The Breadalbane Muniments

It is a fundamental truth that to really understand something you have to get back to the original evidence, preferably in the form of contemporaneous documents. As a source, the Breadalbane Muniments in the National Records of Scotland (NRS), a vast collection of estate records extending to 95.03 linear metres, does not disappoint.

To search the Breadalbane Muniments click 'Search', add your search term in the search box and GD112 in the reference box

Petitions from Tenants and others

The petitions (NRS reference GD112/11) are mainly from tenants, and are addressed either to the earls themselves or to their factors and chamberlains. A petition was the recognised manner of drawing a felt injustice to the attention of the earl or his commissioners, and a livelihood was made out of drawing the petitions. As a result, during the latter part of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th, most of the petitions are in the same hand. Tenants were rarely able or willing to draw up their own; some are signed, either with a signature or mark, but many are not.

The section is interesting as it shows the results of the agricultural revolution at grassroots level. It is a pity to have to record that the Breadalbane tenants showed a marked indifference to the march of agricultural science, and tended to clamour for things to remain as they were. The third and fourth earls were improvers, and the petitions show their progress: building dykes, farm steadings, roads and bridges, first wooden ones and then stone, mills of various kinds, and then latterly planned villages and introduction of tradesmen and manufacturies, Cheviot sheep and English cattle, and the division of hill pasture and of farms into lots.

Disputes between tenants are common and the earl or latterly his factors are applied to by the injured party for a solution. Charity is handed out to what were described as 'objects', that is, those in need either through age or weakness of body or mind. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that a great many people on the Breadalbane estates were either mentally or physically handicapped, extremely aged or forced to maintain very large families of their own as well as stepchildren.

Latterly the fashion of petitioning declined.

Page last updated - 27/10/15