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The Grahams of Edmond Castle

(A more detailed description of the Grahams of Edmond Castle can be downloaded here.)

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Despite the fact that I'm no more related to these Grahams than to any other of my ancestor branches, they are the ones in which I've always had a special interest. Mostly likely because  old Granny kept on about them, about her noble rellies, etc etc, thus encouraging me at a relatively young age. Also, I suppose, because they could be traced (although less extensively than the Boileaus, as it happens) and perhaps because they actually had a real castle. Well, almost a real castle. Mind you, I am much more of a McPherson than a Graham, but they are harder to trace. It's hardly my fault the McPhersons were poor sheep-stealers instead of minor gentry, and thus much less obvious in official records. Looking at Mum, you can believe the sheep-stealing bit...... Ahem. I digress.

The Grahams of Edmond Castle (I'll be really vulgar,  and call them GEC from now on) were a minor branch of the Graham Clan. There is, of course,  a huge amount of information on Grahams in general. There's a Graham Clan web page, a Graham tartan, a Graham this, a Graham that, even a bloody Graham Marquis. The Montrose fellow; I've never met him, although I expect an invitation momentarily.  At any rate, almost nothing of this has anything to do with the GEC. Just the fact that we share the same name doesn't really mean all that much, as the connection is so far back in the mists. About the only tangible connection is the name,  the motto (N'Oublie) and the coat-of-arms (containing the three escallops of the Graham Clan).

Burke's Landed Gentry (the 1937 edition I believe [12]) has a record of the GEC, extending back to Thomas Graham, who married Mary Nicholson in 1715. My personal connection is through my great-grandmother,  Ellen Octavia Graham, who came to New Zealand in 1905 to catch a husband. The pedigree of Thomas Graham is extended a further two generations, via two more Thomases, in the article by THB Graham [2], although no documentation is given and it's not clear where he obtained this information. Still, one might as well accept  it as not, as he was an eminent antiquarian  and clearly knowledgeable about local history. So far, so good, and I've put this pedigree into the web page.

Hence,  the first Graham to whom I can claim a solid connection was probably born around 1630. However, then things get very murky indeed.  Burke [12] claims that the GEC were descended from a branch of the Grahams of Esk, which is likely true, but only in a very generalised sense, as we shall see.

The Border Grahams and the Grahams of Esk

For the few hundred years before the union (i.e., before James VI of Scotland became also James I of England when Elizabeth I died around the end of the 16th century), the border between  England and Scotland (the Marches) was a violent and lawless place, even more so than usual for back then. It was the time of the Border Reivers , a group of clans so beloved by poets and writers in much the same way that the Wild West of the U.S.A. is worshipped in a particularly inappropriate fashion.  There are many books about the Border Reivers, some of which I've quoted in the references below [9, 10, 11]. And they all mention the Grahams. For a very good reason, mind you, in that it was the Grahams and the Armstrongs who were the worst and most numerous offenders, particularly around the latter stages of the 16th century.  The Grahams were concentrated in the western marches, which included the Debateable Lands,  a small area that was neither clearly Scottish nor clearly English [5, 6], and were a brutal bunch, specialising in cattle thieving, murder, arson, and blackmail. Apparently, the word blackmail dates from this time. In many ways (as THB Graham points out) the history of the debateable lands in the west marches was a history of the Grahams, although, for obvious reasons, he was most likely just a little biased. The tale of how the Border Grahams were broken up in the early 1600s is told elsewhere in detail [10], and it's not pretty. Their treatment was brutal even by the standards of the day, but one can see why, I suppose. Once there was no border any longer, the government just couldn't tolerate semi-independent crowds of lawless outlaws running things their own way. The Border Reivers were doomed, one way or another. The Grahams of Esk essentially disappeared, only to be resurrected by later Grahams who established the Netherby and Norton-Conyers branches later that century, an interesting story in itself.

There seems little doubt that the GEC were a part of, possibly closely related to, these border Grahams. Unfortunately for the genealogist, there were a lot of them, making it almost impossible to trace direct descent. Following THB Graham [6]: The banks of the Line from Solport to its junction with the Esk were held by the Grahams of the Leven "great riders and ill-doers to both the realms", with such eminent and respectable personages as Dick Graham alias "Black Dick", Dick Graham of the Woods, John Graham of Westlinton, Richard Graham of Randilinton, and George Graham alias "Parsell's Gorth" who was murdered. Another great clan of Grahams, the Grahams of the Esk, occupied the banks of that river from its junction with the Liddell down to the sea, while the Grahams of the Sark, surprise surprise, lived along the river Sark.

Only the pedigree of the Grahams of Esk is less than completely opaque. By tradition, the Grahams of Esk were the descendants of "Lang Will", who was banished from Scotland around 1516. Lang Will seems to have come originally from the Mosskeswra barony in the parish of Hutton, in Dumfriesshire, and moved to Cumberland under pressure of circumstance. This would make him a descendant of the older branch of the Grahams, and unrelated to the Menteith and Montrose branches, as later claimed (more on this later). In 1596, Lord Burghley wrote a pedigree of the Grahams of Esk, which is reproduced in [7]. In this pedigree it was claimed that William Grame, alias Longe Will,  was banished out of Scotland "about 80 yeires since". However, on May 16th, 1537, a petition was presented to Henry VIII by Arthur Graham of Canobie, the second son of Lang Will, in which he and his brethren claimed that their father has "dwelt on Esk for sixty years" [6]. Personally, since Arthur Graham had a point to prove (that they didn't have to pay rent, but should be allowed to live free) it's not unlikely he exaggerated a little. THB Graham writes elsewhere [8] that, according to documents in his possession (which, I imagine, are now lost for good), Lang Will (William Graham of Arturet) was given lands around the Esk "by indenture dated April 13, in the 29th year (1538) under seal of the Duchy of Lancaster" by Henry VIII. Most likely, the grant from Henry VIII was related to the request of 1537, and merely confirmed the situation on the ground. For Lang Will was already mentioned in a document of 1528 (see below), and by 1534 was already well enough known to be appointed as an assessor for England in mediating in an Anglo-Scottish argument [6].  The earliest reference to Grahams in Cumberland was in 1528, in course of some squabble where the Scottish warden burned Netherby, and the Armstrongs and Irwins burned some buildings belonging to Lang Will Graham of Stuble [6]. So, all-in-all, I think it's pretty safe to conclude, with Lord Burghley, that Lang Will, being ejected out of Dumfriesshire, came to Cumberland around 1516, establishing himself and his sons as the local Graham chief [6].

The pedigree of Lang Will, as given by Lord Burghley, is a treat to read [7]. The eight sons were Richard of Netherby, Arthur of Canonby, Fergus of the Mote, John of Medoppe, Thomas of Kirkanders, George of the Fauld, William of Carliell (Carlisle), and Hutchen (base, i.e., illegitimate). Their various offspring are given in greater or lesser detail, with such interspersed notes as ".... if his service hereafter be no better than as yet, the pension might be better bestowed, for he is a daily abettor of evil", "now common spoilers of the Queen's subjects", "their issue a great number", "dwelling inward in England, very good subjects", "divers daughters", and so forth.

As for the antecedents of Lang Will, tradition (and Burke's Peerage) asserts that he was descended from the Menteith branch of the Grahams, but THB Graham [6] knocks this theory down convincingly. If you're interested, read his arguments in the original. They are too long and involved to reproduce here. Suffice to say that it's much more plausible that Lang Will came from Dumfriesshire, descended from a cadet branch of the old Graham branch of Dalkeith and Eskdale. The later claim of a connection to Menteith and Montrose was pretty clearly entirely political, and a later fabrication. No more certain pedigree can be given.

The Grahams of Hayton and Edmond Castle

So, how were the GEC connected to the Grahams of Esk, as Burke claims? We do not know. By 1581 there were already at least 4 Grahams living in Hayton Parish, as attested by a muster roll, dated February 9th, 1581; Thomas Grame (steel coat, cap and spear), Thomas Grame younger (cap and spear), Richard Grame (spear and cap) and Anthony Grame (lance). I cannot believe that all these Grahams were related to the Grahams of Esk, and Long Will. After all, it was only 70 years of so since Lang Will arrived in Cumberland. THB Graham also believes they were an older branch, who had probably been there a while [3]. Then, on June 4th, 1596, a paper entitled "Note of lands in the baronies of Burgh and Gilsland, late the possessions of Leonard Dacre attainted, whereof the Graimes are tenants", listed Edward, Richard, Anthony and Edrus Graime, all of the Manor of Hayton. It seems likely that the recent Graime listing was motivated by the fact that they were recent arrivals, settled there as a result of the incessant border fighting [3]. But apart from that likelihood, there is no indication of a direct relationship between the Hayton Grahams and the Grahams of Esk.

Enter the Grahams of Edmond Castle, first mentioned in 1603 in the household accounts of Lord William Howard (published by the Surtees Society), who paid a small sum to Andrew Graham of Edmond Castle. There seems also to have been another reference in a contemporary account, in which Lord William Howard required William Grame, tenement at Emount Castle,  to pay 8 shillings and 2 capons [2]. The problem, from my point of view, is that there were clearly lots of Grahams of Edmond Castle. Not to mention everywhere else. For instance, much later in the late 1700s, there were at least three different Graham households at Edmond Castle (one at the Castle itself, one at Willie's house, one at Charley Tom's). Earlier parish records from the mid 1600s, as reproduced in [2], are impossible to reconcile without assuming at least two, and probably three different families of Grahams at Edmond Castle, in addition to those at the Castle itself. Thus, there is no guarantee that the earlier Grahams mentioned at Edmond Castle were direct ancestors of the Thomas Graham that is my direct ancestor.

More recent times

Which brings us to the details in Burke and the more recent members of the family.

St. Mary Magdalene church in Hayton, where many of the Grahams of Edmond Castle are buried.
Much is now lost, of course, but there are still extensive legal records in the Carlisle Records Office. I haven’t yet got copies of any of these. However, it’s clear that the GEC were an important local family, including a number of JPs and MPs among their number. One member of the family finally made it to Baronet (Sir James Graham of Kirkstall, an uncle many times removed) but this baronetcy died out after a few generations. (A nice history of the Grahams of Kirkstall was sent to me by a descendant, Simon Graham-Harrison, and can be found here). The rest of the family remained merely landed gentry. In the early 1800s, Thomas Henry Graham was a great benefactor of the Hayton church (St. Mary Magdalene) and school, and was praised fulsomely in plaques in the Hayton church. Apparently Thomas Henry was excessively devout, and even had built another house right next to the church so that the family could stay there every Sunday and never miss a service. The GEC had their own stall in the Hayton church, which has a large number of funerary plaques devoted to the GEC. In 2005 I visited the church and photographed all the plaques I could find.

Edmond Castle was sold in 1937 (more details in my little piece on Edmond Castle) by my cousin several times removed, Eric. I visited him twice when young (he was living in London then) and he was the first to encourage my interest in Graham family history. I don’t know why he sold the estate, and I wish I’d asked him all those years ago. Yet another opportunity missed. However, sell it he did. Family gossip says something about his older brothers being discovered to be illegitimate, and Eric getting the estate all unexpected. I don’t know what truth there is to that.

The stall of the Grahams of Edmond Castle in the Hayton church
The spare house of the Grahams of Edmond Castle, right beside the Hayton church


The Family Chronicle

Fortunately, we have a wonderful record of two generations of the Grahams of Edmond Castle. In about 1767 one of the Thomas Grahams went with his brother James to London, to join the law firm of his uncle, James Coulthard (the law firm still exists today as Lawrence Graham LLP). There he married into money in the person of Elizabeth Davenport and raised a family. They lived in Clapham, where, after the death of Thomas, they kept a sort of family blog, a written record of the doings and sayings of the family, published weekly. One entire year of this (1818/1819) is in the Minet Library in Lambeth. It's a priceless record of the family, and a full transcription of it, together with photographs of the originals, can be found here.

These Grahams also left a lot of letters, diaries and other writings. Many of these are in the Minet library also, but they are much more difficult to transcribe and I haven't done so yet. Letters and diaries also turn up periodically for sale in auction houses. I have never yet been able to buy any, as I've always found out too late.


Coat of arms

The coat-of-arms which were entitled to be used by the Grahams of Edmond Castle is a matter of considerable confusion, as the written evidence doesn’t agree with various inscriptions and carvings. The offical arms are as illustrated above; they are given in Burke's Landed Gentry (1937) as: Per pale indented erminois and sable, on a chief per pale of the last and or, three escallops counterchanged. Crest: two armed arms ppr., garnished or, embowed issuing out of the battlements of a tower, also ppr., holding an escallop gold. Motto: N'oublie.

All very well, so far. Burke even gives a picture. However, the actual arms used by Thomas Henry Graham and Reginald John Graham in their burial monuments in Hayton church are merely the usual Graham three escallops in chief.

The carving on the burial inscription of Reginald John Graham. Note how the Graham arms are impaled with the Boileau arms (his wife was Ellen Leah Boileau). Pretty, isn't it? The carving on the burial inscription of Thomas Henry Graham. Sorry about the bad focus. My fault. Clearly it's just the usual three Graham escallops.

So, it seems clear the the Grahams of Edmond Castle didn't actually use their official arms, if they had any in the first place, and just used the three Graham escallops. I'm sure it's not impossible that the arms given by Burke (and reproduced in Hudleston and Boumphrey [13]) were a pure invention. I was surprised to find in [13] that practically every Cumberland Graham family also used the three Graham escallops in chief. I'm betting that anybody called Graham in Cumberland just used them without worrying too much about whether they were officially entitled to use them.

However, the plot thickens. A carving on an external wall of Edmond Castle commemorates the marriage of Thomas Henry Graham to Mary Carnegie, in 1829. If you look closely (the picture on the right isn't quite big enough to see well) you can see along the top the carving reads TH 1829 MG. The right of the shield contains the Carnegie eagle, while the left contains the three Graham escallops, with the colour scheme clearly indicated (the spaced dots are the usual way of denoting gold, and the small cross-hatching is the usual way of denoting black. This can be seen in Holland's illustrations of Rietstap.) However, the escallops are not in chief now, but in bend. Nowhere can I find a Graham coat-of-arms that has the escallops in bend rather than in chief. I suspect artistic license. Maybe the carver just put them in bend to give himself more room to carve the escallops. Maybe it was just a mistake. Maybe Thomas Henry was being creative. Whatever the reason, it's quite possible the specific design has no particular heraldic significance.

On the other hand, the crest of the Grahams of Edmond Castle is consistent in everything I've ever seen. It's a tower, presumably referring to the original Edmond Castle. This tower is on an old gold ring I have of the Grahams, a silver christening mug, on all the funerary monuments, and in the descriptions of the coat-or-arms.


[1] T.H.B. Graham, An old Map of Hayton Manor, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. VII, p. 42. (1907)

[2] T.H.B. Graham, The Old Village of Edmond Castle, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. VIII, p. 13. (1908)

[3] T.H.B. Graham, The Parish of Hayton, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. VIII, p. 55. (1908)

[4] T.H.B. Graham, Annals of Hayton, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. XXV, p. 311. (1925)

[5] T.H.B. Graham, The Debateable Land, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. XII, p. 33. (1912)

[6] T.H.B. Graham, The Debatable Land Part II, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. XIV, p. 132. (1914)

[7] T.H.B. Graham, The Barony of Liddel and its Occupants, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. XI, p. 55. (1911)

[8] T.H.B. Graham, The Grahams of Esk, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, N.S. XXX, p. 224. (1930)

[9] Godfrey Watson, The Border Reivers, Sandhill, 1988.

[10] MacDonald, The Steel Bonnets; the Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers, 1974

[11] James Graham, The Condition of the Anglo-Scottish Border at the Time of the Union of 1603 , available on CD from Scotpress/Scotdisc. Originally published as Condition of the Border at the Union: the Destruction of the Graham Clan, George Routledge and Sons, 1907

[12] sir Bernard Burke, The Landed Gentry, 1937 edition.

[13] C.R. Hudleston and R.S. Boumphrey, Cumberland Families and Heraldry, 1978. Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquities and Archaeological Society, Extra Series. Vol. XXIII.