March 2013 – The Northern Rebels of 1296, Part III

The Northern Rebels of 1296

Part III: Cumberland and Northumberland

 Amanda Beam, Research Associate[1]


Part III of the feature on rebels looks at those who held lands in both Cumberland and Northumberland. As these seven cannot be definitively placed in either Part I or II, this third section has been created to discuss them. Of these men, three appeared on the Ragman Roll, and these same three were restored to their English lands. Also, given at the end of this section is a complete list of identified northern rebels who were forfeited for adhering to the Scottish cause.


John Balliol, king of Scots

King John himself held extensive lands in no less than thirteen English counties, including Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland. His baronies of Bywell and Woodhorn in Northumberland were seized in April 1296 along with those in other counties. His brother, Alexander, held the manor of Thackwaite in Cumberland and upon his death in 1278 this may have passed to John, although it was not listed in the sheriff’s report. He, like other rebels, had ties to a rebel of the 1260s, as his cousin, Guy de Balliol, had been Simon de Montfort’s standard bearer and died at the Battle of Evesham. John’s father, John (I) (d.1268), had been a loyal supporter of Henry III, though, and had provided an infantry contingent from Scotland to fight for the king at the battle of Lewes, in which John was captured. As king of Scots, he also held the royal liberties of Penrith and Tynedale. Following his abdication of the Scottish throne in July 1296, he was taken prisoner and sent to the Tower of London. In 1299, he was released into papal custody and in 1302 he was liberated to his French estates where he would die in 1314. His ancestral lands in Northumberland as well as elsewhere in England were given to John de Brittany, earl of Richmond and Edward I’s nephew, while the liberties of Penrith and Tynedale were handed over to Antony Bek, bishop of Durham. Although he submitted to Edward I in July 1296 and his resignation appears within the Ragman Roll documents, he did not actually append his seal to the documents as other Scots did.[2]


Alexander of Bunkle (d.1300) (RR)

Alexander, son of Ranulf of Bunkle, was a Berwickshire knight. He held the vill of Uldale in Cumberland and lands in Lilburn, Shawdon and two parts of Fenwick in Northumberland, which were seized in April and May 1296. Uldale was restored to Alexander almost immediately as he had come into the king’s peace, and it can be assumed that his Northumberland were also restored at this time. He appended his seal to the Ragman Roll at Berwick in August 1296 as ‘of the county of Edinburgh’, probably referring to his lands at Preston which he received in 1293. In May 1297, he went overseas to serve Edward I against France. Alexander was dead by April 1300 and his lands were taken into the king’s hands again as his daughter and heir, Margaret, ‘remains with the king’s enemies in Scotland’. She was the widow of John Stewart of Bunkle, who was killed fighting for the Scots at Falkirk in 1298. Her second husband was Sir David Brechin (d.1320) and in 1304 they submitted to King Edward and received Alexander’s lands in England. His widow, Christiana, lived until at least 1319, when she petitioned the king for the manor of Uldale, which she had leased to Alexander Stewart and which was seized by Edward II upon Stewart’s rebellion in 1314.[3]


Thomas of Moralee

Thomas of Moralee held lands in Broughton and Ellenborough, Cumberland, and the manor of Moralee, Northumberland, which he held with Aymer of Rutherford (see Part II: Northumberland). These lands were seized in April 1296, although it was stated that Thomas had not been in the king’s peace before Easter (which fell on 25 March that year). His Northumberland lands were in the hands of the bishop of Durham by late 1297, while his Cumberland lands were still in the hands of the sheriff in December 1298.[4] He does not appear on the Ragman Roll and his lands do not appear to have been restored.


William Murray of Drumsargard (RR)

William Murray, knight and lord of Drumsargard, Lanarkshire, held the hamlet of Houghton, in Cumberland, which was seized in April 1296. A few weeks later, Sir Robert de Tilliol was been given seisin of the lands. In August he appended his seal to the Ragman Roll at Berwick as ‘of the county of Lanark’, and at the same time served as a juror along with other rebels, John of Gelston and Gilbert of Southwick (see Part I: Cumberland), and John of Shitlington (see Part II: Northumberland), in an inquest into the lands of Helen de la Zouche (d.1296). He performed fealty again in March 1304. William was restored to unnamed lands in Northumberland in 1304, though it does not appear that Houghton in Cumberland was restored to him.[5]


Robert de Ros (d.1296)

Robert de Ros (or of Roos, Yorkshire) was the son of Robert de Ros (d.c.1274) and Margaret Bruce. His grandfather, also called Robert de Ros (d.1270), had been a supporter of Simon de Montfort for a time during the Barons’ War, but had submitted to Prince Edward in June 1265 and later pardoned and restored to his estates. Though his grandson, Robert, was serving Edward in 1291, he apparently joined the Scots in 1296 out of love for a Scottish woman. He held the important barony of Wark-on-Tweed and Haltwhistle in Northumberland as well as the vill of Cargo in Cumberland, which were seized in April 1296. In Scotland, he held Grieston in Peeblesshire, which was given after his death to Holm Cultram Abbey, and he also held lands of Alexander, son of John of Stirling, which were returned to Alexander in September 1296 when Alexander himself was restored. Wark was eventually given to William de Ros, a cousin of Robert’s from a senior line.[6]


Patrick of Selkirk, abbot of Melrose (RR)

Patrick was a former monk of Melrose who succeeded as abbot there in 1273. His lands in Trowupburn, Northumberland, were seized in April 1296. At Berwick, in August, he appeared on the Ragman Roll and was restored to unnamed lands in Northumberland and Cumberland. He was also restored to lands in the Scottish counties of Berwick, Ayr, Jedburgh, Peebles, Edinburgh, Roxburgh and Dumfries.[7] It is unknown how long Patrick served as abbot, but the next known abbot, William of Fogo, occurs in 1310.


Adam of Swinburne (d.1318)

Adam of Swinburne, in Northumberland, was the eldest son of John of Swinburne (d.c.1313). As mentioned in Part II, John’s lands were taken into the king’s hand perhaps as a precaution, but he was restored when it became clear he had not rebelled. Adam, however, was said to have been in the king’s peace ‘almost till Pentecost’ before he was forfeited for rebellion. He held the manor of Bewcastle, Cumberland and lands in Simonburn, Northumberland. In Scotland, the family had ties to lands in Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire. Adam’s father, John, appears on the Ragman Roll as ‘of the county of Ayr’, and in 1298 Adam was granted forfeited lands in that county by Edward I. He later petitioned for further lands in Dumfriesshire. Adam’s younger brother, Robert, also petitioned for lands in Ayrshire. At some point, Adam was held prisoner at Berwick Castle, but was released in May 1297 by the mainprise of Hugh de Cressingham and Alexander of Argyll. He served Edward I frequently and faithfully after this and appears in the Linlithgow garrison between 1298 and 1300. He was also constable of Dumfries in 1306, later served Edward II as constable of Rutherglen in 1308-9 and also later became sheriff of Northumberland.[8] He does not appear on the Ragman Roll and it is unclear if and when his lands were restored, though given his loyalty after 1297 we can assume he was either restored or compensated elsewhere.




This feature on the rebels of 1296 is intended to draw attention to the dilemma faced by cross-border landholders as well as by the gentry of Northern England when John Balliol and the Scots resisted the overbearing authority of Edward I. Before the outbreak of war, the areas of southern Scotland and northern England were a homogenous society, one that had become ‘extensively interconnected’ through cross-border marriages and landholding, ‘rather than being divided by the political boundary’.[9] Each cross-border landholder owed allegiance to two different kings, a behaviour that was neither uncommon nor atypical at this time. But the war between these two kings created an unprecedented dilemma of loyalties.


Within this context, there are a few conclusions and patterns which emerge when breaking down the rebels by statistics. Obviously, the majority of landholders at this time were men, but we see that 9% of the rebels in this study were women, which also equals the percentage of religious men who rebelled. Overall by county, there is a higher percentage of rebels who occur in Northumberland (65%) versus Cumberland (25%), while 10% of rebels held lands in both counties.


On a wider theme of rebellion over the thirteenth century, we see that five rebels (or 7% of the total) have possible family ties to men who rebelled against Henry III, Edward’s father, during the Barons’ War of the 1260s. In Cumberland, Alice, wife of Alan of Rule, may have been related by marriage to Roger of Rule, who died at the battle of Evesham in 1265, fighting with Guy de Balliol, a cousin of King John (see above). Sisters Margery and Idonea of Welton of Northumberland may have been related to Walter Scott of Welton, a Northumbrian landholder who also took part in the Barons’ War.[10] Moreover, Robert de Ros’ grandfather had also been forfeited because of his support for Simon de Montfort, though he submitted to Prince Edward in June 1265 and was restored. When we look even further back to the rebels of 1215-1218 who fought against King John of England, we find another possible eight men with ties to these later rebels (which would raise the total percentage of rebels with ties to earlier rebels to about 17%).[11]


Another pattern which emerges is seen especially in Cumberland, where several rebels can be connected to others, either by family ties or by landed associations. Out of the 68 rebels in Cumberland and Northumberland together, 16 (24%) had ties to southwest Scotland. But of these 16 rebels, 13 are found holding lands in Cumberland. Remembering that there were 24 rebels in all from Cumberland – 17 from Part I and 7 from Part III – this means that 54% of Cumberland rebels had landed connections in southwest Scotland, and several of these rebels were related themselves. For example, Walter of Corrie, Patrick of Southwick (father of rebel Gilbert) and Patrick Trump (father of rebel Patrick Trump of Kirklinton) were named heirs of Hawise of Kirklinton, wife of Eustace de Balliol, a cousin of King John. In 1299, when Richard of Kirklinton’s widow, Sarah, died, Walter of Corrie and Gilbert of Southwick were named with others as heirs of Richard.[12] Patrick Trump junior, Walter of Corrie, Thomas, bishop of Whithorn, David of Torthorwald and Robert de Ros also had ties to the powerful Bruce family, who held Annandale and Carrick. Gilbert of Southwick, a Cumberland rebel, and William of Bellingham, William of Whittingham and the Welton sisters of Northumberland can be linked to the Comyn family of Nithsdale.


Due to their proximity, it is not a surprise that half of Cumberland landholders had ties to this area of Scotland. But what is surprising is that the percentage of Northumberland landholders who can be associated with lands in the Scottish Borders is much lower, at 35%.[13] Only 18 Northumberland rebels could claim landed ties in the Borders, though the number rises to 30 (59%) when we include other areas of Scotland except the southwest. Perhaps the most extreme long-distance link between the two realms comes from John Prat, whose family maintained links between Northumberland and Moray – a distance of at least 160 miles – for over a century.


In terms of family ties, another noteworthy aspect is that of relationships and connections within documents, which is easily viewed in the PoMS database. Shortly before appending their seals to the deeds of fealty at Berwick in August 1296, four rebels served as jurors in the inquest concerning the lands of Helen de la Zouche. John of Gelston and Gilbert of Southwick inquired into Helen’s lands in Dumfriesshire, while John also inquired into her lands in Wigtownshire. William Murray of Drumsargard and John of Shitlington served as jurors for her lands in Berwickshire. Thomas of Torthorwald, son of the deceased rebel David, also served as a juror.[14]


The ratio between submitting to Edward and being restored to forfeited lands is also noteworthy. Performing homage and fealty to the English king did not guarantee that one’s lands would be restored. In terms of the rebels of Cumberland and Northumberland who are confirmed to have held lands in Scotland (of which there are 40), 30 (or 75%) appear on the Ragman Roll.[15] On the flip side of this, we find that 13 Scottish landholders in this study (19%) did not appear on the Ragman Roll. These numbers do not match up and this discrepancy comes from the fact that some Scottish landholders, such as David of Torthorwald and (presumably) Robert de Ros, died before the deeds of fealty were drawn up and therefore do not appear. Also, some rebels appear on the Ragman Roll, but they cannot be confirmed in possession of Scottish lands (e.g. John Comyn junior, who did not inherit his father’s Scottish lands until after his father’s death around 1302; as a member of a very prominent political family his submission was probably essential for Edward I). At least one rebel, Richard Siward, was in prison and not able to append his seal. However, some prisoners, such as John Comyn, do appear on the Ragman Roll. Indeed, there are 7 prisoners captured at the Battle of Dunbar who later appear on the Ragman Roll. Some of these, like the earl of Menteith, had already been released from prison. Others, though, are still documented as prisoners as late as 1300.[16] A conclusion we can draw is that these prisoners had their deeds of fealty drawn up and sealed by proxy.


Not all of those who performed fealty were restored to their forfeited lands in either England or Scotland. Eleven rebels who appear on the Ragman Roll were restored to lands either in England or Scotland almost immediately after performing fealty in 1296. Edward also restored lands to the widow and heir of one rebel (David of Torthorwald who died in the war), the son and heir of another (John of Gelston), and, years later, the grandson and presumed heir of a third rebel (William of Paxton). Another 9 rebels from the Ragman Roll were restored in 1304. Nine others who appear on the Ragman Roll (or 29%) were not restored at all. By comparison, 62% of the total rebels or their heirs/widows were restored to English and/or Scottish lands.[17]


The restorations may point toward perceived attitudes of the war which began in early 1296. By the time John Balliol abdicated in July, many rebels may have imagined this conflict was over and, being quick to submit to Edward, had hoped that a degree of normalcy would soon return. Indeed, twenty instances of restoration for our rebels in this study occur with a year of Balliol’s abdication. This includes those restored to English and/or Scottish lands. However, events over the next year sparked an even longer conflict that would not cease for some time. The next significant break in hostilities came in February 1304 when the Scots – led by former rebel John Comyn (d.1306) – submitted to Edward. Once again we see a surge of restorations, with 24 rebels restored to English and/or Scottish lands within a year of peace. The increase in restorations here might suggest that after eight years of war more landholders believed that the fighting was finally – and officially – over. Of course these figures only represent Northumberland and Cumberland, but if one were to look at all the English counties where rebels are found, the numbers would likely be comparable.


Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this study comes from examining the rebels in the context of cross-border landholding. Not all of those who rebelled against Edward I held lands in both kingdoms. Though a majority of them (40 total, or 59%) held lands in both England and Scotland, a surprising 41% had no known land holdings in Scotland. For those who had ties to rebels of previous generations, it could be argued that certain families had a tendency to rebel against royal authority. But, in a broader context, those whose lands lay within the Scottish kings’ liberties of Penrith and Tynedale fell into a different category of landholder. For our rebels discussed here, none held lands in Penrith except for John Balliol as king, but 16 held lands in Tynedale (which equals 31% of Northumberland rebels and 24% of total rebels). But even more surprising is that more than half of these (9 of 16) held no lands in Scotland. Did these 9 rebels identify themselves as Scottish, despite having no lands in that realm? Can the same be said for the 41% of all northern rebels who had no ties to Scotland? As Keith Stringer states, those in Tynedale who rebelled against Edward I highlight how limited Edward’s authority was in ‘directing identities and allegiances in [the] northern marchlands’ and that ‘despite…English power, old loyalties and values died hard’.[18] But what makes this more interesting is the case of John Somerville. He appears to have held no lands in Scotland or Tynedale, yet rebelled – twice – and was executed in 1306 for treason. Two other rebels, John Comyn (d.c.1302) and William Douglas, had lands re-seized for rebelling a second time, but their links to Scotland are obvious. Though there may be a familial link between John Somerville and other Somervilles who appear in the Borders, it is interesting that such a stalwart opponent of Edward I held no lands in Scotland.


Many rebels, particularly in Cumberland, were forfeited in 1296 for merely ‘remaining in Scotland’ and not necessarily acting out against Edward I. Most of these were restored to their lands after submitting to Edward, so this may have been simply a case of not appearing for military service against the Scots. If anything this could shed light on how landholding practices and values were changing. Indeed, in 1314 Robert I prohibited Scots from holding lands on both sides of the border, a concept that, until then, had been commonplace in medieval Britain. Were these rebels merely guilty of believing that old practices – in which they could simply pay a fine for non-appearance and move on – were still in place? This may be why the majority of rebels submitted at times when it looked as if the war was over and peace would be restored, specifically in the summer of 1296 and in early 1304.


It is hoped that this feature has gone some way in explaining – at least statistically – the complexities of cross-border society and Anglo-Scottish identities, two themes which are being investigated by the Breaking of Britain project. Within a context of rebellion, it is perhaps easier to highlight cross-border identities and loyalties and how the Scottish wars of independence brought with it a massive shift in landholding practices. Many of the rebels discussed here were Scottish by birth and therefore had a natural Scottish identity which led to their rebellion against Edward I. Also, as we have seen, rebellion was not limited to the aristocracy; those lower down the scale such as the gentry or middling folk and members of religious houses also rebelled. Therefore, a study in rebellion is fundamental to the project’s examination of the ‘breaking of Britain’ as it reveals the greyer areas of a homogenous Anglo-Scottish cross-border society.




The following is a complete list of those, English or Scottish, who were forfeited of their lands in Northern England by Edward I for their support of John Balliol. Hyperlinks will take you to the person’s page in the PoMS database. RR signifies that the person appears on the Ragman Roll.


[1] My thanks to Professor Dauvit Broun for some very helpful suggestions and comments on the three features on the rebels, particularly in highlighting several ideas worth expanding on cross-border landholding; thanks also to Professor Keith Stringer for references on Adam of Swinburne and other helpful comments.

[2] CDS, ii, no. 736; Stevenson, Documents, ii, nos. 358, 359; TNA, E372/146, m.47(2) (; accessed 12/7/13); A. Beam, The Balliol Dynasty, 1210-1364 (Edinburgh, 2008), 43; Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1301-07, 470-1

[3] CDS, ii, nos. 736, 884, 1135, 1584, 1594; iii, no. 685; Stevenson, Documents, ii, nos. 358 (at pg. 42), 359; PoMS H3/0/0 (; accessed 15/7/13); IP, 124-7; TNA, E372/146, m.48(2) (; accessed 15/7/13); TNA, E372/146, m.47(2) (; accessed 15/7/13)

[4] CDS, ii, nos. 736, 841, 963, 1042; CIMisc., I, no. 1764; Stevenson, Documents, ii, nos. 358 (at pg. 46), 359; TNA, E372/146, m.48(2) (; accessed 15/7/13); TNA, E372/146, m.47(2) (; accessed 15/7/13)

[5] CDS, ii, nos. 736, 824, 1481, 1594; Stevenson, Documents, ii, nos. 358 (at pg. 42); IP, 124-7

[6] CDS, ii, nos. 736, 1140, 1141, 1335; Stevenson, Documents, ii, no. 358 (at pg. 46); Rot. Scot., I, 28a; PoMS H1/27/0 (; accessed 12/7/13); N. Vincent, ‘Robert de Ros (d.c.1270)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) (; accessed by subscription 12/7/13)

[7] Watt and Shead, Heads of Religious Houses of Scotland, 151; CDS, ii, no. 736; Stevenson, Documents, ii, nos. 358 (at pg. 46), 359; Rot. Scot., I, 25a; IP, 117

[8] CDS, ii, nos. 736, 841, 963, 1183; CIMisc., I, no. 1764; Stevenson, Documents, ii, nos. 358 (at pg. 46), 359; Rot. Scot., I, 28a, 30a, 40b; IP, 129-30; TNA, E372/146, m.47(2) (; accessed 12/7/13); TNA E372/146, m.48(2) (; accessed 12/7/13);  K.J. Stringer, ‘Tynedale: A Community in Transition, 1296-c.1400’, in M.L. Holford and K.J. Stringer, Border Liberties and Loyalties: North-East England, c.1200–c.1400 (Edinburgh, 2010), pp. 300, 305, 325; Palgrave, Docs., no. 142. See also SC 8/346/E1379 for an undated petition from Robert of Swinburne for lands in Ayrshire (with many thanks to Keith Stringer for this reference).

[9] K.J. Stringer, ‘Identities in Thirteenth-Century England: Frontier Society in the Far North’, in Social and Political Identities in Western History, ed. C. Bjørn, A. Grant and K.J. Stringer (Copenhagen, 1994), 28–66, at pg. 45

[10] Stevenson, Documents, ii, no. 359; TNA, E372/146, m.47(2) (; accessed 17/6/13); PoMS H5/1/0 (; accessed 17/6/13); CDS, iv, no. 1759

[11] Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, i, 247, 314, 374b, 375b, 376b (Adam of Tynedale, Alan of Rule, Eudo and Reginald of Carlisle, Ranulf of Bunkle, Roger of Kirklinton, Thomas de Chartres, William de Mowbray)

[12] Richard of Kirklinton died in 1250 and was succeeded by his younger brother, Ralph (d.1253). Ralph had married Auda de Moreville and by her had only one daughter, Hawise (d.1271).

[13] Of a total of 51 rebels (44 from Part II and 7 from Part III)

[14] CDS, ii, no. 824

[15] This figure includes two rebels (William Porter and Nicholas of Fawside) who may be the same as a person on the Ragman Roll. If we remove them from the equation, the percentage drops to 73%.

[16] The seven are: Walter Barclay, Reginald le Cheyne junior, John Comyn junior, John Curry, Hugh of Lochore, Alexander, earl of Menteith, Michael Scott. The earl of Menteith, was taken prisoner and sent to the Tower of London (CDS, ii, no. 742; iv, no. 1768). By 27 July 1296, Edward I ‘by his special grace [had] delivered him from prison’ and the earl swore fealty to him at Elgin (IP, 103-4). Three prisoners were released in August 1297 (John Comyn, Walter Barclay and Michael Scott), while the remaining three were apparently still in prison in 1299 and 1300. Another 8 prisoners captured at Dunbar performed homage in 1304. Most of these men were kept in prison for some time and therefore do not appear on the Ragman Roll. (For specifics, please refer to each person’s page in the PoMS database.)

[17] 54% of rebels were restored to lands in England only. The numbers overlap slightly because some rebels were restored to different lands at different times. Nicholas de Graham was restored to Scottish lands in 1296 and English lands in 1304, while the widow of David of Torthorwald was restored to his English lands in 1296 while her son, and David’s heir, was restored to his Scottish lands in 1297. Also, John Prat does not seem to have been restored to lands in Northumberland – one of the areas under investigation here – and as such is not included in the restoration figures.

[18] K.J. Stringer, ‘Tynedale: power, society and identities, c.1200–1296’, in M.L. Holford and K.J. Stringer, Border Liberties and Loyalties: North-East England, c.1200–c.1400 (Edinburgh, 2010), pg. 290

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