The Sinclair family's lineage can be traced back to the Normandy area of France and earlier to the Scandinavian Viking days. The family's history is closely intertwined with the crowns of France, England, and Scotland, and ancestors have been involved in many of the pivotal events in western civilization. Listed in this page are places and events where Sinclairs have left an indelible mark in the history books. To view the history of the Sinclair family in context of the history of Scotland, go to the Timeline of Scottish History. Click on any of the images or links on this page for further background information on these historical events and places. Many of the links in this page are to external web sites.

     This page of Sinclair landmarks is based on a pamphlet by H. S. "Pete" Cummings, Jr., entitled "Guide to Sinclair Landmarks". Pete is official genealogist for Clan Sinclair and has kindly granted permission to use his work in this format. Editorial notes are included in Pete's work where appropriate. A sample of the many fine works on Sinclair history and genealogy by Pete is found in the bibliography at this site.


Rosslyn Chapel Prentice Pillar

     This landmark is in Roslin, Scotland. It was built in 1446 by William Sinclair (1410-1484). Because of its elaborate stone carvings, this is often called a "Bible in Stone." The most well known carving is the "Prentice Pillar" (detail image of this intricate stone carving is shown at right). Other carvings depict Templar secrets and the Green Man traditions. Several other Sinclairs are buried within this chapel, fully clad in their suits of armor.

      [NOTE: Click the thumbnail image at left for a larger view of Rosslyn Chapel, which is located 6 miles south of Edinburgh in Roslin Village. There is also a home page maintained by the "Friends of Rosslyn" with a history of the Chapel, images of the interior, and detail images of several of the Chapel's ornate carvings. The Friends of Rosslyn was formed for the purpose of restoring Rosslyn Chapel, which has deteriorated over the years. Going to the Friends of Rosslyn Home Page will open a new instance of your browser to view their framed web site. /PAS]

Rosslyn Castle

     Located in Roslin, 9 miles south of Edinburgh, 2½ miles east of Roslin village at the end of B7006, Scotland. The entrance is over a bridge and through a gate. Around the courtyard are several buildings, including the guard house, tower, great hall, dining hall, kitchens, chambers, keep, and Old Chapel. This impressive, 5-story castle has been the home of Sinclairs from 1070 to the present day.

      [NOTE: Rosslyn Castle is considered "home" to the mysterious order of Knights Templar. The Knights Templar had their origins in a small band of crusader knights who took upon themselves the task of keeping the Holy Land's roads safe and secure during the Crusades. Formed about 1115 by Hugh de Payens of Burgundy and eight other knights, the small band quickly won the favor of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. After being granted the right to use part of the old Temple of Solomon as their headquarters, the Poor Knights of Christ began to be called Templars. Sinclair knights in the Crusades were among the early members of this mysterious organization. See Richard Shand's interesting history of the Templars for more on this subject. PAS]

Battle of Hastings - 1066

     In 1051 King Edward of England had no children to succeed him, but William the Duke of Normandy was his cousin and had designs on the English throne. As King Edward the Confessor was on his deathbed in 1066, he proclaimed that Harold, not William, would ascend to the throne. Duke William consulted his principal nobles of Normandy and gained their support for his intention to challenge Harold. He then obtained Pope Alexander's blessing.

     A huge army was then gathered, and it crossed the Channel, landing at Pevensey, England without any resistance because King Harold's army was waging a battle far to the north. William's army marched eastward to Hastings. King Harold moved his army southward as quickly as possible and took a position on the hill of Senlac, near Hastings. After a long and hard engagement, King Harold and his brother were slain and William the Conqueror was the victor in the southern part of England. Skillfully he sent his troops throughout the northern portions and eventually succeeded in his conquest.

     When William the Conqueror was recruiting his forces, he selected Walderne of St. Clair (1006-1075) to be one of his commanders. The Roll of Battle Abbey contains Walderne's name along with nine other Sinclairs. For his success on the battlefield, Walderne was granted a large amount of land on the Medway River in England.

     William Sinclair (1028-1090), a son of Walderne, also fought at Hastings. After William the Conqueror became King of England, William Sinclair grew disenchanted over the King's aggressiveness in expanding his new kingdom. Therefore Sinclair chose to leave England and accept the position of Steward for Queen Margaret and King Malcolm III of Scotland. He became known as "William le blond" and "the Seemly St. Clair."

The Rolls of Battle Abbey

Battle Abbey     Go a distance of 7 miles from Hastings, East Sussex, to the town of Battle, England. There, historic documents record the participants in the Battle of Hastings in which William the Conqueror defeated the English and became King of England in 1066. Nine Sinclairs are listed, including Walderne and his son, William Sinclair.

Battle of Castle Alnwick - 1093

     This conflict was at a site near Route A1 in Northumbria England and was the first in a long series of disastrous battles by the Scots to acquire the northern part of the English territory. Sir William Sinclair (1100- ) had been serving as Warden of the Marches as he commanded the Scottish forces to defend their land. He then led the Scottish attack into English territory at Castle Alnwick in 1093. After the battle was won, the Scottish king was in the process of a ceremony of receiving the keys to the Castle when an Englishman leaped forward and speared the King to death! Today the castle is an impressive display of medieval fortification, with a central keep and a massive encircling wall.

Battle of Lewes - 1265

     A certain Simon of Montfort was the Earl of Leicester, England. He gained great influence over other barons and bishops, and they drew up the "Provisions of Oxford'. King Henry III objected, and a civil war broke out. A fierce battle was fought at Lewes in Sussex where the rebellious barons were victorious. They captured the King. Several years of conflict continued, and then the Crown was returned to the King's son Edward. King Alexander ordered Sir William Sinclair (1190-1230) to assist the forces of King Henry III of England. The English won a bloody victory. Sir William Sinclair managed to escape unharmed.

Battle of Flodden - 1515

     The Battle of Flodden was fought at Flodden Battlefield, 4 miles southeast of Coldstream England. Follow A697 through Cornhill-on-Tweed to the town of Branxton. Just when Scotland's King James IV was at peace with his neighbors, France found itself in conflict with the Holy League, which included England. The Scots massed on Flodden Hill. The English were well organized, for they made a wide circle and attacked the Scotsmen from the north. Thirteen Scottish nobles and their many men were slain, and so was King James, leaving as his heir a son barely one year old! Sir William Sinclair (1440-1513) was one of the nobles fighting for King James. Previously he had sat in Parliament.

     On the battlefield, King James observed Sir William as he led his followers, who were all dressed in green clothes. The King inquired who that band of soldiers was, and the reply was that they were the men of Caithness led by the Earl. "Well if that be William Sinclair, I will pardon him." And true to his word, the King found the only parchment available, a drum head, and wrote out a Charter renewing the Earldom of Caithness to William Sinclair. The drum head was then carried by a runner to Sir William's lady. As fate would have it, Sir William was slaughtered in battle the next day. His son, John, inherited the Earldom.

Battle of Stirling Bridge - 1297

     At a distance of 37 miles north of Edinburgh in Stirling, Scotland, is the site of this battle. In the year of 1297, Stirling Castle was recaptured from possession of England's King Edward I by the Scots, under the command of William Wallace. They repelled the huge 30,000 man army of the English in Roslin Moor. This was also called the "Triple Battle" and the "Battle of Roslin Moor." Sir William Sinclair (1260-1305) was one of Wallace's major commanders, along with the "Red Comyn" and Symon Frazer.

Battle of Bannockburn - 1314

     Bannockburn is located at a distance of 35 miles north of Edinburgh, 2 miles south of Stirling on A872, Scotland. The Stirling Castle again became the center of the Battle of Bannockburn. The long term objective was for the Scots to gain independence from the English. Robert the Bruce was the commander. Sir Henry Sinclair (1275-1329) fought impressively and his leadership was rewarded by granting him more land. Sir Henry also was a signer of the truce, which sought to achieve a permanent peace between King Robert the Bruce and King Edward II. Henry Sinclair was the 8th Baron of Roslin.

Battle of Worcester - 1651

     It was on Routes A443 & A451 in Worcester, England. Oliver Cromwell, a member of the House of Commons in England, became the commander of the English forces. This was at the time of the religious Reformation. Unrest was rampant. Cromwell attacked the Scottish army at Dunbar and captured Edinburgh. A year later another Scottish army was formed, but Cromwell overtook them at the Battle of Worcester. Many Scotsmen were brutally slain, while others were taken prisoner.

      John Sinclair (1612-1700) was in the Scottish army at this Battle of Worcester. He was accompanied by his friend, John Bean, whose documentation for the next decade is traceable. Bean's records make it possible for us to assume the probable footsteps of John Sinclair. After being taken prisoner they were placed as indentures upon the sailing ship "John & Sara." When they arrived in Boston, they had to work off their indenture for several years as lumberjacks. Then they settled in Exeter, NH, where he became a freeman and an active citizen of the community.

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace     At one end of the "Royal Mile" in Edinburgh, Scotland is the magnificent Holyrood Palace and its ancient Abbey. Set in its floors are many carved slabs of rock containing Sinclair names. It is here at Holyrood that George Sinclair (1530-1582) the 4th Earl of Caithness, came to the aid of Mary, Queen of Scots, during her political and personal distress.

Battle of Allerton - 1136

     When the English King Henry I died, King Stephen renewed the wars to reclaim land in Scotland. This battle occurred across the River Tweed, where Sir William Sinclair (1100- )won high distinction for his success in defending the English with his forces. He was rewarded with the lands of Cardaine. Later Sir William was sent to England as the Scottish Ambassador to resolve the land disputes and he succeeded again by gaining back Northumberland for Scotland.

Ravenscraig Castle

     This castle is located in Fife, Scotland north of Edinburgh on Route A917. It was granted to the Sinclairs in compensation for their loss of the Orcadian Earldom. Ravenscraig Castle served as a seat of the Lords Sinclair.

Battle of Largs - 1263

     It was 25 miles north of Prestwick on Route A78 along the coast Strathclyde, Scotland. At the Battle of Largs in 1263 the Scots repelled the last Norse invasion. Sir William Sinclair (1190-1270), led the soldiers of King Alexander III of Scotland to a glorious victory. A column marks the spot of the Battle, and the annual Viking Festival in September celebrates the occasion.

Sinclair/Girnigoe Castle

     At Noss Head, Sinclair Bay, Wick, Scotland, this was the seat of government of Caithness for five generations of Sinclairs. Girnigoe Castle was built in 1476-1496 by William Sinclair (1460-1513). Between the sea ditches was the courtyard, outer ward, gatehouse dungeon, and vaulted peed. The Sinclair Castle addition was added in 1606. A stairway descends to sea level in the courtyard. This is a most impressive ruins.

Castle of Old Wick

     Situated ½ mile from A9 in Wick, Scotland. Built and used by the Vikings . Later it was frequented by the Sinclairs. Its tall rectangular tower can be seen today, its roofless keep rising 3 stories above the rock cliffs.

Freswick House

     This is located in northern Scotland, where the Burn of Freswick enters the sea. It was built by William Sinclair in 1760 or earlier. The 5-story building is attached to a main tower and the courtyard.

Ackergill Tower

     It is slightly north of Sinclair/Girnigoe Castle on Sinclair Bay, Wick, Scotland. Built by Sinclairs. This is a typical 15th century Keep. The main tower is 5-stories high, with vaulted floors within Stairs lead up to the great hall, and above there are many small chambers. It was briefly occupied by the Sinclairs. Today it is privately owned.

Castle Dunbeath

     Located south of Route A9, Wick Scotland. Built before 1439. Used by Sinclairs to protect their fishermen. Today it is privately owned by an American who has completely restored it. The white coloring and neat maintenance is breath-taking, against a backdrop of the North Sea.

Brims Castle

     This is 5 miles west of Thurso, Scotland, on the cliffs by the sea. Built in the 16th century, it now stands roofless, 3 stories high over a vaulted basement.

Keiss Castle

     It is located in Caithness Scotland, perched dizzily on a rocky promontory 8 miles north east of Wick. Built in the 16th century by Sinclairs it served as a home for the Caithness Earls. There is a tall slim tower and two smaller towers over a vaulted basement.

Castle Mey

     It is in John O'Groats township, Caithness, Scotland. It was built by George Sinclair (1530-1582) the 4th Earl of Caithness. (Also known as Barrogill Castle.) It has a vaulted ground floor, great hall, massive fireplace kitchen. This royal castle is occupied in the summer by the Queen Mother. Visitors are welcome occasionally.

Battle of Halidon Hill - 1402

     Prince Henry Sinclair (1340-1402) of Roslin and Orkney, discoverer of America, was slain in battle on September 1402.

Battle of Somersdale

     Fought in Orkney. John Sinclair (1490-1529), 3rd Earl of Caithness, died in May 1529 while leading 500 Scotsmen to assist kinsman James Sinclair in defense of the Orkney Islands.

St. Magnus Cathedral

     It is located in the center of the town of Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, this Cathedral was built in 1137 by Rognvald, a descendant of our forefather of the same name. It is breathtaking to visit. Often it is called the handsomest church in Scotland. Sunday services are still held each week.

Castle Kirkwall & Battle - 1614

     Castle Kirkwall was located in Orkney at the waterfront. Built by Prince Henry Sinclair (1340-1402) in 1390. This was the scene where a later Henry Sinclair (1570-1614), Wadsetter, died while leading 100 men to besiege Kirkwall Castle; he became numb with paralysis and died at night. Today there is a sign on a building on Castle Street commemorating the Castle.

Westford KnightWestford Carvings

     There is a ledge of rock on the side of Depot Street in Westford, Massachusetts USA, ½ mile from Route 495, Exit #32. Carved into this rock is an effigy of a Scottish Knight, thought to be Sir James Gunn. Historians say this is evidence of Prince Henry Sinclair's (1340-1402) discovery of America in the year of 1398. [NOTE: The image at right is from a handrubbing of the Westford Knight taken by Marianna Lines, under contract of Niven Sinclair in 1990. The image in the rock ledge is not a true "drawing", but rather a "punch hole" image: holes punched into the rock which form an outline of the knight and his 14th century dress.]

Hermitage

     In St. Clere, near Paris, France, there is a Chapel, the Holy Well of St. Clair and a building called the "Hermitage". A statue of St. Clere and a rooster weathervane can be seen there. This is the area where Rollo (880-931) William (915-), Richard (940-), Malgar (970-), and Walderne (1006-1075) lived.


All portions of this material from "Guide to Sinclair Landmarks" (ISBN #1-8800110-08-3) are copyright © H. S. "Pete" Cummings, Jr. 1992

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