Reiver Families of Liddesdale and Canonbie in 1630

I’ve often seen it suggested that what with the wholesale hanging of reivers in the years following 1605 and the considerable exodus of reiver names to the Ulster Plantation after 1609, that areas like Liddesdale and the Debateable Lands of Canonbie were radically changed in the years that followed. And indeed most of the killing, plundering, blackmail and moonlight riding did stop. But what if we were able to see what families were living there in place of the reivers some twenty years later ?

By 1621, the Earl of Buccleuch had acquired pretty much all of Canonbie and much of Liddesdale. And thanks to the historical rental records of the Buccleuch estates we can see exactly who was tenanting all their farms in Liddesdale and Canonbie as early as 1630. I have transcribed the information as best as I can and the results may surprise you. The rental lists are shown in the two links below.

Liddesdale farm rentals in 1630

Canonbie farm rentals in 1630

In Liddesdale you can see that it’s pretty much all Armstrongs and  Ellotts with some Crosers , Nixons and Hendersons

In Canonbie it’s Armstrongs, Irvings and Bells with a few Grahams, Beatties and Littles for good measure. So pretty much the same mix of names that would have been found 30 years earlier.

What’s also noticeable is a smattering of the most infamous reiver families live on – there’s no less than 3 sons of Kinmont Willie and also Lancie Armstrong of Whithaugh. There’s a Clement and a Quentin Croser – definite echoes of their distinctively named reiver forebears.

For some families at least tenanting under  Buccleuch estate management  brought stability and longevity. My own family were Buccleuch tenants in Canonbie for at least 250 years.











17 thoughts to “Reiver Families of Liddesdale and Canonbie in 1630”

  1. being an Elliott I’ve read many books regarding the Border. The one thing that caught my eye was the double T in Elliott. We members of Clan Elliot have always been under the assumption that the double T started with the Elliott’s of Ulster but I see that is was used in Scotlands Border as well. hummmm

    1. Double Ts and double Ls are in NW England (see the most interesting maps online of the 1881 postal surname residences published from the National Tust). A few years ago I spent 3 weeks driving around Ireland. Driving south from Londonderry I stumbled along the Ulster-American Theme Park in the west of Co. Tyrone I think, and spent a few hours there. The park was endowed by the Mellon family of western Pennsylvania. They also endowed a lot of money to Syracuse University in NY. The football team there recently changed their name from the Orangemen to simply the Orange. I drove south to Fermanagh and checked into a B&B in Enniskillen .I didn’t know anything about the troubles there, but the first thing I noticed was a big yellow road-grader (which had Elliott inscribed on the side of the cab (as opposed to Caterpiller or Mitsubishi). The gentleman who owned the place showed me the county phonebook and the most frequent pages were of Elliotts, McGwyers, and Armstrongs. I couldn’t understand him as well as I should have, but I did have an interesting reply when I asked why tourists came to Enniskillen. He said “they come here for tha fashion.” I conjured up images of Bill Blass, or Givonchy. Then he explained further, saying “the tourists come here to go fashin for trout in Lough Erne.”

  2. All the written references to the name in the Buccleuch rentals are spelled ‘Ellott’ until about 1660 when the standard spelling seems to start morphing into ‘Elliot’ which is standard by the 18th century.

  3. Do we have any info on when the Croser’s became Crozier? To my knowledge, only the latter spelling is present in Ulster to this day. My sources tell me that some 28 Crozier clan groups departed the lowlands for Banbridge, Co. Down following 1603, but the trail goes cold until the 18th century. Any further info would be appreciated.

  4. I’ve had a look at spellings in the early Old Parish Registers of Scotland . Both Croser and Crozer are in use in the 1600s. The earliest Crosier / Crozier appears in 1716 but Croser and Crozer are still in use. It seems to have been a gradual change over in Scotland at least. I’ve taken a look at all the births in Scotland recorded between 1855 and 1900. There were just 14 Croser ; 22 Crosier ; 53 Crozer ; and 552 Crozier.

  5. Hi Andrew,
    Im researching Carruthers of Glenzierfoot farm in Chapelknowe. They were origionally from Crowsknowe. The furthest i can get back is to this family buried in the cemetry with Kinmont Willie. Any further help would be most gratefully received.

    1. Gary – Crawsknowe is one of the only bits of Canonbie parish that wasn’t part of the Buccleuch empire so I don’t have much information on the occupants over the years. But what I would say is there were a family of Carruthers who were tenants at Midtown of Glenzier from the 17th century onwards so there’s a good chance that your Carruthers came from that family. Also note that Glenzierfoot was known as Nether Glenzier before it became Glenzierfoot. I hope that’s useful for you.

    2. To get back to where Kinmont Willie, buried in Kirk Morton Cemetery west side of the White Sark Water, on the side which his tower is, named after Kinmont Tower at mouth of Esk and Liddel with Glenzierfoot, in Chapelknowe, it should noted to go back in time may use the older spellings for Carruthers of Karruthers, and at time search ‘de Carruthers’ or ‘de Karruthers’ to get back in time. Keep in mine there maybe other older variant spelling of the name which you may come upon in your search. Try those also.

  6. Hi, I’m a Bell formerly of Greenknowe Farm, unfortunately tenants to the Buccleuch Estates. Does anyone have any information either on Greenknowe or the Bell’s who farmed there.

    1. Hi Frazer – the historical inhabitants of Canonbie are my specialist subject so what do you want to know ? I know Robert Bell farmed there from the late 1850s to the 1870s. I guess he’s your ancestor ? As a farm, I think Greenknowe was created in the 19th century from parts of older farms including Nether Glenzier (aka Glenzierfoot)

      1. Thanks for the swift reply! Yes I dare say he will have been an ancestor of mine…. what do I want to know you ask? Everything! I’m intrigued by local history particularly that of the Bell’s and my own at Greenknowe.

        1. The easiest way to get some more information about the people at Greenknowe would be to look at the censuses – they’re available from 1841 through to 1921. Available on various websites, although 1911 and 1921 are only available on The above Robert Bell and family are in the 1861 and 1871 censuses. Robert was born in Middlebie parish, which is considered to be the original home of the Bells worldwide. I’d be happy to research it professionally if that’s the way you want to go.

  7. Are there any websites that might be particularly helpful in finding out thing’s about Greenknowe in particular or the Bell’s that farmed there?

  8. Thanks for that….yes I’m familiar with Middlebie being Bell stronghold. I was fortunate enough to know a recent former owner of Blackett House, and I could well be the last Bell to have stepped foot there!

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