This estate, which includes the farm of Patervan (1695 acres), lies along the north side of the Polmood burn, which runs to the Tweed down a deep narrow glen, and is bounded on the north by Stanhope, on the south by Hearthstane (Tweedsmuir), and on the west by Kingledoors.
Tradition records that King Malcolm Canmore, in or about 1057, gave to Norman Hunter the lands of Polmood, and in proof of this the fantastic rhyming charter so well known in connection with the origin of this family is quoted
'I, Malcolm Kenmure, King, the first of my reign, gives to thee, Norman Hunter of Powmood, the Hope, up and down, above the earth to heaven, and below the earth to hell, as free to thee and thine as ever God gave it to me and mine, and that for a bow and a broad arrow, when I come to hunt in Yarrow; and for the mair suith I byte the white wax with my tooth, before thir witnesses three, May, Maud and Marjorie.'
This is as Pennecuik (1715) gives it, who had it from the proprietor as the original charter of the lands, and says 'The broad arrow is still in the house, and the bow has been seen by several persons.' A copy of a similar charter, with variations, is reproduced. It belongs to Miss Mitchell Thomson, and is said to have been made in 1790 by Thomas Hunter, but who he was or from what document the copy was made, there is no record to show. On the face of it the charter is an absurdity, and manufactured to uphold a family tradition. Yet there is no reason to throw aside the tradition itself, as it is quite a probability that Polmood may have been given by one of the early Scottish kings for some signal service to one of his hunters called Norman. The difficulty is that the lands in that case would be a Crown gift, and the transmissions would appear in the Register of the Great Seal, whereas there are no such records, and the earliest reference to Polmood shows that in the fifteenth century it was part of the barony of Oliver Castle, and held of the Flemings and afterwards of the Hays of Yester as superiors. Before the Flemings that barony was a possession of the Frasers of Oliver from the twelfth century. How it was acquired is not known, but it is not impossible that when the grant was made, the Hunters were in possession of Polmood, and in consequence became vassals of the Frasers. Certain it is that the Hunters are the only known possessors in early history.
The earliest notice occurs in 1439, when, on 14th August, WALTER HUNTER OF 'POLEMOOD' was a witness at Mossfennan to a charter, and the next is in 1470 when Robert, Lord Fleming, made over his superiority of Polmood, with other lands, by way of excambion to Sir David Hay, father of John, first Lord Hay of Yester. Of these, Sir David Hay had a Crown charter on 12th July, 1470 . There is an attestation in writing on 15th May, 1474, on the occasion of the service of James Hunter to the lands of 'Polmude,' by Robert, Lord Fleming, as he was unable to be personally present, that Walter Hunter of Polmood up to the time of his decease held his lands of Polmood of the Baron of Oliver Castle, ward and relief, and that the said lands had been in the hands of 'Fleming's gransser and fader' from the decease of the father till the entry of the said Walter.
EDWARD 'HOWNTER DE POLMO' served on the jury at Peebles on 22nd December, 1479, for the retour of John Govan of Easter Hopkailzie. There is an entry in the Acta Auditorum for December, 1475, showing that Edward Hunter of Polmood had summoned both Sir David Hay of Yester and his son John the Hay of Oliver Castle to determine which was chief baron of Oliver Castle, but he did not appear to prosecute his claim. This Edward Hunter was killed about 1502 by Gilbert Tweedie.
He was succeeded by WALTER HUNTER, who gave his bond of manrent to John, first Lord Hay of Yester and Baron of Oliver Castle, his overlord, on 6th April, 1502, following upon which and a resignation of his lands he was infeft in them on 26th April of that year on a precept from Lord Hay; and when the second lord fell at Flodden, he sat on the jury in Peebles on 11th May, 1519, which served his son as heir to him in some Temple lands. Walter Hunter had a wadset from Patrick Dickson about 1523 of the lands of Quarter and part of Glencotho, but he assigned his right to Malcolm, Lord Fleming, who redeemed them. He was among the friends and dependants who were taken under the royal protection in 1536 when Lord Fleming was sent on embassage to France in connection with the marriage of King James V. He married Janet Lauder, who as his widow in 1551 had as part of her terce certain soums of the lands of Glenumphard or Badlieu, which was also a possession of the Hunters at this time, and of which the Tweedies of Drumelzier were the superiors.
On 17th March, 1549, ROBERT HUNTER OF POLMOOD, called son and heir of Walter Hunter, younger of Polmood, was infeft in the 4 merk land of Glenumphard on a precept by James Tweedie of Drumelzier, under reservation of the liferent of Janet Dalmahoy, which shows that the first-mentioned Walter had a son of the same name, whose wife this Janet Dalmahoy may have been, and a grandson Robert, who had succeeded to Polmood. This Robert in July, 1552, had a gift from John, Lord Hay of Yester, of the fines due by James Tweedie of Drumelzier for absenting himself from the sheriff courts, but under reservation to the granter of half of the composition received, and to the other members of court of what was due to them. How much he obtained, if anything, does not appear, but it is on record that on 12th July he went to James Tweedie, when they were both at Neidpath, and required of him the fulfilment of an agreement between their deceased predecessors, to which he had only the reply that time and place were not convenient. In July, 1555, he married Katherine Hay (probably of the Smithfield family), for which he had a dispensation from John, Archbishop of St. Andrews, and in view of this marriage made resignation of Polmood at the Castle of Neidpath in the hands of his superior, receiving a new infeftment thereof to himself and his spouse. Similarly he dealt with the lands of Glenumphard; and on 5th March, 1555-6, Thomas Hay of Smithfield and Janet Scott, his mother, acknowledged that the terms of the marriage contract had been fulfilled.
In May, 1558, Sir John Allan took out lawburrows against Robert Hunter, who in January, 1559-60, also came into collision with the burgh bailies, John Dickson, younger of Winkston, and Ronald Scott; he refused them as judges, and on St. Thomas's Day last, used disorderly language to Dickson in the execution of his office, and for this he was tried by an assize and fined. He had also a litigation with the tenants of Glenumphard from December, 1565, until April, 1566, regarding certain 'dawarkis' (day services) claimed by him from them, which also seem to have been claimed by Drumelzier. Hunter took the case to the bailies of Peebles, and Drumelzier demanded that the tenants be repledged to his baron court, but Hunter declared that William Tweedie of Drumelzier had threatened his life if he appeared there. Replegiation was refused, and after parole evidence had been heard, the decision as to the rents and carriages due to Robert Hunter was referred to John Hay, Tutor of Smithfield, and William Veitch of Kingside.
Robert Hunter had also dealings with the Hunters of Duddingflat in the parish of Broughton, who seem to have been related. In November, 1557, Matthew Hunter, grandson of the deceased John Hunter of Duddingflat, was infeft in Duddingflat as his grandfather's heir, and he then resigned it in favour of his cousin William, to whom thereupon sasine was given, under a deed of reversion. To this reversion Matthew gave an assignation in the following June to Robert Hunter of Polmood, but in November of 1558 he went through the same process as in 1557, William Hunter being described as 'in Langlandhill.' Robert Hunter, who acted as a witness on both these occasions, in 1561, on receipt of a sum of money, resigned his right to the reversion, and Matthew and William then appear to have changed lands, for William is styled 'of Duddingflat,' while Matthew is designed 'in Langlandhill.' William Hunter may have been the son of John Hunter in Scrogs.
Robert Hunter died in 1587. He had a brother John, and at least three sons and one daughter.
MICHAEL HUNTER, son of Robert Hunter of Polmood, was witness to a sasine at Easter Happrew on 4th November, 1586, and was served heir to his father in Polmood on 18th January, 1587-8. He married Helen Scott, and had two sons and two daughters.
NORMAN HUNTER OF POLMOOD was a witness to sasines in August, 1627, and April, 1628, and was a consenting party to the marriage contract of his sister Margaret in 1632, but he must have died very soon afterwards.
ROBERT HUNTER OF POLMOOD, his brother, succeeded, and as laird was admitted a burgess of Peebles on 23rd September, 1633. He was infeft in Polmood on 27th June, 1635. In 1645 he is mentioned as collector for the shire of Peebles, and as an elder in the church of Drumelzier. He had a wadset in 1574 from David Tweedie of his lands of Chapel Kingledoors for 4000 merks, which he assigned to Alexander Williamson, provost of Peebles. He does not appear to have married, but had a natural son, George, born in 1650, to whom on 10th June, 1676, he disponed the lands of Polmood, with remainder to the lawful heirs male of his body. On 7th, March, 1683, he denuded himself of his half of the lands of Glenumphard or Badlieu for a regrant in his favour in liferent, and in favour of the said George, in fee, and sasine at once followed. Robert Hunter died in 1689.
GEORGE HUNTER OF POLMOOD was made a burgess of Peebles on 3rd May, 1677, and succeeded to Polmood on his father's death. He obtained letters of legitimation, married (his wife's name not known), and had two sons, Robert and Archibald, who succeeded in turn to Polmood.
ROBERT HUNTER, as younger of Polmood, was a witness in April, 1718, to the marriage contract of Alexander Murray of Cringletie. He married Veronica Murray, daughter of Sir David Murray of Stanhope, and inherited Polmood in 1721. On 25th January, 1729, he appears as laird of Polmood, witnessing a disposition by William, Earl of March, at Broughton. He lived till 1744, and died without issue, being succeeded by his brother.
ARCHIBALD HUNTER OF POLMOOD, who is styled second son of George Hunter of Polmood, was the subject of a charge of horning by James Burnet of Barns for a debt on 13th December, 1721. He was served heir to his brother Robert on 26th January, 1747, and 1st March, 1748. He married (the name of his wife has not been ascertained) and died in 1752 leaving one son Thomas who was nine years old.
THOMAS HUNTER OF POLMOOD, the last of the old line, was left by his father under the charge of three tutors, 'Lady Polmood' (Veronica Murray, widow of Robert Hunter of Polmood), Alexander Hunter, merchant in Edinburgh, and his son James. These two, Alexander and James, were creditors on the estate; they were not related, in any degree, to the Hunters of Polmood, and in view of their appointment Lady Polmood declined to act. In 1758, Thomas Hunter was served heir to his father Archibald, and the same year he chose as his curators the above-named Alexander Hunter, and a writer in Edinburgh named Deuchars. Shortly thereafter he granted a deed, with consent of his curators, conveying the estates, failing heirs of his own, to the said James Hunter, the son of Alexander. From this deed the signature of Thomas was afterwards torn, whether by accident or design is not known; but when he came of age in 1764 he executed a memorandum (5th December) in which he confirmed the provisions of the deed, and stated that the tearing of his signature was accidental. Thomas Hunter was bred to the law, and apprenticed to a Writer to the Signet. But he was in bad health, and contracted a serious illness, and on 28th January, 1765, executed another deed bequeathing his property to James Hunter and his heirs, whom failing to Alexander (the father of James) and his heirs. Of this illness he died on 20th March, 1765, within sixty days of the granting of the deed. He was predeceased by James Hunter, and the property accordingly passed to Alexander. This state of matters undoubtedly excited the interest of the countryside, and fifteen years afterwards the famous Hunter lawsuit began of which an account will follow.
ALEXANDER HUNTER OF POLMOOD died on 22nd January, 1786, succeeded by his nephew, Walter, the son of William Hunter, a farmer and brewer at Straiton near Edinburgh. He was served heir to his uncle on 8th March, 1787, this service including the lands of Wrae in Glenholm, and again on 6th September, 1787, on which date he was a surgeon in the artillery at Guadeloupe. He married Lady Caroline Mackenzie, fourth daughter of George, Earl of Cromartie, and dying on 15th January, 1796, left Polmood, etc., and also Crailing in Roxburghshire, to his eldest daughter, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH HUNTER was born on 9th May, 1775, and married in 1792, at Crailing House, James Ochoncar, eighteenth Lord Forbes, and died on 11th October, 1830, succeeded by her eldest son, James.
JAMES, MASTER OF FORBES, born in 1796, was a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Coldstream Guards at Bayonne and Waterloo, and died with out issue in 1835, succeeded by his brother Walter.
WALTER HUNTER, nineteenth Lord Forbes, born 1798, entered the navy, but subsequently joined the Coldstream Guards, and served at Waterloo in command of a company of that regiment in the defence of Hougomont. He was served as heir to his brother on 5th August, 1835, and on 1st September had a precept of clare constat from the Earl of Wemyss, the superior of Polmood. In 1847 he sold his Peeblesshire lands - Wrae to Thomas Tweedie of Quarter, and Polmood, which included Badlieu and Tweedhopefoot, for £6600 to Houston Mitchell, formerly of Maitland, New South Wales, and then of Trinity Lodge, Edinburgh.
THE HUNTER CASE
In 1780 Adam Hunter, tenant of Altarstone - with the assistance of friends, for he was himself poor-took out a brieve to serve himself as heir of line and provision to Thomas Hunter of Polmood, the last of the old line He led evidence which satisfied the jury, and in 1781 he brought an action to reduce the deed by Thomas to Alexander Hunter, on the ground that it had been granted on deathbed. That action failed (22nd November, 1781), because it was held that his own service was bad. Adam, thereupon, applied for another brieve to serve himself as heir of Robert Hunter, the father of George (illegitimate), using the same links. Alexander Hunter opposed, and showed that the pedigree was wrong, as Adam claimed to be descended from William Hunter, a brother of Robert, whereas Robert had no such brother. That brieve was accordingly abandoned, but the case was not at an end. In 1802 Adam Hunter appeared on the scene again; he had left Altarstone, and was then residing at Slateford near Edinburgh, and he had been spending the interval in going carefully into his family history. The Kirk Session records, the Sheriff Court books of Peebles, the public registers, and the rental books of the Tweedsmuir estates, had all been laboriously searched; and the result was that he now came forward, claiming on a different and a more elaborate pedigree.
He had ascertained that his great-grandfather was not William, but John, and he now claimed to be the son of William, who was the second son of James (Old Shank), who was the son of John, who was the son of Walter, who was the son of James, who was the son of Robert of Polmood and brother of Michael of Polmood, which Michael was the father of Robert of Polmood, who was the father of the illegitimate George. Proof in this service was taken before a jury at Peebles, and it was granted. There was no opposition. Again Adam Hunter raised an action of reduction, this time against Lady Forbes (Elizabeth Hunter) and her husband, who replied with a counter action for reduction of the service. And again (14th May, 1805) the service was held to be bad, this time, however, on purely technical grounds that the evidence had not been properly placed before the jury, and the Lord Ordinary indicated that a new service might be advocated before the macers. And so, for the third time, Adam failed.
Next year (1806) a new claimant appears - John Taylor, residing at Wanlockhead. He died shortly afterwards, and for a few years no further steps were taken.
In 1810 Adam Hunter, acting on the hint given by the Lord Ordinary in the previous action, took out a new service. He claimed as before, but his claim was now a three-fold one as the pedigree shows (1) that Robert Hunter (father of the illegitimate George) was a son of the brother of the claimant's great-grandfather's grandfather; (2) that Robert Hunter was a son of the brother of the claimant's grandmother's great-grandfather; and (3) that Robert Hunter was a brother of the claimant's great-grandmother.
ADAM HUNTER'S DESCENT
[Pedigree included in book]
But John Taylor's son, Robert, tenant at Castle of Sanquhar, also put forward a claim, and his pedigree is also reproduced.
ROBERT TAYLOR'S DESCENT
[Pedigree included in book]
These two claims were heard together, and elaborate and tiresome pleadings were lodged, extending to over 300 quarto pages of print.
In Adam Hunter's pedigree interest centred chiefly in his grandfather James, who was known as Old Shank. It was said that he had previously been tenant of Fingland, that he was a Cameronian and attended the field meetings, that during the persecution he had to leave Tweedsmuir, that he then lived in a place called Shank, and afterwards returned to Tweedsmuir, where he built himself a house between Carterhope and Fruid and died in 1721. Old Shank had four sons:
Taylor claimed through an Isobel Hunter, a child of Robert Hunter - known as Uncle Robert - who was said to be a great-great-grandson of Robert Hunter of Polmood (who died in 1587). Uncle Robert was born in 1651, and married Mary, daughter of Mr. Patrick Fleming, minister of Stobo; he was tenant of Craig Kingledoors and Hearthstanes, but was turned out of these places because he refused to conform to prelacy. Afterwards in Stanhope for a time, he went to Abington, and spent his later years at Polmood and Hearthstane. His sister Margaret married David Tweedie of Chapel Kingledoors; and another of his sisters, Marion, married David Tweedie's brother Alexander. His niece Margaret Tweedie occupied Hearthstane - the 'gudewife o' Herstanes' - and looked after him in his declining years; she was twice married, to a Murray and then to a Welsh.
Uncle Robert, it was claimed, was on intimate relations with the Polmood family. It was said that he prevented by force the laird from joining the Jacobite rising of 1715, and that on his death Lady Polmood 'made and helped on his dead clothes.' A wonderful dog belonged to him, called Algiers, who ran errands for his master even to Edinburgh and back, swam the Tweed and brought back tobacco from the Crook, and, when his master was at Woodend, went to Lamington, three miles away, for snuff, with the money tied in a napkin round his neck. From this remarkable animal a fleece was cut every year, sufficient to make a pair of stockings. Uncle Robert died at Hearthstane in 1733. His daughter Isobel married John Taylor, a miner - 'Old John' he was called, for it was said that he was 130 when he died.
To the proceedings for the service of Adam Hunter and Robert Taylor, Lady Forbes objected, but unsuccessfully, because she did not and could not make any claim herself to be heir at law of Robert Hunter. The assessors to the service were Lords Meadowbank, Newton and Robertson, and of the jury of fifteen appointed to consider the evidence, seven were nominated by Hunter, seven by Taylor, and one by the assessors. The jury were composed of seven advocates and eight writers to the signet. After hearing evidence, the claim put forward by Taylor was rejected, and with regard to Hunter's three-fold claim, the first was sustained by 12 to 3, the second by 11 to 4, and the third was rejected by 9 to 6.
And then, for the third time, Adam Hunter, now over eighty years of age, brought an action in 1811 to reduce the title to Polmood by which Lady Forbes held, claiming on the law of deathbed, and also on the clause of return in the entail by Robert Hunter to the illegitimate George. But that claim was never investigated by the Court, for Lady Forbes again brought a counter action that his service was not valid, as the proof of the different links, although it had satisfied the jury, was not sufficient; and she contended that her action must be dealt with before the question of reduction of title was discussed. This contention was upheld on 8th July, 1812, when the Second Division of the Court of Session decided by a majority (Lord Roberson dissenting) :
'that the discussion of Lady Forbes' process of reduction of Adam Hunter's service is preliminary to his challenge of Lady Forbes' title under which she is in possession.'
Possession in this case was truly nine parts of the law. Again elaborate pleadings were lodged by Adam Hunter in defence of his service, and these were replied to at great length by Lady Forbes. There is no doubt that the information which had previously been prepared by Robert Taylor in support of his own pedigree and in criticism of Hunter's was a material advantage to Lady Forbes in preparing her own case. Hunter's weak link was Old Shank: it was suggested that he was illegitimate, or at any rate that although John Hunter had undoubtedly a son James, who was in Fingland, it had not been proved that he was Old Shank; and what told rather heavily against Hunter was that in his first brieve for service he had claimed that Old Shank's father was William, and not John, a claim which had been supported by the sworn testimony of half-a-dozen witnesses.
On 18th January, 1814, the Court reduced the service. Hunter appealed to the Second Division, and they on 5th July adhered, and by a majority refused the appeal. Lord Bannatyne was in Hunter's favour, but he was the only one; Lord Robertson was against; the Lord Justice Clerk, although he had doubts, thought that James Hunter, the son of John, had not been identified as Old Shank; and Lord Meadowbank was plainly influenced by Hunter's first service. That was the end of the story. Lady Forbes remained in possession on a title, which was undoubtedly questionable, but which by that time had been fortified by prescription. No other claimant, after Adam Hunter, could come forward.
MITCHELL OF POLMOOD
As we have seen Houston Mitchell purchased Polmood (along with Badlieu and Tweedhopefoot) in 1847. He erected a new dwelling-house at Polmood, and in 1873 acquired the lands of Glenbreck. In 1877 he executed a disposition and deed of entail to Livingstone Frederick Mann, his grand-nephew, and others, but by a codicil made the following year he appointed his nephew, Richard Blunt Mitchell, as institute of entail.
Richard Blunt Mitchell disentailed the lands in 1883, and in 1887 acquired from James Tweedie of Quarter a small part of the lands of Kingledoors (.313 acres) to serve as an access to Polmood House from the highroad. Glenbreck, Badlieu and Tweedhopefoot he sold in 1889, and in 1894 he sold Polmood itself to Mitchell Thomson, afterwards Sir Mitchell Thomson, Baronet, Lord Provost of Edinburgh.
In 1917 Sir Mitchell Thomson sold Polmood to the present proprietor, Sir William Milligan, an eminent surgeon in Manchester.
The present rental is £361 15s. 6d.
This information is reproduced from A History of Peeblesshire by J. W. Buchan and Rev. H. Paton, published in three volumes between 1925-7 by Jackson, Wylie and Co. of Glasgow. The original book includes many refences to the sources of the information, pedigrees and plates.
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