Origins of the Name
Brownlee • Brownlie • Brounlee • Brounlie • Brounley • Brounly • Brounel • Brounle • Brounlea • Brownlea • Brounele Brownleigh


After a lot of research, most of which is inconclusive, the following facts must be considered in any appraisal of how and where the name originated.

Before 1855 recording of births, baptisms, etc. was a ‘hit and miss’ process and the accuracy depended largely on the ability of the recording clerk to spell, and the degree of his sobriety at the time. For instance in Allan Lindsay Arnold's family there is evidence of the following confusion in the parish records for Livingstone, Linlithgowshire, Scotland.

10th October 1819 – birth of DAVID, lawful son of James BROWNLIE and 22nd April 1821 – birth of JOHN lawful son of James BROWNLIE.

James’ own birth was recorded – 5th August 1792 as son of David BROWNLEE.

Since about the mid 19th Century these names seem to have become stabilised, and with better literacy, better communications and compulsory records of births, marriages and deaths – families have retained these variant spellings through to the present time.

From the year 1486 to the early 1800’s, there are ample records of people named BROUNEL, BROUNLE, BROWNELE, BROUNLIE, BURNLY, BURNLEY, in some cases these various forms of spelling all refer to the same person. There are references to people of this name in sasine records as early as 1486 and 1489, but while these appear to be the earliest of Brownlee records, a check through the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland prior to the year 1500, show a great number of people named Broun.

Charter No. 1293, in 1533 refers to Brounside Vic. Lanark. I think that this relates to a different estate to that named Brownlee near Carluke.

Lee Estate – Carnwath

It is believed, that the following explanation is possibly the most acceptable option at the moment. There is a very famous estate called Lee near Carnwath in Lanarkshire which has been famous since the 12th Century and a study of early records indicates that the district’s name has developed through the following variations:

Chefcarneuat 1116

Charnewid 1165

Karnewid 1178

Carnewith 1185

Carnwyth 1359

Carnewith 1451

Carneweth 1507

The Somervilles of Carnwath were a family of warriors whose name was once honoured throughout the land. The family seat was Couthally Castle, the ruins of which may still be seen near the railway station (c1970). The Kings James III, IV and V were frequent guests of the Somervilles and attended hunting parties there. From “Couthally”, the Somervilles moved to "Double Tower" and finally to “Carnwath House”.

This house is on the left of the road as one comes from Lanark and forms part of what was one of the most beautiful approaches in the land. Opposite Carnwath House is the parish church and St. Mary’s Aisle, now all that remains of the church erected by Lord Somerville in 1424.

The large window of the Chapel is one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture to be seen anywhere. As Roslin Chapel, often reputed to be the oldest in the country is dated 1446 (St. Mary’s would seem to be even older) it is now used as a Mausoleum by the Lockharts of Lee and Carnwath and was carefully repaired by Sir Simon McDonald Lockhart.

In explanation of how the name of Lockhart came to replace that of Somerville it should be explained that the Somerville family had fallen on evil times and finally had to sell all that remained of their lands in Carnwath, to the Earl of Mar. In 1634 the estates passed to Sir Robert Dalziel, 2nd Earl of Carnwath, and then in 1684 the 4th Earl sold to Sir George Lockhart, then President, of the Court of Sessions. The present Laird, Major Simon McDonald Lockhart is a descendant of that Great Scottish Lawyer.

According to some reports there have been Brownlees associated with the Somerville Estates and later with the Lockharts of Lee for a number of centuries and, if one examines the records of sasine re John Brounele or Carwour, one might easily come to the following conclusion:

John BROUNELE or CARWOUR may have been John BROUN of LEE of CARNWATH??

Brownlee and Forest are common names between Garrion and Carstairs, both of which adjoin Carnwath in Lanarkshire although the origin of Brownlee may be debated, there appears to be enough evidence to warrant an assumption that the earliest recorded Brownlees either took the name from the LEE property or from the estate called Brownlee which lies between Garrion Bridge and Law and was originally the Barony of Mauldslie. In a letter to Allan Lindsay Arnold Brownlee, Sir James Montieth-Grant, Lord Lyon King of Arms on 5th September 1969, stated: “The cinquefoil ermine alludes to Hamilton, who were portioners of Brounlie in the Parish of carluke in the 17th century. The name Brownlee is said to have originated from this estate”.

Men who lived around the Forest Kirk in the same region where Wallace was chosen Guardian of Scotland, were generally described as men of the Forest, in time to become Forests or Forrest and this helps to explain how such names developed.

There are a number of Brownlees still resident in this district. Mr. Thomas Brownlee of Carnwath is famous for his Begonias and has taken many prizes far afield with these magnificent blooms.