Document of the Month - September

The Mystery of the Missing Volumes – Stirling Burgh Records, 1552

At the back of the second volume of records for the Burgh of Stirling that we have at the Archives, there is a list made by the Town Clerk in 1552. It is an inventory of the ‘Council books’, the records of the Council that were found in the Tolbooth and as described, put in the ‘Treasury’ for safekeeping. This list tells us that the Council had already lost the records of its earliest transactions by this date but also gives an indication of what did survive then and has not come down to us today.
The list reads as follows: -

“The fifth day of July in the year of God 15 and fifty-two years, delivered by John Graham of Baldorran Common Clerk of the Burgh of Stirling to John Craigingelt of that Ilk, Provost of Stirling, these common books underwritten, and put by him in the treasure house in the presence of Archibald Spittal, Bailie, Robert Cousland, Master of Works and John Hastie, Deacon of the Incorporation of Tailors.

  • First, a book beginning on the date 1444 and going on to 1455 years.
  • Item, another book beginning in the year of God 1458 and going on to 1466 years.
  • Item, the third book beginning on the date 1500 and going on to 1507 years.
  • The fourth book beginning the same date [1507] and going on to 1512 years.
  • The fifth book beginning in the year 1513 and going on to 1520 years.
  • The sixth book beginning on the same date [1520] and going on to 1530 years.
  • The seventh beginning 1537 years and going on to 1544 years.
  • The 8th book, the one before the present book beginning on the same date [1544] and going on to 1549 years.
  • Item, a book called the head book containing accounts.
  • Item, I, the said John Graham, Clerk, aforesaid, have the register book of the feu lands and sasines of the Town’s lands, for which I shall be responsible.

Subscribed with my hand, year, day and place aforesaid.

John Craigingelt of that Ilk Provost.”

Given that the Burgh of Stirling was created sometime between 1124 and 1127, according to other surviving documents held at the National Records of Scotland, there are no records listed here that date from the early 12th century to 1443, so over 300 years of the day-to-day workings of the Council had not survived to the 16th century. Of the list given above, only 3 volumes survive, the one dating from 1520 to 1530, the one dating from 1544 to 1549 and the register of feu lands and sasines, which dates from 1544 to 1590. The ‘heid buke’ with the accounts has not survived as we have no account books for the Burgh dating from before 1634.

It would be lovely to find these records but it is likely that they have not survived being moved from office to office over the years.