Helen Frances Catherine Douglas (Sandford)

The wife of a bishop and cousin of a Marquess, Mrs Sandford was certainly amongst the crème de la crème of Edinburgh society at the beginning of the nineteenth century; although as her father had been an exiled Jacobite and her husband was a bishop of a small and recently persecuted church, she must have known the fragility of social status. She, however, enjoyed a long and stable reign in Edinburgh, surrounded by family members, always living in the most fashionable addresses in the New Town, and seeing all her daughters well married.

Erskine Douglas, a physician at Hexham, 7th son of Sir William Douglas of Kelhead. He died at Brompton in 1791. His grandson recounted his part in the Jacobite rebellions:
After fighting, on the side of the Chevalier, through the forty-five, and sharing the subsequent fortunes of his master, [he] had some years before returned from France, and was then residing at Bath. Mr Douglas... was the son of Sir William Douglas, Baronet, of Kelhead in Dumfriesshire, whose representative is the present Marquis of Queensberry... As this prince [Charles Stuart] passed Kelhead on his march into England, Lady Douglas appeared at the foot of the avenue with two of her sons, whm she presented with the following Spartan address: "Please your royal highness, here are my two sons; if they don't do their duty in a manner worthy of their name, hang them on the first tree." For some time Mr Douglas wandered about in disguise as a female mendicant, and in that character made his appearance at Queensberry House in Edinburgh, and with great difficulty gained admittance to his mother, Lady Douglas, who supplied him with more suitable attire. Under a feigned name he found asylum in the houses of different friends... After the battle of Culloden, in which he encountered one of his brothers on the opposite side, he made his escape to the continent, where he remained with prince Charles Edward for several years. He never spoke of the prince but with tears in his eyes, as "his dear master". (3)
Eleanor Wetters, a widow when Erksine married her.
In 1793 they lived at 5 Hanover Street, moving by 1797 to 3 North Castle Street, around 1803 to 6 Heriot Row, then finally in 1809 to 17 Melville Street. The house in Heriot Row was again for sale in 1814 and was described:
HOUSE IN HERIOT ROW FOR SALE. The House, possessed by James Hamilton, Esq. consisting of three stories, besides two sunk stories. The house was built by Bishop Sandford, for his own occupation, and is most substantially finished. There are three rooms in each of the two principal stories and four in the attic storey. The laundry and wash-house are convenient, and the cellarage extensive (4)
Wife of the Bishop of Edinburgh
Her son said that it was her family who invited Sandford to Scotland:
Self-denial was a grace which Mr Sandford religiously practiced. On the other hand, liberality to others assumed, in him, almost the character of weakness... Under these circumstances, as a residence at Sunbury proved very expensive, and he had no immediate prospect of preferment, he was induced to entertain the suggestion of Mrs Sandford's relations in Scotland, who recommended a temporary residence in Edinburgh. They kindly represented the advantage which might accrue to an English clergyman of popular talents, who should open a chapel in that city, and be disposed to receive pupils into his house.' (3 p.24)
Wealth at death
She didn't leave a will, but her husband left her everything a few years earlier: the only will in the group not to trouble with legal forms:
'In the intention if it please God to allow me time to execute my purpose properly I think it right now to provide against all accidents to declare that as in case of my death my heritable property consisting of my house in Melville Street becomes the property of my dear and excellent wife, so do I desire that all my moveable property of every description may also be delivered up to her sole possession. These few lines written all by my own hand on the twenty third day of September 1829 are sufficient to make known my will in this respect should it not please God to permit me the time to express my purposes in more exact and legal terms. Daniel Sandford. DD. (addressed) For Mrs Sandford in case of my death. DS.' (5)
Chapel connection
1794 (rector's wife)
Daniel Sandford
Eleanor Sarah Sandford (1791-1815), Erskine Douglas (1793-1861, advocate), Frances Catherine (1795-1875), Daniel Keyte (3 Feb 1798 - 1838, Greek scholar), Wilhelmina (b.1799 m. Montague Bere Esq of Morebath, Devon), Sarah (b.26 February 1800, married James-Edmund Leslie of Leslie House, co. Antrim), John (b.22 March 1801, canon of Worcester, and vicar of Dunchurch, Sandford's biographer).
Related to
First cousin once removed of Charles Douglas, Marquess of Queensberry, as her son John was careful to note in Daniel Sandford's biography (3). Sister of Mary Clementina Douglas
Further research
Letter of Attorney for managing a plantation in the West Indies: Erskine Douglas of Ulverstone appoints John Wooderburn of Sevannal le Mar in Jamaica Re plantation called Mount Pleasant, Hanover, Jamaica. Cumbria Record Office, Barrow, BD HJ PRECEDENT BOOK 2/Page 142-143


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. John Sandford, 'Memoir' in Remains of the late Right Reverend Daniel Sandford (Waugh & Innes, Edinburgh, 1830) vol.1 p.17-19
  4. Caledonian Mercury 8 January 1814
  5. Daniel Sandford's Will, National Archives of Scotland

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