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Ancient Condition of the Parish in 1160

Brief History of the area

see Timeline

Researched by Robert Murray for

December 2004

The following article is part of a larger treatise based on study of Registers and Deeds from the Chartulary of Newbotil - more often referred to as Newbottle or Newbattle - by the eminent Airdrie historian

John McArthur and written in 1881.

It is followed by Dissolution of the monasteries

"It would be interesting to know what was the state of the pastoral or agricultural occupation, and general condition of the Monklands, prior to or at the time when these lands became the Abbey property, but no authentic record tending to throw light on the matter is available, and their condition is only to be inferred from data of a somewhat vague and meagre description. It may, however, be concluded that the whole, or very nearly the whole district was then uncultivated, and devoted to flocks and beasts of the chase. The population would therefore be scanty, roads there would be none, save the wandering tracks of the aboriginal inhabitants, or some remains of ancient Roman formation.

Houses and buildings would only be represented by the rude hut or frail tent of the hunter or shepherd, and the solitude would be that of the prairie. Of course the natural features of the country still remain, though the lapse of seven centuries has wrought wonderful changes in all other aspects in this district.

That there was then little or no grain cultivation in the Monklands, and no permanent houses or buildings in 1160 may be inferred from the terms of the Charter of that year, for the usual legal phraseology that any such were then actually on the lands is not made use of - such as, towers, fortalices, manor places, yards, buildings, tofts, crofts, farm granges, mills, multures, etc.

On the other hand, the lands are conveyed to the monks with wood and plain, fields, meadows, pastures, muirs and waters only, thereby pretty clearly denoting the occupation to have been entirely pastoral. Another reason for assuming that this must have been the case is, that the monks, shortly after they obtained possession, went vigorously to work to procure rights of passage and roadway, communicating with their Lanarkshire estates, and to erect thereon buildings and farm granges, and otherwise to put the land where suitable under grain and other crops. These operations they would not have required to originate and carry out so extensively if they had found them ready to their hands.

There is reason to suppose that in the year 1160, and for some time afterwards, portions of the Monklands were covered by such remains of the original Caledonian Forest as the systematic destruction of the Roman armies had spared, for it appears from the Register of the Abbey that the monks constructed large quantities of superior wagons and agricultural implements from the wood of their lands in Clydesdale. These articles were manufactured not only for their own use but for sale and barter with others. Oak was the prevalent timber in the lower parts of the original Forest and best suited for the purposes above mentioned.

The monks engaged in extensive farming operations in this district prior to 1240 - these operations embracing alike the culture of grain and the rearing of horses, cattle, and sheep. They produced great quantities of wool, of which they were exporters to the Continental markets. So much care did the Newbattle monks bestow upon their flocks that their wool had the reputation of being the finest staple of wool imported into the different towns of Europe".

Dissolution of the monasteries

The Act of Supremacy (1534) confirmed the break from Rome, declaring Henry to be the Supreme Head of the Church of England. But the Reformation was far from over. The Protestant Anne Boleyn had the motivation, the power and the intelligence to push reform as far as it would go. She also had the means: Cranmer and Cromwell.

In the Orwellian atmosphere of the Tudor state, Cranmer was the thought, Cromwell the police. Thomas Cromwell combined managerial genius with Machiavellian ruthlessness. The years to 1540 saw his hit squads travel the country, assessing the church's wealth. Once he knew how much to take, he took.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries lasted four years to 1540.

Two thirds of all the land was sold to the laity and the money squandered in vanity wars against France. With the destruction of priceless ecclesiastical treasures it was possibly the greatest act of vandalism in English history but also an act of political genius, creating a vested interest in the Reformation: those now owning monastic lands were unlikely to embrace a return to Catholicism.

But for all the work carried out in his name, Henry was never a Protestant.

Further doctrinal reform was halted by the Act of Six Articles in 1539 and following Cromwell's sudden fall the next year the court hung between religious conservatives and radical reformers with the Reformation stuck in the mud. But on the quiet, Henry's young son,

 Edward V1 , born to Jane Seymour (wife number three), was being educated by Protestants.


V1 was only ten when he became king in 1547 but his two regents accelerated the pace of Protestant reform considerably. The 1539 Act was repealed, priests were permitted to marry - creating another vested interest - and more land was confiscated. Altars and shrines were all removed from churches and the stained glass was smashed.
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