‘Well regarded’ philanthropists
The history of Terregles estate and the Herries family were traced at the first meeting of the new year when members of The Friends of the Archives of Dumfries and Galloway were addressed by Bill Brydson.
Mr Brydson is a well-known authority on the subject having assembled an extensive collection of documents and artefacts, the result of a lifetime’s research into the parish and district.
Within the limited time available he was only able to touch upon many topics which he illustrated with interesting snippets and anecdotes from his encyclopaedic knowledge.
The name Terregles is perhaps derived from the French Terre d’Eglise as it was once the property of Lincluden Abbey.
The village was not where it is today but was situated about a mile eastwards from the church where field marks, the foundation footprints of houses, are clearly seen.
Scattered throughout the parish are large sub-angular boulders, remnants of a more remote past during the quaternary ice-age. Theses glacial events also produced fine quality building sand for which the area is renowned.
The major landowners in the parish were the Maxwell family, whose ancient title was forfeited in 1715. To a certain extent, they are regarded as the rescuers of the Roman Catholic faith in south west Scotland by supporting a priest in their private chapel on the estate. They were also major benefactors of the Roman Church in the wake of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.
Later in the 1880s Lady Winifred provided a large amount of money towards the building of St Benedict’s Convent for the education of girls at Corberry Hill.
Because of such philanthropic gestures, the Maxwells were well regarded by their tenant farmers and as heritors they took their responsibilities seriously. Although Catholic lairds, they funded the building and maintenance of the Protestant Parish Church among other things.
After the First World War, the estate was in dire straights and despite lowering farm rentals the family was forced to let Terregles House in order to make ends meet.
Despite being placed on the market, no offers were made and in the end the whole estate was broken up and sold privately. Interestingly some farms were divided to make smallholdings as part of the “homes for heroes” scheme.
Bill described the grinding abject poverty of the 1920s and 1930s, when for example children often went missing from school on Monday mornings because their families, unable to afford their rents, did a “moonlight flit” over the weekend.
The Maxwells originally inherited most of their wealth from the Herries Bill Brydson spoke on history of Terregles estate
family when the Herries’ male line failed in 1543 and Agnes Herries married Sir John Maxwell.
The Herries were thought to have been Norman French in origin and came over with David I in the 12th century.
Over time they accumulated vast tracts of land in Northumbria and England and swore fealty to Edward I.
Their power and sphere of influence should not be underestimated since in the early days they were probably responsible for building at least 10 abbeys and religious foundations.
Archivist Graham Roberts thanked Mr Brydson for his most interesting talk and members went away, their appetite having been whetted, to undertake more reading and research around the subject.