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

As we reach the close of the 20th century, there are now many books on Scottish Surnames available. The first of note, and still highly regarded, is, strangely, 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 queries, without giving reason, that the progenitor of this family received lands etc.,and 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, 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 Sir Edmund Burke says “the surname of Lauder, anciently de Lavedre, is of Norman origin” (quoted in Notes on Historical References to the Scottish Family of Lauder, edited by James Young, Glasgow, 1884).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 (ruled 1058-1093) to assist in the recovery of the Scottish throne from Mac- Beth (ruled c1040-1057).

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 (Quarrelwood). [Refer also The Lamberton Charter, and Peter Ellis’s MacBeth (1980)]. 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].

Although some, such as Anderson in Scottish Nation, 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 excellent book of 1884 should leave the reader in no doubt about this surname’s origins.

Burke states positively 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: Young]. What information we have points to the Lauder surname being brought into Scotland, as is the contention here.

The lands of Hugo de Morville(d.1162), which later passed to the Douglases, did not extend as far north as present-day Lauder.  A.Thomson, in Lauder and Lauderdale (Galashiels 1902) says of these families, and the Maitlands,  that “the Lauders of that Ilk were the earlier family”. Also, Sir Herbert Maxwell, in The Story of the Tweed (London 1909) states “previous to the Mailtands 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 their 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, Berwickshire.

Thomas Hannan, who researched considerably for his book Famous Scottish Houses (1928), tells us that the Tyninghame Manor in East Lothian existed “as early as 1094 when it was owned by the lairds of the Bass”. According to The Bass Rock the Lauders are the earliest recorded proprietors of the Bass Rock or Island, off the coast  of North Berwick.   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.(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. This is probably in the 12th century.

In 1251 a William de Lowedre of Lowther was Sheriff of Perth (refer Burke’s Baronage) 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. 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 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).       His son, also a companion of Wallace, was Sir Robert de Lawedre of Bass and was appointed Justiciary of the Lothians by King Robert the Bruce and made a plenipotentiary to sign the English-Scottish truce on the 3rd May 1323,(Refer Rymer’s Foedera vol.III, p.1022).

The 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 was present as an aged observer at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.

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 (1333) and afterwards Urquhart Castle (Refer Boethius Book XV,chapter 5; also Hailes’ Annals vol II, p.168). 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, p488, 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. Sir Alan de Lawedre of that Ilk went with Lord James Douglas taking the heart of The Bruce to the Holy Land in 1330 and subsequently fought the Moors in Spain. He was Constable and Keeper of Tantallon castle (refer Burke’s Baronage) and received many charters of lands including Haltoun in Ratho on 26th July 1377 (refer Great Seal 1306-1424, p.48, No.104). Sir 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). Sir Alan received “una protectione perpetua” from King Robert II who seems to have held him in high esteem. He had sons, Robert of Bass, William, Alexander, Alan, and George of Haltoun (fl.1392). Another, John de Lawedre, was maternal grandfather to the first Lord Home (fl.1420).

Master William de Lawedre (d.1425) and son of Sir Alan, was firstly Archdeacon of Lothian and later Bishop of Glasgow and Lord Chancellor of Scotland (refer Documents Relating to Scotland in the PRO London, Edited by Joseph Bain,F.S.A.(Scot), Vol.IV 1357-1509 (Edinburgh 1888). In May 1440 his brother Alexander de Lawedre became Bishop of Dunkeld (refer Milnes’s Vitae Dunkeldensis Ecclesiae Episcoporum, p.19). Their brother, Sir Robert of Lawedre (26th October 1398 - refer Bain) afterwards Sir Robert de Lawedre of Lawedre and Bass appears also in 1384 as  Robertus Lawider Dominus de la Basse (Jamieson,s Illustrations to Slezer’s Theateum Scotiae, p.123; Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol.I p.344) and was present at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 and Governor of Edinburgh Castle 1425-1433. His seal is featured in Ancient Scottish Seals by Henry Laing (Edinburgh 1850).

His son, yet another Sir Robert de Lawedre of Eddringtoun, knight, endowed 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) and the same “Sir Robert of Lauder of Edrington,knight” is mentioned by Bain.   His son, Sir Robert of Lawder of Edrington, was Keeper of the Castle of Berwick-upon- Tweed 1460-1474 and 1476-1477 (refer Great Seal 1424-1503 number 1276) and 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, already mentioned, 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] and in 1470 Robert Lauder (Bain 1388). Again  (Bain 1445) 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! As 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. 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.

G.L-F. March 1998. 

Tom Paterson - Last updated 25 Jan 2019