Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scottish Nation

TORPHICHEN, a surname, now very rare, derived from the parish of that name in the county of Linlithgow. Among the favourites of James III. hanged by the incensed nobles over Lauder bridge in 1478, was one Torphichen, a dancing-master.

“The name,” says Dr. Hetherington, in his description of the parish in the New Statistical Account of Scotland, “is evidently Celtic in its origin, but etymologists are by no means agreed with regard to its true composition and meaning. The word Tor is unquestionably hill, but the latter part of the name is more doubtful. Some assert it to mean ten, and say that it refers to a range of hills in the vicinity having ten summits. The range, however, has not more than seven distinct summits; and the Gaelic word fichead means twenty, not ten, as they assume. The most probable derivation seems to be Torfeochan, or the hill of the Ravens. It may be regarded as some corroboration of this meaning that there is an estate in the neighbourhood of the village named Crawhill, and that the crest of the most extensive land proprietor in the parish is a raven chained to a rock, as if in allusion to the parochial name.”


TORPHICHEN, Baron, a title in the Scottish peerage, granted in 1563 to Sir James Sandilands, who at the Reformation was chief of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem in Scotland. These knights were at one time called knights of Rhodes, and finally knights of Malta. Their principal residence in this country was a little to the north-east of the village of Torphichen, and Sir James Sandilands having acquired all their property there, got it erected into a temporal lordship.

The surname of Sandilands is very ancient, being derived from lands of that name in the upper ward of Lanarkshire. Some writers affirm that the noble family of this surname belonged originally to Northumberland, and were driven into Scotland after the English conquest, in the reign of Malcolm Canmore. Their immediate ancestor was Sir James Sandilands, a valiant knight, who distinguished himself in the wars against the English in the reign of David II., from whom he had two charters, one of the lands of Wiston in Lanarkshire. He had also a charter of confirmation in 1346 from William, Lord Douglas, of lands in Douglasdale. He married Eleanor, countess of Carrick, sister of Douglas, and widow of Alexander, earl of Carrick, the son of Edward Bruce, king of Ireland, and received with her, in free marriage, the barony of West Calder, Mid Lothian. This grant was confirmed by Duncan, earl of Fife, the superior of the same, and by David II. IN consequence of this alliance, the family of Sandilands quartered the arms of Douglas with their own. Sir James was killed at the battle of Halidonhill in 1333. His widow was afterwards three times married, being five times in all. With a daughter, Marion, Lady Kennedy of Dunure, they had a son, Sir James Sandilands of Calder, whose name frequently occurs in the register of charters of King Robert II. He married, in 1384, the princess Johanna, second daughter of that monarch, and widow of Sir John Lyon of Glammis.

Their only son, James Sandilands of Calder, was one of the hostages for King James I., when he was allowed to visit Scotland 31st May 1421; also when he finally returned to his kingdom 28th March 1424. At that time his annual revenue was estimated at 400 merks. He was dead before 7th December 1426.

His son, Sir John Sandilands of Calder, was assassinated near Dumbarton, in 1456, on account of his unshaken loyalty to James II., by one Patrick Thornton, of the king’s court, a favourer of the Douglas faction. The murderer, with his accomplices, was apprehended and executed.

Sir John’s son, also named Sir John Sandilands of Calder, made over, in 1466, his estates to his son, Sir James Sandilands. The latter had a charter of the lands and barony of Airth, Bisset, Slamannan, Bannockburn, &c., dated July 14, 1488. He was twice married, first to Margaret, daughter and heiress of John Kinloch of Cruvie, Fifeshire, and had, with two daughters, two sons; John, who succeeded him, and James Sandilands of Cruvie, ancestor of Lord Abercrombie; secondly, to Margaret, daughter of Andrew Ker of Auldtounburn, ancestor of the dukes of Roxburghe, without issue. After his death, she married the third earl of Errol.

Sir John Sandilands, the elder son, married Elizabeth, daughter of James Scrimgeour, lord of Dudhope and constable of Dundee, and had a son, Sir James Sandilands of Calder, who is described in Crawford’s Peerage as a person of great wisdom and of the most exemplary piety and virtue. He died after 1553. By his wife, Margaret or Mariot, only daughter of Archibald Forrester of Corstorphine, he had, with two daughters, two sons, John, who succeeded his father, and James, first Lord Torphichen.

The elder son, John Sandilands of Calder, married, first, Margaret, daughter of Sir Robert Barton of Over Barnton, high-treasurer of Scotland, and had one son, James, who died in 1577, leaving a son, James, second Lord Torphichen; secondly, Johanna, third daughter of John, Lord Fleming. By this lady he also had a son, Sir James Sandilands of Slamannanmure, one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to King James VI., and on 2d October 1595, appointed constable and keeper of the castle of Blackness.

James, first Lord Torphichen, second son of Sir James Sandilands of Calder and Elizabeth Scrimgeour, was, on account of his great talents and learning, recommended by Sir Walter Lindsay, preceptor of the order of St. John of Jerusalem in Scotland, to the master of that order at Malta, as a person well qualified to be his successor. The knights of this order were introduced into Scotland, in 1153, by David I., and had many possessions conferred on them by him and his successors. When the knights Templar were suppressed in 1308, they got possession of the extensive property of that great rival order, which had its chief seat at Temple, Mid-Lothian. In 1291 and 1296, Alexander de Wells, “prior hospitalis sancti Johannis Jerusalemitani in Scotia,” swore fealty to Edward I.; and from precepts which the English king issued to the sheriffs to restore the property of the knights, the order seems, even at that early period, to have had estates in almost every shire except Argyle, Bute, and Orkney.

Sir James Sandilands resided for some years at Malta, and gave such proofs of his ability that he was admitted one of the knights and inaugurated as the future preceptor. On Sir Walter Lindsay’s death in 1538, he was invested with the title, power, and jurisdiction of Lord St. John of Jerusalem in Scotland. He was often employed in negotiations of importance with England, and both he and his brother were great supporters of the Reformation, which he embraced in 1558. After John Knox’s arrival in Scotland in 1555, it is well known that he resided for some time at Calder, preaching often in Edinburgh. A portrait of the reformer is hung up in the hall or gallery of Calder house, the seat of Lord Torphichen, where it is asserted by some writers that he dispensed the ordinance of the Lord’s supper for the first time in Scotland after the Reformation. The picture bears on its back the following statement: “Mr. John Knox: The first sacrament of the super given in Scotland, after the Reformation, was dispensed by him in this hall.” This is incorrect. The first time the sacrament of the Supper was dispensed after the reformed manner in Scotland was in the castle of St. Andrews in 1547. (M’Crie, p. 50, 1st ed.) The account given by Knox himself, in his History of the Reformation, seems to imply that he dispensed this ordinance in the west country before he did it in Calder House. Calderwood (vol. i. p. 306) says: “In the beginning of January, 1556, Mr. Knox was conveyed to Kyle by Robert Campbell of Kingzeancleuche, and taught in the Barr, Carnell, Kingzeancleuche, Aire, Ochiltrie, Gathgirth, and ministred the Lord’s Table in some of these parts. The erle of Glencarne sent for him to Finlaston, where he also ministred the Lord’s Table, wherof the erle, his ladie, two of his sonnes, and certane of his friends were partakers. From thence he returned to Calder, where diverse from Edinburgh and other parts of the countrie assembled, as weill for doctrine as for the right ministratioun of the Lord’s Table, which before they had never seene.”

In 1559, Sir James Sandilands joined the lords of the Congregation who were in arms against the queen-regent at Cupar Muir, Fifeshire, and the following year, after the death of that princess, he was sent to France by the reformers to give an account of their proceedings before Francis and Mary, “not so much,” says Calderwood (vol. iii. p. 39), “to seeke pardon for anie bypast offences, as to purge his countriemen, and lay the blame of the late tumults upon the Frenche. The Gwisians rebuked him sharplie that he, being a knight of the holy order, should have taken upon him anie message or instructions from rebels, for that execrable religion which had been latelie condemned in the council of Trent,” and he was dismissed without an answer.

Two years after Queen Mary’s return to Scotland, he resigned into her hands the property of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem in Scotland, and on 24th January 1563, she was pleased, on payment by him of 10,000 crowns of the sun (equal to about £1,100 sterling, a large sum in those days), and an annual rent of 500 merks, to grant to him and his heirs and assigns whatever, the lands and baronies of Torphichen, Liston, and the other estates of the order, in different counties, erecting the same into the temporal lordship of Torphichen. He died, without issue, 29th November 1596, when his title and estates devolved on his grand-nephew, James Sandilands of Calder, as above stated.

James, second Lord Torphichen, was, in the decreet of ranking of the Scots nobility, dated in 1606, placed immediately after Lord Boyd, whose peerage dated before 1459, and died in 1617. He was twice married, but had issue only by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of James Heriot of Trabrown, viz. a daughter, Isabel, wife of Hugh Wallace of Elderslie, and four sons. 1. James, third Lord Torphichen, who voted in parliament in 1621 against the five articles of Perth, and died the following year. 2. John, fourth Lord Torphichen, who died in July 1637. 3. Hon. William Sandilands of Hilderston, Linlithgowshire, tutor of Calder. 4. Hon. Robert Sandilands. William’s son, Walter Sandilands, younger of Hilderston, married in 1674, Anna Hamilton, daughter and heiress of James Hamilton of Westport, Linlithgowshire, and, in consequence, assumed the name and arms of Hamilton. Walter’s son, Sir James Sandilands Hamilton of Westport, dying in 1733, was succeeded by his brother, Sir Walter Sandilands Hamilton, whose daughter, Grizel, married John Ferrier, Esq. of Kirkland, Renfrewshire, writer in Edinburgh, and their son, on succeeding his grandfather, in 1763, also took the name of Hamilton.

The fourth Lord Torphichen had, with two daughters, three sons. 1. John, fifth lord, who succeeded his father when very young. 2. Walter, sixth lord. 3. Hon. William Sandilands of Coustoun, Linlithgowshire, which lands were entailed by his son, William Sandilands of Coustoun.

During the minority of John, fifth Lord Torphichen, he was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, the Hon. William Sandilands of Hilderston, who was commonly called the tutor of Calder. His lordship protested against the “Engagement” to march into England for the rescue of Charles I., in 1648. He was one of the few peers who sat in the parliament of Scotland in January 1649, and died in July following, unmarried. His brother, Walter, sixth Lord Torphichen, was four times married, and had issue by all his wives. On his death in 1696, he was succeeded by his second youngest son, James, seventh Lord Torphichen.

This nobleman took the oaths and his seat in parliament, 6th July 1704, and gave his warm support to the treaty of union. As lieutenant-colonel of the 7th dragoons, he served on the continent in the wars of Queen Anne. On the breaking out of the rebellion of 1715, he hastened from London to Scotland, where his regiment happened to be stationed. At the head of a body of 500 horse and foot, he marched from Edinburgh, 17th October, to Seton house, the seat of the earl of Wintoun, which had been taken possession of by the rebels. Finding them, however, too strongly entrenched within the surrounding high stone wall, to be dislodged without artillery, he returned to Edinburgh, after exchanging some shots. At the battle of Sheriffmuir, 13th November, at the head of his regiment of dragoons, he did good service against the Highlanders. IN 1722, he quitted the army, and by George I. was appointed one of the lords of police. He died 10th August 1753, after possessing the title 57 years. He had married Lady Jean Home, youngest daughter of the first earl of Marchmont, and sister of the celebrated Lady Grizel Baillie, and, with three daughters, had eight sons. 1. James, master of Torphichen, a lieutenant in the 44th foot, who received no fewer than twenty-six wounds from the rebels at the battle of Preston in 1745, and after lingering for more than three years, died, 20th April 1749, of consumption, unmarried. 2. Walter, eighth Lord Torphichen. 3. Hon. Patrick Sandilands, who obtained the command of one of the East India Company’s country ships, on account of his gallant behaviour in repulsing a party of Angria pirates who had boarded the vessel. He was drowned in a storm at sea, with out issue. 4. Hon. Alexander Sandilands, who died young. 5. Hon. Andrew Sandilands, a lieutenant in the 21st foot, or Royal Scots fusiliers, who behaved so well at the battle of Dettingen that he was promoted to a company in August 1743. At the battle of Fontenoy in April 1745, he was shot through the thigh. He was at that time major of the regiment, but on account of that wound he quitted the army at the peace, and died, unmarried, 27th June 1776. 6. Hon. George Sandilands, who died young. 7. Hon. Charles Sandilands, lieutenant R.N., who died in the Carthagena expedition under Admiral Vernon in 1741. 8. Hon. Robert Sandilands, an officer in the army, first in the Scottish brigade in the Dutch service, and afterwards in a regiment of light dragoons. He married Grizel, daughter of Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, baronet, and died 18th May 1791. His only son, James, succeeded as tenth Lord Torphichen.

Walter, eighth Lord Torphichen, was admitted advocate in 1727, and as sheriff-depute of Mid Lothian, was extremely active and useful when the rebels had possession of Edinburgh in 1745, in preserving order and inducing the inhabitants to provide necessaries of all kinds for the king’s forces. He succeeded his father in 1753, and died 9th November 1765. By his wife, Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Alexander Sandilands, M.D., physician of the British hospital in Flanders, he had four sons. 1. James, ninth Lord Torphichen. 2. Hon. Alexander Sandilands, lieutenant in the Royal Scots Greys, who died 20th November 1806, in his 46th year, unmarried. 3. Hon. Walter Sandilands, who died young. 4. Hon. Hugh Sandilands, lieutenant 78th foot. Accompanying his regiment to the East Indies, he was severely wounded on board the Monarca, in the engagement between Sir Edward Hughes and Admiral de Suffrein, one of the bravest and most skilful of the French naval commanders, 2d September 1782, and died the following month at Madras.

James, ninth Lord Torphichen, born 15th November 1759, was in his youth an officer in the 21st foot, or Royal Scots fusiliers, in General Burgoyne’s unfortunate expedition to America, and was one of those who piled their arms at Saratoga in 1777, in consequence of the convention concluded by Burgoyne with General Gates. Being exchanged, he had a company in the 24th foot in 1781, and a lieutenancy in the Coldstream foot guards in 1787, in which regiment he had a company, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, in 1793. He served under the duke of York in the campaign in Flanders in 1793 and 1794, and retired from the service in 1795. He was chosen one of the 16 Scots representative peers in 1790, and again in 1796, and died in 1815. He had married Anne, only surviving child and heiress of Sir John Inglis of Cramond, baronet, but without issue. He was succeeded by his first cousin, James, only son of the Hon. Robert Sandilands.

This nobleman, 10th Lord Torphichen, born July 21, 1770, married Nov. 3, 1806, Margaret Douglas, second daughter of John Stirling, Esq. of Kippendavie, and by her, with one daughter, Mary, Hon. Mrs. Ramsay of Barnton, he had three sons. 1. Robert, master of Torphichen, born 3d August 1807. 2. The Hon. And Rev. John Sandilands, M.A., rector of Coston, Leicestershire. 3. Hon. James Sandilands, at one period captain in the 8th hussars. The 10th Lord Torphichen died March 22, 1862, in his 92 year.

His eldest son, Robert, succeeded as 11th Lord Torphichen. The family of Torphichen are heirs-general of the original line of the house of Douglas.

The property belonging to the knights of St. John of Jerusalem in Scotland at the time of the creation of the title of Lord Torphichen, comprised no less than eight baronies in different counties, but the lands have been gradually sold till little more remains than that portion in which the title is vested, lying around and adjacent to the ancient preceptory of the order.

The title of Lord St. John, held by the preceptor of the knights of that name in Scotland, entitled its holder to a seat in parliament, and was possessed, without patent, in virtue of the office, which was one of great power and importance. The title of Lord Torphichen which replaced it, was granted by the charter of Queen Mary, dated January 24, 1563, which is the only writing under which the Lords Torphichen were entitled to sit and vote in the Scots parliament. The grantee and his heirs and assigns acquired the newly erected barony of Torphichen, with a right to all the immunities, privileges, dignities, and pre-eminences vested formerly in the preceptors. The title being thus conferred, without further creation, must be considered a territorial one.

Return to The Scottish Nation Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus