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Uxton, Huxston, Uggistoune, Ulkiliston, Ulfkylyston and
Hulfkeliston, are all designations of dne and the same
place, we may pass on to show that they all spring from
one source. Dr Anderson, in his Diploniata Scotics, has this
comment on the name " Ulkilstun " : " Town of Ulfkill, now
contracted Uxton in Lauderdale regality in the Merse."
" Ulfkill" is undoubtedly the principal part of the name,
and the " tun " or " fence " the other. Who, then, was this
Ulfkill? Can we reasonably assume that there was a
person with such a name actually located so many hundred
years ago in the village now called Oxton, who laboriously
lived, fought, sweat, and ploughed by the meandering
rivulet of Clora ? There is a charter which Russell, in
Haigs of Bonersyde, assures us with reasons (p. 30)
must belong to the period 1 162-66 A.D., wherein " William
of Ulkillestun" is a witness to the sale of two families by
Richard de Morville to Henry de Sinclair (Carfrae), serfdom
being prevalent among the working classes of those days.
Here we see that, so early as this time, Ulkillestun is well
established, and gives territorial dignity and status to its pro-
prietor. It seems, however, that there need be no timidity
in assuming that such a person of the name of Ulfkill must
have settled in Upper Lauderdale much earlier even than


the twelfth century. Peculiar as it looks to us now, the
name of Ulfkill was not at all rare in either Scotland or
England at that time. For instance, our saintly King
David the First (ii 24-1 153) grants to the Church of the
Holy Trinity at Dunfermline his three thralls or serfs —
Ragewein, Gillepatric, and Ulchill. Ulfchill, son of Merewin,
is mentioned in a charter of the same king, giving certain
favours to the Church of St Mary at Haddington. Also,
in one of his charters in connection with Melrose Abbey,
concerning the Grange lands of Eildon and Gattonside, one
Ulfchill, son of Ethelstan, is mentioned as a witness. Still
earlier, in one of the charters of Edward, King of Scots,
one Ulfkill is named as having the nickname Swein. At
that period, indeed, the name Ulfkill seems to have been
quite a common one. From its association in the last
instance with Swein, the name of the father of our Danish
King Canute, it is easy to surmise that Ulfkill is Norse
in origin. In fact, the name is Norse, and nothing else.
But it turns out to be a contraction of the full name
" Ulfcytel." This name, it need not be said, brings us
at once into the full light of history, for the great hero
Ulfcytel must have been as renowned throughout East
Anglia and the North, at the commencement of the
eleventh century, as Sir William Wallace was at the close
of the thirteenth. Under the date A.D. 1004, the Anglo-
Saxon Chronicle tells the story of the incursion of the Danes
upon Norwich, and how Ulfcytel, though of Danish origin
himself, gallantly withstood the hordes of spoilers that
burst over East Anglia, joining battle with them, and
putting them to such hazards that they themselves said,
" they never had met a worse hand-play among the English
nation than Ulfcytel had brought to them." " In him,'


says Freeman * " England now found her stoutest champion
in her hour of need." And analogous to the " Ulfkillston "
of our charters, it may be noted here that East Anglia is
at that time sometimes called in honour of him *' Ulfkels-
land." He is described, indeed, as ruler of the whole
north of England in the beginning of the eleventh century.
His name, also, was contracted even then to the form
with which we are familiar, for the Danes in their sagas
speak of him, as William of Malmesbury does, by the
term Ulfkill or Ulfkell.

This would seem to give us the right suggestion as to
who this Ulfkill of Lauderdale should be, and how he
came to settle in Channelkirk parish. True, we have not
a shred of further historical ground which is firm enough
to bear us beyond the valley of the Leader in order to
satisfy our natural curiosity as to whether he was British
born, though of Danish descent, or had come red-handed
as a plundering sea-rover to the coast of Northumbria,
ultimately finding a home under the shadow of the Lammer-
moors. But the turmoil and displacement of peoples at
that period render his appearance at the place, now called
Oxton, perfectly rational and probable. This conjecture
is further strengthened when we reflect that all over
Northumbria, which then included Berwickshire, though
not by that name, the Norse element was a predominating
one, and that from 1017 to 1041, the very throne of the
nation was in possession of the Danes. The name of
Ulfcytel was in this country as early as the ninth century,
and those who are interested in this matter have the time
between that period and A.D. iioo, roughly, in which to
fix the original settlement of Oxton. Neither is it im-
* Nonnan Conquest, vol. i.


probable that a Dane should quietly submit to the
drudgeries of cultivating the land which he had entered
upon at first as a spoiler. The Saxon Chronicle tells us
that in the year 876, Halfdene, who with his Danes had
often carried fire and death into Northumbria, apportioned
its lands out among his followers, " and they thenceforth
continued ploughing and tilling them." Turner includes
Berwickshire in this statement when he says, " Halfden
having completed the conquest of Bernicia, divided it among
his followers, and tilled and cultivated it." * Perhaps this
requires qualification, for on this point the author of
Scotland under her Early Kings has received praise from
Freeman in his Norman Conquest'^' -j* for fully establishing
that " Deira only was actually divided and occupied by
the Danes," If Bernicia had been included in this
Danish division of lands, we might have had strong
historical grounds for assuming that Ulfkill came into
Lauderdale with that influx of Norsemen, seeing that
Berwickshire was included in Bernicia, which then stretched
up to the Forth. Still, it is not denied by Freeman that
Bernicia was then brought under some degree of subjec-
tion by the Danes, although he is convinced that it yet
remained essentially English in occupation and ruling.
However we may regard it, there is further evidence in
another place-name just outside this parish in Lauderdale
which shows a decidedly Danish settlement. This place
is called Lileston. Singularly enough, the two names " Liles-
toun and Uggistoune" are often conjoined in property
deeds at a very early date. " Lileston " is a corruption of
" Ilifstun," the town of " Ylif " or " Olaf," a famous name

* History of the Anglo-Saxons, vol. ii., p. 164. By Sh. Turner,
t Vol. i., Note kk., p. 659.


in Danish victories of the ninth and tenth centuries. It
was one of that name who in 854 blighted with desolation
East Anglia, and carried his ravages throughout all the
region bordering on the Forth. In such a raid it is not
likely that Lauderdale would be overlooked. In A.D. 941
also, an Olaf was chosen King of Northumbria. He died
after having laid waste and burnt the Church of St
Balthere at Tyningham.* About the end of the twelfth
century we know that one " Ilif or "Ailif" held property
near Oxton, which was heired by his son Roger, and it is
not improbable that this Ylif may have become possessed
of, and given his name to, the place now called Lileston.

Both Roger and his father Ailif or Olaf seem to have
planted their names firmly in the Lileston district, for as
late as 1725 we find on Mole's Map of Lauderdale, Roger-
law and Eylston neighbouring each other. In any case,
the Danish settlers in Upper Lauderdale have place and
name in an unmistakable manner at a very early date,
whether or not they came into it in the ninth, tenth, or
eleventh centuries. Other evidence also exists. (See
" Hartside " account.)

It will also now, perhaps, be admitted that we are some-
what justified in believing that the Norse name Ulfcytel
is the root of all the other designations which have been
given to our village, and that, to the discerning, however
the consonantal bones of it may be crushed and contorted,
it is yet evident throughout the representative catalogue
— Ulfcytelstun, Ulfkillston, Hulfkeliston, Ulkilleston, Uggis-
toune, Huxston, Ugston, and Oxton.

It will also now be apparent how far astray the name has
wandered. How melancholy that the heroic Norse name
* Celtic Scotland^ vol. i., p. 360.


" Ulfkill " should be turned into an " Ox " ! " To what
base uses we may return, Horatio ! " If the initial " U "
had but been spared !

We shall now try to trace the changes which the village
has seen in bygone days with regard to its proprietors.
Perhaps these may be as interesting as the fortunes or
misfortunes which have overtaken its name. And here
preliminary notice may be taken of the circumstance that
the village was divided in its earlier periods into two sections,
a hint of which is given us in Lord Allan of Galloway's gift
to Kelso Abbey of the five carucates of land mentioned
above. The boundary is spoken of there as passing through
the "south village." This is about 1206 A. D., and as late as
about 1567, or seven years after the Reformation, Kelso
Abbey is said to draw revenue from " Ugstone, Ewer (Over)
and Nether," to the extent of £26, 13s. 4d. *

Coming now to the early proprietors, we may reasonably
regard the Norseman Ulfkill or Ulfcytel to have been its
earliest owner within the historical period, although it is
beyond our knowledge to fix any precise date when first he
lived in the body there, and gave to it his name. Oxton,
however, at the earliest time of its mention in Records, was
more than a village ; it was an estate or territory, and must
have embraced a considerable area of ground between Over
Howden Burn and Mountmill, that is, between one of the
marches of Allan of Galloway's five carucates and the place
which was called Oxton Mill or Mill of Ulfkilston. Oxton
"territory," indeed, seems {cir. 1200) to have included all
the land which at present lies within the bounds which
follow Mountmill Haugh and Burn down to the meeting of
the latter with Kelphope Water at Carfraemill, thence across
* Kelso Register.


the intervening hills to where Carsemyres stood at the
junction of Over Howden Burn with the highway, up
Over Howden dean to Over Howden, on and over the
moorland lying behind as far as to the burn which passes
Inchkeith Farm and the Farm of Threeburnford. Thence
from Threeburnford, following the Mountmill Burn, down
to Mountmill makes a circle which girdled Oxton
" territory " ; for there are indications that Airhouse
Lands were also included within it. It had also rights,
apparently, in a wider tract of land, which came to be called
Wideopen Common later.

But while the " territory " of Oxton retained these
dimensions, during the reign of Allan of Galloway over
Lauderdale, there is evidence that it was being broken up
into sectional properties. The reason for this is evident.
One strong hand seizes the whole land, then portions it
out on conditions to his followers. These again find it
convenient to do the .same on conditions to others standing
farther away than themselves from the fountain of authority.
We have in Lauderdale, for example, David 1., then from
him Hugh de Morville, then from him his sons, then their
favourites, the Church, and others, aW possessing land.
About 1213-14 A.D. William of Hartside is drawn upon
by Kelso monks to the extent of 8s., which he pays out of
the land which Gillefalyn of Ulkilleston held. This land was
by certain evidence what is now called Heriotshall. More-
over, a croft and toft in the east part of the same village is
given to them by Allan of Galloway, and we are also told
that Roger, son of Ailif, had right to these moneys formerly.
The lion's share of Oxton territory had already gone to
Kelso monks, with an offer also of Oxton Mill which
Dryburgh influence, exerted through some local magnate.


seems to have been strong enough to prevent their obtain-
ing, and now the names of Aihf or Olaf, Gillefalyn, and
Roger, as representing landed interest in and around Oxton,
point to the initial divisions which ultimately broadened into
Justicehall, Heriotshall, and other places, such as Langsyde,
which have passed away.

The thirteenth century was one which saw great changes
in Scotland, especially towards its close, in the uprising under
Wallace, and the struggle for the Scottish Crown. Balliol, as
representing the Earls of Galloway, received the superiority of
Lauderdale when Earl Allan died in 1234, but little change
seems to have taken place with regard to Oxton village or lands
during the time of turmoil ensuing on Edward's invasions of
Scotland in 1296 and 1298; and the Kelso monks still held
their lion's .share of it at the opening of the Scottish era of in-
dependence. In the Kelso Rent Roll, which, it is shown, must
have been written before 1309, it is stated, " Habent in valle
de Lawedir villa diam de ulkillestun^ q^ sol r'^ der / aii
XX. marc," or, " They have in the valley of Lauderdale half
the village of Oxton, which is wont to return per annum
twenty marks." Regarding the proprietors of the other
half, which may have been either the Over or the Nether
Ugston noticed above, we have no record. The Mill of
Oxton comes under our observation in 1273, when Sir
William de Abirnithy gives the monks of Dryburgh Abbe}'
two marks out of its revenues. Regarding the origin of the
Abernethy interest in Oxton territory, we are left in much
uncertainty. They were anciently connected with the
Macduff's of Fife. Lord Salton hazards the following
explanation. After lamenting the meagre information
available, he says, * " All record of the means by which
* Frazers of Philorth, vol. ii., pp. 28, 29.


the Abernethies acquired the Estate of Salton in East
Lothian, or of the date at which it came into their possession,
has unfortunately perished. But they appear to have held
it before the time of this Sir Wm. Abernethy, and he
probably obtained, as well as Glencorse (which had be-
longed to his elder brother Hugh), Ulkestone or Uggistone,
in Berwickshire, as his appanage. In the beginning of the
twelfth century Salton was part of the vast estate of the
powerful family of de Morville, and probably the Aber-
nethies were their vassals for it, but in process of time
freed themselves from the superiority of that family, as of
their successors."

In whatever manner the Abernethies came into Upper
Lauderdale, the Mill of Oxton was in 1273 part of their
estate, and perhaps also all the Oxton territory which was
not held by Kelso and Dryburgh Abbey.s, Their name
comes into prominence in connection with this mill in the
years 1220, 1273, and about 1300 and 1380.* During the
thirteenth century their name was notorious enough. The
Sir William Abernethy who gives in 1273 two marks to
Dryburgh monks out of Oxton Mill was the reputed in-
.stigator of the murder of Duncan, Earl of Fyfe, one of
Scotland's guardians during a period when the country
was in crises from Norse invasions, disputed succession,
Papal impositions, Wallace risings, and English tyranny.
But Lord Salton is convinced that Sir Hugh de Abernethy,
Sir William's elder brother, was the real instigator, he being
the head of the house at the time. Both brothers were
probably confined in Douglas Castle, he thinks, although
Douglas in his Peerage, p. 467, mentions Sir William only.
At Potpollock (Pitelloch), in September 1288, Sir Patrick
* Liber de Driburgh, Charters Nos. 237, 175, 291, 292, 312.


Abernethy and Sir Walter Percy murdered the Earl of
Fife, while the astute Sir William, the mover of the plot,
lay in wait to intercept him if he had gone another road.
Sir William and Sir Walter Percy were apprehended ; Sir
William to languish in Douglas Castle till his death, while
Sir Walter suffered execution. This Sir William of Ulkilston
was descended from Sir Patrick, who was the son of Laurence
de Abirnithy, whose father was Orm. Orm is said to have
given his name to Orm-iston, which was probably included
at that time in the Salton estate of the Abernethies. Orm
was descended from Hugh, who flourished in the reign of
Malcolm IV.

There are glimmerings here and there that Lauderdale
magnates were somewhat hopeless of Scotland's resistance
to English aggression, and, like most of the Scottish barons,
were not disinclined to submit. Munderville of Glengelt
and Sinclair of Carfrae seem to have actually submitted,
and Abernethy's murder of Scotland's principal guardian
in the north may have had other aims behind it than mere
private revenge. Lauderdale as a district, indeed, has
always had stronger leanings towards kings than towards
the people, whether the result might be for freedom or
oppression. Sir William certainly swore fealty to Edward.
But, in justice, it must be said that when Wallace's noble
initiative in 1296, and Bruce's final achievement of Inde-
pendence in 1 3 14, made Scotland's position invulnerable,
and when there was no doubt that the people of Scotland
would retain their kingdom intact, then the barons, with
Lauderdale magnates among them, moved forward in 1320
with their solemn address to the Pope, the duplicate of which
may yet be seen in the hall of the Register House, Edin-
burgh, declaring that " so long as there shall but one hundred


of us remain alive, we will never give consent to subject
ourselves to the dominion of the English." Better late than
never, and we are pleased to see in the list of signatures
those of James Douglas, Lord of Lauderdale, Roger de
Mowbray, who may be the progenitor of the Mowbrays
who held Kirktonhill near the close of the fifteenth century,
Henry St Clair, Carfrae, and William de Abernethy.

It is in the time of King Robert the Bruce that we first
hear of the House of Seton being connected with Channel-
kirk parish. About 1327, Allan de Hertesheued (Hartside)
grants to Sir Alexander Seton, the father, Lord of that
Ilk, a toft and croft and two oxgates of land (26 acres)
in the territory of Ulkiston. The Setons were thus among
the oldest proprietors of land in Upper Lauderdale, and
they soon deepened their worth in it, as a reference to
the account of Hartside will show.

The Setons do not appear to have retained their Oxton
property for any great length of time, and relinquished
it in favour of the Abernethies. Before 146 1, Laurence,
Lord Abernethy, was possessed " as of fee " in the lands of
Lyelstoun and Uxstoun, with their pertinents. On the
30th day of April of that year, an inquest was held at
Lauder before Sir William de Cranstoun of Corsby, Sheriff
Depute of Berwick, by Allan de Lauder, of that Ilk, in
which it is shown that William Abernethy is lawful and
nearest heir to his father Laurence in the lands of Lyelstoun
and Uxtoun.* By the Exchequer Rolls of 146 1, we ascer-
tain that sasine of these properties was granted to the
said William Lyelstoun, is then of yearly value lOOs., and
Uxtoun lands are valued at the same yearly price.

" The said lands are held in chief of the King, giving

* Original Charters, vol. iii., Register House, Edinburgh.

2 A


annually for Lyelstoun id. of silver at Whitsunday. Uxtoun
is held by ward and relief, giving yearly common suit at
the courts of the said constabulary (Lauderdale), and
said lands are now in the hands of the King, by the death
of the said Laurence and the failure of the true heir to
prosecute his right to the same by the space of twent}'
weeks or thereby, before the date of said inquest." Three
years afterwards, in 1464, King James III. confirms to
him the lands of Rothymay, Redy, Dalgathy, Dalders,
Glencorse, Saltoun, all in different counties, and Lielstoun,
and Ugistoune in Lauderdale.*

At Edinburgh, loth January 1483, the King confirms
all the above lands to Lord William, "which he creates
and incorporates into one free barony of Abirnethy.
James, Lord Abernethy, is served heir to Lord William,
his brother, and enters upon his estates loth October 1488,
when we note among his possessions, Lyelstoun and
Ugstoun." Both are now worth, yearly, 20 merks, and
in time of peace ;^io. In 1492, on the 9th of March,
they pass to Lord James's son and. heir-apparent,

In the same year, 1492, James Abernethy, son of
" George Abernethy of Uggistoune," witnesses a charter
by the Earl of Huntly, and this gives us the individual
owner of Oxton at this date. No doubt he held of his
lordly relatives. On 23rd June 1482, "George of Abirdnethy
of Ugstoune ordains John Baty, burgess of Edinburgh,
and his heirs and assignees, his lawful bailies of all
and sundry his lands of Ugstone, with pertinents, lying in
the bailiary of Lawdyr for twenty-two years." He signs
" Gorg of Abyrnethy vyt myi awn hand." •!•

* Great Seal, f Original Charters, vol. iii.


On the same day of the same year he acknowledges to
have received from the said John Baty and Isabel his spouse,
the sum of ;^40 Scots (;^3, 6s. 8d. sterling) " of the mail
of the three first years of the tack of his lands of Ugstoun
set to them for 19 years." In four years more John Baty
becomes possessor of Heriotshall, as we ascertain from
the following : — " loth Nov. i486. — Charter whereby George
Abernethy, lord of certain lands of Ugstoun, sells to John
Baty, burgess of Edinburgh, those two husband lands with
the pertinents, lying in the town and territory of Ugstoun
and sheriffdom of Berwick, then occupied and possessed
at rent by John Wod : To be holden de me for payment
of id. Scots yearly at Pentecost on the ground of the said
lands in name of blench-farm, if asked only. At Edin-
burgh, loth Nov. i486." This George Abernethy of
Uggistoune comes into prominence in another way in
1 49 1, the year probably of his death. On the 9th of
February of that year, the lords decree * " that James
Sinclare, and Christian of Cockburn his spouse, sail freith,
releif, and keep scathless George Abernethy of Oxtoune,
at the hands of Gilbert Fordice, of the payment of fifteen
pounds, usual money of Scots, of the rest of a mare (more)
soume aucht be him as borgh for the said Christian, to
be paid Gilbert for the marriage completit between the
said Gilbert and Margaret Abernethy, the dochter of the
said Christian, becais they feilzeit in their preif the time
assignit to them, and ordains that lettres be written to
distress the saidis James and Christian their landis and
gudes for the said soume of fifteen pounds, and mak the
said George Abernethy be content, and pait fred thereof"

There is documentary evidence that the Abernethy
* Acta Doininontm Auditorum,


name was linked with the lands of Oxton through the
years 1527, 1528, 1531, and 1557, for the Sheriff of Banff
accounts on these dates for the rents of the Abernethy
estates, and £2, 6s. 8d. — the same sum John Baty pays in
1482 — had been received from the " firmis terrarum de
Ugstoun " in Lauderdale.*

George, Lord Salton, has sasine of the lands of Lielston
and Wgstoun as " son and air to umquhile Alexander,
Lord Salton, his father, conforme to a precept of the
Chancelrie, ist June i587."f The change from the name
Abernethy to that of Salton is explained by the fact that
William, second son of Sir Patrick de Abernethy, became
first Lord Salton. Alexander, ninth Lord Abernethy of
Salton, sold the Salton estates to Sir Andrew Fletcher in
1643. He died without issue, 1669, and his title devolved
on the heir of line, Sir Alexander Frazer of Philorth.J

While these great names are so prominent at this
period in the history of Oxton, we are not to suppose
that as individuals their fortunes reflected much of the
actual life of the sequestered and remote village by the
river Leader. But the village life was very real all the
same, and a short peep into it is given us by an excerpt
from the " Privy Council," which we quote : —

"1580. — Mr Johnne Knox, minister at Lauder, was
assaultit bet. Cowdoun and Dalkeith by David Douglas
in Oxton, with ane drawn quhingear, for refusing baptism
to a child born in fornication." §

It is just possible that this " Oxton " may be the place
given in Pont's map as being near the Braid Hills — Buck-
stone, now, we believe — but the " minister at Lauder "

* Exchequer Rolls, Appendix. f Acts of Parliament, vii., p. 154.

I Frazers of Philorih. § Privy Council, vol. iii., p. 290.

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