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Clan Lauder

The name originates from Lauder in Berwickshire. In the thirteenth century the Lauders owned Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth.

John Lauder (d.1692), an Edinburgh merchant, who received the Barony of Fountainhall in 1681, was created a baronet in 1690.

Sir John Lauder (d. 1772), 2nd Baronet, a judge of the Court of Session, was made Lord Fountainhall in 1689. The 5th Baronet married his cousin Isobel (d.1758), heiress of William Dick of Grange.


by Gregory Lauder-Frost, F.S.A.(Scot).

There are now many books covering Scottish Surnames available. The first of note, and still highly regarded, is George Black’s The Surnames of Scotland. Mr.Black was American and, it would appear, carried out his research in the New York Library nearly a century ago. How, I wondered, could he have compiled such a book without recourse to the extensive archives in Scotland itself and publications of them? I myself have found many oddities in his book, not least in the entry for the surname Lauder where he states that the surname came from a territorial designation. I felt it was time to write a new, more extensive article on this surname and its origins.

LAUDER, is a surname from which family the town in Berwickshire,Scotland, takes its name. Sir Edmund Burke says "the surname of Lauder, anciently de Lavedre, is of Norman origin" (quoted in Notes on Historical References to the Scottish Family of Lauder, edited by James Young, Glasgow, 1884). Sir Robert de Lavedre [latin manuscripts often have the ‘u’ written as a ‘v’] was a Norman knight recruited at the English Court, already under heavy Norman influence, by Malcolm Canmore (reigned 1058-1093) to assist in the recovery of the Scottish throne from MacBeth (ruled c1040-1057). Anderson (Scottish Nation, vol.II, Edinburgh, 1861) states that "the first of this surname, originally de Lavedre, is stated to have been one of those Anglo-Norman barons who accompanied Maclcolm Canmore into Scotland and obtained from the monarch certain grants of land, particularly in Berwickshire, to which he gave his own name, also being invested with the hereditary baillieship of Lauderdale.” However James Young (1884) states that Sir Robert came into Scotland in the army led by Siward, Earl of Northumberland, in 1054, acting under command from King Edward 'The Confessor'. The purpose of the invasion was nevertheless the said restoration to Malcolm Canmore of his father's throne.

The family of Lauder were also the earliest proprietors on record of the island of The Bass, in the Firth of Forth, being designated the Lauders of The Bass. The Bass Rock (several contributing scholars, Edinburgh 1848) says: "the earliest proprietors of the island on record were the ancient family of the Lauders, who, from this, were usually designated the Lauders of the Bass. The island continued in the possession of this ancient family for about five centuries.” The New Statistical Account of Scotland (vol.II, 1845, p.330) also states "the Bass for many generations was the property of an ancient family, styled Lauder of the Bass, one of whom is stated to have been a compatriot of Wallace." R.P.Phillimore (North Berwick and District, North Berwick, 1913, p.47) writes "the military history of the Bass seems to date from the time of Malcolm. It remained in the hands of his family for upwards of 600 years." Thomas Hannan, who researched considerably for his book Famous Scottish Houses (1928), also tells us that the Tyninghame Manor in East Lothian existed "as early as 1094 when it was owned by the lairds of the Bass".

In The Grange of St.Giles (Edinburgh 1898), J.Stewart Smith tells us that "after his coronation Malcolm Canmore granted lands to all those barons who had assisted him to recover the throne. One of those Anglo-Norman barons who signally distinguished himself by his prowess in the field at Birnham Wood in 1056 was Robertus de Lavedre. For these services he was rewarded with large grants of land in Berwickshire and the Lothians, and also a portion of MacBeth’s lands in Morayshire. He fixed his seat in the beautiful dale of the Leader Water, naming the district, by Royal Command, after his own surname - Lauder - dale; henceforth he became known as Lawedre of that Ilk. Of these lands he and his heirs were appointed hereditary bailies by the King at the Parliament of Forfar". (Refer also Holinshed pp.277/278). In Macbeth (by Peter Berresford Ellis, London,1980])it is stated "after Malcolm's conquest of Scotland the leaders of his army were granted estates, especially in Moray clan lands, by way of payment. For example, The Lamberton Charter relates that 'Sir Robert de Lawder got part lands [Quarrelwood, parish of Spynie, near Elgin] in Moray for assisting Malcolm Canmore to recover the throne of Scotland'."

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder (1784-1848) the renowned author and Whig, also stated in his famous book, Scottish Rivers, (1890 reprint, chapter XI, pps: 146-150) that "Robert Lauder came into Scotland with Malcolm Canmore and besides certain lands in the Lothians, he had large possessions assigned to him at Lauder."

Although some, such as Anderson, and Cosmo Innes in Concerning some Scotch Surnames, have suggested a connexion between the name of the Leader Water [river] and the Lauder surname, old documents and charters clearly show a distinct difference. For instance, a glance at the ancient Liber Sancte Marie de Melros show that the entries made circa 1153 refer to the ‘acqua de Leder’ and ‘fluvius de Ledre’, yet another entry in a Royal charter of the same period refers clearly to ‘terras in territorio de Lauuedir’. And, in 1208 there is a charter of arable lands west of the Leder, between the road going towards Louueder and the Leder. James Young’s conclusions in his work of 1884 should leave the reader in no doubt about this surname’s origins. Burke too states that Lauder’s name was given to his lands and goes on to say that about 1000AD Normans had begun assuming family surnames.

M.A.Lower, writing in his Patronymica Britannica said that "many of the Norman noblesse who had brought family names across the channel, transferred themselves to North Britain and of course did not drop those designations into the River Tweed". Mr.Lower goes on to tell us that whilst Malcolm Canmore did call a General Council at Forfar in 1061 in which he directed his chief subjects without surnames to adopt names from their territorial possessions, there were no territorial surnames in Scotland before the twelfth century and that they were unusual before the thirteenth. Moreover, Alexander Nisbet in his famous Systems of Heraldry clearly identifies the ancient arms of the Lauders - a griffin rampant - as being something that they brought into the country with them, its origins being either Flemish or even German [refer also: James Young]. What information we have points to the Lauder surname being brought into Scotland, as is the contention here.

The Lauderdale Lordship of Regality awarded to Hugo de Morville (d.1162), another Norman, which later passed via marriage to Sir John de Balliol, and then the Douglases, in the 14th century, gave a landed superiority to them, but many of these properties ended up also in the hands of the Lauder family. They did not generally extend as far north as the present-day Lauder bugh. Lauder and Lauderdale (A. Thomson, Galashiels 1902) says further of these families, and the Maitlands, that "the Lauders of that Ilk were the earlier family". Robert Romanes, writing in Lauder: a Series of Papers (1903) says "the family of Lauder was also an important one in connection with the burgh, and it is more than likely that this family had an earlier connection with Lauder than the de Morvilles, and most probably [already] had possessions in and about Lauder when the de Morvilles got their rights in Lauderdale. There is no likelihood that the Lauders would thereby be dispossessed, but they might have had to render some service or make contribution in kind as a [feudal] condition of holding their possessions from, and receiving the protection of, the de Morvilles." Also, Sir Herbert Maxwell, in The Story of the Tweed(London 1909) states "previous to the Maitlands obtaining ascendancy in Lauderdale, there was another family of landowners there named Lauder of that Ilk. They had several towers in the district".

In 1629 Messrs.C.Lowther, R.Fallon and Peter Manson wrote in a Journal of their Tour in Scotland "in Lauder dwell many of the Lauders, one of whose houses is a very fine one". This is almost certainly a reference to the ancient Lauder Tower, which according to Sir Thomas Dick Lauder in Scottish Rivers, "had massive walls and towering buttresses". Further evidence of this is provided in the Lauderdale Accounts where it states that the massive foundations were dug up between December 1699 and February 1701 by the mason employed in the demolition, Mr.James Bennett. The position of the tower is mentioned in Robert Romanes’ Papers on Lauder (1903) and in The Grange of St.Giles. It is thought that the present-day town grew up around this original keep. Other Towers of the Lauders were at Wyndepark [Winepark] and Whitslaid, both near Lauder in Berwickshire.

In 1188 Sir Robertus de Lavedre was among the Scottish nobles who accompanied the Earl of Huntingdon, brother to William the Lion (refer Nisbet’s Heraldry folio, p.351) on the Third Crusade (also in James Young, and The Grange of St.Giles). Black correctly tells us that a Sir Robert de Lauedre witnessed a charter by John de Mautelent [Maitland] to the Abbey of Dryburgh although no date is given. J.Stewart Smith says that this Lauder is the son of the Crusader, placing it circa 1200. In 1251 William de Lowedre of Lowther was Sheriff of Perth (refer Burke’s Baronage, James Young, and Stewart-Smith), and there is a Writ extant dated ‘anni gratiae MCCLXX’ which concerns an Alexandro de Lavedre filius de Popil and haeres Johannis de Lavedre de Popil [today’s Papple] in Haddingtonshire (East Lothian).

According to The Grange of St.Giles, (p.155) Abercromby’s Martial Atchievements of the Scottish Nation(Edinburgh 1711, volume 1,p.529, folio) and Blind Harry’s Wallace, book VIII, Sir Robert de Lawedre, Laird of Congalton and The Bass, was the "inseperable associate of Sir William Wallace", was at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and died in May 1311.(Refer also Nisbet, p.443,folio 1722). Part of his tombstone survives, and is in the care of the East Lothian County Council.

His son, also a companion of Wallace, was yet another Sir Robert de Lawedre of The Bass and was appointed Justiciary of the Lothians sometime prior to 1319 by King Robert the Bruce and was a plenipotentiary to sign the English-Scottish truce on the 3rd May 1323,(Refer Rymer’s Foedera vol.III, p.1022). It has been pointed out that the declaration of Arbroath of 1320 does not give a complete roll-call of the leading barons of Robert I’s regime. Professor Barrow has referred to the omission of ‘men such as Andrew Murray of Bothwell, Robert Lauder [of The Bass], and Robert Menzies [of Weem], etc. (Essays on the Nobility of Medieval Scotland, K.J.Stringer, ed.,Edinburgh, 1985, p.214). The Lauders appear in a list of families below the rank of earl, who are considered as belonging to the Scottish higher nobility prominent at this time (p.225)

This same Sir Robert de Lawedre was again ambassador for Scotland 17th March 1327 (refer Robertson’s Index folio, p.101) and in 1328 at Northampton. John Scott, in The History of Berwick notes that he was Governor of Berwick Castle 1329/1330. He was noted at an Inquest at Aberdeen on 10th September 1333 as Chamberlain of Scotland (refer The Douglas Book by Sir William Fraser, volume II - The Douglas Correspondence p.587) and had present as an aged observer at the Battle of Halidon Hill in July 1333 (Knyghton).

His eldest son was designated Sir Robert de Lawdre of Quarrelwood, (part of the MacBeth lands already mentioned) and Captain of Urquhart Castle. He fought at the Battle of Halidon Hill and afterwards successfully held Urquhart against the invading English army (Boethius Book XV,chapter 5; also Hailes’ Annals vol II, p.168). This Sir Robert had been appointed Justiciary of the North of Scotland in 1328 and was a Scottish peace treaty commissioner in 1335 (refer Foedera v.IV,p.677). He was granted a pension by David II on 1st October 1363 (refer Great Seal 1306-1424, number 67, p.32).

In Chalmer’s Caledonia vol.II,p.488, there is mention of a confirmation of 1359 of property to the nuns of Haddington of some land granted by Patrick, son of Roger de Lawdre of Popil. Alan de Lawedre of that Ilk was a close friend of the Earl of Douglas and was Constable and Keeper of his Tantallon castle. Alan received many charters of lands including Haltoun in Ratho on 26th July 1377 (refer Great Seal 1306-1424, p.48, No.104). Alan was Clerk of the Justiciary Rolls and received a pension for that in 1374 (Great Seal 1306-1424,pps.82 & 101, nos.281 & 29). Alan also received "una protectione perpetua" from King Robert II who seems to have held him in high esteem. He had two sons of significant note: Sir Robert of The Bass (d.c1425) and George of Haltoun (d. c1426). He also had an illegitimate son, Edward de Lawedre, Archdeacon of Lothian.

Sir Robert de Lawedre of The Bass appears in 1384 as ‘Robertus Lawider Dominus de la Basse’ (Jamieson,sIllustrations to Slezer’s Theateum Scotiae, p.123; Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol.I p.344) and was present at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388. His seal is featured in Ancient Scottish Seals by Henry Laing (Edinburgh 1850). Sir Robert’s Foundation Charter to Glasgow Cathedral in September 1414 mentions his wife and all his 8 sons living, His eldest son and heir-apparent in that charter was William de Lawedre, Bishop of Glasgow & Lord Chancellor of Scotland, but he, like his brother John, predeceased his father.

The next son and ultimate heir, Sir Robert de Lawedre of Edringtoun, Berwickshire, who continued to use that territorial title as often as he now did Lord of The Bass. He was Justiciar of Scotland, south of the Forth, with his brother James de Lauder as Justice-clerk.

Between 1425 and 1433 Sir Robert was Governor of Edinburgh Castle. His name appears on the board of governors of that place now displayed in The Great Hall of the castle. Sir Robert was also an auditor of Exchequer. He appears frequently in the public records and also edowed an altar to St.Mary in North Berwick Kirk on 4th March 1435 (refer The North Berwick Story by Walter M.Ferrier, North Berwick.1981.) He died just before Michaelmas in 1451.

His son, Sir Robert of Lawder of Edrington & The Bass, was Keeper of the Castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed 1460-1474 and 1476-1477 (refer Great Seal 1424-1503 number 1276) and his son, another Sir Robert Lawder conveyed Princess Cicely’s dowry to the English Court (refer Chalmer’s Caledonia vol II,p.283; and Rymer’s Foedera Anglicae, volume XIII, p.41; and Bain, volume IV, p.1445).

In the Privy Seals, 29 Henry VI, File 5, P.R.O., there is mention of a warrant of Safe Conduct through England for William Lauther [of Haltoun] and an Alan of Lauther (of that Ilk) dated 9th November 1450. However in File 2, in a further warrant dated 23rd April 1451, they are spelt as William of Lauwdre of Halton and Alane of Lawdre. In 1464 (Bain, number 1346) there is mentioned Sir John of Lawidir of Hawton [Haltoun] (sic) and in 1470 Robert Lauder (Bain no.1388). Again we find Robert Lawdir of Edrington son and heir apparent to Robert of Lawdir of The Bass in another safe-conduct through England (already mentioned, spelt differently in another source).

Since recorded notes began the Lauder surname has been spelt in a variety of different ways, as Black rightly notes. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find the surname spelt differently in several places on the same ancient document! Nisbet remarks, it was written "according to the customs of ancient times, and the different apprehensions of the writers". Almost certainly the original spelling was with a ‘u’, printed as ‘v’. Later spelling variants had ‘uu’ and also ‘w’. Again, it nearly always depended upon the writer. Gradually, moving into the 16th & 17th century these variations became slowly extinguished.

Variations in the spelling of Scottish surnames are common and no doubt will continue to be a cause of many future arguments! However, I hope that I have given here what I perceive to be the origins of the surname Lauder with a brief resume of some of the earlier ancestors.


This article appeared in its original form in The Scottish Genealogist, June 1998, vol.XLV No.2. It was revised in June 2002 and again in August 2012.



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