Sandilands of Calder

Sandilands - Calder House (Caldour Castle) - Lords Torphichen:

The name Sandilands is derived from the lands of Sandilands in the upper ward of Clydesdale, which together with the lands of Reidmyre were confirmed upon to James of Sandilands by William, Lord Douglas in 1348.

The barony of Calder and the lands of Bengowre (Bangour), Co. Edinburgh, were bestowed upon James of Sandilands (1st feudal baron) by William, Lord Douglas in free marriage with Eleanor de Bruce (William's sister). Because of this marriage the Douglas arms were quartered by the Lords of Calder, and the Sandilands subsequently became in law the heirs-general of the house of Douglas.

In 1350 Pope Clement VI granted an indult to James of Sandilands and his wife to choose confessors in the usual form. When James died in 1358 his widow had safe conduct for herself and four maids, with ten horses, to pass to the parts of England on a pilgrimage to the shrines of the saints ~ document dated at Westminster 14 May 1358.

The actual house at Calder, once known as Caldour Castle, is the family seat of the Sandilands (subsequently Sandilands/Torphichen) family, and situated in Midcalder, Midlothian - not far from Torphichen preceptory. The original building dates from 1335 and much of the old castle is embodied in the present structure. As part of its fortifications certain walls are eight to nine feet thick. The castle naturally has an interesting history, having spanned so many centuries and remaining in the hands of one family for so long.

Near to Calder House (Caldour Castle) is Calder Church (Caldour Kirk) which was granted by Duncan, Earl of Fife in about 1150 to the Abbey of Dunfermline. Its beautiful choir and vestry date from 1537 and was the result of the piety of Peter Sandilands (second son of Sir James Sandilands, 5th feudal baron of Calder), the last Catholic rector of Calder Church. Peter had begun the rebuilding of the church some time before his death and entrusted its completion to his nephew. Sadly for Peter Sandilands the Calder church ceased to be Catholic after he died in 1549, and was Protestant thereafter.

One of the more interesting marriages involving the family was between the Sir James Sandilands of Calder (2nd feudal baron) and Princess Jean, daughter of King Robert II of Scotland. [Previously Princess Jean had been the widow of Sir John Lyon of Glamis.] It is through the marriage of Sir James Sandilands (2nd feudal baron) to Princess Jean that the Sandilands family of Calder has descent from the Stuarts (Stewarts).

Their son, Sir John Sandilands (3rd feudal baron of Calder) was thus the grandson of King Robert II of Scotland. As Robert II was a direct ancestor of King James VI (James I of England) Sir John Sandilands is a distant great nephew of King James and an even greater distant great nephew of Queen Elizabeth II.

Similarly, as King Robert II was the grandson of King Robert I - the famous Robert the Bruce - Sir John Sandilands was the latter's great-great-grandson.

With the arrival of the Reformation the Sandilands of Calder were soon to become Lords of Torphichen. At that time Sir James Sandilands (second son of 7th feudal baron of Calder), was a Knight of St John (Knight of Malta) and prior of Torphichen Preceptory (the centre of the Order of St John in Scotland). After the English Crown suppressed the Order in England in 1540 (and Ireland in 1547) the only preceptory left belonging to the Knights of St John was Torphichen. As a result for almost twenty-five years (from 1540 to 1564) Torphichen Preceptory under Sir James Sandilands represented the Knights of St John (Knights of Malta) in the Britain.

However, in view of this isolated position, Sir James in 1564 eventually succumbed to the Reformation and surrendered Torphichen Preceptory and surrounding lands of the Knights of St John to the Scottish Crown (Queen Mary Stuart), receiving it back (to continue its administration) along with the title of Lord Torphichen. (Lord being in place of Preceptor, his previous designation granted by the Order of St John). He died in 1579 and, having no male heir, was succeeded by James (2nd Lord Torphichen & 10th feudal baron of Calder) the grandson of his elder brother John (8th feudal baron). As a result the Sandilands of Calder (Lords Torphichen) family descendants and their estate constitute the most direct historical link with the Order of St John (Order of Malta) in the British Isles. [Ref. "The Knights of Malta" by HJA Sire; publishers: Yale University Press, 1994.]

Up until c.1564 the Sandilands family had (like other British families prior to the Reformation) been members of the Catholic church:- Peter Sandilands as rector of Calder Church being one of the last Catholic family members, son of the 5th feudal baron of Calder (mentioned above). Since that time descendants have been Protestant, with one notable exception (the 14th Lord) who returned to the old faith.

It was St Ninian who first introduced Christianity to West Lothian, Scotland, in the 5th century and established there a chapel in the village of Torphichen. Around 1124 the Knights of St John were granted the preceptory of Torphichen by King David I of Scotland. His successor Malcolm I thereafter granted the Knights a house in every burgh in his kingdom, and these houses became dependencies of Torphichen. The Norman church of Torphichen Preceptory was built at this time and incorporated St Ninian's chapel. Unlike England which saw the establishment of numerous preceptories,Torphichen remained the only one in Scotland and thus the centre for the Scottish Knights of St John. * * * * Ref. "Torphichen & the Knights of St John (Knights of Malta) 1100s-2000 Scotland"