A recent donation to the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library included sixty historical charters, documents which typically made a grant of land, a number of which contained information on the former Cumbernauld Castle, which once stood within the area currently known as Cumbernauld House Park.
One of these charters, dated 3rd November 1421, was issued at Cumbernauld Castle and was used to formally grant James Fleming his father’s land, following allegations of murder, and was signed by his cousin, Malcolm Fleming, Lord of Biggar and holder of the barony of Cumbernauld.
Professor Michael Brown, Professor of Medieval Scottish History at the University of St Andrews, said “What was going on in November 1421 was no simple property deal but involved a degree of coercion of the lesser man, James Fleming, by his more powerful cousin. Direct evidence of the extent of this coercion is provided by a final document.
“In this, James Fleming clears Malcolm Fleming of Biggar and his accomplices of any part in the death of his father, Patrick Fleming, and agrees to end any hostility towards Malcolm. This record makes clear that the land transactions were associated with the killing of their previous holder.
“It is surely not a huge stretch to suggest that Patrick Fleming had been killed in a dispute over his estates and that, after his death, his son was being forced to surrender the lands in question to a man implicated in the killing.
“There is undoubtedly more to this story to be revealed and the analysis of the other documents in the collection will be a vital part of this”.
Adam Smith, Chair of the Friends of Cumbernauld House Park, said “The discovery and analysis of these documents is fascinating and helps us to understand a little more about medieval life in Scotland, and the Cumbernauld area. Cumbernauld Castle is thought to have been an impressive structure with a rich history, and we hope to learn even more about the predecessor of Cumbernauld House in the near future”.
The charter collection is contributing to a project currently underway at the St Andrews Institute of Scottish Historical Research looking into the impact of the Flemish people on Scotland. Further details of the charter discovery, and more information on the Scotland and the Flemish People project, can be found online at http://flemish.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk.