Early History of Cumbernauld

Cumbernauld is a large town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is the ninth most-populous locality in Scotland and the most populated town in north Lanarkshire, positioned in the centre of Scotland’s Central Belt. Geographically, Cumbernauld sits between east and west, being on the Scottish watershed between the Forth and the Clyde; however, it is culturally far more weighted towards Glasgow and the New Town’s planners thought to fill 80% of its houses from Scotland’s largest city to reduce housing pressure there.

Cumbernauld – Early History

Cumbernauld’s history stretches at least to Roman times, as Westerwood was a Roman fort on the Antonine Wall, the furthest and most northerly boundary of the Roman Empire. Two Roman temporary camps have been discovered and digitally reconstructed east of the fort, at Tollpark (now covered by Wardpark North) and at Garnhall, similar to the two at Dullatur. One of the most discussed Roman finds from Cumbernauld is a sandstone slab depicting Triton and a naked, kneeling captive. It was found on a farm at Arniebog (between the runway of Cumbernauld Airport and Westerwood Golf Course). The slab can now be viewed at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow along with an uninscribed altar from Arniebog and other artefacts like the inscribed altar, and statuette found at Castlecary and an older copy of the Bridgeness Slab.

In addition to these, an altarstone to Silvanus and the Sky dedicated by a centurion named Verecundus and his wife has been found. Cumbernauld also has the only Roman altar still in the open air in Scotland: the Carrick Stone. The stone has also been linked with Robert Bruce, being the place where he reportedly set up his standard on his way to Bannockburn. There is some evidence that coffins were laid on top of the stone on their way to the cemetery in Kirkintilloch and that the stone has been somewhat worn away.

Cumbernauld’s name probably comes from the Gaelic comar nan allt, meaning “meeting of the burns or streams”. There are differing views as to the etymology of this. One theory is that from its high point in the Central Belt, its streams flow both west to the River Clyde and east to the Firth of Forth so Cumbernauld’s name is about it being on a watershed. Another theory ascribes the name to the meeting point of the Red Burn and Bog Stank streams within Cumbernauld Glen. ‘Cumbernauld’ is generally considered to be a Gaelic name. However, early forms containing Cumyr- hint at a Cumbric predecessor derived from *cömber, ‘confluence’ (c.f Welsh cymer, ‘confluence’), synonymous with Aber. This seems to be suffixed with Cumbric *-ïn-alt, a topographical suffix perhaps referring to a hill or slope (Welsh yn allt, ‘at a hill’).

There is a record of the charter of the lands of Lenzie and Cumbernauld, granted to William Comyn by Alexander II in 1216. Cumbernauld Castle was first built as a Norman-style motte and bailey castle. Owned by the Comyns, it was situated at the east end of the park, where the motte (mound) is still visible. The Flemings took possession of Cumbernauld Castle and its estate (c.1306) after Robert the Bruce murdered the Red Comyn. Robert Fleming was a staunch supporter of Bruce, and one of his companions that day. To provide proof that Comyn was dead, Fleming cut off his head in order to “let the deed shaw”, a Fleming family motto ever since. On 1 October 1310 Robert the Bruce wrote to Edward II of England from Kildrum[35] trying, unsuccessfully, to establish peace between Scotland and England.

Abercromby describes Malcolm Fleming as returning home to Inverbervie with the formerly exiled 21-year-old King David II. Around 1371, the family built a second castle where the Cumbernauld House now stands. One castle wall exists but most of the stonework was recycled for the House or other buildings. King Robert III knighted Malcolm and granted Sir Malcolm Fleming and his heirs the charter to Cumbernauld Castle on 2 April 1406, just two days before the king’s death. Malcolm (and his heir in 1427) were used as hostages to ransom James I back from the English. He also seems to have been arrested by James and imprisoned briefly in Dalkeith Castle. In 1440, this Malcolm Fleming attended the Black Dinner along with his 16-year-old friend Earl William Douglas and his 11-year-old brother David Douglas at Edinburgh Castle.

Immediately after the dinner, at which a black bull’s head was served, there was a trial on trumped-up charges and the brothers were beheaded in front of the 10-year-old King James II. Malcolm shared their fate three days later. Malcolm was succeeded by his son Robert.

The castle played host to the royalty of Scotland. James IV (1473–1513) wooed Margaret Drummond at Cumbernauld Castle, where Margaret’s sister was married to Lord Fleming. The Drummond sisters lie buried in Dunblane Cathedral following their poisoning, possibly by a government determined to marry an unwilling King James to the sister of Henry VIII of England, Margaret Tudor. The murders made James IV a frequent visitor to Cumbernauld, Margaret Tudor accompanying him on one occasion. It is recorded that during this James’ reign in 1500, the Black Death led to a special plea from the surviving people of Cumbernauld to the church authorities in Glasgow to allow them to establish their own cemetery rather than taking all their dead to St. Ninian’s in Kirkintilloch.E They were granted permission to do so, and used the ground at the existing Comyns’ chapel which dates from the end of the 12th century.

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