Hardy Bertram M'Call.

The history and antiquities of the parish of Mid-Calder, with some account of the religious house of Torphichen, founded upon record; online

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Online LibraryHardy Bertram M'CallThe history and antiquities of the parish of Mid-Calder, with some account of the religious house of Torphichen, founded upon record; → online text (page 1 of 26)
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Pirinacle of Calder Church

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Topographical and Physical details — Prehistoric and Roman Remains —
Civil History and Institutions — The Reformation — John Knox at Cakler —
Raids and Deeds of Violence — The Civil War — Montrose at Cakler — The
Religious Persecution — Administration of Justice — The Baron Court — The
Kirk Session — The Stocks — Witchcraft in the Parish — The Plague, 1645 —
The Church — The Grammar School— Calder Fair — Erection of the West
Parish — Population, Industries, etc. .... Page 7


Architectural and historic details of Caldcr House — The Earls of Fife —
The Douglas Succession — Sandilands of Calder — John Knox — Lord St
John, Preceptor of Torphichen — Sandilands of Slamannan — Fatal Affray on
the High Street of Edinburgh — Attempts of the Earl of Bothwell on the
person of King James \T. — The Family Arms and Pedigree of the Lords
Torphichen — Notices of the lands of Craigs, Letham, Williamston, etc.

Page 43

Architectural and historic notices of the following Seats and Lands, with
succession of Proprietors from the earliest times to the present day — Genea-
logical and IMographical Notices, etc. — Alderston — Nether Alderston —
Bankton — Cairns — Wester Causewayend — Calderbank — Charlesfield —
Gi-ange — Howatston — Colzium — Greenbank— Harperrig — Howden — Nether
Hovvden — Linhousc — Skivo — Over-Williamston — Blackhall — Murieston
— Dressilrig — Ncwpark — Pumpherston — Wcstheld and Wester Murieston

Page 85

Founded prior to 1160 — Rebuilt by the Rev. Peter Sandilands, Rector of
Calder, 1540-5 — Architectural details — Heraldic Carvings — Ancient Pew,
dated 1595 — Communion Cups, 1673— Extension of the structure in 1863 —
Tombstones, etc. ...... Page 195




Saint CiUhberfs Church, 1160— Early references to Calder Church in Papal
and other Confirmations of the 12th century— Pre-Reformation Clergy-
Superintendent Spottiswood — John, Archbishop of Glasgow — Succession
of Ministers until the present day — Ecclesiastical discipline — The Manse
— United Presbyterian Congregation — The Ecclesiastical Records — List of
Elders of the Parish from 1600 to 1700 . . . Page 213


Origin of the Order of St John of Jerusalem — First Settlement of the
Knights in Scotland — Sir William Wallace and King Edward I. both at
Torphichen Priory — Suppression of the Knights Templars — Notices of the
Preceptors from 1296 to 1560 — The Heart of James I. taken on a pilgrimage
to the Holy Land by the Knights of Torphichen — Suppression of the Order
at the Reformation — Architectural Notices of the Preceptory Page 249


The Text of the Original Specification for re-building the Parish Church,
dated 30th January 1541 — Also a copy of a Valuation Roll of the Parish,
compiled in 1726 ...... Page 263

INDEX: ........ Page 267

Introductory Observations

''The treasures of antiquity, laid up in old historic rolls, I opened." — Beaumont.

EVERY one acknowledges the value and usefulness of history. Most
people like to know something more than the mere passing events
of the day or the hour. The fireside tale of other days — the old man's
reminiscences — and the story of the land which gave us birth, possess a
certain fascination for most of us. But if this feeling be a proper and a
right one, it must be allowed that the means of gratifying it have been of
too restricted a nature. It is not enough for us to read the history of
kings and of courts, of wars and national convulsions; the interest which
we feel and take in our own immediate surroundings demands information
of a more special and local kind. We desire to know concerning ordinary
mortals like ourselves, how they lived and thought in olden times ; what
was the condition of the people at large? In the arena of human life
what part did our predecessors play amid the shifting scenes of the great
drama of our country's history.^ These arc questions which are seldom
answered — with any approach to accuracy, at all events. For it is re-
markable that whilst we like to feel with regard to general or national
history that our information rests upon respectable authority, we are
often satisfied with the veriest old wives' stories in relation to matters
of purely local interest. Now, this surely ought not to be the case.
If the past have any lessons for us at all, its teachings are then most
potential when conve}'cd through the medium of what lies nearest to us.
The associations of our immediate environment, especially in early life,
exercise a certain influence upon our thoughts and characters ; consciously
or unconsciousl}' they arc our constant companions and monitors. How



important then that they should teach us that which is true, and only that
which is true !

It was some such reflections as these which gave birth to a desire on
my part to know something of the past life of the parish of Mid-Calder.
And in offering the results of my studies to my fellow-parishioners, I
would like, in the first place, to say something regarding the sources
whence the information is derived. It may be well to do this in some
detail, both as indicating the materials which exist for the elucida-
tion of authentic local history, and also to record for the information
of future investigators the precise ground which has been already

The Heritors, without exception, have opened their charter chests to
me, and from their title deeds and other papers much has been gleaned.
Local evidence and reminiscence has been called into requisition, but it will
be obvious that this can extend only for the past fifty or one hundred
years at most, and even during that period it requires verification and
correction from documentary sources. A general search has been made
through printed literature which could be supposed anywise likely to bear
upon the subject ; but by far the richest quarry of information has been
original records — the resources of Avhich, in relation to the matter in hand,
have never before been opened up. Besides numerous other authorities,
casually or partially examined, the following have been systematically
searched for the periods indicated : —

Register of Baptisms, &c., Midcalder .

Register of Kirk-Session of Midcalder

Proceedings of the Baron Court of Calder .

Minutes of the Heritors' Proceedings ,

Register of Testaments for Edinburgh

Particular Register of Seisins for the Lothians

Retours of Services of Heirs in Scotland

Register of the Great Seal (Scotland)

Register of the Privy Council of Scotland

Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland .

Acts of the Lords of Council in Civil Causes

Acts of the Lords Auditors

1604 — 1800
1604 — 1800
1583— 1601
1782— 1815

1514— 1750
1603 — 18S0
1600 — 1800
1306 — 1620
1545— 1616
1 1 24 — 1707
1478— 1495
1466 — 1494


The Rotuli Scotiae ...... 1291 — 15 16

The Exchequer Rolls of" Scotland . . . 1264 — 1522
Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer . . 1473 — 1498

Particular Register of Hornings and Inhibitions, etc. etc.
The claim, therefore, put forward by the title-page, that the work is
" founded upon record," is in no sense an illusory one. I have steadily
resisted all material, however tempting, which cannot be vouched for by
proper documentary evidence. The earliest original writing relating to
our parish is a grant of the church of Calder Comitis to the Monks
of Dunfermline about the year 1160; and notices of the district are
sufficiently meagre for fully two hundred years thereafter. It is not until
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that the records become truly
picturesque of life and manners in the parish. The reader will observe
that I have not hesitated to descend to matters of comparatively trivial
import ; many of the extracts from the Session's and other Registers
may appear to be very unimportant in themselves, but they present,
nevertheless, when taken together, a picture of the parish life in olden
days w^hich could not otherwise be obtained. It is not without con-
siderable thought and hesitation that I have decided to forego any system
of direct reference to authorities by footnotes or otherwise. The work
does not pretend to the character of scientific or critical history, and to
load its pages with references would afford no assistance to the general
reader, as a set-off to the embarrassment occasioned by the constant
breaks in the continuity of the narrative. The allusions, also, in the
text itself are for the most part so pointed as to render special reference
unnecessary and superfluous. When we meet, for example, with the
statement that Mr Peter Kinloch, of Alderston, "died on 17th September
1C2 1, nominating Mr Patrick Kinloch, his eldest son, his only executor,"
no one who possesses the most superficial acquaintance with the records
will have any difiiciflty in turning to the Register of Testaments to verify
this fact. Similarly with the Record of Seisins, which forms the ground-
work of Chapter III., the references could scarcely be more manifest
though they were directly alluded to ; whilst the quotations from the
local registers and that of the Privy Council also announce themselves.
With a view to greater precision in this matter, somewhat copious extracts


have been given in the actual words of the record — a system which I
have adopted also, as a foil to the constant temptation to generalise upon
narrow and insufficient grounds.

For the rest, there seems little which calls for special explanation in
the plan or scope of the work. It may very reasonably be objected that
the first chapter is of somewhat too promiscuous a nature ; it consists
indeed of such miscellaneous facts as did not fall naturally into the
classification proposed for the later portions of the work. The title of
" Esquire " due to the landed proprietors and others has been omitted
merely as a matter of convenience and uniformity ; it will be understood
that the prefix " Mr " in ancient documents relates always and exclusively
to University graduates, and with few exceptions it may be said that
the designation denotes a minister, advocate, or writer.

My thanks are heartily offered to Thomas Dickson, Esq., LL.D.,
Curator of the Historical Department of H.M. General Register House,
not only for the facilities afi'orded for the examination of the records,
but also for the advantage of his own private store of learning, which I
have largely availed myself of. Acknowledgment is also due to Stair
Agnew, Esq., C.B., Registrar-General, and James Stevens, Esq., Heritors
and Session Clerk, Mid-Calder, for placing at my disposal the public and
other registers in their custody; to John Scott, Esq., C.B., for permission
to make use of the curious MS. entitled, " Proceedings of the Baron
Court of Calder Comitis " ; and to the Faculty of Advocates for the
privilege of the use of their library. I am indebted to Thomas Ross,
Esq., joint author of The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland,
for the plan of Calder House and the drawing of the Church Steeple, as
also for advice and assistance with the architectural observations on the
Church and Calder House; to the Rev. Walter Macleod for assistance
in searching records and deciphering ancient documents ; to the late
Rev. Andrew Duncan for help with the history of the United Presby-
terian Congregation ; and to Lord Torphichen for various favours—
not the least of which is the permission to reproduce the beautiful
drawing of the old church which forms the Frontispiece to the present
volume. It is interesting to observe that it is to local talent that we
owe this drawing, William Penny, the artist, being a native of and


resident in Mid-Calder village, where he died on i8th January 1867,
in his 80th year.

The other illustrations to the work have all been engraved from
photographs or sketches prepared under my own supervision ; and whilst
in point of artistic treatment they can speak for themselves, I think I
may venture to claim for them faithfulness of topographical detail.

It would be superfluous for me to say that I have exercised the
greatest care in dealing with a very large mass of material, to ensure
accuracy, and if any errors have crept in I accept the full blame, and will
be glad to have ni}^ attention called to them. On this subject, 1 might
say with reference to place names, that where one has only the faded
ink and crabbed handwriting of an ancient deed as a guide, mistakes
are very easily made — mistakes, too, which appear quite inexcusable to
those who are perfectly acquainted with the locality. It would therefore
be hardly fair that any such slip should be taken as a test — since it
might be an entirely fallacious one — of the general accuracy of the work.

It will certainly be obvious to all who have any experience of this
kind of work that, limitations being once determined of the exact ground
to be covered by the investigation, it was impossible to wander pro-
miscuously beyond them ; and hence it is that any allusions to families
or properties in adjacent parishes — however interesting in themselves —
are of incidental nature only. I thought at one time of taking as my
subject the " Barony of Calder," which would have embraced most of
West Calder as well as portions of Livingston and Uphall parishes. But
difficulties would have arisen in consequence of the ever fluctuating
extent and dimensions of the barony at various epochs ; and I have
adopted a modern division also in the hope that some abler pen than
mine may be found to present us with historical accounts of the neigh-
bouring and other parishes.

Let me conclude these remarks as I began, by emphasising and
insisting upon the great value of authentic local history. However
iinperfectly I myself may have realised the ideal in this matter, it is
nevertheless true that a well-digested account of ever}- parish in Scotland,
carefully compiled from record, would add a richness and colouring to
our national history such as it can never otherwise acquire. The great


public movements of the times are presented incidentally in such under-
takings, and gain in vividness and reality when looked at from the local
standpoint. The imagination can better grasp the phenomena of history
when these are identified with particular localities : King Charles' oak
— the castles which have sheltered Queen Mary — the scenes of the
Covenanters' worship — these things have exercised a deeper influence
over mankind than any abstract knowledge of revolving dynasties or
national convulsions.

H. B. M'Call.

Charlesi-ield House,

Mid-Calder, FebnuD-y 1894.


The Parish

Topographical and Physical Details — Prehistoric and Roman Remains —
Civil Mistory and Institutions.

THE parish which engages our attention is situated in the western
district of the county of Edinburgh, at a distance of twelve to fifteen
miles from the metropolis. Its extent embraces an area of 12,294 ^icres,
which the wisdom of our forefathers has seen fit to dispose in a very
irregular manner as regards shape, the parish being nine miles long and
about four miles broad near its northern and southern extremities,
whilst at its centre, on the farm of IMackhall, the breadth of the parish
is not more than 500 yards. Equally capricious, Nature has endowed
us with widely differing altitudes and consequent variety of climate and
other characteristics, in diff"erents parts of the parish. In the southern
district, where it marches with the county of Peebles, the ground rises
to the summit of the Cairn hills, 1840 feet above sea level, whence it
declines by a series of undulating waves to the Water of Almond, where
the altitude is 300 feet only. On the northern bank of this river the
ground again commences to ascend towards the upland ridge of Linlith-
gowshire, and a height of 500 feet is attained on the lands of Howden.
The principal rivers or waters intersecting the parish are the Almond,
the Linhouse Water, and the Murieston Water, which are several miles
apart on their entrance into the parish, but unite beside the \illage of
Mid-Calder by the two last mingling their waters with the Almond ;
in addition to these there are numerous smaller streams all having a
general direction from S.W. to N.E. The Water of Leith takes its
rise upon our hills, though its course in this parish was of inconsiderable


moment prior to 1845. In that year a compensation reservoir was
constructed upon the lands of Cairns and Harperrig, for the purpose
of equah'sing the flood waters for the use of the mills and factories on
this important stream. Although there are extensive plantations of
recent o-rowth, the Calder Wood is the only natural copsewood in the
parish, and it too has been greatly reduced in size, even within the
memory of living persons. The tradition of its having extended some
five or six miles in a southerly direction is preserved in the following
popular rhyme : —

" Calder Wood was fair to see,
When it went to Camilty ;
Calder Wood was fairer still
When it went to Crosswood-hill."

In the light of these physical facts and certain other significant cir-
cumstances, we incline to adopt that etymology of the word "Calder"
which refers the origin of the term to the two Celtic words Coil and dour,
signifying respectively wood and water. If this be true, the district under
consideration has with much propriety been denominated Cal-der, many
of the views which the combination of wood and water present being
romantic, grand, and delightful.

Within the parish are several of those barrows or tumuli which
during all historic times have called forth the speculations of antiquaries
and persons studiously inclined, but which, like the pyramids of Egypt,
have outlived the knowledge of the names of their founders, or even of
the purpose for which they were constructed. They are supposed to
have been repositories of the dead, but at what period they were raised
it is quite impossible even to conjecture. Four of these barrows may still
be seen, although somewhat effaced by the operations of the plough, near
to the bank of the Almond on the lands of Nether Alderston ; but the
most remarkable tumulus is a large conical eminence which stands on the
north side of Calder village, and has received the name of " Cunnigar."
This designation appears to be derived from Celtic, and to denote a
keeper or warren of the conies, i.e. rabbits. Many stone coffins have at
various times been dug up near the banks of the Almond, not only as it
runs through this parish, but in all its course till it unites with the Firth


of r^orlh at Cramond. Some of these were hewn out of a solid piece of
stone, with closely fitting covers, and the presence within them of frag-
ments of a skull and other human remains leaves no doubt as to their
having been sepulchres ; others were more rudely constructed of flat
stones placed on edge for the sides, and with covers formed also of several
flat stones. In one of these cists a piece of iron somewhat resembling
the head of a battle axe was discovered in 1S31. Fig. i represents
a small leaf-shaped blade recently found on the lands of West Cairns, —
it measures four inches in length, and .i-in. across the widest part of the
cusp, and it is still sharp on either edge and at the point. The shank end
is perforated to admit of a rivet uniting it to a short wooden handle. The
metal of which it is made is found to consist of seven parts of copper and
two of tin ; and on its being exhibited to the authorities of the National

Piionze InipkinciU fuuml at \\'c3l Cairns.

Museum of Antiquities, it was by them pronounced to belong to the later
period of the " bronze age," which is understood to mean two or three
centuries before the Christian era.

On the summit of an eminence called Castle Greg, upon the farm of
Camilty, and near to the passage of the ridge which separates Lothian
from Clydesdale, are the remains of a rectangular camp or station sup-
posed to have been constructed during one of the Roman inwisions of
Scotland. There are few subjects connected with antiquity which are
more shrouded in mystery than all which relates to the hill forts and
defensible camps which crown the summits of so many of our hills. We
talk of them with great assurance as " Roman Camps," and as speculative
inference has usually proved more attractive to the archaeologist than the
laborious storing up of exact knowledge, these remains have come in for
a large share of attention. Personally, we must own to being sceptical
upon the subject to a degree which would doubt whether one-half of the



so-called Roman encampments and causeways were not constructed fully
a thousand years subsequent to Agricola's departure from Britain ! This,
\vc know, is rank heresy ; but we mean not to disparage the claims of the
camp at Castle Greg, where many coins and other articles of Roman work-
manship are said to have been dug up from time to time, but rather to
emphasize its value, if it can be shown to be a Roman work, in its bearing
upon the study of these hill forts in general. The camp differs from most
rectilinear forts, which are usually defended by a single vallum, in having
a double line of intrenchment with two distinct ramparts. In the centre




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Fig. 2. — Ancient Camp at Castle Greg.

of the eastern side is the only gateway or opening for entrance into the
inclosure. The writer in the Statistical Account has surely made a
mistake in giving the measurements as between 500 and 600 feet in
length and breadth. Measured from summit to summit of the inner and
higher rampart the dimensions are 180 feet long and 140 feet broad;
whilst the extent of the outer circumvallations does not exceed 260 feet
and 220 feet in length and breadth respectively. The camp is situated
with its longer walls running N.N.W. and S.S.E., the entrance being in
the eastern side. A round hollow near the centre of the inclosure, called
by the common people the Well, but supposed to have been the founda-
tion of a flag-staff, was excavated about the year 1830, when under a



great stone was found a considerable number of Roman coins, bearing
the effigies of the lunpcrors Vespasian, Domitian, Hadrian, Antoninus
Pius, and Marcus AureHus, — indicating a date about A.D. 170.

A portion of these coins was disposed of by the finders to a gold-
smith in Edinburgh, but the remainder came into the hands of the
proprietor of the lands, Mr Young of Harburn, by whom a complete set
of the coins was presented to King Charles X. of France, who with his
son visited Mr Young at Harburn House in 1832. About the same
period, another find of Roman coins was made by some labourers in
casting a ditch near Crosswood-burn, a mile and a half to the west of


I.'omilian. II. ■'.. !.i.. Ant :.ii\r.-.

Fii^. 3. — Roman denarii found at Castle Greg.

this camp, in the border of the neighbouring parish of West Calder.
These were presented by Mr Steel of Crosswood-hill to the Society of
Antiquaries of Scotland. Further investigation at the camp was pro-
secuted in 1846, by the late Mr Cochrane of Harburn, whose researches

Online LibraryHardy Bertram M'CallThe history and antiquities of the parish of Mid-Calder, with some account of the religious house of Torphichen, founded upon record; → online text (page 1 of 26)