George Chalmers writes in A Historical and Topographical Account of North Britain from the Most Ancient to the Present Times with a Dictionary of Places Chorogeaphioal and Philological (A.D. 1888, Vol.3 p.170) that: David II granted a confirmation to Walter Turnbull, of the lands of Mintow… On the summit of Minto Craigs stood a square tower, the old baronial strength, whereof Grose has given a view in his book The Antiquities of Scotland Volume 1 138.
Chronology of Minto Estate ownership:
Walter Turnbull receives charter from David II 1375
John Turnbull of Minto, called Out with the Sword grants the lands to Sir William Stewart and is said to have gone to France afterwards to fight the English 1390
John’s successor disputes the validity of the grant on the ground of John being a leper. Inquisition at Rulemouth and the lands are divided, the Turnbulls getting two-thirds and the Stewarts one-third (1453)
Minto remained in the Turnbull family until John Turnbull of Minto, the last laird, parted with it in 1673.
The estate next belonged successively to Walter Scott of Harwood, Walter Riddell, Thomas Rutherford, the Earl of Tarras (Walter Scott of Highchester), Gideon Scott of Highchester until it was sold to Gilbert Elliot in 1634.
Additional details of the early history follow. For the full story read The Border Elliots and the Family of Minto by The Hon. George F. S.Elliot Edinburgh 1897, 125 copies privately printed available here from Google Books.
The Border Elliots and the Family of Minto by The Hon. George F. S.Elliot Edinburgh 1897
MlINTO AND ITS EARLIER PROPRIETORS
Before proceeding to give an account or the first Sir Gilbert Elliot's successors, it may not be amiss to say something of the previous history 0£ the property which became the sea.t of the family he founded.
Minto, when purchased by him, was an estate of much less extent than it is now, being bounded by Barhnills Glen on the east, and the Minister's Burn on the west. It included, however, the Hills and the Kaims. From an early period it belonged to one of the many families of Turnbulls, who were settled in that part of the country. Walter Turnbull obtained a charter of confirmation of the lands of Minto from David II. (1329-1370), and from that time down to hear the end of the seventeenth century the Turnbulls continued lairds of Minto. There is a curious history relating to the property, which led to there being for several centuries two sets of lairds of Minto, bearing different surnames. It happened in this way.
John Turnbull of Minto, who was called Out with the sword made a grant of the lands and barony of Minto to Sir William Stewart of Jedworth, 'nepoti suo ' (which may mean either his nephew or his grandson), and this was confirmed by a royal charter, dated 4th January 1390-1. Both Sir William and Out with the sword were taken prisoners by the English at the battle of Fulhoplaw in 1399, and Henry IV forbade their being released or ransomed.1 When, however, ' Out with the sword ' regained his liberty, he is 88.id to have gone over to France, like many more of KLV countrymen, to serve against the English in the wars there. It is certain that some Turnbulls did serve in France, and the arms of the family of Tournebulle, established in Champagne, are given by the French heralds. Sir John Turnbull is named by Holinshed among the Scots killed at the battle of Crevant in 1423, and also among those taken prisoners at the battle of Verneuil in the following year, which statements cannot both be true ; but whether Turnbull of Minto, who is never styled 'Sir John,' could here be meant seems more than doubtful. It has been supposed, however, that it was on a report of Turnbull's death at Crevant being received that his son took proceedings against Sir William. Stewart of Dalswinton, grandson of Sir William of Jedworth, to set aside the grant to the latter.
The ground on which Walter Turnbull of Minto, the son of 'Out with the sword,' disputed the validity of the alienation to Sir William Stewart of Jedworth, was that his father, when he made it, was a leper, and that by the law of Scotland, as it then stood, a person suffering from leprosy was incapable of making any valid disposition of land. In the course of the litigation between the parties interested, an Inquisition as to the alleged leprosy of the late John Turnbull of Minto was directed to be held. Accordingly, on the 5th of March 1425-6 nineteen gentlemen (nobiles et conspecti viri), named for the purpose, met in the chapel of the Hospital of Rulemouth to conduct the inquiry, and they found, on their oaths, that the said John Turnbull, at the time he entered into the contract with Sir William Stewart, was a leper, as he was publicly held to be in these parts, and had been so for seven years previously. The notarial instrument relating to this Inquisition will be found in Appendix No. XL., and it is interesting, not only from the nature of the inquiry, but as containing the earliest mention of an Elliot on the Scottish Border (see ante, p. 19).
This finding of the Inquisition did not put an end to the dispute. It appears from another notarial instrument in Lord Minto's charterchest, dated 23rd April 1429, that on that day, at Minto, it was attempted by a precept of seisin to invest Sir William Stewart of Dalswinton in the lands of Minto ; and that these proceedings were. interrupted by Walter Turnbull, who declared the hereditary seisin then granted to Sir William Stewart null and void, as he himself was the true heir and legal baron of Minto (Genealogy of the Stewarts refuted, p. 46). After further litigation a compromise was come to in 1438 between Sir William Stewart of Dalswinton, the grandson of Sir William Stewart of Jedworth, on the one part, and William Turnbull, the son of Walter Turnbull, and grandson of Out with the sword, on the other part, by which it was agreed that the lands should be divided between them. The respective shares of these two parties were definitely settled fifteen years later (in 1453), when a perambulation or division of the lands of Minto was made, under the direction of the Sheriff of Roxburghshire, according to which a third part of the lands and the superiority of the whole. was assigned to Sir William Stewart, and the remaining two-thirds to William Turnbull. The third part given to Sir William Stewart consisted of Craigend and Deanfoot, while the 'town ' and demesne lands of Minto, together with the Kaims, remained with William Turnbull. In these shares the property continued to be held by the two families for many generations, and the Stewarts, who held the superiority, were called 'Lairds of Minto ' as well as the Turnbulls. But they never resided there, and their history lies quite apart from the Border.
The Stewarts of Minto, who, as we have seen, descended from Sir William Stewart of Dalswinton, were a family of some note, and their names are not unfrequently met with in history, but chiefly in connection with the west of Scotland. Originally they possessed other lands in Roxburghshire besides Minto (namely, Morebattle and Sunlaws), but having acquired property in Lanarkshire, they appear to have taken up their residence there. More than one of these Stewarts of Minto became Provost of Glasgow, and the office of Bailie-Depute of the Regality of that town was hereditary in the family under the Duke of Lennox.
The burial-place of the family was in Glasgow Cathedral, where this inscription may still be read: "Heir ar Bureit Sr. Waltir Sr. Jhone Sr. Robert Sr. Jhone and Sr. Mathieu by lineal descent to utheris Baron and Knichis of the Hous of Mynto. W I Theeir Vyffis Bairnis and Bretherein."
In the beginning of the seventeenth century the family began to decline, and Sir Walter Stewart, the then laird, parted with KLV Minto property. Their fortunes fell lower and lower, and Sir John, the last of the Stewarts of Minto, was reduced to such penury that he was maintained by Lord Blantyre, who was his kinsman, and belonged to a younger branch of the family. Sir John went to Darien in the Scots expedition about 1699, and there, like VR many others who took part in that disastrous enterprise, he died. With KLP ended the direct line of the Stewarts of Minto, who DUH now represented by the younger branch of Blantyre.1
The Turnbulls, on the other hand, always lived at Minto, and were not the least considerable of the Teviotdale lairds. There were many of the name settled in the neighbourhood, and Barnhills, Standhill, and Haesendeanbank, which now form part. of the Minto estate, all belonged to different families of Turnbulls. The Turnbulls of Bedrule.were looked upon as the heads of the surname, but to judge by the frequency with which the name of Turnbulls of Minto appears in Border transactions, the latter were not inferior to them in importance..
The clan was both numerous and disorderly, and the name of Turnbull figures largely in the criminal records. On one memorable occasion James IV rode to Rule Water to punish the "broken men" there, and the principal Turnbulls made their submission, coming before him in linen sheets with withies about their necks, and "put themselves in the King's will," as it was termed.
The division 0£ the lands of Minto between the Stewarts and the Turnbulls, in the shares marked out by the Sheriff in 1458, continued for nearly two hundred years. Ultimately they were united in the person of Thomas Turnbull of Minto. This was effected by a series of transactions, to which Sir Walter Stewart of Minto, Walter Lord Blantyre, and Alexander Lord Garlies, afterwards Earl of Galloway, were parties on the one side, and the said Thomas Turnbull and his son John on the other, beginning with a contract, dated 17th August 1613, and ending with a charter under the Great Seal, dated 1st August 1627, by which the whole lands, as well the two parts as the third, together with the superiority, became vested in the said Thomas Turnbull for life, with remainder to his son John and the heirs-male of his body.
Thomas Turnbull died soon after these proceedings were completed, but the property did not long remain united. He was succeeded as laird of Minto by his son John. This John Turnbull had, as already mentioned (ante, p. 258), married Elizabeth Elliot, a daughter of "Gibbie wi" the gowden garters,' and in November 1634 he, with the consent of Elizabeth Elliot his spouse, made a disposition of the lands of Craigend and Deanfoot, which had formerly been the Stewart portion, in favour of Mr. Gilbert Elliot, his wife's brother, which was confirmed by a Crown charter dated 16th March 1638. John Turnbull died in 1641, and was succeeded by his son John, then a minor, who was the last Turnbull of Minto. In 1673 this John, with consent of Rachel Inglis his spouse, made a disposition of the lands and barony of Minto, excepting the third part already alienated in favour of Walter Scott of Harwood and his son Robert; and then Minto passed away from the family which had held it from the fourteenth century.
During the thirty years that elapsed between the sale of Minto by John Turnbull and its purchase by Sir Gilbert Elliot, there were no less than five intermediate proprietors. These were:
Walter Scott of Harwood, already mentioned, who retained it only from 1673 to 1676.
Walter Riddell, a writer LQ Edinburgh, second son of Walter Riddell of Newhouse. He acquired the property from Scott in 1676, and likewise only retained it for a few years. Jean, the eldest daughter of Riddell of Minto, married Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton, the first baronet, and was the mother of "Annie Laurie," whose name is still familiar to us from the song of which she is the subject. Annie Laurie was celebrated for her beauty, and Mr. Douglas of Fingland composed the verses in her honour, which, being afterwards set to music by Lady John Scott, took a place among the favourite songs of Scotland. But in spite of the devotion and poetry of her lover, and forgetting the "promise true" she had made him, Annie threw him over and married Mr. Ferguson of Craigdarroch.
Thomas Rutherford, brother of John Rutherford of Edgerston, in whose favour Riddell made a disposition of the property, dated Uh June 1683, and died soon afterwards. Thomas Rutherford had married Susannah, second daughter of Riddell by his first wife, but Riddell's other children disputed the disposition, and Thomas does not appear to have taken. possession. In the following year he parled with his interest in the property.
Walter Scott, Earl of Tarras, was the next proprietor. Thomas Rutherford made a disposition of the barony and lands, dated 22nd July 1684, in favour of John Richardson, advocate, the ostensible purchaser, who was, however, here, and in the subsequent proceedings, acting as the agent and representative of Lord Tarras. Richardson took legal proceedings against the son and daughters of Walter Riddell in order to establish his title, and ultimately obtained a charter under the Great Seal, dated 22nd July 1685.
All the preceding dealings with the property, from 1673 downwards, had reference only to the two parts and did not include Craigend and Deanfoot, but in 1687 all the lands were once more united. In that year the name of the Earl of Tarras appears for the first time in the titles. By a contract of alienation dated 4th February 1687, John Richardson, with the consent of the daughters of the deceased Walter Riddell, sold and disposed to him the lands and barony of Minto, excepting the lands of Craigend and Deanfoot; and about the same time, or soon after, Mr. Gilbert Elliot of Craigend made a disposition of the last-named lands in favour of the Earl of Tarras, who thus became proprietor of the whole property.
Lord Tarras was engaged in the project for a rising in Scotland in 1683, which was promoted by Argyle, and in which Sir Gilbert Elliot took an active part, and some account has already been given of his political conduct. A few words may be added regarding his family.
Walter Scott, afterwards Earl of Tarras, was the eldest son of Sir Gideon Scott of Highchester, second son of Sir William Scott of Harden. On 9th February 1659 he was married to Mary, Countess of Buccleuch, the greatest heiress then in Scotland, she being then in her eleventh year and he in his fourteenth. On account of this great marriage he was, in the following year, created Earl of Tarras, Lord Alemoor and Campcastell, for his life only. His young bride died 12th March 1661 without issue, when her titles and estates devolved upon her sister Anne, afterwards Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth. Lord Tarras married secondly, in 1677, Helen, eldest daughter of Thomas Hepburn of Humbie, by whom he had issue three sons and three daughters. Gideon Scott, the eldest son, succeeded KLV father in Highchester and Minto in 1698. Walter, the second son, on the death of Gideon's son in 1734, succeeded to Harden as well as Highchester, and is the ancestor of the present Lord Polwarth.
Lord Tarras, as we have seen, when he made the purchase of Minto did so in the name of another, and he had good reasons for this mode of proceeding. He had been engaged in a treasonable conspiracy which might at any moment lead to his forfeiture, as in fact it did. But the property being held in another's name it escaped forfeiture, and it was only after he had received a remission that it was thought safe to vest it in his own name.
A memorial of Lord Tarras still exists at Minto. There is an old stone built into a wall of the modem farm buildings at the Cleughhead, which bears the inscription here shown, which is to be read "Earl Walter Tarras," "Countess Helen Tarras." A stone with a precisely similar inscription, except that the date is 1691 instead of 1692, is found at Harden, where Lord Tarras lived.
The upper letters, it will be observed, indicate the rank or title, the lower ones the initials of the na.me, and there is an inscription on the same plan on a stone over the stable-door at Standhill The first group of letters stands for "Captain Robert Turnbull," the laird of Standhill in 1735, who was Lieutenant-Governor of Dumbarton Castle. In the second group "HH" are the initials of his wife's name, whatever it may have been, and the "M" stands for "Madam" or "Mistress."
Forty-five years after Lord Tarras's death, his second daughter, Agnes Scott, found her way to Minto in so destitute a condition that the minister was moved to give her 2s. Scots; which sum was duly refunded to KLP by the Kirk-Session.
Gideon Scott of Highchester, the eldest son of Lord Tarras, having succeeded his father in 1693, obtained a charter under the Great Seal of the lands and barony of Minto Craigend and Deanfoot, and other lands therein specified, DOO which are erected into a Cree. barony, and the town of Minto is erected into a free burgh of barony. This charter.is dated 8th February 1695.' By a deed dated 29th May 1703, Gideon Scott made a disposition of the said lands and barony in favour of 'Sir Gilbert Elliot of Headshaw ' and his heirs, which was confirmed by a charter under the Great Seal dated 4th August 1704. This charter, together with the previous charter to Gideon Scott, was ratified in Parliament, 14th September 1705.
Sir Gilbert Elliot, after he had acquired Minto, was designated as of that place instead of as "of Headshaw," which was the first property he purchased. By a later charter in favour of Sir Gilbert and his son Gilbert, dated 30th April 1706, and ratified in Parliament 1707, the lands and barony of Headshaw, the lands of Langhope, the lands and barony of Minto and Craigend, were united into one barony, to be called the barony of Minto.
For the full story read The Border Elliots and the Family of Minto by The Hon. George F. S.Elliot Edinburgh 1897, 125 copies privately printed available here from Google Books.