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RIDDELL, the surname of an ancient Roxburghshire family. The first in Scotland of the name was Gervase de Riddel, who accompanied from England David, prince of Cumberland, afterwards David I., and received from him considerable lands in that county. He was of Norman extraction, his grandfather, the Sieur de Riddel, having come over with William the Conqueror. The latter is particularly named in the roll of Battle Abbey, with “Avenell and Ros,” and lands in various parts of England were bestowed on him by the Conqueror. From Dugdale’s Baronage (vol. i. p. 555), we learn that his son Geoffrey, Lord Riddel, father of Gervase, was lord-chief-justice of England in 1107, and that he married Geva, daughter of Hugh de Abrincas, earl of Chester, of whom descended Matilda or Maud, wife of David, earl of Huntingdon, and grandmother of Robert Bruce the competitor, grandfather of King Robert the Bruce. He perished at sea in the same ship with Prince William, son of Henry I., on their return from France in 1120. His son, Gervase or Geoffrey, was progenitor of the Scottish family of Riddell of Riddell.

This Gervase or Geoffrey Riddell was the earliest sheriff of Roxburghshire. He was witness to most of the charters and donations of King David I., and also to the well-known Inquisition made by that monarch when prince of Cumberland, for the old possessions belonging to the church of Glasgow. He died about 1140, leaving two sons, Walter, his heir, and Sir Anketil, who succeeded his brother.

The elder son, Walter de Riddell, had a charter from David I., of the lands of Lilliesleaf, Whittunes, &c., in the county of Roxburgh, to be held of the king per servitium inius militis, sicut unus baronum nostrorum, &c. This is admitted to be the oldest charter extant by a Scottish king to a laic. It is without a date, as was usual in those days, but must have been granted sometime between 1140 and 1153. Nisbet (vol. i. p. 374), says that he had seen a transumpt [sic] of it, made by order of Lord Gray, justice-general of Scotland, in a justiciary court held at Jedburgh in 1506. The lands named were afterwards called the barony of Riddell. In the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ Sir Walter Scott mentions

“Ancient Riddell’s fair domain.”

And in a note he says, “The family of Riddell have been very long in possession of the barony called Riddell or Reydale, part of which still bears the latter name. Tradition carries their antiquity to a point extremely remote; and is in some degree sanctioned by the discovery of two stone coffins, one containing an earthen pot filled with ashes and arms, bearing a legible date, A.D. 727, the other dated936, and filled with the bones of a man of gigantic size. These coffins were discovered in the foundations of what was, but has long since ceased to be, the chapel of Riddell, and, as it was argued with plausibility that they contained the remains of some ancestors of the family, they were deposited in the modern place of sepulture, comparatively so termed, though built in 1110.” There is nothing in the discovery of two stone coffins with the respective dates mentioned, to support the supposition that the family of Riddell was settled at that place in the seventh or eighth century, as has been rather hastily assumed. The first grant of land they had in Scotland was in the reign of David I., as above shown, when the first of the name came from England and obtained possessions in Roxburghshire.

Of Sir Anketil de Riddell, Walter’s brother and successor, we find in Dalrymple’s Collections many remarkable documents, particularly two bulls in confirmation from Popes Adrian IV. and Alexander III., of the lands of Lilliesleaf, Whittunes, &c., subsequently called Riddell, which have remained in the family through a long train of unbroken lineal succession. Sir Anketil had three sons; 1. Walter, his heir; 2. Hugo or Hugh, who was one of the hostages for King William the Lion, when taken prisoner at the battle of Alnwick in 1174; and 3. Jordanus de Riddell, who is witness to a charter of King William to the abbey of Dunfermline. Hugh, the second son, was progenitor of the Riddells of Cranstonriddell, having received a grant of the manor of Cranston in Mid Lothian from Earl Henry. The family terminated in an heiress, who, about 1478, married a son of the house of Crichton.

The eldest son, Walter de Riddell, had two sons; Sir Patrick, who, after succeeding to the estate, made donations of portions of his lands of Whittunes to the church at Melrose, in the reigns of William the Lion and Alexander II.; and Radulphus or Ralph, who is mentioned in several charters, and is supposed to have been progenitor of the Riddells of Swinburn castle in Northumberland. Sir Patrick’s son, Walter de Riddell, got all his lands erected into the free barony of Riddell, and was the first of the family designated of that ilk. He confirmed his father’s donations to Melrose, and himself made many donations to the monks of that place and Kelso. He had two sons, Sir William, and Patrick, who is mentioned in several writs.

Sir William, the elder son, was knighted, when a young man, by King Alexander II. He left two sons, Sir William, who, with his kinsman, Sir Hugh Riddell de Cranston, swore a forced fealty to Edward I. of England in 1296, and Galfrid or Geoffrey, who succeeded his brother. Galfrid’s son, Sir William de Riddell, succeeded about 1325, and died in the reign of Robert II. His son, Quintin de Riddell, was the next proprietor, and the fifth in regular descent from him, but the fourth who possessed the lands, was Walter de Riddell of that ilk, who married Mariota, daughter of Sir James Pringle of Galashiels, and died in the beginning of the reign of James VI. He had three sons; Walter, Robert, progenitor of the Riddells of Kinglass, and William.

The eldest son, Walter, was served heir to his father in 1588. His son, Andrew Riddell of Riddell and Haining in Selkirkshire, succeeded in 1595. The latter was twice married, his second wife being Violet, daughter of William Douglas of Pompherston, Esq. He died in the beginning of the reign of Charles I. With four daughters, he had four sons; 1. Sir John, the first baronet of the family. 2. William, ancestor of the Riddells of Newhouse. 3. James, progenitor of the Riddells of Maybole; and 4. Walter, upon whom he bestowed the lands of Haining. This gentleman’s last heir female, Magdalene Riddell, married David Erskine of Dun, a lord of session, and the family is now represented by the marquis of Ailsa, through the Erskines of Dun.

The eldest son, John, was by Charles I. created a baronet of Nova Scotia, 14th May 1628. With two daughters, he had four sons, namely, Sir Walter, second baronet; Sir William Riddell, governor of Desburgh in Holland; and John and Thomas, both captains in the Dutch service.

The eldest son, Sir Walter, was knighted in his father’s lifetime, and succeeded him as second baronet. He had three sons; Sir John, third baronet; William, progenitor of the Riddells of Glenriddel in Dumfries-shire, of whom afterwards; and Archibald, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, commemorated by Wodrow. He took part with the celebrated Blackadder in conducting field-preachings in the south, and about the year 1679, suffered imprisonment for his adherence to the covenant. He had two sons; Captain Walter Riddell of Granton, who died without issue, and Dr. John Riddell, physician in Edinburgh.
Sir John Riddell, third baronet, got a remission from James VII. In 1687, for having been engaged in some treasonable practices against the government. His son, Sir Walter, died in 1747. The fifth baronet, his son, also named Sir Walter, was succeeded in 1765, by his son, Sir John, sixth baronet, who died at Hampstead, near London, 16th April 1768. By his wife, Jane, eldest daughter and eventually heiress of James Buchanan, Esq. of Sunden, Bedfordshire, he had three sons, who all succeeded to the baronetcy, namely, Sir Walter, Sir James Buchanan Riddell, an officer 1st foot-guards, who died at Brunswick a few months after inheriting the title; and Sir John Buchanan Riddell, M.P. for Selkirkshire. The latter died in April 1819, leaving 4 sons and 5 daughters. The eldest son, Sir Walter Buchanan Riddell, barrister-at-law, 10th baronet, born Aug. 8, 1810, has been since February 1842 steward of the manorial courts of the duke of Northumberland. Recorder of Maidstone. He married in 1859 Alicia, youngest daughter of William Ripley, Esq., 52d foot.


The Riddells of Ardnamurchan, in Argyleshire, are said to be descended from Galfridus Riddel, baron of Blaye in Guienne, who aided the Normans in the conquest of Apulia, and accompanied William the Conqueror to England. From that monarch he obtained considerable grants of land. John Riddell, the sixteenth in descent from Galfridus, was the first of the family in Scotland. He married a daughter of Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, and was succeeded in 1584 by his son James Riddell, who, engaging in commercial pursuits, was for some time a merchant at Kasimier in Craconia, Poland. In Douglas’ Baronage (page 201), his father’s name is said to have been Robert, the second son of William Riddell of that ilk. The armorial bearings of the two families are different, and as it does not appear that the stock from which they both were derived was the same, it is probable that there is some mistake in this statement. About 1595 James Riddell was made a free denizen of the royal city of Kasamier, and in 1602 he had, from Alexander, then king of Poland, all the privileges of a free citizen confirmed to him. On his return to Scotland, he became a burgess and guild-brother of Edinburgh, and died in 1620. By his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Adam Allan, merchant in Edinburgh, he had a son, James, who acquired the lands of Kinglass, in Linlithgowshire, and was the first designated by that title. During the civil wars in the time of Charles I., he was much in the confidence of Oliver Cromwell and General Monk. The former lodged with him in his house at Leith, and he afterwards carried on a correspondence with him. He was appointed by the Scots Estates commissary general to their forces in their expedition to the north, and is so designated in his burgess ticket from the town of Brechin in 1645. This gentleman was among the first who established the woolen manufactures in Scotland. Mr. Hogg, the minister of South Leith, having remembered the king in his prayers, the church was, by General Monk’s order, turned into a stable, and the parishioners prevented from worshipping there. Previous to Monk’s return to England, he asked Mr. Riddell if there was anything wherein he could be serviceable to him or his family. He replied that the only favour he could show him was that he would restore their church to the parishioners of South Leith, and allow them their former liberty of meeting in it for divine service. Monk not only granted the request, but ordered a new roof to be put upon the church at his own expense. It return the inhabitants conferred on Mr. Riddell a large space in the body of the church for a seat for his family. He afterwards got a pass from General Monk, dated 25th November 1659, allowing him to pass and repass, free from molestation, with his servants, horses, arms, &c., about his private affairs. After the Restoration, he obtained from Charles II. an order to himself and some others, for erecting a new manufactory of woolen and tow cards, the first of the kind in Scotland, for which he obtained an act of the Scots parliament held at Edinburgh, 23d September 1663, and John, earl of Crawford and Lindsay, joined in partnership with him, their indenture of copartnery being dated 6th December 1663. He died in 1674. By his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of George Foulis of Ravelston, master of the king’s mint, he had four sons and two daughters.

The eldest son, James Riddell of Kinglass, was a captain in the Dutch service. He greatly encumbered his paternal estate, and dying unmarried, in 1688, was succeeded by his brother, George, a wine merchant at Leith. This gentleman married Jane, eldest daughter of Captain John Taylor, and dying in 1706, was succeeded by his son, Captain George Riddell, who married Christian, daughter of Andrew Paterson of Kirktown, and had 5 sons and 2 daughters. The sons were, 1. George, who became an eminent physician in Yorkshire, Virginia. 2. Andrew Riddell of Enfield, an officer in the army. 3. James Riddell of Belton, the first of Ardnamurchan, of whom afterwards. 4. John, who acquired a considerable estate by commerce in Virginia; and 5. Robert Riddell of Carzield, Dumfries-shire, an officer in the royal regiment of horseguards blue.

The extensive estate of Ardnamurchan was, with Sunart and the lead mines of Strontian, in Argyleshire, acquired by James Riddell, LL.D., the third son. He was for some time superintendent-general to the Hon. Society of the British fishery, which office he resigned in 1754. He was also a member of the Society of Arts and Sciences in England, and had the degree of LL.D. conferred upon him by the university of Edinburgh, 27th February 1767. He was created a baronet, 2d September 1778, and died 2d November 1797. By his wife, Mary, daughter and heiress of Thomas Miles of Billockby Hall, Norfolk, he had two sons, Thomas Miles Riddell and George James Riddell, who both possessed property in the county of Norfolk, The former predeceased his father on 17th July 1796, leaving, by his wife, Margaretta, daughter of Colonel Dugald Campbell of Lochnell, Argyleshire, two sons and a daughter.
Sir James Miles Riddell, the elder son, born June 3, 1787, succeeded his grandfather as 2d baronet in 1797. He graduated at Christ Church, Oxford, and was made D.C.I. He married in 1822, Mary, youngest daughter of Sir Richard Brooke, bart., of Norton Priory, Chester, issue, two sons and a daughter. He died Sept. 28, 1861. His elder son, Sir Thomas Miles Riddell, born Dec. 25, 1822, married in 1851 Mary Anne, daughter of John Hodgson, Esq. of St. Petersburg.


The Riddells of Glenriddell, Dumfries-shire, were descended from Sir Walter Riddell, second baronet of that ilk, through William, his second son, an advocate at the Scottish bar. This William acquired the lands of Friarshaw in Teviotdale, and afterwards Glenriddell, and married Elizabeth, daughter of Captain Francis Wauchope of the Niddry family. His son, Walter, married Catharine, eldest daughter of Sir Robert Lawrie of Maxwellton, baronet, and had, with two daughters, two sons, Robert, who succeeded him, and John, who married Helen, daughter of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmilne, with issue. The elder son, Robert, married Jane, daughter of Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, by whom he had several daughters.

Of this family was Robert Riddell of Glenriddell, an eminent antiquarian and musical amateur, and an early patron and correspondent of Burns. He composed the airs to several of Burns’ songs, particularly ‘The Banks of Nith,’ ‘The Whistle,’ ‘Nithsdale’s Welcome Home,’ ‘The Blue Eyed Lassie,’ and ‘The Day Returns,’ The last song was composed as a tribute of gratitude and respect to Mr. Riddell and his lady, on the anniversary of their marriage day. “At their fireside,” says Burns, “I have enjoyed more pleasant evenings than at all the houses of fashionable people in this country put together; and to their kindness and hospitality I am indebted for many of the happiest hours of my life.” In the ballad of ‘The Whistle,’ Burns styles him “The Trusty Glenriddell, so versed in old coins.” That ballad commemorates a drinking match which took place, October 16th, 1790, at Friar’s Carse Hermitage, Dumfries-shire, Mr. Riddell’s residence, between Sir Robert Lawrie of Maxwellton, Mr. Riddell, and Mr. Fergusson of Craigdarroch, a relative of the latter, for the celebrated ebony whistle, which had been originally brought to Scotland by a Danish gentleman, in the train of Anne of Denmark. On this occasion it was gained by Mr. Fergusson. Friar’s Carse afterwards became the property of a family of the name of Crichton, and the original MS. Of ‘The Whistle,’ in Burns’ handwriting, is said to have been left in their possession. The poet’s well-known lines on Friar’s Carse Hermitage were written at the request of Mr. Riddell in 1788, shortly after Burns had become the tenant of the farm of Ellisland, in its neighbourhood. Having distinguished himself by his researches concerning the antiquities of his native country, Mr. Riddell was elected a member of the philosophical society of Manchester and a fellow of the antiquarian societies of Edinburgh and London. He died April 21, 1794. He published in the Archaeologia ‘Account of the ancient Lordship of Galloway, from the earliest period to the year 1455, when it was annexed to the Crown of Scotland.’ Archaeol. 1789, vol. ix. 49. ‘Remarks on the Title of Thane and Abthane.’ Ib 329. ‘Of the Ancient Modes of Fortification in Scotland.’ Ib. 1792, vol. x. 99. ‘On Vitrified Fortifications in Galloway.’ Ib. 147. ‘Account of a Symbol of Ancient Investiture in Scotland.’ Ib. 1794, vol. xi. 45. ‘Account of a Brass Vessel found near Dumfries in Scotland, 1790.’ Ib. 105. ‘Notices of Fonts in Scotland.’ Ib. 106.

Captain Walter Riddell, a younger brother of Glenriddell, acquired by purchase a property in the neighbourhood of Dumfries, which he named Woodley Park, in honour of his wife, a Miss Maria Banks, who was born at Woodley in England. Her father was governor of the Caribbee islands, and in April 1788 she went out to visit him. On her return, after her marriage with Captain Riddell, she published ‘Voyages to the Madeira and Leeward Caribbean Isles, with Sketches of the Natural History of these Islands.’ Edin. 1792, 1 vol. 12mo. Dedicated to Mr. William Smellie, to whom she was introduced by Burns by a letter published in his Correspondence. She was also the authoress of some poems and songs.

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