Sir James Montgomery, 1st Baronet

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Sir James Montgomery's gravestone at Stobo Kirk.

Sir James Montgomery, 1st Baronet Stanhope FRSE (1721 – 2 April 1803) was a Scottish advocate, judge, politician, agriculturalist and landowner.


He was born at Magbie Hill in October 1721, the second son of William Montgomery, advocate, of Coldcoat or Magbie Hill, Peeblesshire. His mother was Barbara Rutherford, daughter of Robert Rutherford of Bowland, Stow, Midlothian. [1]

After some schooling at the parish school at Linton, he studied law in Edinburgh, and was called to the Scottish bar on 19 February 1743. In 1748, after heritable jurisdictions had been abolished, he was appointed the first sheriff of Peeblesshire under the new system. On 30 April 1760, thanks to the influence of his friend Robert Dundas, then newly appointed lord president, he succeeded Sir Thomas Miller, Lord Glenlee as Solicitor General for Scotland jointly with Francis Garden (1721–1793). In 1764, he became sole solicitor-general, and in 1766 Lord Advocate in succession to Miller, to whose parliamentary seat for the Dumfries Burghs he succeeded also. [1]

But at the general election of 1768, he was returned for Peeblesshire, a seat which he retained till he was raised to the bench. A learned lawyer and an improving landlord, he was peculiarly fitted to deal with the question of entails, which had now become pressing, owing to the extent to which details fettered the practical management of land. The existing statute was Sir George Mackenzie's Act of 1685, and since it passed 485 deeds of entail had been registered under it. The public demanded a reform ; the Faculty of Advocates had passed resolutions approving it. Montgomery accordingly introduced a measure in March 1770, which passed into law (10 Geo. Ill, c. 51) and considerably enlarged the powers of the heir of an entail in respect of leasing and improving the entailed lands, and even provided for the exchange of land in spite of an entail.[1]

Though he remained in parliament, Montgomery took little further interest in its proceedings after the passage of his bill. In June 1775, he was created Lord Chief Baron of the Scottish Exchequer, and in 1781 he was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; he resigned his judgeship in April 1801. In July 1801, he was created a Baronet.[1]

Montgomery was, like his father, skilled in farming, and in 1763 bought a half-reclaimed estate of Lord Islay's in Peeblesshire, originally called Blair Bog, but afterwards 'The Whim,' which eventually became his favourite residence. In 1767, he bought for £40,000 Stanhope and Stobo in Peeblesshire, part of the estates of Sir David Murray, which had been confiscated for their owner's complicity in the rebellion of 1745. He thenceforward chiefly resided in the country, where his good methods of farming and the improvements which he promoted, notably the Peebles and Edinburgh road in 1770, gained for him the title of 'The Father of the County.' [1]

He died on 2 April 1803. [1]


He married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Robert Scott of Killearn, Stirlingshire, and was succeeded in the title by Sir James, his second son, afterwards lord advocate, his eldest son, William, a lieutenant-colonel in the 43rd foot, having predeceased him. [1]

Sir James and his wife, Margaret Scott, are buried in a walled-off part of the cemetery at Stobo Kirk near Peebles, with an unusual wall lining of yew hedge. His home had been the nearby Stobo Castle, which he purchased in 1767 for the sum of £40,500.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hamilton 1894.
  2. ^ Seymour, p.10

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHamilton, John Andrew (1894). "Montgomery, James William". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 38. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 


  • Seymour, Camilla and Randall, John (2007). Stobo Kirk. A Guide to the Building and its History. Peebles : John Randall.
  • Stobo Through Time
Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas Miller
Solicitor General for Scotland
With: Francis Garden 1760–64
Succeeded by
Henry Dundas
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Miller
Member of Parliament for Dumfries Burghs
Succeeded by
Sir William Douglas, 4th Bt
Preceded by
Adam Hay
Member of Parliament for Peeblesshire
Succeeded by
Adam Hay
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Lord Cathcart
Rector of the University of Glasgow
Succeeded by
Andrew Stewart of Torrance
Peerage of Scotland
New creation Baronet
(of Stanhope)
Succeeded by
James Montgomery