Walter Frederick Campbell
Where had the “improving landlord” impetus come from? In 1828 It was Charlotte’s son, Walter Frederick, who triggered the planning and building of Port Charlotte (he gave plots of land and handed out building specifications but houses were paid for and constructed by their new owners). He had already overseen Port Ellen, begun 1821 and the redevelopment of Portnahaven as a fishing-crofting settlement. It has to be noted that the 1820s were the middle of the Highland Clearances. Walter Frederick had inherited Islay from his grandfather, who was also empowered to build, having devised Bowmore in order to rehouse a community there in 1768.
Walter Frederick was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh at the age of 24, the same year he became an MP. Edinburgh had been significant for a few generations for its role in the Scottish Enlightenment. Back before the French Revolution in the 1760s, the Encyclopaedia Britannica had been started in Edinburgh. That decade, the construction of the New Town with its insistent proportions and salubrious street plans had begun, and Voltaire had written “today it is from Scotland that we get rules of taste in all the arts, from epic poetry to gardening.” Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations (pub 1776) in which the fundamental principles of capitalism and meritocracy over aristocracy were set out, had been active in Edinburgh and its university. By the late 1820s, Scotland was capturing the romantic imagination, as Hector Berlioz set Scott’s Waverley to music, and Mendelssohn toured the Hebrides.
The wider context
The 1820s were busy industrially and politically. While Islay was still essentially feudal (it could be argued fractions of it still are!) 1818 had seen the first shipyard open in Glasgow. The Scottish iron industry was revolutionised by Neilson’s invention of hot blast smelting in 1828 and the first locomotive-powered trains ran in greater Glasgow from 1826. Cotton was a massive industry in the West of Scotland; establishments like New Lanark Mills are interesting because it was a planned settlement and a successful business, housing for the workers intrinsic to the design.
Could this have been something of an inspiration to Walter Frederick? At New Lanark, the incumbent owner Owen became the utopian socialist leader of a working class movement, opening the first infant school in Britain there in 1817, while there was unrest among the educated artisan weavers in Paisley with the “radical wars” of 1820.