Skip to main content

Coltness Papers

Identifier: Coll-17

Scope and Contents

The collection of Coltness Papers contains letters, family documents, commonplace books, accounts, historical and bioraphical manuscripts, and certificates dating mainly from the 17th-19th centuries, and relating to the Steuart family. See the box list fore more details.


  • Creation: 1623-1994


Language of Materials

English, French, Latin.

Conditions Governing Access

Contact the repository for details.

Biographical / Historical

Coltness is part of modern Wishaw in Stratchlyde Region, Scotland. The manuscripts in the Coltness Papers refer to the following notables and their transactions within the Scottish and British church, state and army:

(1.) Sir James Steuart of Kirkfield and Coltness, born 1608, elected Lord Provost of Edinburgh 1648, and died 1681.

(2.) His sons Sir Thomas Steuart of Coltness, born 1631 and died 1698; and, Sir James Steuart of Goodtrees, born 1635. Sir James was called to the bar on 20 November 1661. He published a political pamphlet in 1669 in defence of peoples' rights and had to flee the country, to Rouen. Later, after another difficulty, he fled again, this time to England. On his return, he had to flee yet again, this time to The Hague in 1681. He was later pardoned, and in 1692 he was appointed as Scotland's Lord Advocate. He resigned in 1709, and died in 1713.

(3.) His son, Sir James Steuart of Goodtrees and Coltness, born 1681, became Scotland's Solicitor-General. He died in 1727.

(4.) His son, Sir James Steuart Denham of Coltness and Westshield, who would later become a political economist, had been born on 21 October 1712. Sir James was educated in North Berwick and entered Edinburgh University in 1724-25 at the age of thirteen, studying law. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates on 25 January 1735. After that, there followed a period of travel which took him to Leyden, Avignon, and Rome where he was courted by the exiled Stewarts. Sir James returned to Scotland in 1740 and he was in Edinburgh when Prince Charles Edward Stewart occupied the city during the rebellion of 1745. Implicated in the rebellion, Sir James was obliged to leave Scotland for Germany after the Jacobite defeat at Culloden. While in Germany, he published works on political economy in Frankfurt-on-Main and in Tuebingen. He returned to Scotland in 1763 and continued his writing. Sir James died on 26 November 1780 and was buried at Cambusnethan, near Wishaw, Clydesdale.

(5.) His son, the General, Sir James Steuart Denham, was born in August 1744. Because of his father's exile, Sir James had received his education in Germany. He entered the army in 1761 and travelled in France and Germany paying special attention to the armies of these countries. He received a troop of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers in 1766, and became a Major of the 13th Dragoons in 1772. By 1773 he was a Lieutenant-Colonel, and in 1782 was a Colonel. In 1784, Sir James became MP for the county of Lanark. He died in Cheltenham as the senior General of the army on 12 August 1839.


8 notebooks, 2 volumes, 8 boxes (1 linear metre).

Physical Location

MSS 2291-2295

Other Finding Aids

Handlist, H17; Another important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Custodial History

The collection of Coltness Papers was donated to in 1988 by Mrs Katherine Jean Fyfe (nee Wolfe Murray), whose ancestors had inherited them following the death of Major-General Sir James Stuart Denham in 1839 through the marriage of Alexander Murray of Cringletie in Peeblesshire to Marion Steuart, the General's aunt.

Existence and Location of Copies

Most of the collection has been microfilmed and the shelf numbers of the relevant negative microfilms are given in Scope and Content.

Processing Information

Handlist keyed into ArchivesSpace by Stephen Willis in June 2020.

Coltness Papers
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379