Colville

Origins of the Clan

The name Colville is believed to be of ancient Norman origin. It is believed to be derived from the town of Colleville -Sur-Mur in Normandy, France. The word “Col” meaning dark and swarthy and the word “Ville” meaning Village or “Castle on the Hill”.

Colville might also have come from the French word “Col” meaning “neck” or “pass” and Colville would then be simply the “village in the pass”.

The first Colville found in Scotland was William De Colville. He is noted as receiving the Baronies of Ochiltree and Oxnam. He also received baronies in Oxnam and Heton in Roxburghshire together with other lands in Ayrshire. William de Colville also received the barony of Kinnaird in Stirlingshire.

In 1174, Phillip De Colville was sent to Scotland as a hostage for the release of William the Lion. He apparently took up residence in Scotland and established the two noble lineage’s of Culross and Ochiltree. (This is hardly right as William was a captive of the English and they would scarcely send a hostage to Scotland in these circumstances)

Thomas Colville le Scot of Dalmellington & Carsphairn and sometime Sherrif of Dumfries was an important member of William’s court as can be seen by the good number of William’s charters to which he was a witness (along with many other notables of that time). He was obviously given the oversight of the valley of the Ken the most westerly valley leading into South West Scotland. This may also have been a land route between Galloway and Carrick (only recently separated from the southern part).

Thomas was arrested for treason late in William’s reign but was allowed to ransom himself and died some years later in relative obscurity.

Interestingly the nickname “le Scot” seemed reserved at that period of history for the descendents of David of Huntingdon eg: John le Scot and Isabella le Scot. Whether or not it has any such significance for Thomas Colville le Scot is not known and worthy of further research. Noteworthy other Colville’s of that time (and later) did not bear the appellation “le Scot”. A theory is that this particular “Colville” was known as “le Scot” because of his Scots ancestry and to distinguish him from the ‘other’ Colville family with Norman ancestry.

An alternative origin of the name Colville in Scotland can be to associate it with the lost vil of Colwella or Colewell - one of the 12 vills granted to the church by King Oswy and mentioned in the History of St Cuthbert. It is also mentioned as Colewell in 1328 as the name of a place in West Newton (Northumberland County History xi 152).

In the Ragman’s Roll Thomas Colville le Scot is recorded as Thomas de Coleuill and in charters of William the Lion he and Phillip de Colville have their names spelled similarly. This “fenchification” of their surname might just as much be the result of the then language of the court than demonstrating a Norman French origin.

The location of Colewell is not that far distant from Oxnam and Heton not to be associated with these places.

There is every chance that the original bearers of the surname were English speaking and a good possibility that the Scots family of Caldwell may have been an offshoot that chose a more Anglian variant of the common source.

 

 

15th Century & Clan Conflicts

In 1405 on the 20th August Sir John De Colville and his wife Alice D’Arcy from Arncliff, Dale, England were beheaded at Durham. For what reason is not known.

For many years the two families of Colville and Auchinleck had been on good terms. Both families built castles on opposite sides of the River Lugar. In 1449 during the reign of King James II of Scotland the two families of Colville and Auchinleck had been on friendly enough terms that a rope was passed between the two castles over the river. Communications were often sent back and forth on the rope by means of a ring to which a message was attached. Often fights occurred between the families on the messages sent back and forth on the rope.

This came to a climax when Sir Richard Colville killed John Auchinleck. It is believed that Auchinleck sent Colville a wrapped parcel containing the bones of a sheep head. The Colvilles saw this as an insult and the family friendships were over. From now on it was nothing but war between the two families.

The Laird of Auchinleck at this time was at this time going to pay a visit to his powerful ally, Lord William Douglas of the powerful House of Douglas. When Colville learned of this he sent his son Richard Colville to carry out his act of revenge. Sir Richard Colville and his clan waited for them, at a quiet part of a road and ambushed Auchinleck and his followers. Auchinleck was there killed. The Earl of Douglas did not wait for judge and jury and took matters into his own hands and flew to avenge his friend. The Earl of Douglas at the head of his Douglas troops attacked the Colvilles, besieging their castle, where many were killed. Douglas leveled Colville’s Ochiltree Castle to the ground and put Colville and his men to the sword.

Douglas dragged the captured Colville Knight of Ochiltree back to Cumnock. The group was about to cross a stream when as legend has it Sir Richard Colville remarked that a witch had foreseen that he would die at this very spot. Douglas fulfilled the prophecy by putting Colville to death on the spot.

However Douglas to would later suffer for his acts as he was stabbed to death by the King himself at Stirling Castle.

After this the Clan Colville decided to rebuild in a new area. They chose a stretch of land that filled the angle between where the River Lugar and River Burnock meet.

In 1498, Hugh Campbell of Loudon from Clan Campbell, Sheriff of Ayrshire also had a family feud with the Colville’s of Ochiltree. The Campbell’s had the advantage over the Colvilles due to the backup of his law officials. Sir William Colville appealed to the Royal Authority, to grant he and his tenants exemption from the jurisdiction of the Campbell sheriff.

 

 

16th Century Anglo-Scottish Wars & Clan Conflicts

The feud that started between the Clan Colville and the House of Douglas went on for many years and in the end in 1502 Robert and Henry Douglas were ordered to labour, occupy and restore the lands of Farnesyde and Hardane, because of the oppression against Sir William Colville, and for the theft of oxen from Sir William Colville. Plus this wasn’t the last they saw of punishment. In the same year John and William Douglas were convicted of oppression and convocation of the lieges upon Sir William Colville, basically murdering Colville. Along with their conviction was George Haliburton for the part of slaughter of Sir William Colville of Ochiltree.

In 1513 during the Anglo-Scottish Wars Robert Colville the successor of William Colville was respected as a man of high character and was honoured of his sovereign. He was the stewart of Queen Margaret and master to the household of King James IV of Scotland. He led the clan at the Battle of Flodden Field against the English where he was slain with the King.

In 1530, Sir James Colville transferred the barony of Ochiltree to Sir James Hamilton of Finnart and years later it was passed to Andrew Stewart, Lord Evandale.

 

 

17th Century & Civil War

Sir James Colville, third of Easter Wemyss, was a distinguished soldier who fought in France for Henry, Prince of Navarre, later King Henry IV. He returned to Scotland in 1582 along with Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, loaded down with commendations from his French patrons. In 1604 he was raised to the peerage with the title of ‘Lord Colville of Culross’, which title the chiefs still bear. The second Lord Colville, who had succeeded to his grandfather’s title in 1620, died without issue in 1640. His cousin was heir to the title but did not assume it, and it remained dormant until 1723.

In 1675 after the Civil War the Clan Montgomery who were crippled by debts after supporting the Royalists against Oliver Cromwell sold the Lordship and Manor of Newtown to Captain Robert Colville for £10,640.

 

 

18th Century & Jacobite Uprisings

The Clan Colville with the majority of Scotland supported the British Government during Jacobite Uprisings. In 1744, Robert Colville, under the influence of his mistress, sold Newtownards to Alexander Stewart for the sum of £42,000. In 1746, Honorable Charles Colville fought at the Battle of Culloden, commanding the British 21st Regiment of Foot which was made from Scottish soldiers and is today the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He obtained the rank of lieutenant general before his death in 1775.

Its worth noting as well that a Colville named Alexander served in the Royal Navy, becoming a captain in 1744. He was promoted to the rank of commodore and given command of the Northumberland. He held the rank of Vice Admiral for a decade.

 

 

The Clan today

Today, Lord Colville, Viscount Colville of Culross a member of the House of Lords, is currently the Clan Chieftain. The title is held by this family and Lord Colville (the 13th Lord Colville of Culross) gained the title in 1945.

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