms seen in the 2nd and 3rd quarters on the right ~ the 1st and 4th quarters being his father’s Hamilton arms).
The Melrose augmentation is of interest because when in 1627 he had his title changed to Earl of Haddington he was allowed to keep the quarter with its canting roses. (The arms of the present Earl of Haddington bears this quartered coat as 1st and 4th grandquarters, with Baillie of Jerviswood 2nd and 3rd.) It is of interest, too, that the preamble of the patent creating him Lord Binning notes not only “his great services to the King both in public and private offices” but also “his father’s attachment to the cause of Queen Mary [Mary Queen of Scots - Ed.] and his grandfather’s services and death at Pinkie [a battle won by the English in 1547 - Ed.]”
The new Barons of Coldingknowes proceeded to play as important a rôle in Scottish history as had their Home predecessors. The 1st Earl was one of the Octavians, the Commissioners of the Treasury. The 2nd Earl was Colonel of one of the Covenanter regiments and died with two brothers and other kinsmen in an explosion triggered by a treacherous English servant in the castle. The 3rd Earl died young. His brother, the 4th Earl, opposed Cromwell and supported the Episcopalians. The 5th Earl was a quiet, retiring man, but the 6th Earl was a zealous Whig who was wounded at Sheriffmuir fighting for the Hanoverians in 1715.
The new wing at Coldingknowes
Map of the Borders
Coldingknowes ~ the new wing at the far end of the house from the tower
Coldingknowes, Berwickshire
~ 30 miles southeast of Edinburgh
The Barony of Coldingknowes, offered for sale by its present owner, does not include in the sale the house or the remains of the fortifications. However, it should be of interest to anyone seeking a baronial title based in the Borders within easy reach of Edinburgh, and particularly to any of the name of Home, Hamilton, Gordon, Naesmyth, Boswell, Hope, Livingstone, Murray or Scott.
The Barony of Coldingknowes was sold to its new Baron shortly after being featured in the Baronage pages.
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