Origins of the Rutledge Surname and Coat of Arms


The name "Rutledge" is a place name. It meant "red lache or pool" from the old Anglican words "redd", meaning red, and "loec" - later "lache", variant "letch" meaning a stream, or a pool in boggy land. (Surnames of United Kingdom by H. Harrison). A "d" in the middle or end (if a word in the old Germanic Tongues was sounded as "t"; hence the "t" sound in the first syllable. Harrison speaks of "Rutledge" as "a great Border name". Anciently, those of that name were said to dwell "by the waters (of Bale", or Bailey Water, later called Routledge Burn, in the township of Bailie, or Bailey, near Bewcastle in the southern part of The Debateable Land on the English-Scottish Border.

This area so long in dispute between the English and the Scots was settled before the Norman Conquest as part of the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria by the Angles, whose Kingdom extended north to the Firth of Forth. The people of this part of the Border in time came to be organized into tribes or clans. Early names in the area were Armstrong (once Fortinbras), Elliot, Foster, Bell, Irwin (Irving), Noble, Graham (Graeme) Nickson (Nixon), Scott, Rutledge (Redletch), Taylor, Story and others. Banks in his Scottish Border Country refers to the land as one of freebooters and raiders. "These trackless and desolate regions", he says, "were notorious for the activities of troopers before the Union" in 1603 (p.134). Elsewhere in the same book he says that this land was" no other thing but theft, reiff, and slaughter", until the boundary was finally agreed upon in 1552. John Lang in his Stories of the Border Marches (p.2) refers to "the wild men of Bewcastle". Sir Walter Scott well describes the Bewcastle Area and its condition long ago in "Guy Mannering". Here it was that the hero and Dandie Dinmont had their encounter with the freebooters from Mmups Ha'.

In the centuries when Carlisle and, in fact, the northern part of Cumberland, was from time to time Scottish territory and Carlisle, a royal burgh of David, King of Scotland, and of certain of his successors, Bewcastle township was within Scotland. The township is now in the County of Cumberland along the present border, on high land, an area of rolling hills. Anciently, Bewcastle was the site of a Roman Fort or Station. In 1470 Edward IV granted the manor and castle, which had long lain waste, to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, then Lord Warden of the Western Marche. He sublet the area to Cuthbert Rutlege, John Rutlege, Robert Elwold (Elliot) and Gerald Nickson (Nixon). They were to pay no rent but to render military service when called on. The remains of a pele tower, or castle, still stand and the old church of St. Cuthbert is kept in good repair. The whole district was later controlled by the Netherby Grahams, whose pele towers in addition to those of Netherby and Kirkandrews (according to Banks) were scattered throughout the length of The Debateable Land. Bewcastle is still within the Baronetcy of Netherby and Sir Fergus Graham, M.P., is the present Lord of the Manor. Netherby Hall is not far away.

In 1951 there were but two Routledge families living in the parish of Bewcastle, the head of one being James Irving Routledge, a Churchwarden. But there were others of the name dwelling not far away. At odd times, said the Rector, Rutledges come to the old church to be married, and in the Kirkyard are many graves of persons of that name buried there, some by reason of their requests. One finds an old coat of arms (with variations) cut into many of their headstones from 1729 to 1900. Uniformly the sheaf of wheat is in the Arms, surmounted by a sword (horizontal) with flora on either flank. The old motto, said to be "Gloria e terra", is not found on any of the stones, or registered with the Arms. There are no church records extant beyond 1729 and the writings on the earlier tombstones are not readable now.

Undoubtedly, the earliest known location of the Rutledges was on the Bailey Water, at Kershopefoot, at Masthorne and between Kershopefoot and the Leven (now the Line) waters, all nearby places "within the Rule of Bewcastell". The Kershope burn is now part of the modern boundary line between the two countries and old signs of settlement are obscured by the Kershope State Forrest. But the earliest records of the name come from along the Teviot and in Liddesdale in Roxburghshire.

Dr. Robertson, in his book on Scottish Surnames, says that in old records the name is found spelled in many ways. He lists the following: Routelych (1516), Routleche, Routlagh (1512), Routlege, Routlisch (1495), Rowlische, Routlug, Rouchligis, Rowteleges, and R. Bruce Armstrong in his History of Liddesdale (p.250) gives all these and adds the following: Routluge, Rowtlische, Rowtledge, Routlugh, and Rutlegs. In addition to these spellings there is de Routluge, an early spelling of the name around nearby Hawick, Roxburghshire.During the Middle Ages the knowledge of the art of writing was confined largely to churchmen. and when they had occasion to record a surname there was no fixed rule of orthography to guide them. They, therefore,  wrote down the names especially such as were unfamiliar to them in forms suggested by their sound. By the end of the fifteenth century the spelling of names in the public records of Scotland appears to have become completely demoralized, and the same name may be found spelled half-a-dozen ways in the same document. This unstable phonetic rendering of proper names continued even into early nineteenth century time. Dr. George F. Blacks The Surnames of Scotland, Their Origins, Meaning and History. (Preface p.564) in N. S. Archives.

The earliest record found by the writer, after careful search, begins with 1447. By deed of August 7, 1447, one finds Simon de Routluge, a burger, and his wife Mergrete (or Mergareta), nee Cuysne, conveying to Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch (ancestor of the present Duke) part of the Branksholm ("Brankishame") property. There are several conveyances making up some thousands of acres. This estate was known as "Cusingland", the dowry of Simon's wife. Robert Scott de Routluge is found conveying land in the same area to Sir Walter Scott around the same time. Simon in 1448 sold Sir Walter "Birdwood" and "Burnflatt". (See Scotts of Buccleuch by Sir William Fraser, Vol. 11.35-36 and 42-43). These lands are near Hawick.

Another Simon "de Routlage" on October 19, 1484 was one of those before whom James Douglas made a notarized Act of his return as heir of his father to Drumlanrig and Matthew Rouchlig was one of the burgers of Hawick before whom William Douglas of "Drumlanrach" (The "Black" Douglas) appeared on his seizin on January 23, 1511. (Ibid. Vol.11, 126).

David Routlech of Liddesdale on Nov. 11, 1508 was one of those who attested Adam Hepburn as heir to his father, the Earl of Bothwell. David was a landowner in Liddesdale.

The prefix "de" seems to have been dropped around 1500 and does not reappear in any of the Roxburgh records excepting in the case of one Martin de Rotheluche, describing himself as of the clan Scott. He became Procurator of the Scottish Nation in the University of Orleans in 1537. In the following year he is found signing his name as "de Rotheluge". Local supposition now is that the families of the name along the Teviot became absorbed into the clan Scott and changed their names to Scott.

But what about the rest of the clan? In the first quarter of the Sixteenth Century they were found in considerable numbers in the places first named above. They became organized, spread to the extent of a few families into Liddesdale and took part in raids into the lands to the south of them. Everyone along the Border was reiving in those days.

Raiders from the north and punitive forays from the south galloped their way through Bewcastle township and fetched droves of sheep and cattle both ways. Of all these persons the various branches of the Armstrongs and of the Elliots were the most turbulent and ungovernable. Charges were laid but defendants were hard to apprehend. Then all would be forgiven by the King. On May 9, 1526, for example, there came from King James the Fifth, the Great Pardon for crimes of treason and les majeste in Liddesdale. Amongst the Scotts, Kers, Hoppringles (Pringles), Tumbulls, Elliotts and others are found a group of "Routlages"; John, Archibald, David and Simon being the Christian names. (Vol. II. Scotts of Buccleuch 145-147). Perhaps no region on the Border was for so long torn by the lawless as was The Debateable Land and Liddesdale with it. The Rutledge lands adjoined those of the lairds of Mangerton and Whitehaugh (Armstrong) and the Rutledges could never have existed unless they played in with that turbulent clan. They did that. There is a prolonged record of intermarriages, including double weddings, between persons of these two clans.

The Warden of the West Marche in 1528 determined to make an end to the "Rutledges" and their associates. Armstrong in his History of Liddesdale, (p. 250, says that

"Sir Christopher Dacre with a force of 500 men entered The Debateable on the night of the 25th of May 1528. The expedition, which was principally against the Routleges, called 'the Qwyskes', met with little success as they had retired, with their goods to the shealings in the head of Terres, which was the uttermost part of all the debateable ground. Dacre failed to overtake them on account of the great strength of the woods and mosses but he succeeded in securing 80 nolt, 100 sheep and 40 goats."

It is related as to how the Routleges had gotten away with most of their moveables and had unthatched their dwellings, but that General Dacre burned what could be burned but "he failed to dislodge them" from Terres (p. 63). "Terres" was the "Tarras Burn", called from the little stream that runs into the river Esk, south-east Dumfrieshire, near Langholm. The Tarras Burn emptied into Armstrong territory and in The Hamilton Papers (Vol.543) it is stated that the Chief of "the Rowteleages and of the Nycsones" (Nixons) is the Chief of the Armstrongs. The Rutledges are referred to in these Papers in several places as "a broken clan".

They had been ejected from their historic seat on the Liddlell and Leven waters and for the next half century raided into England with the Armstrongs.

From theDuke of Suffolk and Turaslall to the Privy Council. Nowe of late I, the Duke of Suffolk, am advertised that the chief of the Armestranges, and of the Rowteleages, and the Nycsones of Lyddesdale, offered to Sir Thomas Wharton to serve the King with an hundreth horse men and an hundreth foot men, and to he sworn the King's subjects and to dwell in Lyddeadale or in the Batable ground, or where the King will appoint theim in Englande to dwell, so that they may have their friends now beinge prisoners in the castels of Carlisle and Alowik, who were takinge, robbinge and burninge in England, to be discharged and set at libertie, and also to put at libertie four prisoners, Englishe men, which they took at the burning of Sleyley when there Kynnesmen were taken. Whereunto Syr Thomas Wharton, to whom they made this offre, hath made none other aunswer but that he woll advise the lord warden thereof, and so aftre make aunswer. Whereunto I have advised my said lorde warden to follow the same aunswer that heretofore hath bene given unto theim, whereby the Scotts shall not have occasion to saye that we have broken the treux in takinge to maaytenaunce there subjectes, breakers of the same treux, and he said that theis broken men he of that sorte that no promyse by thein made dureth longer than it maketh for there purpose. The Hamilton Papers Vol.1.543. Read to The Privy Council June 12,1543.

The land on the Tarras, high up on heathered moors, was poor land on which to make a living. One finds Armstrong in his History saying -"the Clan was more English than Scots". One thing is certain: this minor, lawless clan of the Borderland was broken by Dacre for all time. In 1543-4, one finds the Chief of the Armstrongs filing claims at Edinburgh for damages by English raids on his territory in which he claims in detail for damages done to a number of Routleges on the Tarras Burn. His claim was not allowed. Some of them must therefore have stayed on around Tarras for a while. Today the "woods" have been cut down, but the "mosses" of peat land still cover for miles and miles around this desolate region which is in the vast sheep runs and shooting grounds of Buccleuch. Only a few old mounds and heaps of stones remain as visible signs of earlier habitation.

Twenty-four years after Dacre's expedition the borderline was fixed. In the meantime and thereafter, where could the "Routleges" go?

Severed from their better off kinsmen, the descendants of the de Routlages in the valley of the Teviot around Hawick, the Routleges, unable to make their livings, and poor even almost to starvation, moved family by family away from the Tarras Burn. Some moved south from Dumfrieshire into Cumberland, in which County today their descendants are fairly numerous; some to the Solway Firth into the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and into Wigton Shire, mainly at Port William and around Whithorn, where they became boat-builders, sea-farers, smugglers, later farmers, one family of millers, and business men; some eastward, where in order to have a laird and be under his protection and find work they became tenants and dependents of Buccleuch, who, in time came to own all the lands of the Armstrongs north of the Border; and most of these migrants are said locally to have changed their names to "Scott", as was the necessity of the times; and, some emigrated to Ireland where the spelling of the name became Rutledge as it did eventually in the case of the families which remained in Scotland and held on to the old name. Several families found employment with James Douglas of Cavers. Cavers House, just east of Hawick, was the principal early seat of the "black" Douglas (Banks,Scottish Border Country, p.74). One David "Routlesche" became his bailiff, later his factor.

The next early record of the Rutledges passes to Cumberland and is contained in Transactions between England and Scotland 1558-63. (British Museum, Cottonian Collection,. Caligula BXF 168). Some of them one finds listed again as settlers at Masthorne and on the land around Kirschopefoot and along the Leven waters. In those "transactions" is found that which the historian Armstong, calls the remarkable letter of Sir Thomas Musgrave to Lord Burleigh, Lord High Treasurer of England by whom Musgrave apparently was sent into the Bewcastle area to make a full report "on the names of the waters and the dwelling places of the rydors (raiders) and ill doers as well of England as of Scotland." He names many "Rutlidges" by their Christian name and their places and names of dwellings. They are found again in numbers in their former abodes. Here the letter appears in the name, but the Cumberland spelling Routledge had not yet come into use. Raiding of the lands of Lord Howardand of the Dacres must have continued right up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Sir Thomas Musgrave sums up the situation as to the Rutledges and their neighbors in these words after naming the trouble-makers on the West Marche as the Elliotts, Armstrongs, Urwens, Graemes, Fosters, Rutleges, Nicksons, Nobles and Taylors:

"That your Lordship may see the vewe of our lawles people, who are growne to such strengthe as almost none dare offende them, they are a people of wild Scottishe when they will, and English at their pleasure; they kepe gentlemen of the cuntrey in fetre, care not what accions they take in hand, and by these allyaunces her Majesties horses that should serve the realme are transported into Scotland - they are growne so to seke bloode, for they will make a quarrell for the death of theire grandfather and they will kyll any of the name they are in feade with.

Theise joyne all upon Gylsland, my Lord Arundall's land how be it the fartherst parte of Lyddisdall and the furtherest parte of Bewcastell are not distant sixteene miles soe as the Rydors may by night easily come to any parte of it and doe their accustomed evill deeds and be att their own howses longe before daye, they maye, as theire use is, goe fenne or twelve miles further into the countrey either uppon my Lord of Arundall's lands or Christopher Dacre's and may aspoyle and be at home before daye."

See also (Calendar of Border Papers Vol.1 p.123)

'There are many families of Rutledges in Ulster today, some of them descendants of the refugees of the Tarras Burn, for, as far as one can learn, there were no persons of this name settled elsewhere in Britain in the early years,-other than those living in The Debateable Land. All seem to have stemmed from along the banks of the Liddlell and the Leven, most of them from the Bewcastle area. In the very complete index record of The Society of Genealogists at London of births, deaths, marriages, directory listings and book references in England none by the name of "Routledge", or its variants in spelling, are listed as dwelling in England before the year 160O, except one family record of baptisms and deaths in the Church of St. John at Hackney, London.

From certain old Irish works and from modern Directories it would seem that those who emigrated to Northern Ireland have made their ways in the professions and in the trades. Quite a few have spread into Eire. Honourable Patrick Rutledge was De Valera's first Minister of Roads.

As you read the pages in The Rutledge Family Association Web Site, we hope that you will share your research with us. Your history is a part of all who came before you.


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