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Biggar Lanarkshire Scotland

BIGGAR, a parish and market-town, in the Upper ward of the county of Lanark, 12 miles (S. E.) from Lanark, on the road from Dumfries to Edinburgh.  Southern Uplands lying between the river Clyde to the west and the River Tweed to the east.


Greenhill Covenanters' House

This 17th-century house originally stood at Wiston, 7 miles away from Biggar. In 1975 the house was moved piece by piece.

A glimpse into a troubled time in Scotland's history, in a historic setting beside a bridge over Biggar Burn.

Built-in 1546, Biggar Kirk

Biggar is an ancient Settlement and a church has stood on this site since the very early days of Christianity in Scotland, perhaps as far back as AD500 or 600. The first stone-built church was built in 1164 and was dedicated to St Nicholas. In the vestibule, you can see a list of Ministers starting with Pastor Robert of Bigir in 1164.

The current church was rebuilt in 1546 by Malcolm, Lord Fleming as a Collegiate Church. It was dedicated to St Mary,


Remains of Boghall Castle

Biggar boghall.jpg

The castle of Boghall was one of the largest and most imposing edifices in the south of Scotland. It stood, as its name imports, in the midst of a bog, which in former times was impassable, even on foot, and which contributed greatly to its security. 


After the death of the last Earl of Wigton, and the transference of the Biggar estates to the Elphinstone family, in 1747, the Castle of Boghall was more and more deserted. No repair was made on the buildings, and the consequence of course was, that they began gradually to fall into ruin.

Biggar Castle

Biggar Castle is a large motte (Gillespie Motte) overlooking a burn which runs under the High Street of the town. It is largely sited within a small number of private gardens, and can only be seen from the public park to the west, and even then it is obscured by garden fencing.

Biggar Castle was founded in the 12th century by Baldwin, who had been granted the lands by Malcolm IV in about 1160


It seems probable that Sir Nicholas, who had come to terms with Robert Bruce, was the last of the family to dwell in Biggar Castle, and that it was sacked during the Wars of Independence. By 1310, the family appear to have built a new residence at Boghall, and this site was occupied by Edward II of England in that year..


Gillespie Motte, Biggar Castle Ruins

Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter XXIII - Historical Sketches of the Fleming Family

IN the twelfth century, the Flemings were perhaps the most active and enterprising people in Europe. Finding their own territories in Flanders too limited for their ambitious aspirations they emigrated in considerable numbers to England, during the reigns of William Rufus and Henry I.; and, some years afterwards, took an active part in the civil war waged by Stephen to obtain the English throne. Henry II. having, in the end, vanquished his opponent Stephen, the Flemings were consequently banished the kingdom; and numbers of them taking refuge in Scotland, entered into the service of David L, then on the Scottish throne. Many other Flemings are understood to have come, about the same time, directly from their native regions to Scotland. These strangers, settling in towns and rural situations, contributed greatly, by their skill in agriculture and other industrial art#, to the improvement of the country.

One of these Flemish leaders, it is said, obtained a grant of the lands of Biggar from David I., and settled there with his followers; and thus became the founder of a family that for several centuries reigned as lords superior in that parish. We propose to give a brief account of the most notable incidents in the history of this family, and particularly of the battles and warlike expeditions in which the successive members of it took part. These are entitled to special notice in a work on Biggar. The Flemings of Biggar, in addition to their anxiety to support and advance any cause to which they might be attached, were bound by the feudal law, not merely to appear in the field themselves, at the call of their sovereign, but to bring with them a certain number of their retainers. These retainers, or vassals, were in their turn bound, in consideration of occupying their farms and feus, to give their superior suit and service, both in his court and in the field, as often as these should be required. It is, then, a matter almost of certainty, that in all the battles in which the Flemings fought, they were attended by a portion of the inhabitants of Biggar. In fact, some of the charters by which the Scottish kings conferred honours or rewards on the Flemings, make express reference to the services of their retainers on the battle-field. For instance, in the commission of Chancellorship to James, Lord Fleming, granted under the Great Seal on the 12th of November 155S, during the minority of Queen Mary, it is stated that this honourable office was conferred on Lord Fleming, specially in consideration of ‘the good, faithful, and gratuitous service to our late most noble father, of happy memory, whose soul may God benefit, and to us, by our late well-beloved cousin, Malcolm, Lord Fleming, our Great Chancellor, who, under our banner, with diverse of his relatives, servants, and friends, was slain in the camp of Pinkey Cleugh.’ In the warlike proceedings in which the Flemings took part, the men of Biggar, no doubt, then, fought by their side, and sometimes lost their liberties or their lives in contending with them to revenge a wrong, to repel invasion, or maintain the independence of their country.

The first proprietor of Biggar, of whom we know anything, was Baldwin, who at first was styled Baldwin Flamingus, but who afterwards, as was the usual custom of the period, took also from his lands the title of Biggar. He was appointed by Malcolm IV., the grandson and successor of David I., to the office of Sheriff of Lanarkshire—the shire of Lanark, at that period, including also the territory now forming the county of Renfrew. He, along with his stepson John, who settled at Duneaton, and gave his name to Crawfordjohn, between 1147 and 1160 witnessed a charter of Arnald, Abbot of Kelso, granting the lands of Douglas Water to Theobald, also a Fleming, and said by some writers, though perhaps without sufficient authority, to be the founder of the distinguished House of Douglas. He was also a witness of a charter of Walter, son of Allan, the Steward of Scotland, to the monks of Paisley, between 1165 and 1174; and he himself granted to Hugh de Padenan the lands of Kilpeter in Stragrife. In the Register of the Monastery of Paisley a charter still exists, setting forth that Baldwin, Sheriff of Lanark, gave and granted to God, and the Church of St Mirin of Paisley, and the monks serving God there, the Church of Innerkyp, with all the lands lying near the river where the church is founded, with the entire parish and its pertinents, to be held in free and perpetual gift.

Baldwin was succeeded by his son Valdeve, who, most likely, was also appointed to the office of Sheriff of Lanarkshire, as this office seems to have continued in the Biggar family for several generations. The most remarkable incident in his life, that has been preserved, is his capture by the English, along with William I., sumamed the Lion, at the siege of Alnwick Castle, in 1174. It may be stated, that the kings, of Scotland, sometime previous to this period, held considerable possessions in the north of England, and had been deprived of them by the superior power of the English. William the Lion made a demand for the restoration of these provinces, but Henry, the English king, refused to comply. William, therefore, proclaimed war against Henry; and, during the year 1173, inroads were made, on both sides, into the territories of each other; and though much property was destroyed, and many lives lost, yet no decisive advantage was gained. Next year, William levied a numerous but undisciplined host, consisting of Scots, Flemings, and Gallowaymen, and invaded England. He laid siege to Alnwick Castle; but on tbe 13th of July 1174, with a lamentable want of prudence and caution, he separated himself from the main body of his army, and, attended by Valdeve of Biggar and about sixty horsemen, rode to some distance. The day was dark and misty, and, before they were aware, a body of horsemen had approached within a few hundred yards of them. The King at first took them to be a detachment of his own army; but they soon turned out to be a party of four hundred Englishmen, headed by several gallant Yorkshire barons, who had mustered this force, and were hasting to the assistance of their countrymen. When the King perceived his mistake, he disdained to flee, but cried out, ‘ Let it now appear who among you are good knights,’ and instantly charged against the foe. The King and his followers fought desperately, but, in the end, were overpowered by the superiority of numbers; and the king, Valdeve of Biggar, and others were taken, prisoners. They were conducted to Newcastle, and then to the town of Northampton, where William, and most lively his fellow captives of note, were presented before King Henry, with their legs tied under their horses’ bellies, as if they had been the most ignominious felons. The Scottish King was kept a prisoner for some time in the Castle of Richmond and then sent to Falaise in Normandy, that continental sovereigns might behold an instance of the successful achievements of the English. Whether any of the other captives accompanied the King to the Continent, history has not declared; but he was not himself released till the 8th December, when the Scottish nation had to submit to the deep mortification and disgrace of giving up to England the Castles of Edinburgh, Berwick, Roxburgh, Jedburgh, and Stirling, and seeing the King do homage, not merely for his lands in England, but for the whole kingdom of -Scotland.

For several generations, nothing very remarkable regarding the family of Biggar is known. Their names, however, appear very frequently as witnesses of important charters granted by the Scottish kings and barons, and the abbots of religious houses. For instance, William Flandrensis, most likely a son of Valdeve of Biggar, along with Hugo Cancellarius, who died in 1199, witnessed a deed of William I. to the monks of Kelso, and also a charter of the same monarch confirming the teinds of Linlithgow to the nuns of Manuel. He was also a witness of a donation of Richard le Bard to the monastery of Kelso, which was confirmed by Alexander n. in 1228. Hugh of Biggar, a grandson of Valdeve by his son Robert, as patron of the Church of Strathaven, granted, on the 14th February 1228, to St Machute’s of Lesmahagow, and the monks there, in pure and perpetual gift, all the tithe land of Richard le Bard lying on the south part of the river Avon, the great Kyp, the lesser Kyp, Glengenel, Polnebo, and Louchere. The names of the witnesses to this charter are interesting, is showing some of the principal men then holding possessions in the neighbourhood of Biggar. They were, William Fleamang, probably the unde of the donor, Malcolm Loccard, most likely of Symington, Robert of Robertstun, Radulph of Cormaoeston, and Richard, parson of Coulter. Peter of Biggar is mentioned in a charter of Anneis de Brus, granting the Church of Wodekyirch, or Thankerton, to the monks of Kelso; but, as is commonly the case in very old charters, the precise date is not given. In 1232, Symon of Biggar is a witness of a charter of the Archbishop of Glasgow, transferring the Churches of Roberton, Wiston, Symington, Dunsyre, etc., to the monks of Kelso. Sir Malcolm Fleming, most likely a son of William formerly mentioned, witnessed the donation of the Church of Largs to the monastery of Paisley, by Walter, the High Steward, who died in 1246. In a charter of Malcolm, Earl of Lennox, of which he was a witness, he is styled, ‘ Vice Comes de Dunbarton,* which shows that during the reign of Alexander III. he had been appointed to the office of Sheriff of that county. Nicholas of Biggar, Knight, is mentioned in a deed dated at Lesmahagow in the year 1269, and he appears to have been Sheriff of Lanarkshire in 1273. He died previous to 1292, when the marriage of his wife Mary, and the ward and marriage of his daughters Marjory and Ada, were granted by Edward I. of England to Robert, Bishop of Glasgow. It has been asserted by some writers, that the Lairds of Biggar to whom we have already referred, were a different family from the Flemings who afterwards were proprietors and superiors of this barony. A Fleming, they say, married one of the daughters of Sir Malcolm de Biggar just referred to, and receiving with her the lands of Biggar became the progenitor of the family who possessed the Biggar estate for some centuries. So far, however, as we can ascertain, this assertion is based entirely on conjecture.

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