The estate of Hunterston comprising Hunterston and Campbeltoun, two conterminous  properties which retaining their distinctive names and rights, have been for  centuries incorporated, is situated on the coast to the westward of Southannan. It is  the only portion of the parish of Kilbride, which from its earliest division in the  twelfth century has remained unalienated, and is the seat of the Hunters of  Hunterston, or of that Ilk, a family of great antiquity.

Although the tower fortalice and manor place of Huntarstoune" are repeatedly named in  the writs of the period, Bleau inadvertently failed to indicate them correctly in the  map which he engraved for Pont about ad 1600. "Kamello" however is to be found in the  position which Campbelton should occupy and the diligent topographer of Cuninghame  duly caters "Kammeltounc" in his "Alphabett", and records that "Huntarstoune belongs  to Robert Huntar laird thereof".

The surname of Venator or Huntar is of early Norman origin. Professor Innes tells us  that "the use of fixed surnames arose in France about the year 1000, came into  England about sixty years later with the Norman Conquest, and reached us in Scotland,  speaking roundly about the year 1100". Sixteen years afterwards that is to say in  1116 we find in our Cartularies the name of William Venator as a witness with Hugh de  Morville to an inquisition by David Prince of Cumbria; and this is noteworthy when we  recall that "the race of Stuart already first of Scotch families in opulence and  power were distinguished by no surnames for several generations after the Norman  Conquest".

Surnames deseriptive of personal peculiarities and of callings or occupations, were  not general until the thirteenth century and it would appear therefore that the  designation of Venator which originated in the eleventh century must have been  derived from the office of the first of the name who bore it. Renowned moreover as  were the Normans for profieiency in venatic pursuits, and common to all as were the  sports of the chase a special application must necessarily have been given to this  appellative, and it is evident that the surnames of Grosvenor and of Venator were  conferred distinctively on Le Gros Veneur, the holder par eminence of an hereditary  office.

In the early charters the name assumes many forms of spelling and is recorded as  Huntr, Huntar, or Huntare but in all the more recent documents it is written Hunter,   according to the present mode of orthography.  It matters little whether the  designation Hunter of that Ilk arose from the family having assumed the name of the  lands they acquired, or conferred their own upon them there is evidence enough in the  writings of our best genealogists and in the expression "of that Ilk" itself, that  the name of the property and the proprietor were the same Bellenden explains of that  Ilk to mean that he who is thus designed "has a title the same with his surname".

Sprung from the same source descended, from a common ancestor two families of the  name whilst acknowledging the identity of origin contested for some centuries the  honour of precedence that of which we treat and Hunter of Polmood in Tweddale now  extinct. But it is noteworthy that the rival house was invariably designated of  Polmood and was never styled of that Ilk a distinction accorded as we have stated to  the Ayrshire family.

In his notice of the Polmood branch Sir James Dalrymple satirically alludes to a copy  of a charter "carried about" in his day by its representative, and alleged to have  been granted by Malcolm Canmore in the first year of his reign (ad 1057) to Norman  Hunter, the earliest of the name on record. A copy of this spurious document is  inserted by Pennecuick in his History of Tweeddale and the too eredulous doctor does  not appear to have entertained a doubt of its authenticity, but Armstrong who wrote  more recently (ad 1775), interested himself in ascertaining the genuineness of this  charter and pronounced its existence to be purely mythical. Professor Innes affirms  that Scotland had no charters of any description so early as the reign of Malcolm  Canmore even in the reigns of his sons, he says, none were granted to lay men, these  first appearing in the time of David I.

This however is rather a hasty conclusion in the face of the fact that the monks of  the Priory of St Andrews had a grant or charter of the lands of Kyrkness from Macbeth  and his wife Gruoch, some years prior to the reign of Malcolm Canmore. The non  existence of crown records and private charter chests, earlier than the twelfth or  thirteenth centuries does not warrant us in the belief that no such thing as charters  existed.

The earlier grants of the crown have come down to us mainly through the medium of the  church and these of course refer almost solely to ecclesiastical gifts. But it is not  thence to be inferred that lay grants were not also given That a species of feudalism  prevailed in Scotland long previous to the advent of the Normans, is pretty generally  admitted. But be this as it may, it is certain that Norman Hunter could not have been  born until some years after the decease of the monarch of whose pretended rhyming  charter, Pennccuick inserts the subjoined alleged copy

"I, Malcolm Canmore, King, the first of my reign, give to thee, Norman Hunter of  Polmood", the Hope up and down above the earth to heaven and below the earth to hell,  as free to thee and thine as ever God gave it to me and mine; and that for a Bow and  a Broad Arrow when I come to hunt in Yarrow "

Pennecuick who was a zealous partizan of the Polmood family, proceeds to record in an  ecstasy of perfect faith that "the broad arrow is still in the house and the bow has  been seen by several persons". They were doubtless as ancient as the charter; but be  this as it may, Polmood was held by the Hunters from a considerably remote period and  so ancient and so honourable a family needed not such questionable aid to inerease  its widely and justly admitted antiquity.

Chambers in his History of Peebleshire after recording the extinction of this family  in 1689, in the person of Robert Hunter of Polmood, the last legitimate  representative gives an interesting account of the fortunes of his natural son George  of the stranger in blood but of the same name who in 1765 succeeded to the  designation and to the property and of the long and fiercely contested litigation of  which the estate was the subject.

The records of the Lyon Office afford strong heraldic evidence of the common origin  of the Hunters of Hunterston and of Polmood the ancient arms of the former as  "Praefectus Venatorum Regiorum in Cuninghame", being on three hunting horns vert and  of the latter are three hunting horns. The earliest example of these bearings now  extant is to be found at Melrose Abbey where on a shield carved at the base of a now  ruined niche on the fifth buttress from the south transept are sculptured the arms of  Abbot Andrew Hunter.

These consist of two Abbots erosiers in saltire, with a stringed hunting horn below  the heads of the crosiers on each side and what appears to have been overlooked,  possibly from the decaying surface of the stone one also in base. It also displays a  rose in the chief middle point, and a mason's mallet, Scoltice, Mell", on the base  point of the shield a device for the name of Melrose his initials (A.D) are on the  shield, one on each side below the hunting horns and two draped figures of angels and  not mermaids as they have been deseribed, carry the shield between them supporting it  with their hands on each side the raised wings of the angels being distinctly seen  running back on the sides of the sculpture, and something like tho remains of a crown  is placed under the point of the shield thus supporting it on the buttress below.

This Abbot Andrew Hunter was confessor to James II and filled many important offices  from 1448 to 1460. He held the office of Lord High Treasurer of Scotland from 1449  till 1453.
Crawfurd the author of the "Peerage of Scotland", in noticing the rival families  observes that they are both repute ancient officers of State. "The family of the  south is styled Hunter of Polmood of whom nothing has been seen and that in the west  is designed Hunter of that Ilk or Hunterston whose writs have very carefully perused.  This family from charters appears to have had at least a part the estate they still  possess in Cunninghame while the Morvilles were Lords of that country as far back as  the reign King Alexander II".

The learned author of the "Historical Notes to Pont" above referred to endorses  Crawfurd's statement in the following words, "This family would appear to have had  possession at least of tho original territory of Hunter's-toun proper as early as the  days of the De Morvilles, and it would seem at least probable that these lands were  originally held in connection with an office relating to the chase in the semi regal  establishment of the district, and he truly remarks in a further notice of the house  of Hunterston, that "it is certainly pleasing to find that this very ancient family  have ever continued in possession of this their original little territory through  direct hereditary succession down to the present time a period of perhaps at least  eight centuries whilst most of the principal barons and great landholders under De  Morville have long utterly disappeared and have been forgotten in their wide domains  and proud feudal prerogatives".

The first of the family of whom as it has been stated authentic record exists was  Norman Hunter who lived between ad 1080-1165. Armstrong supposses him to have  followed the Norman Conqueror to England but to have fled from the arbitrary  oppressions of his successors, and to have sought shelter in Scotland; but he would  rather appear to have been one of the many who passing over to England subsequent to  the Conquest came northward in the train of David the First who was then Prince of  Cumberland.

Hunters of  Hunterston, or, of that Ilk ... (Detailed History)
part of the Virtual Hunterston group of sites...
Hunter Clan of Ayrshire
Please note, this website is not associated with the Hunter Clan, and details on this page is just very brief information to compliment the Virtual Hunterston group of websites.
Hunter History
Hunter Charter
Hunter Tartan
Lairds of Hunterston
1826 Lineage
The Hunter Name
Cumbrae Connection
Arran Connection
Hunter of that Ilk
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