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The tolbooth at Lauder.jpg
Lauder's tolbooth
Grid reference: NT530475
Location: 55°43’10"N, 2°44’55"W
Post town: Lauder
Postcode: TD2
Dialling code: 01578
Local Government
Council: Scottish Borders

The royal burgh of Lauder is a town in Berwickshire, 27 miles south-east of Edinburgh. It stands on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills, on the Southern Upland Way.

Notable buildings in the town today include the Tolbooth or Town Hall, which predates 1598 when records show it being burnt by a party of Homes and Cranstouns led by Lord Home, in a feud between them and the Lauder family who were at the time sitting on the bench as hereditary baillies.[1]

Thirlestane Castle

Below the town, on Castle Hill, stood the Crown Fort, a scene of many skirmishes over the years. It is shown on Timothy Pont's map. Early records give de Morville a castle at Lauder, but it would appear that there was a new erection of it by the English in the reign of King Edward I of England.

James III and James IV both used the castle. In 1548 the fort was occupied and strengthened by Somerset, the Protector, and garrisoned by Sir Hugh Willoughby 'in the end of winter and beginning of spring'. After a minor siege with French cannon, it was evacuated on March 22, 1550. The following year John Haitlie in Fawns and William Haitlie in Redpath (near Earlston) were arrested for "treasonably supplying the English in the Castle of Lauder, thereby enabling them to hold out longer."[2]

The Crown, which had in any case abandoned the fort during its occupation, had given it to Robert Lauder of that Ilk (d. bef July 1567), who provided it, in 1532, to his daughter Alison as dowry when she married.[3] Following she and her husband's deaths in feuds in 1547 it reverted to Robert Lauder whose wife was Alison Cranstoun. A Cranstoun relation later sold it on to Chancellor John Maitland in 1587. He commenced the building of the magnificent Thirlestane Castle on that site two years later, parts of the original walls of the ancient fort being included in the walls of the new edifice In 1670-7 Sir William Bruce, known as a 'gentleman architect', supervised its transformation into a palace through remodelling for the Duke of Lauderdale.

By the 18th century the Maitlands had supplanted the ancient Lauders as the pre-eminent local family, and had managed to acquire most of the properties which had belonged to the ancient family, although Windpark/Wyndepark (which overlooked Thirlestane Castle) and its Pele Tower remained in the hands of John Lauder of Winepark and Carolside (near Earlston), until about 1750.


Lauder's Church of Scotland kirk in 2001

Near to the old Crown Fort stood the ancient parish church of St Mary (a dependency of Dryburgh Abbey). In a Writ of 1217 an "Everardus" is recorded as pastor of Laweder, and in 1245 there was a Chapter of the Clergy of East Lothian at Lauder on Saturday after the Feast of Saint Peter, ad vincula, when a dispute was settled between the Priory of St Andrews and the nuns of Haddington, regarding the tithes of Stevenstoun, near Haddington. [4] In this original church many of the old Lauder family were interred, including two bishops, William de Lawedre, Bishop of Glasgow and Lord Chancellor of Scotland, and Alexander Lauder, Bishop of Dunkeld. It was from this church, in 1482, that James III's favourites, including the architect Cochrane, were dragged by envious nobles and hanged from the (earlier) Lauder Bridge.

With their local ascendancy, and with Thirlestane Castle becoming even grander, John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale decided he would demolish the ancient kirk, and had a new church erected by Sir William Bruce in 1673 in the centre of the Royal Burgh. Around it is a walled graveyard, with a watchhouse built after a bodysnatching raid in 1830.

Lauder had a large United Presbyterian Church at the West Port, now demolished. The manse still stands, but is now a private residence.


Lauder Burgh Arms

The current population of the town is around 1,500 although it is rapidly expanding as over 100 new homes are being built on the southern boundary. This means that, at the beginning of the 21st century, the population is approaching what it was at the beginning of the 20th century before the period of depopulation over the last 100 years.

Lauder is today strongly influenced by its proximity to Edinburgh as it is now considered to be close enough for people to commute into the capital for work. The bus service to Edinburgh is reliable but infrequent.

Current issues for debate in Lauder are the town's expansion - whether it is needed or desirable - the location of a new primary school (and how soon one will be built), and the location and extent of wind farms on the surrounding hills.


  1. Mackie, J.D., CBE., MC., LL.D., editor, Calendar of the State Papers relating to Scotland 1547-1603, Edinburgh, 1969, vol. XIII, Part 1, number 156, pps: 205, 207-8
  2. Thomson, A., FSA(Scot)., Lauder and Lauderdale, Galashiels, 1902: 178-181
  3. The Great Seal of Scotland, charter no. 1186, confirmed at Edinburgh July 1, 1532.
  4. Liber de Dryburgh, pps: 13 and 269


  • Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, edited by Joseph Bain, Edinburgh, 1881-8, vol.2, p.215-6.
  • The Grange of St.Giles, by J.Stewart-Smith, Edinburgh, 1898.
  • Lauder and Lauderdale, by A.Thomson, Galashiels, 1900.
  • Lauder, a Series of Papers, by Robert Romanes, Galashiels, 1903.
  • Borders and Berwick, by Charles A Strang, Rutland Press, 1994, p.190. ISBN 1-873190