The Hornblawer

Historic Corstorphine, its Christian History and
Subsequent Connections with the Forrester Family


by Annette Hixenbaugh, Oklahoma Regional Commissioner

Sir John Forrester - Corstorphine Church

Dedications to Our Lady were popular in pre-Reformation Scotland. Even when a church was dedicated to another saint, a preamble to the document paid tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The famous Holyrood Abbey had a joint dedication - St. Mary and the Holy Rood. Connected to Holyrood Abbey was Ratho, which was also dedicated to the Virgin. Gogar was another St. Mary dedication. Medieval churches from the Solway Firth to the Pentland Firth honored the Mother of Christ.

How Corstorphine parish church came to be dedicated to St. Mary is not known. It could have been the personal choice of the Lord of the manor, or because of the popularity of the cult. Before the Forresters, the estate was owned by the More family, who themselves may have had a special devotion to Our Lady. William More, Lord of Abercorn in 1363 endowed with his "land of Raylistone" (Ravelstone), a chaplaincy at the altar of the Blessed Virgin in St. Giles Church in Edinburgh.

In May, 1617, when Archbishop of St. Andrews, John Spottiswoode, gave George Forrester a tack of nineteen years teinds of the parish kirk, he styled the church "Our Lady Kirk of Corstorphine". The parish church existed alongside the later Collegiate church and served the needs of ordinary people, while the Collegiate church served the Forrester family. Of those who served in the parish church, little is known.

The Forrester possession of the lands of Corstorphine, as far as we know, was first in the hands of Adam Forrester, a successful Edinburgh merchant, who rose to be a trusted servant of the Crown. His Edinburgh house was in the High Street at the head of the wynd to which he gave his name - Forrester's Wynd. It was situated in the open area beside the Kirk of St. Giles, near the Buccleuch statute. The Wynd was the western boundary of the churchyard.

The west entrance to the churchyard had a sculptured lintel with figures resembling Holbein's Dance of Death, with musicians bringing up the rear and an angel playing the bagpipes. When water was brought to the city in 1681 from Tod's Well at Comiston, a public well was erected at the head of the Wynd and another at the foot. Forrester's Wynd was demolished to make way for George IV Bridge later on.

In 1346, David II made an ill-advised invasion into England. He was defeated and taken prisoner at the Battle of Neville's Cross. David II was imprisoned by the English for eleven years and the English demanded a ransom of 100,000 marks. Adam Forrester was charged with delivering this ransom to King Edward III of England. As poor as the kingdom of Scotland was, Adam may have lent the money to the Royal Treasury. In any event, the ransom was never completely paid, owing probably to the constant wars Edward III had embroiled himself in with the Scottish kings, and the social unrest in England at that time.

When David II was allowed to return to Scotland in 1357, Adam Forrester was not forgotten by the grateful king, and was appointed Clerk of the Rolls of Custom, south of the River Forth in 1362 by David. The following year a document guaranteeing his safe conduct while traveling "furth" of Scotland, described him as "mercator de Scotland". Adam was also granted the Justice Clerkshop North of the Forth by David II.

The Hornblawer