Origins

A short history lesson for those not yet aware of the origins of the Carbis surname.

Carbis in the original Cornish may have been ‘Car-Pons’ which is thought to have meant a ‘Cart-Bridge’. From the Handbook of Cornish Surnames by G. Pawley White.

Carbis from it’s far older Cornish name of ‘Car-Bons’ may also generally be understood to mean ‘Camp on a bridge’ or a ‘Paved causeway’. These may well have been borrowed from the Latin during the Roman occupation of about 55BC – 410AD.

As a Breton place name, the word may be applied to ‘Places far from streams’, so that the Middle Breton equivalent [about 1465 AD] of this word is ‘street’. All very confusing, but there is more.

Dexter’s Cornish and Welsh Elements of Local Surnames gives ‘Car- as a ‘Camp’. Additionally ‘Kar-, Ker-‘ as in Carbis, meaning a ‘Rock’; is given by C. L. Estrange Owen in the 1931 edition of his History of Surnames of the British Isles.

As early as the 14th century, usually showed the second syllable in the form ‘bous or bows’ with further changes to ‘bis’ from the 16th century, it is this last change that has remained with this particular family’s surname spelling.

In Scotland there is today the small town of Culrain, Sutherland which was previously known as ‘Carbisdale’ the origin of which is described as Norse, coming as it does from ‘Kjaarbolsta’ meaning ‘copse-stead’, with the suffix ‘dalr’ meaning ‘dale’. Similarly, in the Gaelic, ‘Caerr’ pronounced ‘Car’, means ‘brushwood or fearny wood’ and ‘Bost’ meaning ‘settlement, or steading’.

Culrain – of the old ‘Carbisdale or Carbustell’ of 1548 AD, the modern name is said to have been imposed from Coleraine in Ireland.

The area of Carbisdale, in spite of its small size, was probably noted on the early maps owing to its position at the major junction of a number of tracks which would have been used by cattle drovers of that period. An important battle was fought nearby which was to end in the defeat of Montrose and his men on 27th April 1650 at Craigchoynechan, besides Carbesdell. Montrose a popular hero was eventually captured and subsequently beheaded. [Reference; The Statistical Account of Scotland 1987].

It is suggested that this place is not marked on later maps simply through the lack of space, as other names were added. There appears to have been no definite decision to remove or change the name. Today, the castle that is built on the site of the old Culrain Lodge in 1910 was named Carbisdale Castle, which implies that the name has continued to be used locally for a considerable number of years. And as may be fitting, it is still in use today, as a Youth Hostel.