The Barony of Corstorphine was erected by Crown Charter in 1431 by King James I of Scotland. Whilst the Barony has long been separated from the lands and village which once made up the estate, it has left an indelible mark on the geography and a still identifiable footprint in the history of what is now a flourishing suburb of Edinburgh.
The first recorded proprietors of the estate of Corstorphine were, David le Mareschall, in the reign of Alexander II (1214-49), and Thomas le Mareschall and William de la Roche, whose names occur in Ragman's Roll of 1296.
The family of the two former continued in possession of that estate till the reign of David II, when it was forfeited by David le Mareschall, and given by the King to Malcolm Ramsay.
It was next held by William More of Abercorne, who disponed it to his brother, Gilchrist More, by whom it was sold, to Adam Forester.
The lands and Barony of Corstorphine have long been associated with the Forrester family. The first firm link with Corstorphine comes with Adam Forrester a wealthy burgess of Edinburgh in the 1360’s when he begins to acquire land in the vicinity. Between 1374 and 1377 King Robert II confirmed Adam Forester, a burgess of Edinburgh, in the lands of the Lordship of Corstorphine (NAS Ref. C2/R. v. 49.) which had previously owned by William More of Abercorn.
Forrester founded a chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist, connected to the parish church of Corstorphine. He was Provost of Edinburgh during the 1370s and 1380s. By 1388 Sir Adam had become the Deputy Chamberlain of Scotland and was often sent to England as an ambassador. King Robert III appointed him Keeper of the Great Seal in 1390. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Homildon Hill on the 14th of September 1402, but intervened on behalf of his fellow prisoners and was quickly ransomed.
He was knighted for his services about the same time. He was appointed Deputy Chamberlain of Scotland (1405). Sir Adam Forrester was married to (1) Agnes, daughter of John Dundas of Dundas, and (2) Margaret and she was the mother of John, Thomas, and Marion. Sir Adam died on 13 October 1405 and was succeeded by his son Sir John.
Sir John Forrester of Corstorphine who had followed his father into public service became Keeper of the Great Seal in 1420 and by 1424 Chamberlain of Scotland and was sent on embassies to Flanders and England. In 1426 he was granted various lands, mostly in West Lothian, which were united into the barony of Liberton. In Perth on 4 February 1431 King James I confirmed Adam Forrester in the house and lands of Corstorphine which would be thereafter known as the Barony of Corstorphine. Adam Forrester became the first Baron of Corstorphine. He is likely to have founded the collegiate church of Corstorphine in 1429, which forms part of today’s parish kirk.
Sir John is thought to have died in 1448 and was buried in Corstorphine church where recumbent effigies of him and one of his wives survives. He had four children – John, Henry, Elizabeth, and Janet. The title fell to his eldest son John Forrester who is believed to have been a soldier rather than a civil servant. In 1443 he was with the Earl of Douglas when he destroyed Barnton castle, a stronghold of the Crichtons. As a direct consequence Forrester’s house at Corstorphine was razed to the ground. He died before 15 September 1454 and was buried in Corstorphine church where his tomb can still be seen.
He had two children Alexander and Isobel. The next laird of Corstorphine was Sir Alexander Forrester of whom little is known apart from the fact that he sat in Parliament in the 1460s and witnessed a few charters. He died before 20 September 1473 leaving four children – Archibald, Matthew, Margaret, and Janet. Sir Archibald Forrester of Corstorphine has left little record of his life. He married (1) Margaret Hepburn, and (2) Agnes Tod, and from the first marriage had Alexander, Hector, and Marion, and from the second, his son John. Sir Archibald died around 1512, and was succeeded by his son Alexander.
Alexander Forrester had been granted the barony and castle of Corstorphine by his father in 1482, this grant was confirmed by King James V, when in Inveraray on 12 September 1533. James V confirmed Alexander Forrester of Corstorphine in the lands and Barony of Corstorphine with its castle, fortalice, etc, including Clerkington, Nether Liberton, Drilaw and Meadowfield. In 1539 he resigned Corstorphine in favour of James Forrester of Meadowfield, the husband of Alexander’s grand-daughter Agnes. This James ultimately succeeded Alexander and became James Forrester of Corstorphine.
James Forrester of Corstorphine was killed at the Battle of Pinkie on 10 September 1547. By his wife Agnes Forrester he had four children James, his successor, Henry, Isobel, and Elizabeth. James Forrester of Corstorphine, husband of Janet Lauder, was confirmed by Mary, Queen of Scots, on 5 February 1556 in the Barony of Corstorphine. In 1577 Sir James presented the parish kirk with a bell for its steeple, this bell still survives though it was renewed in 1728. James died on 4 June 1589 and his brother Henry was declared to be his heir.
On the 22nd of October 1599 Henry Forrester of Corstorphine sold various lands within the parishes of Corstorphine and St Cuthbert’s. Henry died sometime around 1615 and his eldest son George became laird. James VI had already confirmed George Forrester, son and heir apparent of Henry Forrester of Corstorphine and his wife Christine Livingstone in various properties in the barony of Corstorphine, on 15th of November 1607.
At Holyrood House on 30th of July 1618 James VI confirmed Sir George Forrester of Corstorphine in the lands and barony of Corstorphine, house, castle, manor, mills, etc. George had already had some land disjoined from the barony of Corstorphine which he had sold. George Forrester was a public servant, having served as Member of Parliament for Edinburgh and as Sheriff of Edinburgh. On 22 July 1633 he was created Lord Forrester of Corstorphine by King Charles I. Having no son to succeed him Lord Forrester resigned most of his properties, including Corstorphine, in favour of James Baillie.
Baillie was the eldest son of Major General William Baillie of Lethame, who had married his fourth daughter Johanna around 1649.During the mid-seventeenth century the family seem to have experienced some financial problems which resulted in lands being temporarily out of their control, for example on 3 August 1663, the lands and Barony of Corstorphine, except for the castle of Corstorphine and the town of Corstorphine, was granted to Sir John Gilmour. Cromwell had granted Laurence Scott of Bavelaw and his wife Katherine Binning, the lands, Lordship and Barony of Corstorphine, tower, manor-place, mills, mill-lands, parsonage etc, in lieu of the money due by James, Lord Forrester, to Beatrix Ramsay in Corstorphine who had assigned the debt to the said Laurence Scott, 1654.
Similarly lands in Stirlingshire owned by Lord Forrester were taken to pay his debts to Richard Murray and Margaret Gairdner, 1655. On 5 August 1664, the lands, Lordship and Barony of Corstorphine formerly belonging to James, Lord Forrester, and his brother German William Baillie which had been taken in lieu of debt, were granted to Florentius Gardner, baillie of Grangepans, on 5 August 1664. 10 May 1666, similar was granted to John Boyd, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, and a number of several similar cases.
However the family seems to have sorted out their financial problems as the lands were back in the hands of the Forresters within a short period. James Baillie’s first wife Johanna died early and he then married Janet Ruthven, daughter of the Earl of Forth.
This latest Lord Forrester was a man of dubious morals and seduced his niece, the wife of an Edinburgh burgess James Nimmo. She, however, later quarrelled with Forrester and stabbed him to death in his garden at Corstorphine on 26 August 1679. Mrs. Nimmo was later executed at the Cross of Edinburgh for the murder. The titles then fell to William the son of his brother William Baillie and his wife Lillias, daughter of the first Lord Forrester.
William the fourth Lord Forrester married Margaret, daughter of Sir Andrew Birnie, a Judge of the Court of Session. They had several children including George who succeeded to the title on the death of his father in 1705. During this period, in 1698, the estate of Corstorphine was sold to Hugh Wallace of Ingliston, a Writer to the Signet. He, later in 1713, sold it to Sir James Dick of Prestonfield, in whose family it remained until 1869.
The Dicks were a prominent family of lawyers and merchants in Edinburgh. Sir James Dick (1643-1728) was a merchant and baillie of Edinburgh and also served as Dean of Guild and later Lord Provost. The Register of the Great Seal records the transfer of the lands and Barony of Corstorphine to Sir James on 2 June 1713. On 17 May 1729 Dame Janet Dick, wife of Sir William Cunningham of Caprington, was served heir to her father Sir James Dick. On her death she was succeeded by Sir Alexander Dick of Prestonfield, who in 1754 was served heir to his grandfather Sir James Dick of Prestonfield.
Sir Alexander died on 10 November 1785 and was succeeded in the baronies of Corstorphine and Prestonfield by his son Sir William Dick. On the death of Sir William in 1796 the baronies passed to his brother Sir John Dick, and in 1812 on his death they passed to his brother Sir Robert Keith Dick.
In 1869 the barony of Corstorphine was sold to a John Dickson, then residing at Saughton Mains, which was confirmed on 4 May 1871. In 1883 the lands and barony were shared between John H Dickson and William T Dickson. William deeded by gift his half share to Heatly Dickson on the 20th February 1908 and when John died in 1910 his half share was deeded to Heatly Dickson on 1st of April thus reuniting the barony.
On the 11th of November 1927 the barony passed to William Collins Dickson. In 1934 on the 10th of July the barony passed to William Dickson. The barony remained with William Dickson, until 2nd May 1986 when the barony was deeded to The Corstorphine Trust.
The Barony today is in possession of the Milne Family. The Barony passed from The Corstorphine Trust to the current and 34th Baron of Corstorphine, Michael Milne, in 2005, and was duly recorded in the Scottish Barony Register. Since the abolition of feudal title in Scotland, and its disassociation from the land, the Barony continues for charitable and cultural purposes, in particular the support of The Corstorphine Trust