Blantyreferme Coat of Arms

This is the coat of arms of Blantyreferme, one of Blantyre’s oldest farming hamlets.

In 1598 within the Great Seal of Scotland, Lord Blantyre was given lands of Blantyre, which included Blantyr-ferme (Blantyre Ferme). The name is a corruption of the old name of Fermeblantyre and even in those early times, Blantyreferme had existed for hundreds of years. There is a strong likelihood that the farm itself once served the Blantyre Priory, which if true, could mean Blantyreferme as an area goes back over 700 years to the late 1200’s!

The coat of arms suggests “Hamilton” heraldry, I.e the surname Hamilton, which makes sense for the early pre-reformation owners of Blantyre Ferme. Later owners would be the Coats family for many generations then later again from mid Victorian era, the Scott family.

A lot can be read into heraldry, taking time to investigate. The prominent red suggests “Warrior, martyrs, military strength”. The indented jagged line can mean “fire” with the intended shield, meaning “honour”. Surrounding other areas owned by Hamiltons, e.g Bothwellhaugh for example have very similar coat of arms.

With thanks to Rob Gordon for a good, colour copy of this particular heraldry.

On Social media, a couple of very knowledgeable people commented as follows:

Gordon Mason: “It was the site of an old or fortified house of the Hamiltons of Blantyreferme. Blantyre Farm was one of the original fermtouns of the barony. It has been suggested that it was the orchard of Blantyre Priory. Thomas Hamilton purchased ‘Fremblantyre’ from the Dunbars of Enterkin c1400. William Hamilton of Blantyre Ferme was son-in-law of John Dunbar of Knockshinnoch near Cumnock and was an executor of his will in 1551. James Hamilton of Blantyreferme is mentioned in Parliament in 1696. In 1773 the family died out and the estate passed to a nephew, James Coats. It belonged to a family named Scott in 1866 and to a MacPherson by the end of the 19th century. A later mansion stood on the site, however this was demolished in the early 20th century.”

Chris Ladds added, ” In terms of ownership of Blantyreferm, what is written is incorrect, although it is far from a careless assumption, and the problems are deceptively unclear for most people dealing with these charters. There are a few other problems too which should also be addressed. The points are important because they carry consequences for all other early records of Blantyre, and so this example is instructive for negotiating the rest of the surviving records. It is incumbent on all researchers to only instruct to wider audiences material which they fully understand within reason, or are robustly instructed to be true. For ease of navigation I have split my reply into sections spread over two replies due to Facebook’s newer character limit on replies –


When discussing charters granted under the Great Seal and similar documents, it is essential to approach them with precious care. It is advisable to seek assistance from specialists before making historical commentaries that could potentially misdirect the understanding of occupation and descent. The records in the Great Seal simply indicate the lands within the Overlordship and are primarily meant for providing evidence for feu duty purposes only. They do not provide nor were they intended to be records of land ownership. While the assumption may hold true for the earliest charters, which reflect the initial grants of land to Lords by the Crown, most records represent what originally constituted a Barony rather than what was held in later periods by a landowner.

Regarding the Blantyre charter, it is important to note it signifies a formal recognition by the Crown to grant the title of Lordship of Blantyre (Baronial status) to Walter Stewart. The lands are not being newly granted, or repossessed from another person by the King. Instead, the Crown takes possession of the Barony from Walter after his own resignation of the lands to the said Crown, and then the latter regrants the ‘Barony’ to him through the power of the Charter, which legitimises and defines his title. It is crucial to understand that Walter already held the lands and other rights he is receiving, acquired from previous titleholders. However, transactions from earlier Lords do not confer upon him the correct title and powers of a Baron. This is because he had to be answerable and loyal to the Crown. The charter in the Great Seal should not be understood as a cautious record of lands being granted to Walter, but rather as a definition of what originally comprised the Barony of Blantyre, regardless of ownership.

The typical order in these scenarios is:

1. Lord evidences his intention to grant a land to a new lord. This is in a document called a Precept >> 2. Lord 1 grants Charter to new lord >> 3. Crown confirms charter to the new Lord >> 4. Old Lord makes act of Sasine to new Lord >> 5. Sasine is registered as a document, such as a notary record or Disposition of Sasine >> 6. If granted possession is part or all of a Barony with title, then the new lord resigns the title to the Crown >> 7. Then the Crown grants new Baronial Charter >> 8. Sometimes the Crown grants a Confirmation of their own Charter where the original Charter/Royal Grant was vague or informal. 

The order and extent somewhat varies, but the above shows eight transactions with different purposes, which all relate to the one change of ownership of title. There are sometimes even more steps. The documents representing change of land ownership are steps 1, 2, sometimes 3, and 4. The Great Seal Charter is not relevant in that respect. 

Under feudal administration, when lands are given or sold off by a Baron or Lord, they still remain within the Barony, even though ownership may have changed hands. This “fossilization” of land ownership within a Barony could persist for centuries, and feu duties for lands previously owned by Barons continued to be paid until the Abolition of Feudal Tenure. It is worth noting that some of these payments were made for lands a Baron’s family had not held for several centuries. Ownership is irrelevant to jurisdiction. A useful analogy is that we fall within the jurisdiction of the Hamilton Court, but that is immaterial to what land is owned by who. All that matters is that certain places are within the jurisdictional boundary of the Court. The difference is that we do not pay a tax to the court. In the olden days a Barony could extract their fees on an ongoing basis and did not depend on ownership.

It is deeply regretable that many history books mistakenly record grants of land that never actually happened due to a poor understanding of the Great Seal and feudal administration of estates. This oversight affects numerous history books in the local region, including those published in the 1700s, 1800s, 1900s. Sufficed to say, the general public and many historians have never understood this system. It has long remained the reserve of solicitors, and it is telling that the better historical books which correctly record these matters were written by solicitors! The number of buildings and institutions based upon such narratives is extensive too, anyway, that is a tangent. 

It is crucial to differentiate between the lands that fall within the Barony and the actual ownership of those lands. The contextual evidence for Blantyreferm indicates that it was not owned by the Lord of Blantyre at the time of the Barony grant. As Gordon outlines, a branch of the Hamiltons had ownership of Blantyreferm since circa 1400, acquiring it through a transaction similar to a sale (although sales and grants were not direct transactions like they are today). The Barons/Lords of Blantyre (formerly the Dumbars) remained overlords of those lands and were owed feu duties as part of the reddendo, which sometimes included symbolic gratuities known as Blenchfarm payments and other dues such as military service, court duties, etc.

The lands mentioned in subsequent charters serve as evidence of their overlordship and their entitlement to extract feu duties and other services. Actually, at the time of the late-1500s lordship charter, the lands had not been in baronial ownership for nearly 200 years.

While the contextual evidence is significant for Blantyreferm, it is worth noting that Great Seal Charters can also provide some useful insights. Although not ideal for tracking feu ownership, the Charters are explicit in their language. The Blantyre Charter mention lands that were ‘included’ in the Barony of Blantyre, using the past tense to indicate that these lands originally comprised the Barony but not necessarily still in ownership of it. This word choice was never minced in charters. Usually charters did not mention anything like that at all unless it was the earliest grants or where the lands were first marched out (measured by the Crown). It was not the duty of the Crown to investigate the past sale of lands within a Barony prior to the granting of a Great Seal Charter. It was irrelevant. Such interest only occurred where certain portions had their overlordship sold too. Those circumstances were complex because it sometimes meant the right to feu duties were sold, whereas others included all jurisdiction too. This sometimes meant that a new Barony holder would not be answerable to the Crown for enforcing military or other duties for certain lands. These situations were rare and do not affect the late-1500s Blantyre charter. They are worth mentioning for interest though.


I mention late-1500s’ a few times. The precise year of the Walter Stewart Blantyre charter is either 1598 or 1599. I don’t know what your source is for stating 1599, but it should be pointed out that when relying on much later records that state one year over another, it is essential to scrutinise them carefully, as historical texts often contain incorrect claims about events not contemporary with the time of their writing. Errors frequently creep in to narratives as little as a few decades after an event, which illustrates how big the problems can be when dealing with transactions centuries before. Unless your source saw the 1599 Charter of Blantyre given to the Lord, then the source may not be worth the paper it is written on. As far as I know, the late-1500s Blantyre Charter is not believed to still exist. I may need to check that again though.

Of particular interest in the 1598/1599 charter, more so than the vague references to the grant of baronial status, is the following part I have translated: “… In addition, the King, in recalling the service rendered to him both in his own person [while in his position as King] and when in his crib and infancy, and in recognition of the administration of the republic without fault, gave the said Walter anew the above-mentioned, viz. the Barony of Blantyre, which ‘INCLUDED’ the mains of Blantyre with a manor instead [of a castle or fortalice], the lands of Girnelcroft, […] […]”

Certainly he must have been of some good standing in the eyes of the King. Many grants to Royal supporters are not made on such affectionate terms. 


Regarding the traditional assumption that Blantyreferm was once an orchard of Blantyre Priory, the geographical and linguistic evidence supports this likelihood. However, the surviving land documentation presents a very different perspective. The earlier land grants under the Great Seal and similar records do not mention the previous ecclesiastical lordship, which was a prerequisite within such documents. Blantyre, in earlier times, was divided into the Barony of Blantyre and the Secular Lordship of the Blantyre Prior. The lands of the Priory were not part of the Barony until they were eventually acquired by the Barons around the Reformation. The sequence of charters, particularly the earliest ones, do not mince their words in this regard and would define the prior ownership status and in the pre-Reformation material for Blantyreferm it would specify the different recipients of tithe payments instead of the old Priory. 

This lack of mention is effectively a instructive form of evidence by absence, and suggests that either the lands were never in the possession of the Priory next door, or they had been gifted back in an early period (pre-1400) to the Dumbars by the Priory they initially founded.

While a founding of Blantyre Priory by the Dumbars in the 1230s is traditionally believed, the lack of records for this transaction raises questions. If any records exist, I would be interested in knowing their source. Verified mentions begin in the late-1200s, but there is now suspicion that the Bagimond Roll extract in the Glasgow Cartulary is a much later fake created for later tax fraud. 

It is plausible to consider that the Priory was indeed founded by the Dumbars rather than the Crown. This is important because it means the lands apportioned to the Priory were originally within the ‘Barony’. Church land grants invariably conferred absolute overlordship rights to their parent religious houses, and so such lands no longer formed part of the Barony they were taken from. Consequently, the assumption that Blantyreferm was an orchard originally owned by the Priory raises serious doubts. Because earlier charters unquestionably describe the lands as within the Barony of Blantyre.This is a very serious cat among the pigeons. It is worth considering that the original (first) seat of power of the Dumbars or their predecessors was nearer the more highly defended site of Blantyre Craig, and this may have partly influenced the decision to grant land for a priory nextdoor. This scenario could mean that it was a baronial orchard offered for rented use by the Priory, or use on informal affectionate terms.


Lastly, it is worth noting that the name “Blantyreferm” is not a corruption of “Fermeblantyre” or vice versa. Instead, it represents an older alternative way of defining the place-name, likely originating from the words’ purely descriptive function rather than an established place-name. It is similar to distinguishing between ‘Joe Blogg’s Farm’ and ‘the Farm of Joe Bloggs’. Over time, one form may dominate and be regarded as a place-name in its own right. Corruption, on the other hand, refers to a different process where linguistic elements are misspelled and misunderstood over time, significantly altering or obscuring their correct meaning.”

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