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The origins of the Horsburgh's of that Ilk

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Location: Peebleshire, Scotlandmap
Surnames/tags: Horsburgh Peebleshire Scotland
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From Malcolm Horsburgh and a website now defunct.

Springheid o the faimly name

Origin of the surname

The senior branch of the Horsburgh family was Horsburgh of that Ilk from whom most Horsburghs are, theoretically, descended. The surname Horsburgh is first documented in 13th century Peeblesshire (Borders region), Scotland, as Horsbroc, formed from the Anglo-Saxon nouns hors (horse) and broc (brook, or stream). The 'horse brook' (now called Hope Burn) is a tributary of the River Tweed and runs through the modern farm of Nether Horsburgh. It is supposed that the horse brook formed part of the larger royal demesne in the period prior to this and is where the horses on the estate were pastured and watered. Indeed, places neighbouring Horsburgh confirm that the lands on the north bank of the Tweed were set aside for specific purposes from an early time. To the east lies Eshiels derived from Anglo-Saxon ea-scheles (the river shielings) and next to it is Soonhope from Anglo-Saxon swyn-hop (valley where swine are kept). According to local legend, first printed in the 1790's, a man ploughing on the north bank of the Tweed rode across the river while it was in spate to retrieve one of the king's hawks and was rewarded with a gift of the lands he had been ploughing. This at least indicates a tradition connecting horses, royalty and the river.

At some point prior to the early 1200's someone assumed de Horsbroc ('of horse brook') as their designation and this gave rise to the fixed surname which appeared in the written forms Hors(e)brok and later Horsbru(i)k/Horsbruke. An i and e were added by Scottish scribes who wished to distinguish in writing between long and short vowel sounds. Until the 14th century the name was pronounced 'Hors-a-broke' and then shifted to 'Hors-brook' with the loss of inflection. The short vowel of 'broke' gave way to a long vowel (brook) as a result of this shift. By the 16th century the final hard k had begun to soften and so the sound heard by scribes was written with the softer spelling ght. The name began to be written as Horsbrught or even Horsburgh, often abbreviated to Horsb(ru)t. With the loss of the final hard consonant k so too the stressed vowel oo became shortened to u, giving rise to the pronunciation 'Hors-bra'. These spellings took over as the usual forms during the 17th century and confirmed the (now) standard Scottish pronunciation - Horsbra or Hosbra. In England the name came to be spelled as Horsborough.

The Horsburghs of that ilk (meaning of the same named estate) appear to have been the first to have assumed the name from the lands they owned and were certainly recognised as the heads of the surname by the 15th century. Their shield of arms, unsurprisingly, depicts a white horse head on a blue background (blue perhaps signifies the brook), either a pun on the estate name, or a clue - perhaps - to their origins as sometime keepers of the royal stable, hinted at in local legend. The lands of Horsburgh consisted of Nether Horsburgh (in the east) centred on the horse brook, with a fortalice (large tower house) mentioned from 1551, mill and mill lands and tenant lands, and Over Horsburgh (in the west) consisting of the castle and manor. The castle was another, smaller tower also mentioned from 1551. There are extensive remains of farm buildings at Nether Horsburgh and the ruins of both tower houses can still be seen today.

Strind o the lairds o Horsburgh

Genealogy of the lairds of Horsburgh

SIMON OF HORSBURGH (de Horsbroc) fl.1226-1238 Simon appears among several witnesses to a charter by William Purves of Mospennoc (Mosfennan, Peeblesshire) granting a right of way to the monks of Melrose Abbey in the reign of Alexander II (1214-49). Simon is the first known bearer of the designation ‘of horse brook’. One of the other witnesses, Sir Archibald of Douglas, is not recorded as a knight before 1226 and appears to have died soon after 1238: these may indicate a narrower date for the charter. Prior to the appearance of the next Simon (see below), William Horsburgh (de Horsebroch, de Horsbroch) is on record. He appears as clerk to the dean and chapter of Glasgow cathedral when accepting payment from Florentine merchants at Berwick in 1283, and, in Dec 1287, William Horsburgh (presumably the same man) is described as public notary when he was witness to an instrument of settlement at Holyrood made in presence of Bishop Fraser of St Andrews.

SIR SIMON OF HORSBURGH (de Horsbrok) of that ilk fl.1297-1302 During the Wars of Independence this Simon fought as a companion in arms of Sir Simon Fraser of Oliver Castle. They evidently resisted the English invasion of Scotland in 1296-7, but submitted at an unknown date to Edward I and joined him on his Flanders campaign against the French king during the period Aug 1297-Mar 1298. On 21 September 1297, while Edward I was at Ghent in Flanders, he issued a mandate to restore the lands of Sir Simon Fraser, Simon Horsburgh, William Wishart and Geoffrey Ridel who were now serving under him. Some time after their return in Mar 1298, Fraser was appointed warden of Selkirk Forest with Horsburgh serving with him. By October 1298 Simon Horsburgh had been knighted and his bay horse, valued at £12, was killed during hostilities in Selkirk Forest on 3 of that month. Geoffrey Lidel and Thomas de Lillou are decribed as valets to Fraser at that time. Fraser is listed as serving Edward I at the siege of Caerlaverock Castle in July 1300 but he went over to the Scottish Guardians in the autumn of 1301. In 1301 Edward I was in Peebles forfeiting those who had taken up arms against him and Horsburgh appears to have joined Fraser because his lands had been escheated and granted to Robert Hastings, constable of Roxburgh, and Nicholas Bannatine, by November 1302. The lands were then accounting a rent to the English king of 46s 8d. At Easter 1304 Hastings alone held the 'vill de Horsbrok' and paid 73s 4d. In 1301 Sir William de Durem was appointed sheriff of Peebles in place of Fraser and we find Durem granting a charter, about Aug 1305, of burgage lands in the burgh, to the abbey of Melrose. Among the adjoining owners and witnesses is Thomas Lillay, almost certainly the former valet of Fraser, and a priest named Master Michael Horsburgh. Fraser afterwards supported Robert The Bruce, fought at Methven (1306) and was captured and executed. Of Sir Simon Horsburgh we know nothing more.

SIMON OF HORSBURGH (de Horsbrok) of that ilk; fl.1327-1333 Possibly the son of the preceding Simon he witnessed a charter by William Bisset of the lands of Mertoun, dated 15 June 1327, and appears to have been ‘forfeited’ during the Edward Balliol invasion since a Percy document, dated 5 September 1333, which lists the name of Simon Horsburgh, appears to confirm a grant of his estate to the Hastings family who had briefly held Horsburgh under Edward I (1302-1304): Robert Hastings was dead by April 1336. This confirms Simon in the pro-Bruce faction supporting King David II.

THE DARK ERA, during this time, lasting a hundred years or more, there are no known references to any Horsburgh lairds, though it is evident that the familiy continued and held onto their lands (see below). The documentary record is, however, sparse. On 6 Oct 1345 King David II granted the royal rents due from the Horsburgh estate to James Sandilands until such time as the king might compensate him for certain lands that had been surrendered to the crown. The royal rents for Horsburgh, evidently held direct of the crown once again, amounted to £6 6s 8d when they were rendered at Dundee 28 Mar 1358 and the same on 30 Mar 1359. On 2 Dec 1368 David II granted these rents for life to James Douglas and, on 3 Nov 1372, King Robert II granted license to Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith to found a chaplainry in the chapel of St Nicholas of Dalkeith and endow it to the sum of £6 13s 4d annually from the Horsburgh estate. The Douglases continued to enjoy these dues from the Horsburgh lands until the 17th century. On 5 May 1359 William Horsburgh (de Horsbrok) was one of the bailies of Peebles rendering accounts for the burgh to the royal exchequer and Thomas Horsburgh (de Horsbruke) was also bailie of Peebles 13 Mar 1380. Simon Horsburgh (Horsbroke) appears as an archer on the muster roll of the garrison of Berwick castle in November 1404, being paid for service from August that same year. Another Thomas Horsburgh held land in the burgh of Peebles from which he was liable for 20d towards the upkeep of an altar in St Andrew church, Peebles, 4 Dec 1427. Ferms (royal rents) of £13 6s 8d were rendered for the estate of Horsburgh to the royal exchequer of James I in May 1434.

ALEXANDER HORSBURGH (Horsbruk) of that ilk; fl.1459-1487:- See profiles

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