Origins of Caldwell Surname by David A. Caldwell

Caldwell Anglo-Saxon Origins, 4th edition David Andrew Caldwell

I believe the Scotch surname Caldwell more likely derives from the Old English/Anglo-Saxon words, “caeld weille,” or “caelde waellen,” meaning cold water welling from a fissure in the earth, i.e., artesian well, than from the many alternative explanations.

The alternatives include possible derivation from 5th century King Coel; 7th century King Cadwallon of Gwynedd; “kaldr-a,” a Viking/Danish spelling; “kaltes quellen,” German for cold spring-fed well; “Baden of Calw,” German for artesian wells in southwest Germany; Colville, the French surname of an early Renfrewshire landholder; “keld,” the Gaelic word for wood or forest, such that Caldwell with Gaelic input meant “well in the wood”; the three brother knights named Cauldwell allegedly from Cold Well, France just after the Scottish Reformation; and the legendary waldenses Caldwaldi clan of northern Italy fleeing Catholic persecution, probably the most publicized explanation, though not without criticism (see Michael Caldwell’s web page at Heartland/Estates/6455/).

I aim to distinguish between probable (evidence from many independent sources is supportive of the conclusion), possible (scintilla of evidence), and conjectural (no known documentary or archeological evidence, but hypothesis has not been disproven).

I have never been to Scotland. I never looked at the primary documents of Scotland, as have others, in researching the issue. I am neither a genealogist nor certified lineal descendant. So I am not an expert. But this is my story and I am sticking with it.

The Evidence:
The Oxford New English Dictionary, 20 volumes thick, with more than 12 pages devoted to the word, “well,” indicates that the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) spelling for “cold” was “caeld,” and for “well,” “weille,” “waelle,” or “wyllan. ”

The early settlers of Great Britain favored locating their dwellings near sources of fresh water, i.e., artesian wells, springs, etc. This leads to a simple explanation why there are so many place names based upon the words, “cold well,” throughout Great Britain, settled by people totally unrelated to one another, and why attempts to locate the oldest patron father of Caldwell family, is doomed to failure, although, ironically, the oldest recorded Caldwell is Adam de Caldwelle, 1195, of the Caldwell hamlet (a few buildings at a crossroad) in present day Derbyshire, England. (The Pipe Rolls of 1195 (Dec. Comm. 3 vols. 1833-44.)

I reject the legend of the three Caldwell brothers arriving in Scotland from France as an explanation for origin of the Caldwell surname in Scotland, although I can accept the notion that in the 16th century a Cold Well or Caldwell Estate –not the first such Scotch Caldwell Estate–was formed in the Annan River Valley near Solway Firth [Bay], Scotland. Two books have dealt with this subject, authored respectivly by Bell (1927) and Perrin (1887). Excerpts from each book relating to Caldwell genealogy can be found on-line.

Author Landon C. Bell’s book focused largely on the history of Lunenburg County, Virginia. (Landon C. Bell, “The Old Free State” (A Contribution to the History of Lunenburg County and Southside Va) By Landon C. Bell. Vol II The William Byrd Press, Inc Printers, Richmond , Va 1927). He claims that the surname Caldwell came from the Cold Well Estate near Toulon, then part of the Holy Roman Empire, now within southeast France.

Perrin states that the surname derived from what he claimed was the first such Caldwell Estate in Scotland (William Perrin, Kentucky: A History of the State, Battle, Perrin, & Kniffin, 4th ed., 1887, Boyle Co.)

Bell links the first Caldwell, Alexander, to the Waldenses. At page 182, Bell writes:


“This family is a very ancient one. It is said to be descended from Albigenses and Waldenses of the Piedmont section of Italy, who were driven into France by the Roman Catholic persecutions…. ”

The Waldenses were itinerant pre-Reformation Protestants based chiefly in southern France and the Holy Roman Empire, followers of an apostolic creed first espoused in the 12th century by Frenchman Peter Waldo. Perrin makes no such claim, although he is a noted historian of the Waldenses.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth edition, 2001, provides a useful overview about the Waldenses. “They originated in the late 12th cent. as the Poor Men of Lyons, a band organized by Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant of Lyons, who gave away his property (c.1176) and went about preaching apostolic poverty as the way to perfection. Being laymen, they were forbidden to preach… they were formally declared heretics by Pope Lucius III in 1184 and by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. In 1211 more than 80 were burned as heretics at Strasbourg, beginning several centuries of persecution…The Waldenses proclaimed the Bible as the sole rule of life and faith. They rejected the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and the mass, and laid great stress on gospel simplicity. Worship services consisted of readings from the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, and sermons, which they believed could be preached by all Christians as depositaries of the Holy Spirit. Their distinctive pre Reformation doctrines are set forth in the Waldensian Catechism (c.1489)….See study by E. Cameron (1984).” (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition. 2001. http:// www. bartleby. com/ 65/ wa/ Waldense.html)

The linkage of Caldwells to Waldenses would be especially appealing to Anti Papist Scotch-Irish recalling the terrors of Ulster Ireland in 1640, when Catholic Irish rebelled against Protestant abuses and sought to exterminate them.

In Perrin’s History of the Waldenses, book ii., chap. 3, Perrin described “a most barbarous persecution” that was carried on against the Waldenses in the valleys of Loyse and Frassiniere. “It is held as unquestionably true,” says Perrin, “amongst the Waldenses dwelling in the adjacent valleys, that more than three thousand persons, men and women, belonging to the valley of Loyse, perished on this occasion. And, indeed, they were wholly exterminated, for that valley was afterwards peopled with new inhabitants, not one family of the Waldenses having subsequently resided in it; which proves beyond dispute, that all the inhabitants, and of both sexes, died at that time.” [Perrin’s History of the Waldenses, book ii., chap. 3.]

Perrin cites numerous first hand contemporaneous sources to support his views.

“In the year 1545, a large tract of country at the south of France, inhabited chiefly by the Waldenses, was overrun and most cruelly desolated by the popish barbarians, under the command of a violent bigot, named baron Oppede. A copious account of this persecution is given by a candid Romish contemporary historian, Thuanus, in the history of his own times. As a specimen of the cruelties perpetrated upon the heretics at this time, we can only extract the description of the taking of a single town, Cabrieres. “They had surrendered to the papists, upon a promise of having their lives spared; but when the garrison was admitted they were all seized, they who lay hid in the dungeon of the castle, or thought themselves secured by the sacredness of the church; and being dragged out from thence into a hollow meadow were put to death, without regard to age or the assurances given: the number of the slain, within and without the town, amounted to eight hundred: the women, by the command of Oppede, were thrust into a barn filled with straw, and fire being set to it, when they endeavored to leap out of the window, they were pushed back by poles and pikes, and were thus miserably suffocated and consumed in the flames.” (Id.)

“About the year 1560, during the suspension of the council of Treat, a most violent and bloody persecution was carried on against the Waldenses of Calabria at the south of Italy, by direction of that brutal tyrant, pope Pius IV. Two monks were sent from Rome, armed with power to reduce the Calabrian heretics to obedience to the Holy See. Upon their arrival, at once to bring matters to the test, they caused a bell to be immediately tolled for mass, commanding the people to attend. Instead of complying, however, the Waldenses forsook their houses, and as many as were able fled to the woods with their wives and children. Two companies were instantly ordered out to pursue them, who hunted them like wild beasts, crying, “Amazzi! Amazzi!” that is, “murder them! murder them!” and numbers were put to death. Seventy of the heretics were seized and conducted in chains to Montalto. They were put to the torture by the orders of the inquisitor Pauza, to induce them not only to renounce their faith but also to accuse themselves and their brethren of having committed odious crimes in their religious assemblies. To wring a confession of this from him, Stefano was tortured until his bowels gushed out. Another prisoner, named Verminel, having, in the extremity of pain, promised to go to mass, the inquisitor flattered himself that, by increasing the violence of the torture, he could extort a confession of the charge which he was so anxious to fasten on the Protestants. …The manner in which persons of the tender sex were treated by this brutal inquisitor, is too disgusting to be related here. Suffice it to say, that he put sixty females to the torture, the greater part of whom died in prison in consequence of their wounds remaining undressed. On his return to Naples, he delivered a great number of Protestants to the secular arm at St. Agata, where he inspired the inhabitants with the utmost terror; for if any individual came forward to intercede for the prisoners, he was immediately put to the torture as a favorer of heresy.

“Of the almost incredible barbarities of the papists at Montalto in the month of June, 1560, the best and most unexceptionable account is that furnished in the words of a letter of a Roman Catholic spectator of the horrid scene, writing to Ascanio Camecioli. This letter was published in Italy with other narrations of the bloody transactions. It commences as follows:—”Most illustrious sir—Having written you from time to time what has been done here in the affair of heresy, I have now to inform you of the dreadful justice which began to be executed on these Lutherans early this morning, being the 11th of June. And, to tell you the truth, I can compare it to nothing but the slaughter of so many sheep. They were all shut up in one house as in a sheepfold. The executioner went, and, bringing out one of them, covered his face with a napkin, or benda, as we call it, led him out to a field near the house, and, causing him to kneel down, cut his throat with a knife. Then, taking off the bloody napkin, he went and brought out another, whom he put to death after the same manner. In this way, the whole number, amounting to eighty-eight men, were butchered. I leave you to figure to yourself the lamentable spectacle, for I can scarcely refrain from tears while I write; nor was there any person who, after witnessing the execution of one, could stand to look on a second. The meekness and patience with which they went to martyrdom and death are incredible. Some of them at their death professed themselves of the same faith with us, but the greater part died in their cursed obstinacy. All the old men met their death with cheerfulness, but the young exhibited symptoms of fear. I still shudder while I think of the executioner with the bloody knife in his teeth, the dripping napkin in his hand, and his aims besmeared with gore, going to the house and taking out one victim after another, just as the butcher does the sheep which he means to kill.”

John Milton was, as of 1658, Latin secretary to Oliver Cromwell. He wrote this sonnet.


“Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughter’d saints, whose bones
Lie scatter’d on the Alpine mountains cold;
Ev’n them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones
Forget not: in thy book record their groans
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that roll’d
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven. Their martyr’d blood and ashes sow
O’er all th’ Italian fields, where still doth sway
The tripled tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundred fold, who having learned thy way
Early may fly the Babylonian wo.”

Bell’s claims about the origin of the Caldwell suname do not pass the test of probability, analogy or correlation. It is not probable that an Estate in southern France or Holy Roman Empire would have the English name, Cold Well. Personal surnames in France and Scotland began in the 11th century (e.g., Peter Waldo), and were near universal by the 14th century, so by analogy it doubtful that three brothers in France or Scotland in the 16th century lacked a surname at birth. Bell provides no facts evidencing an association or correlation between the so-called Cold Well Estate near Toulon and similar use of English place names at other locations near Toulon. In short, Bell offers only a scintilla of evidence, not a compilation of evidence from independent sources that cumulatively make it more probable than not that what he says is true.

Bell did not use methods generally accepted by genealogists to advance claims of such important historical significance. Oral retellings of family lineage may well serve to patch the lacunae in the family tree, but inevitably invite skepticism when they purport to leap centuries back, without any family tree of names, dates, and place, to link present day Caldwells to Apostolic Waldeneses.

Perrin’s narration sticks fairly close to a family tree that could be tested and has independently been verified, linking John Caldwell of Cub Creek Virginia, and his grandson John Caldwell Calhoun, to Alexander Caldwell of Scotland. Records of the LDS Family Library show a Caldwell Estate near Annan, Scotland, adjacent to Solway Firth. Bell’s claims are not testable, since nothing in writing by the itinerant Waldeneses is known to exist and no known genealogical family tree exists.

While I see a particularized bias in Bell’s work, I am not suggesting that Bell and Gustave Anjou are of the same cloth. Anjou falsified documents and deliberately interwove family lineages in a quest to satisfy his wealthy patrons. Robert Charles Anderson, a Certified Genealogist, and a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, 2 Fenway, Derry, NH 03038, published in Volume 19, Numbers 1 & 2, 1991 of the Genealogical Journal of the Utah Genealogical Association, PO Box 1144, Salt Lake, Utah 84110, an article entitled, “We Wuz Robbed!” The article indicates that a genealogy authored by Gustave Anjou, entitled “Caldwell Family,” Call No. 929.273 C127, at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, may be spurious. Included is another detailed article about Gustave Anjou’s life and forgery methods, entitled “Gustave, We Hardly Knew Ye: by Gordon L. Remington.” Remington was editor of the Genealogical Journal. Bell is publishing a book for public sale, where the financial link to the prospective Caldwell purchasers was attenuated rather than closely connected. He may simply have been motivated to tell what he had learned that he thought would be of interest to his anticipated audience — a rather benign and common motivation of nearly all authors.

Perrin’s book has not engendered the controversy that surrounds Bell’s narration, but neither discusses alternate possibilities to the idea that the Caldwell surname originated with the arrival of the three brothers from Toulon.

Perrin and Bell overlooked the Mure of Caldwell Estate near Uplawmoor, successor to the 14th century Caldwell Estate, when Gilchrst Mure married an heiress of Caldwell. Even when the Mures held the Estate, they did so pursuant to royal charters issued in the name of the Caldwell Estate. The Mures were part of the House of Caldwell, and the estate owner known as Lord Caldwell.

Perrin and Bell also ignored the widespread existence of Caldwell place names throughout England preceding the Norman Invasion of 1066.

When Perrin published his book in 1887, the Mure of Caldwell Estate was in decline, and for most purposes, off the map and out of mind. It was soon to be converted to a psychiatric institution. It was not until 1890 that a portion of Neilston Parish would be renamed Caldwell Parish. As John Caldwell and Barry Robertson have pointed out at, the hamlet of Caldwell had ceased to exist, at least as a post office address, although its former location is still shown on some maps even to this date.

By the time Bell published his book in 1927, the Caldwell Parish of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian Church) had come into existence encompassing the former Caldwell Estate near Uplawmoor, Scotland, but that fact would be rather obscure. Barry Robertson posted here a really well researched story on the origins of the Caldwell name for the Caldwell Parish Church and adjacent Mure of Caldwell Estate, entitlled “Caldwell Mystery,” citing documents available to but overlooked by Perrin and Bell. Barry lives in Scotland, in a far better position to explore the origin of the Caldwell name.
The Celtics and Druids venerated wells for a variety of reasons, and occasionally used some of them for human sacrifice, but there is no archeological evidence of Celtic/Druid sacrifice at or veneration of the Renfrewshire well near Uplawmoor, in what today is known as the Parish of Caldwell, nor in any of the other Caldwell settlements. I realize absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but I do believe this omission affects the balance on the scale weighing the evidence pro and con.

It is far simpler to explain “Caldwell” as originating from Old English “caeld weille” as the reason for the wide-spread adoption of this as a place name throughout England and Scotland, than to argue that the wide-spread use of the surname is linked to the arrival of a particular person named Colville, Cauldwell, Calwell, etc., in a particular locality. Some people have asserted that the name Caldwell derived originally from deColville or deCoville, a Norman family who reportedly accompanied William Conqueror, whose successor generations assumed the surname of Caldwell, but these people overlook the existence of the Caldwell hamlets in Great Britain before the arrival of William Conqueror. The earliest recorded change of surname from Colville to Caldwell that I have found did not occur until 1758 (John, 8th Lord of Colville, named all of his children by the surname, Caldwell).

“Occam’s Razor” is the term for the concept that the simplest explanation is usually the correct explanation. I do not mean that this rule be applied mechanically. It simply reflects the notion that more weight should be given to the simpler explanation, in evaluating all of the evidence pro and con.

Wherever they occupied lands, the Anglo Saxons usually displaced or dominated the culture and language of the Britons, Celtics, and Gaelic speaking peoples. Virtually all present day place names in England are of Anglo-Saxon rather than Celtic or Briton origin. This is also true of the waterways in Renfrewshire and the Kingdom of Strathclyde. Between 500 and 1000 A D, the Angles from Kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria increasingly settled in Scotland, inhabiting new lands as their existing population expanded. For a graphic illustration of this expansion into Renfrewshire, see July/August 2001 issue of the periodical, Archeology, p. 49. DNA surveys have shown a high concentration of Viking genetic material in the inhabitants of York, but little among the lowlanders of Scotland.

Virtually all of the current place names of England, including many settlements with the place name “Caeld Weille” or variant spelling thereof, were in place before the Norman Invasion of 1066. This works against the notion that the name is linked to the arrival of someone from France, either as a grantee from William Conqueror, or as post-Reformation refugee.

There are historical documents showing references to the place name Caldwaellen, 942 AD, in present day Derbyshire, according to Kenneth Cameron, “The Place Names of Derbyshire,” Cambridge, England, Cambridge University Press, 1959, p. 625.

The Domesday Book of 1086 constitutes the first census of England. Written in Latin, it describes a hamlet of Caldewelle (today spelled in English, Caldwell) in the southwest region of Derbyshire, within the Repton and Gresly Hundred (an Anglo-Saxon administrative unit that, along with the “shire,” survived the Norman Conquest). (Domesday Book, English & Latin, text and translation edited by John Morris. Chichester: Phillimore, 1975-1986, vol. 27.” “In Caldewelle, Aelferic had 2 c. [caraucates] of and taxable. Land for 2 ploughs. Now in Lordship 1 plough; 6 villagers with 1 plough. Value before 1066 and now, 20 s. King William gave this manor to the monks for his well being.” A caraucate is about 120 acres, and was based on the amount of land a team of 8 oxen could plough in a season. The monks to which reference is made were those of Burton Abbey. Burton Abbey was founded as a Benedictine monastery by Wulfuric Spot during the reign of King Æthelred the Unready (978-1016 A.D.).

The present church in Caldwell, Derbyshire dates back to the 14th century, but there are remnants of the earlier Anglo-Saxon church of the 8th century.

In J.E.B. Glover, A. Mawer and F.M. Stenton, “The Place Names of Worcestershire,” Vol. IV (English Place Name Society, University of Nottingham, 1927), the authors cite historical documents referring to a Caldan Wyllan, in 972 A.D, renamed as Caldewelle, in 1198 A.D, and most recently known as Caldwall Hall and Caldewell. “Wyllan” is another Old English word for “spring-water” or “well.” Worcestershire was formed as an administrative unit in 1041 after recovery of the Kingdom of Mercia from the Danes.

In Nottinghamshire there is a settlement called Caldwell Brook. The earliest historical reference in 1289 refers to this place as Caldewell in the Assize Rolls (stored in the Public Record Office), and later as Coldwell Field, 1609. (John Eric Bruce Glover, Allen Mawer, and F.M. Stenton, “The Place Names of Nottinghamshire.” Cambridge (Eng.), The University Press, 90, p. 2.)

The Domesday Book lists a hamlet of Caldeuuella [lost today] in Birdforth Wapentake, [North Riding, Yorkshire], and another in Gilling West Wapentake located in the Parish of Stanwick Saint John, [North Riding, Yorkshire], still in existence, then spelled Caldewelle, consisting of one manor with 6 ploughs and about 720 acres owned by Thoir at the time of the Conquest of 1066, and transferred by King William to Norman French Count Alan Fergant (Alan the Red).

In Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, there is a street called Caldwell Rd., that led to the former medieval village of Caldwell, presently enveloped by the expansion of Nuneaton.

Burke’s Peerage (which has passed through more than 100 editions since 1826) states that John Caldwell de Grebson, 3rd Baron, a landless knight claiming to be of Scots descent, married Alicia in 1278 and by her had one son, John Caldwell, who served as 4th Baron of Grebson, Warwickshire.
Some historians claim that the 3rd Baron was, in actuality, Richard, son of King Henry III, known at one time as Norman of Torn (see Edgar Rice Burroughs, Outlaw of Torn). Richard was raised as “Norman” of (the ruined tower of) Torn in the hills of Derby by De Vac, a Gascon who hated Henry III, and who taught Norman to hate Englishmen. Richard, or Norman, fell in love with Bertrade, daughter of Simon de Montfort, Henry’s brother-in-law and enemy. Richard fought with Simon against Henry at the Battle of Lewes. Richard was recognized by Henry and was reconciled with his father and mother.

After Henry’s death, King Edward accused Richard of treason, and Richard became an outlaw again. Disguised as Caldwell, he married Alicia. But when adopting new arms, he was unable to resist an example of “punning arms.” A spinning wheel was then known as a torn, and his shield born “Sable, a torn or,” i.e., a black field on which is a golden spinning wheel. Edward, hearing of this, sent five knights to arrest him. They caught the outlaw alone, but he killed all of them, though he died of wounds immediately after. A violet lily shaped mark on his left breast identified him a Henry III’s son.

The Domesday Book omits mention of the Prior of Cauldwell in Bedford and Worcester County (Bedfordshire prior to 1974). See Hundreds, Manors, Parishes & The Church: A Selection Of Early Documents For Bedfordshire, edited by John S. Thompson. Vol.69 (1990). Bedfordshire lies immediately southwest of Derbyshire, and not far from the hamlet of Caldwell om Derbyshire that is mentioned in the Domesday Book.

The Bedfordshire Coroners’ Rolls refer to a murder in 1269 involving assailants from the Prior of Cauldwell.

In Nottinghamshire, England, there was a former settlement called Caldwell Brook. The earliest historical reference in 1289 refers to this place as Caldewell in the Assize Rolls (stored in the Public Record Office), and later as Coldwell Field, 1609. (John Eric Bruce Glover, Allen Mawer, and F.M. Stenton, The Place Names of Nottinghamshire. Cambridge (Eng.), The University Press, 90, p. 2.)

All of these settlements are located in regions that were peopled by the Angles and were part of either the Kingdom of Mercia or Northumbria.

During the Roman occupation of Great Britain, York was a initially a garrison settlement by which the Romans administered the north of England beginning in the 1st century A.D. In the 2d century, York served three years as the capital of the Roman Empire, while the Emperor Severus resided there and commanded a Roman army that sought to defeat the Celtics. By the 3rd century, York was one of several provincial capitals of England and a thriving cosmopolitan port, with merchants from France (Gaul), Sardinia, and elsewhere. The Roman occupation during the first and second century A.D. extended to the lowlands of present day Scotland. The Romans established a trading post (emporia) at Caruthers (later called Glasgow), a fishing port, not far from the Caldwell hamlet, about 80 A.D.

York lies at the southern end of a lowland region (Vale of York) bounded on the east by the coast and the Cleveland Hills and on the west by uplands rising from 600 to more than 3000 feet above sea level. Ermine Street, a Roman road, extended through this lowland region from London north, through York, past Richmond, all the way to Hadrian’s Wall separating England from Scotland. This geography facilitated interaction between the Scots and England’s midlanders. Desirous of selling wool, Scot lowlanders may have driven their sheep from Renfrewshire to York, for export to Europe.

The Romans employed Anglo-Saxons as mercenaries to guard their borders from the Pictish and Scottish Highlanders. A Roman fort was built at Lochwinnoch, in present day Scotland, and a Roman road runs through the hamlet of Caldwell, near Lochwinnoch. This suggests the possibility that the hamlet of Caldwell originated in Roman times.

Following the Anglo-Saxon invasion and conversion to Christianity in the 6th century, an Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church resided at York. The Anglo-Saxons extended their occupation from the Kingdom of Mercia to north of York. The Angles occupied what became known as Northumbria, the northern most region of present day England and southeastern Scotland (Lothian). Edward ‘the Elder’ defeated the Danes in Northumbria at Tettenhall in 910. After the kings of Strathclyde and the Scots submitted to Edward

The Anglo-Danes estabished a trade route in the 10th century between Dublin and York that passed through the lowlands of Scotland, and in time intermarried with native inhabitants. Towns grew where they marketed their goods. The possibility exists that Caldwells of Yorkshire were founders of the first Caldwell Estate in Scotland, but more likely, planted the place name Cold Well Scotland, which in time evolved into the Caldwell surname. Adam of Caldwell became Adam Caldwell.

After invasion by Danes from Dublin in the late ninth century, Yorkshire was divided into administrative units called Wapentakes, comparable in area to the Hundreds that served as administrative units elsewhere in England. The Saxon word Wæpen-tac signifies weapon-touch. When a new governor or chief was appointed, all the men of the wapentake were assembled together, and the newly-appointed chief, alighting from his horse, held aloft his spear, which every person present approached and touched with his own weapon, in token of a mutual bond and agreement to stand by one another. The Wapentakes had their separate courts until 1340 A.D., when by a statute passed in the 14th year of Edward III, they were discontinued, and their business transferred to the courts of the shire (e.g., Yorkshire).

There are historical records of the Danes changing the names of places within their area of occupation, such as present day Derby and Richmond, but no records of name changes for any of the Caldwell place names. This would be understandable where the orally spoken reference to OE caeld weille or Danish kald well would have the same meaning in Danish and Old English.

Old English became increasingly used in the Kingdom of Strathclyde, encompassing Renfrewshire. Edward’s heir Athelstan took York from the Danes in 927-8; and required the submission of King Constantine of Scotland. He encouraged town life. Edgar (reigned 959-75), king in Mercia and the Danelaw from 957, fostered monastic revival. The monasteries fostered tenant farming. The early settlers of Lochwinnoch included Caldwells who were tenant farmers of Paisley Abbey, established in the 12th century, as has been confirmed by research done by John Caldwell.

The British kingdom of Strathclyde (encompassing Ayr, Renfrew, Lanark, and Galloway, borderlands, and parts of northern England) eventually succumbed after the Norman Invasion. The Scottish King David I encouraged Anglo Saxons with craft skills to migrate to the lowlands. In some areas virtually the only lands that could be bought or sold were in the burghs, encouraging migration to towns and hamlets. Most of the towns founded in the twelfth century were occupied by these Englishmen. They became one of the principal sources of money that King David I needed. (c) 2002 David Andrew Caldwell


Origin of Caldwell Surname – Part 2 – David A. Caldwell

by David A. Caldwell

The erection of a Caldwell castle and tower at the Caldwell Estate in Scotland, and the absence of any such castle or tower at the Caldwell settlements in England, along with a history of military campaigns laying waste to the Caldwell settlements in England, but not in Scotland, and the post-Reformation seizure of Abbey lands in England, on whose lands were situated some of the Caldwell settlements in England, possibly explain why Caldwell became more prevalent as a surname in Scotland than in England.

In 1823, Leland wrote of the Caldwell settlement in Yorkshire: “There appere ruines of buildinges at Cawdewelle village…Cawdewell is so caullid from a little font or spring, by the ruines of the olde place, and so rennith into a bake halfe a quarter of a mile of.”

Baines’s Directory of 1823 does not list anyone with the surname of Caldwell residing in Caldwell, Yorkshire. The inhabitants included 7 farmers, a blacksmith and a liquor merchant. Bulmer’s History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890) lists no Caldwells, but does identify Richard Nicholson as miller and owner of Caldwell mill, and George Walles as owner of Caldwell farm. The absence of Caldwells in York in the 1800’s has numerous potential explanations but the most likely is that the last of the male descendants died out, as may have occurred during any of numerous plagues, periods of starvation, waste, and invasion. Whole towns of Yorkshire were repeatedly burned and ravaged by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and Robert Bruce in the early 14th century and vast regions were depopulated as tenant farmers relocated elsewhere.

Former Ayrshire resident Tom Caldwell (See has pointed out that the Normans introduced the use of surnames in the first millenium (1000’s). The first official reference to the practice in Scotland is from a general council held at Forfar in 1061, during the reign of Malcolm Canmor (1057- 1093). Malcolm directed his chief subjects to create surnames from the names of their territorial possessions.

John A. Caldwell (jacaldwell) has uncovered numerous references to the name Caldwell in Renfrewshire, especially in and near Lochwinnoch, a few miles east of Beith, long before the Reformation, with the earliest document going back to the late 1200’s. Lochwinnoch is on the border between present day Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. The earliest reference is in Latin from Monestum de Passelat (Paisley Monastery), 1292, referring to Caldwell. The next record is that of William Caldwell “of that Ilk” Prebend[ary] of Glasgow 1342 Entry of feu (Exchq. Rolls) Chancellor of Scotland 1349-54. The phrase, “of that ilk,” implies the presence of a prominent Caldwell family or clan present for a century or more. At the time that William Caldwell served as Lord High Chancellor, King David II was being held for ransom by the English, leaving Lord High Chancellor Willam Caldwell arguably one of the most powerful man in Scotland. (Samuel Cowan, “The Lord Chancellors of Scotland,” W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, 1911, vol.1, p. 163.) Cowan writes that there are no documents describing the official duties of the Chancellor. He ranked below the High Steward but above the Chamberlain. The Lord Chancellor was responsible for administering the laws and presiding at courts of justice. (p. 6.) The position was usually given to the most learned and scholarly men of the time and most influential with the King. p. 11 Up to the Reformation, the Lord Chancellors were usually Catholic Prelates. (p. 12.) Many had university training in France or Italy. (p. 6.) Scotland had no universities until the 1400’s.

Surnames were common among Scotch commoners of the 13 century, such as William Wallace, and among nobles, such as Robert Bruce, Andrew Moray, and John Soules. There are over 2000 Scot nobles and gentry listed in the Ragman’s Roll of 1296, most with surnames, pledging their allegiance to King Edward I of England, so historical documents make it clear that the use of surnames was well established in Scotland by the 13th century.

Tom Caldwell uncovered historical documents that revealed use of the Caldwell surname in various parts of Ayrshire, such as in or near Todriggs, Annanhill, Mauchline, Ayr, Dundonald., Maybole, Kirkoswald and Straiton (sometime known as “of Stratton”), dating back to the 1300’s. (See

John Caldwell ( and I have jousted severally times over the origin of the Caldwell surname. John remains erect, like the statute of Robert Bruce mounted on his horse, ready to do battle. In fact, his on-site picture even bears a resemblance to Robert Bruce’s facial features. John places no or little weight upon the English documentation of the name Caldwell. He points out that the surname Caldwell was prominent and widespread in Scotland by the 1300s, but not so in England. Virtually all of the Caldwells in North Ireland, America, Australia, and Canada, descended from Scots, especially from Ayshire and Renfrewshire, many of who relocated first to N. Ireland (Donegal, Down, Antrim, Londonderry) and later to America. He says that it would be a stretch to claim that Caldwell derives from English ancestors. Looking at each item of evidence that I have presented, he sees no persuasive or compelling case, just as if he had taken up a piece of puzzle, and said, it shows nothing. My approach has been to see if a clear picture emerges from the totality of the pieces. In my view, the spread of the Caldwell surname throughout the English-speaking world has been one of repeated relocations of successive generations of Caldwells, from England to Scotland, then to North Ireland, and from there, to Canada, America, and Australia. The early Caldwell settlers aimed for New Jersey and Pennsylvania, then spread to North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, etc. John favors the notion that Caldwell might have derived from the Viking words, kald well. I cannot disprove that assertion. But I find it much less likely than the theory I have advanced, and far better supported by numerous historical documents.

John wrote:
: Let me put this thought forward;
: How can Caldwell be an “anglicized” spelling of
: the Anglo “caeld weille” or even
: “Colville” when “Caldwelle”,
: “Caldwaellen”, “Cauldwell”, or
: “Calwell” would make for a better argument?
: Maybe there’s a good explanation, but I’m just
: clowning around here.

Here is my response: H. L. Mencken is the author of The American Language (1921), available online at Whole chapters are devoted to the changes that place names and surnames have undergone in America, as people of one language listened to and recorded what they thought they heard pronounced by people of another language, or deemed more familiar to them. I bet that if you read his work, you will have a better feel why the place name and surname Caldwell, or any variant spelling thereof, likely underwent so many changes.

In the lowland areas of Scotland, around 400-600 A.D., there was recurring alliances, intermarriages, conquests, and conflicts, between Britons, Picts, Scottis, and Angles. Later, 800 A.D.+, there were the Vikings, and after 1066, the Normans. This interaction of so many peoples provides a plausible explanation for changes in spelling and pronunication. The Domesday Book of 1086 used Latin, not Anglo-Saxon, to spell Caldwell. The Normans who occupied Scotland may have preferred French spelling without the w, as in Calduelle, than the Anglo-Saxon spelling, calde weille, which has the w. In time, Norman names became Anglicized. The de Brus family became the Bruce family. Muir has undergone a number of revisions: Mure, More, Moore, etc. The Old English of Beowulf became the Middle English of Chaucer, and then the Modern English of King James Bible and Shakespeare.

The increased literacy and printing of books probably had a lot to do with bringing about a consensus as to how words should be spelled. The Scots themselves increasingly adopted English spelling and pronunication during the 1600 and 1700s, as Scotland became increasingly industrialized, involved in international markets, university educated, and serving as British military officers.

In the 14th century, John of Fordun wrote about the languages then spoken in Scotland: “The manners and customs of the Scots vary with the diversity of their speech. For two languages are spoken amongst them, the Scottish and the Teutonic; the latter of which is spoken by those who occupy the seaboard and the plains, while the race of Scottish speech inhabits the highlands and outlying islands. The people of the coast are of domestic and civilised habits, trusty, patient, and urbane, decent in their attire, affable, and peaceful, devout in Divine worship, yet always ready to resist a wrong at the hands of their enemies. The highlanders and people of the islands, on the other hand, are a savage and untamed nation, rude and independent, given to rapine, ease-loving, clever and quick to learn, comely in person, but unsightly in dress, hostile to the English people and language, and, owing to the diversity of speech, even to their own nation, and exceedingly cruel. They are however faithful and obedient to their king and country, and obedient to their king and country, and easily made to submit to law, if properly governed.”

The most popular Protestant Bible in Scotland before the King James Version was not Wycliffe’s Bible, but the Geneva Study Bible. (Check the webpage at This was the Bible that Shakespeare read. It might have been the only book the majority of Scots read in their lifetime during the 16th and 17th centuries. There were notes in the margin that presented Protestant theology and enraged the Catholics (e.g., denial of confession, sacraments, the importance of good works in attaining salvation, etc.). King James did not like it and made its a possession a felony. The Geneva Bible espoused the right of the people to overthrow an unjust King.

Consensus on “well” rather than “wel,” “wal,” “wall,” “waelle,” “wyllan,” or “weille,” would likely also have been reinforced by the King James Version of the Bible, also known as the Authorized Bible, first published about 1611. There are near a hundred entries, in which the spelling is “well.”

I think we all agree that the surname Caldwell in America derives not from any place name in America (and there are dozens of towns called Caldwell in America) but from migration of people from Great Britain, mostly Scotch-Irish and Scots, and to a much lesser degree, from England, almost all with the surname spelling Caldwell. And we can say the same for the Scotch-Irish in Ireland in the 1600s. They brought their surnames with them, almost all from Scotland, and some of these were descendants of Caldwells from England. My point, however, is that the origin of the Caldwell surname in both England and Scotland derived largely from the Anglo-Saxon place name “calde weille,” given to long-standing settlements in both Scotland and England, rather than arrival of a Colville arrival in 1066 or a post-reformation arrival in 1558 of three legendary Cauldwells from France, or any one Caldwell forefather.

Plunkett Caldwell ( has provided an explanation for the common spelling of Calwell in North Ireland. In Counties Down and Antrim, the “d” is silent. In the more anglicized county of Belfast, the “d” has become distinctly pronounced.

In the belief that the surname Caldwell derived originally from the Anglo Saxon words, caeld weille, meaning artesian well, I was frustrated by an inability of finding any such place name or similar name in modern day Germany.

Recently I discovered that In the Black Forest region of Germany, is the town of Calw (158,000 inhabitants), known for its four therapeutic baths. (try keyword internet search, landkreis calw). The original crest/coat of arms displayed three mountains. http://www. ngw. nl/ int/ dld/ c/ calw. htm.?
The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions the Counts of Calw were in control of the Black Forest in the mid-9th century. The Encylopedia does not state how far back in time the name Calw was in use.

The River Rhone begins near this settlement and flows south, passing Avignon, the temporary headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century, as well as St. Gilles. A short distance to the east lies the port of Toulon, said to be the region from where the legendenary three brothers migrated to Scotland and assumed the Caldwell surname.

St. Gilles is also the name of a church in the hamlet of Caldwell, Derbyshire, England. Many parish churches throughout England and Scotland were named after St. Gilles.

Southern Germany reputedly is the area from which various iron-age pagan tribes, known to be tall, speaking Celtic dialects, and wearing tartan plaids, dispersed throughout western Europe, beginning about 1000 B.C. Many of those among them who did not have natural blond hair would artificially change their hair color to blond. Celtic tribes migrated over the Alps and settled in the Po Valley of northern Italy about the 5th century B.C. They conquered Rome in 390 B.C. They moved into France and Spain, and eventually into Ireland and Great Britain. Today there are still place-names showing their presence (e.g., Tubingen, Gernmany derives from a Celtic word).

The Teutonic language replaced the Celtic language in Southwestern Germany about 100 B.C. Caesar called the Celtics barbarian, but in actuality, they were among the most advanced craftsmen at metalwork. Some would say their metalwork has never been surpassed. They attained a high reputation for the eloquence of their poets, storytellers, bards and kings. Unfortunately, nothing in writing was left. Their Kings prided themselves on their illustrious descent from warrior-kings.

The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, borders on Switzerland on the south, on the Neckar River to the East and on France to the West. Look at any atlas and you will see that the Rhine River begins near the Baths (artesian wells) of Calw and flows north through Germany to the Netherlands, disgorging into the sea that reaches to Southeast England. Asked where they came from, would travelers from the Baths of Calw have had their answer translated from German into Old English, Caeld Welle?

Bertha of Calw, 12th century sister of Pope Victor II, has been linked as kin of Sir Adam Mure of Rowallan, Scotland. (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb. com/~jamesdow/s064/ f100336.htm). Possibly she was known among those speaking Old English as Bertha frae [from] Caeld Welle.

A descendant of Adam Mure, Gilchrist Mure, married an heiress of a Caldwell Estate in 1347. For the next five hundred years, the Estate was known as the Mure of Caldwell Estate. This can be largely confirmed by secondary sources: (1) “The Statistical Account of Ayrshire by Ministers of the Respective Parishes,” published 1800s by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, states “Gilchrist second son of Sir Reginald [Mure], acquired the Estate of Caldwell by marrying the Heiress of Caldwell of that Ilk.” (See posting here, 3/6/02. David Caldwell, Manitoba) (2) Burke’s Landed Gentry states Gilchrist More acquired the estate of Caldwell in Ayrshire and Renfrewshire through marriage with the heir of Caldwell, of that ilk. (http://www.burkes-peerage. net/sites/common/sitepages/page13b may.asp, From Caldwell To Tasmania).

Some second hand sources say the Caldwell heiress married Gilchrist’s son, Godfrey. In Barry Robertson article, “The Caldwell Mystery,” posted here on 2/23/02, Barry Robertson cited ‘The History of Neilston’ (1910) by Doctor David Pride, who wrote that the Caldwell Estate came to the Mures through the marriage, in 1347, of a Godfrey Mure to the heiress of Caldwell, she being of ‘That Ilk. Robertson also noted: “It seems that the Lady of Caldwell did not own all of the estate – a younger male branch of the family held Little or Wester Caldwell – the area surrounding the present Hall of Caldwell, including the area later to become the golf course. Little Caldwell did not come into the Mure possession until towards the end of the 17th century.”)

William M. Metcalfe, D.D. (1840-1916), authored “History of the County of Renfrew, With a Map of the County,” 1905, Paisley: Alexander Gardner. Copies can be found at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City and at various universities. He wrote: “Godfrey Muir is the first who is designated of Caldwell.” (p. 105) He states that the estates of Caldwell in the counties of Ayr and Renfrew were acquired at the close of the fourteenth century by a marriage with the heiress of Caldwell of that ilk, then a family of some note, having given a Chancellor to Scotland in 1349. (p. 105) Metcalfe cited as his sole source “The Selections from the Family Papers Preserved at Caldwell, 1696-1853,” edited by William Mure. Glasgow: [printed by W. Eadie for Maitland Club]. no. 71 (part I) [hereinafter, “The Caldwell Papers”).

I decided to do a little investigation. Gilchrist Mure was born 1301 in Cowdans, the second son of Sir Reginald Mure. The webpage of the Muir Society states that Sir Reginald Mure (1267-1329) served as Chamberlain in 1329. ( The position of Chamberlain is just beneath Lord High Chancellor. When Sir Reginald Mure died, the Cowdans Estate passed to Gilchrist Mure, who thereafter became Lord Cowdans. The Cowdans Estate lies just a few miles northeast of the Caldwell Estate. Upon Gilchrist’s marriage to the Caldwell heiress, Gilchrist became the landlord, or Laird, of the Caldwell Estate. While others may have referred to him as Lord (Laird) Caldwell, he was not so described in those terms when Sir William Mure prepared the family tree more than four centuries later.

Gilchrist’s first son, Godfrey Mure, was born in 1352. Sir William Mure referred to him as “of Caldwell,” perhaps because Caldwell was his chief residence. Godfrey’s son, John Mure, was born in 1390, at the Mure of Caldwell Estate. There are numerous websites containing this information. I relied upon html#I35940. John Mure, b. 1390, is the first Mure of Caldwell whom Sir William Mure designated Lord Caldwell. Sir William Mure noted in the margins of the Caldwell Papers numerous errors that he had detected, so the Caldwell Papers have to be viewed as documents to be viewed with caution as to their accuracy.

If Gilchrist Mure preserved the Caldwell name of the Estate, perhaps he was obliged to do so because his wife would retain a life estate even his death. Alternately he may have done so in the belief that the Caldwell maternal line was of equal value, or at least a source and symbol of power, either by reason of blood relationship to an important person (for example, William Caldwell, then Prebendary of Glasgow and appointed Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, beginning in 1349), or in expectancy that he would acquire a privileged position in a social hierarchy. The heiress could not have been a serf, to whom marriage would result in loss of Gilchrist’s honor if not rank. She had to have been a woman of noble or illustrious birth. As was true for most medieval marriages, Gilchrist likely did not expect a long life together with his wife. Lineage, not marriage, was the fundamental social unit of his time. Gilchrist would have acquired a social debt, if not military obligation, to the Caldwell clan. If Gilchrist died young, his clan would have been obliged to support the Caldwell heiress and her minor children. The head of the Caldwell clan would have been able to exert some influence over its “son-in-law.” The church would require the consent by the heiress and her close relatives to any alienation of the Estate, even if Gilchrist sought to donate all or portion of the Estate to a monastery or abbey. Children by such marriage would be expected to marry other Caldwells past the 4th degree of cousins, as authorized in 1215 by the Lateral Council (reducing prohibited range from 7th to 4th degree).

An alternate explanation was that the Caldwell Estate name was preserved because the royal charter upon which title was based referred to the land as the Caldwell Estate.

The fact that the adjacent Little Caldwell Estate remained in possession of the Caldwell clan suggests that there was a circle of sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, brothers in law, cousin, and nephews linked by constraints of coresidency, consanguinity, and community. In view of the Church’s insistence that marriage was indissolvable, except for prohibited degree of consanguinity or crime, the Church made it easy for medieval nobles to obtain dissolution if the genealogical evidence showed such prohibited consanguinity. For a society dependent upon inherited wealth, undisputed genealogy would have been of utmost importance in winning the battle to maintain a way of life. Use of the Caldwell crest would have aided in showing lines of consanguinity.

At the time of Godfrey Mure’s birth in 1352, Sir William Caldwell was still Lord High Chancellor, and one of the most eminent ndividuals in Scotland. (see, Samuel Cowan, author of “The Lord Chancellors of Scotland,” W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, 1911, vol.1, at p. 163.) William Caldwell was appointed Chancellor in 1349 and served until 1354, when he died. Cowan reports that William Caldwell presided over Parliament held at Dundee, where the Estates discussed the ransom of King David, who had been imprisoned for 11 years. Lord Chancellor Caldwell pleaded for payment of the ransom, but the nobles allied themselves with France, and invaded Berwick, then held by the English. The Scots, led by Baliol, were defeated. When Caldwell’s successor stepped in as Chancellor, the ransom was paid after Baliol’s defeat. Cowan writes that there are no documents describing the official duties of the Chancellor. He ranked below the High Steward but above the Chamberlain. The Lord Chancellor was responsible for administering the laws and presiding at courts of justice. (p. 6.) The position was usually given to the most learned and scholarly men of the time and most influential with the King. (p. 11.) Up to the Reformation, the Lord Chancellors were usually Catholic Prelates. (p. 12.) Many had university training in France or Italy. (p. 6.) — see Part 3

(c) 2002 David A. Caldwell

Part 3

Although the Mures never adopted the surname “Caldwell,” use of the title Lord Caldwell likely led to widespread adoption of the Caldwell surname by people who worked, resided, or were tenants, of the Estate. For example, at the time that Rev. David Caldwell’s parents, Andrew and Martha Caldwell migrated to America in 1725, an Allan Caldwell, baptized 1680, was a tenant in possession of a farm at Hall of Caldwell near Lochwinnoch under a 19 year lease. He married Margaret Clerk on February 7, 1709/10 (the ambiguity is due to the calendar new year under the old Julian calendar then in effect in England began on March 25, but on January 1 in Scotland under the Gregorian calendar), in Lochwinnoch, daughter of Alexander Clerk. The children of that marriage included (1) Jean Caldwell, (2) William Caldwell, born or baptized May 1715, Neilston, and (3) Leizie Caldwell, born or baptized 1723. His second wife was Janet Fulton . He married her on December 24, 1724 in the Hall Of Caldwell. The children of that marriage included (1) John Caldwell, born or baptized Feb 20, 1727/28, an ummarried shoemaker at the Caldwell Hall, (2) Allan Caldwell, born or baptized Sep 7, 1729, an unmarried farmer at Biggart, Beith, and (3) Thomas Caldwell, born or baptized September 5, 1731, a mason and wright at the Hall. Thomas “begat” (rebuilt) the Caldwell Manor House. He was unmarried according to the Cairn Of Lochwinnoch. Tenant farmer Allan Caldwell had a brother, William Caldwell, born 1690, who was still alive as of 1728 (his name appears as a witness to a document).

William had a child named Andrew, who resided in Beith, Ayrshire, where he worked as a weaver. (Source: Surnames/Caldwell/Desc%20Thomas%20Caldwell%201600.htm) Although this Andrew likely was born about the same time as the Andrew Caldwell who migrated to America with Martha in 1725, the fact is that this Andrew worked in and remained in Beith, and could not be the father of Rev. David Caldwell (1725-1824), my ancestor. For more information about the Allan Caldwells of Lochwinnoch, contact Mairi Frew at He posted the descendants of Thomas Caldwell, b. 1600, through Allan Caldwell, b. 1630, his son, Allan, b. 1660, grandson, Allan, b. about 1680, Lochwinnoch, and ggrandson, Allan Caldwell, b. 1729. David Caldwell of Manitoba posted at on 2/28/02 a list of hundreds of Caldwells in Ayrshire for the period 1590-1748.

The original Scopttish Caldwell Estates were located within the Paroch Church of Neilstoun,” the patronage of which was given by Robert de Croc, “Pro salute animae suae,” to the Monks of “Pasly” (Paisley), in the reign of Scottish King William [1165-1214]. (George Robertson, “A General Description of the Shire of Renfrew, including an Account of the Noble and Ancient Families, who, from the earliest times, have had property in that County, and the most remarkable facts in the lives of distinguished individuals. To which is added, a genealogical history of the Royal House of Stewart, and the several and illustrious families of that name, from the year 1034, to the year 1710; collected from public records, chartularies of monasteries, and the best historians and private mss. Published in 1710 by George Crawfurd, author of the Peerage of Scotland, &c, &c. and continued to the present period, by George Robertson, author of The Agricultural Survey of Mid Lothian, &c.” (hereunafter, History of the Shire of Renfrew, (1818), p. 41).

“Paroch” is a term referring to lands administered by a Catholic church prelate (such as an abbot or bishop) or presbyter (church council).
.. .
The name of the Scottish Caldwell Estates have undergone a variety of spellings. A 1654 map uses the spelling Coldwel. (George Crawfurd and George Robertson, “A History of the Shire of Renfrew,” supra, p. 241.) In George Crawfurd and George Robertson’s History of the Shire of Renfrew, supra, Caldwel is the spelling most often used. In early correspondence to William Mure in the first quarter of the 18th century, Sir David Hume, famed Scottish philosopher, addressed his letters to William Mure at Calwell. Later letters used the Caldwell spelling. A January 11, 1760 pleading before the Scottish Lords of Session lists counsel as William Mure (1716-1776) of Caldwall. (Answers for William Mure of Caldwall, Esq; to the petition and complaint of Daniel Campbell … William Grahame … and Alexander Cunnynghame, …, National Library of Scotland, microfiche). Throughout the nineteenth century, the Caldwell spelling was used by a later William Mure of Caldwell, author of numerous books. (See online catalogue, National Library of Scotland.)

Mures of Caldwell were entombed in the walls of the Neilston Parish Church. How ironical it is that Neilston Parish Church served as the Mure medieval memorial, adding an aura of sacredness surrounding salvation of Mure’s lineage, but it is the Caldwell clan chapel in Uplawmoor honored today as the Caldwell Church. In 1890, the local Presbyterian Church (Church of Scotland) located within the former Caldwell Estate, was renamed Caldwell Parish Church. (Patricia M. Thompson, “One Hundred Years of Caldwell : the Story of Caldwell Parish Church, 1889-1989 / by Patricia M. Thomson,” Uplawmoor : The Church], c1989.)

The Mures of Caldwell have been identified as belonging to the House of Caldwell, and the head of the household, as the Lord (Laird) Caldwell. Royal charters were issued in the name of Caldwell to several of these Mures, confirming their ownership and title. George Crawfurd and George Robertson, “A History of the Shire of Renfrew,” supra, pp. 305-306.)

The earliest known familial crest for a Caldwell family displayed a two dimensional line drawing of the side view of three stone block wells. [Innes of Learney, Thomas, Sir, “Scots Heraldry; a practical handbook on the historical principles and modern application of the art and science.” Baltimore, Genealogical Pub. Co, 1971, 2ed ed. Rev., reprint of 1956 ed., p. 1121. See also, James Parker, “A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry,” 1894. D[discussion of the meaning of a crest displaying three “wells.”] Alexander Nisbet’s “History of Heraldry” (1722) describes the Caldwell Coat of Arms as an argent three piles issuing from the chief sable and in the base, four bars wavy Gules and Vest. [Georgeway of Plean and Romilly Squire, “Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia,” p. 369.] The Mures of Caldwell had distinctive armorial crests.

No book is known to list any Caldwell tartan. In view of the knowledge that the Mures of Caldwell were part of the House of Caldwell, a reasonable argument can be made that the preferred Caldwell tartan should be the Muir tartan. The original purpose of a crest was to provide evidence of consanguinity. This feudal purpose has long been ignored in the modern era.

Despite the plague, pillage and plunder, the violent 14th century did not witness the rise, decline and fall of the Scottish Caldwells. Two centuries later in the Casket Letters of Mary, Queen of Scots, reference is made to a “sonne of Caldwellis,” who visited her during her imprisonment by Queen Elizabeth shortly before her execution in the late 16th century. The purpose was not to socialize but to ask Mary to confess. Casket Letters is the name generally given to eight letters, and a sequence of irregular sonnets, all described as originally in French, and said to have been addressed by Mary, Queen of Scots, to the earl of Bothwell, between January and April 1566—1567.” (Id.) The letters were reportedly found in Bothwell’s chambers, but the lords could never produce the original copies. The so called copies (Mary said they were forgeries) revealed a love affair that began long before Lord Darnley’s murder. The implication is that there was a Caldwell of great importance, likely of the nobility. No currently published genealogical story refers to this Caldwell or his Estate. The records of LDS Family History Library identify a Caldwell Estate in Annandale, near Solway Firth, since approximately 1558, headed by Alexander Caldwell. (His descendants has been posted on line and are said to include the original Cub Creek Caldwell clan in Virginia).

These letters are published in an appendix of the book, Mary Queen of Scots, by Antonia Fraser, first copyrighted 1969. They are discussed in C. Ainsworth Mitchell, The Evidence of the Casket Letters, Historical Association Pamphlets, 1927, and M. H. Armstrong-Davison, The Casket Letters, 1965. A detailed analysis of the Casket Letters, aka the Silver Casket Letters, can be found in a reproduction online of a 1911 encylcopeia (http://86. 1911encyclopedia. org/C/CA/ Casket_Letters.htm) ” In Antonio Fraser’s biography, entitled “Mary, Queen of Scots,” she appends a copy of the Casket letter that mentions Caldwellis.

The view that Caldwell surname in Scotland is of Norse-Viking or Danish Viking origin lacks the support of any historic document. The genealogical website. namescaldwell.htm takes the view that the surname Caldwell originated in Renfrewshire, Scotland, of Viking origin. This view is also espoused by John Caldwell at his website, Some potential support comes from the fact that the many of the early Mures had first names of Viking origin: Reginald, Gilchrist, and Godfrey.

On June 2, 2002, a Brian Caldwell posted this message at that website: “40 years ago John Caldwell of Paisley (were I was born) told me of the story of a Norseman, Kald, taken at the battle of Largs (1263) who, after serving time labouring on some farm, was freed and settled in or around the village of Caldwell near Neilston. There being artesian wells thereabouts he was know as Kald of the Well. With the anglicanization of names this became Caldwell, similar but unrelated to Coldwell, a common name in England. Caldwell is not that common in England and the largest concentration appears in Lancaster where a significant number of Irish settled. Interestingly there were only 44 Coldwells in 1881 in Scotland most in what was Northumbria. Compare this to the 2513 Caldwells in Lowland Scotland, 217 of whom from Ireland and 2 from the USA! In Nouthumberland itself there were only 4 Caldwells versus 47 Coldwells.”

In a book by George Henderson, “Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland,” James Maclehose and Sons, 1910, Glasgow, he states that “kalda-a” are the Norse words for “cold stream.” James B. Johnston, B.B., “Place Names of Scotland,” Neill & Co., 1892 Edinburgh, at p. 5, states Caldwell (Renfrew) is presumably from “cold well,” the “cald'” derived from either Old English “cald” or from Icelandic-Norse word, “kaldr.” The Calder River near Glasgow derives its name from the Norse language.

Hugh MacDonald, “Ramble Around Glasgow,” ca. 1850’s, contains this passage, excerpted from George Crawford’s “A General Description Of The Shire Of Renfrew Including An Account Of The Noble And Ancient Families, Who, From The Earliest Times, Have Had Property In That County, And The Most Remarkable Facts In The Lives Of Distinguished Individuals : To Which Is Added, A Genealogical History Of The Royal House Of Stewart, And Of The Several Noble And Illustrious Families Of That Name, From The Year 1034 To The Year 1710 : [collected from our public records, chartularies of monasteries, and the best historians and private mss.,” published in 1710, by George Crawfurd ; and continued to the present period, by George Robertson. Paisley : H. Crichton, 1818 (Paisley : Printed by J. Neilson) 512 leaves : ill., facsims. (2 folded), maps (folded). which can be found online at http://www. geocities. com/ Heartland/ Meadows/5209/ ram181.htm#neil: ” A CD version of this book is available.

“The origin of the name of Neilston is a favourite subject of speculation, and has been accounted for in various ways by local etymologists. Certain parties derive it from an imaginary general of the Danish monarch Haco, named Neil, who, flying from the fatal field of Largs, was overtaken here and put to death. Over his grave a tumulus, according to the custom of the age, was erected, and called Neilston, from which, according to this theory, the locality ultimately received its name. Others find its origin in a stone erected over a supposed Highland chief, name Neil, who was killed (for the purpose, we suspect) at the battle of Harlaw, in the reign of Malcom III. Unfortunately for these specious derivations, an ancient document, the “Chartulary of Paisley Abbey,” mentions that in 1160, many years before the Danish invasion or the insurrection which was terminated at Harlaw, Robert de Croc of Crocstown, assigns the patronage of “Neilstoun” to the monks of St. Mirren’s, on condition that masses should be regularly said for the benefit of his soul. This leaves us still out at sea in our etymological speculations on this momentous question, where we must probably be content to remain, unless we adopt the shamefully simple solution that Neilston may have received its name from some individual ‘rejoicing in the Celtic cognomen of Neil, who may have resided here at some period, and left his name as a legacy to the locality.”
John A. Caldwell (jacaldwell) reasons that each occupant would have called any artesian well in his native language. Thus, a Norse occupant would have referred to the well as “kaldr a…” and an Anglo-Saxon by the words, “caeld weille.” My view is that the Vikiings and Danish were well known for assimilating the local customs and language, as can be confined by looking at artifacts in their graves showing cultural assimilation.

Scot resident Barry Robertson has posted a detailed article about the origin of Caldwell at, called “Caldwell Mystery.” He suggests the Gaelic word “kelt” for wood. He acknowledges the speculative character of this explanation.

Tom Caldwell turned to alliteration. He wrote on 6/27/02: “Gault means ‘pertaining to the lowlands,’ from the Gael “gallda” (PH Reaney ‘A Dictionary of British Surnames’ p 142). This is reinforced by Galdwallys Castle in Speyside which is associated with one Freskin who had Ayrshire connections. Galdwallys Castle is easily found by a web search. Consequently this castle was established by the Lowland Welsh. Naturally Galdwallys is such a short step from Caldwallys/Caldwalls that one must be driven to suspect a connection.” I particularly liked this argument, because it bore the indicia of plausibility based on drawing reasonable inferences from verifiable facts.

Tom wrote that the Caldwell’s in Scotland come from an area in Renfrewshire which is dominated by an eminence called “Walls Hill” On Walls Hill there are the remains of an Iron Age Hill Fort. The local farms are known as “Castlewalls”.

“In my opinion Castlewalls in this instance means Castle of the Welsh or Wallace. Walls Hill might mean the Hill of the Wallace or Welsh. In the Celtic languages “Caer” meant fort and an iron age fort would fill the bill. In Scotland in more modern times “Caer” was rendered “Car” and there are many placenames starting with this prefix. In Scotland Caldwell is nicknamed “Carwall” pronounced “Kerwahl”. Looks awfully like “the fort of the Welsh/Wallace”. This being a locality name might explain the nickname but not explain “Caldwell”. This I cannot do.

“If we could bridge the connection between Caldwell and Carwall the mystery would be explained. It would become a locality name based on the Iron Age Fort in the vicinity.

“Gauld/Gault means ‘pertaining to the lowlands’ from the Gael “gallda” (PH Reaney ‘A Dictionary of British Surnames’ p 142). This is reinforced by Galdwallys Castle in Speyside which is associated with one Freskin who had Ayrshire connections. Galdwallys Castle is easily found by a web search. Consequently this castle was established by the Lowland Welsh. Naturally Galdwallys is such a short step from Caldwallys/Caldwalls that one must be driven to suspect a connection.

“If Caldwell is just a name for the Lowland Welsh associated with the fort of the Welsh (Carwall/Caerwall) we must be driven to the belief that this family is not the same family as the English Caldwell and must have come from a different root/route to the same ending.”

© 2002 David Andrew Caldwell