The Cawdors of Stackpole

 By David TR Lewis

The early history of Stackpole Court[1] and the origins of the Lort family owners[2] have been well documented. The house was once one of the grandest seats in Pembrokeshire, if not in Wales, with its large estate located between the villages of Stackpole and Bosherton.

Sir John Lort 2nd Bt (1638-73) left two children, Sir Gilbert Lort 3rd Bt (1671-1698) who died aged 27 unmarried, and Elizabeth Lort who married into the Scottish Campbell Clan. With a principal seat at Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire they were a junior branch of the Argyll Clan, having a Scottish royal pedigree originating from Clan Calder and whose Thanes had shown strong loyalty to the Scottish throne over centuries.

Sir Alexander Campbell 15th Thane of Cawdor MP (Scot) (c1662-1697)

Sir Alexander matriculated at King’s College Aberdeen in 1677 and then travelled in Europe to France and Italy in accordance with the custom. In 1689 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Lort 2nd Bt of Stackpole and the sister and sole heiress of her brother Sir Gilbert Lort 3rd Bt. Sir Alexander was a university friend of Elizabeth’s brother Gilbert. While sailing south from Fort William to avoid the bad roads to London, Alexander was forced to put into port at Milford Haven for repairs after a ferocious storm and visited Gilbert in Stackpole where he fell in love with Elizabeth.  Gilbert died in 1698 just after Sir Alexander had died  and Sir Alexander’s widow, Elizabeth, then inherited the Stackpole Estate from her brother and lived there and in England for the rest of her life. The Lort family seem to have had a low opinion of Scots and Lady Lort provided in her will for legacies to grandchildren provided they did not marry “North Britons”.

So the Campbells of Cawdor ceased to be merely Scottish landowners with estates in Nairnshire and Inverness-shire and control of the Isles of Islay and Jura, and became much more British in outlook, with substantially more profitable lands in Wales and in due course a home in London too. Thereafter the Campbells of Cawdor abandoned Cawdor Castle save for occasional visits and lived at Stackpole Court, which remained in the Campbell / Cawdor family for some 260 years until the 20th century.

Sir Alexander succeeded his father as Whig MP for Nairnshire in the Scottish Parliament of 1693-5 but he died young on 27 August 1697 for unknown reasons. He and his wife and young family spent much of their time at Stackpole. They had two sons and two daughters. Their heir was John Campbell MP 16th Thane, who was only two years old so his mother Lady Elizabeth managed the Lort estates until she died on 28 September 1714. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. John (1695-1777) inherited the Lort estates from his mother.

John Campbell 16th Thane of Cawdor MP (1695-1777)

John Campbell avoided any taint of Jacobitism by having been educated and brought up for much of his youth in England and Wales, rather than at Cawdor. After his mother inherited the Lort estates Stackpole Court thereafter became the family’s primary home. He entered Lincoln’s Inn in 1708 and Clare College Cambridge in 1711 to study law but seems never to have practised; he also studied law at Poitiers, Blois and Paris. Through his maternal grandmother he was related to Henry Pelham (1694-1754) a Whig Prime Minister and to his brother the Duke of Newcastle (1693-1768), also a Whig Prime Minister. No doubt this greatly assisted John in his political career. It is unclear why his nickname in the family was “Joyless John”.

In 1711 his elder brother Gilbert died, so John became the heir to his Jacobite grandfather, Sir Hugh Campbell, who died in 1716. John thereby became Thane of Cawdor and owner of the Scottish estates. Although the family’s primary home was now at Stackpole, younger brothers and relatives of the family continued to manage the Cawdor estates on behalf of the Thane who was essentially an absentee landlord.

When his mother died he also inherited the Lort estate at Ystradffin near the lead mines at Rhandirmwyn in north Carmarthenshire, plus properties in Carmarthen and elsewhere in the county. John was by now a wealthy man. On 30 April 1726 he married Mary, daughter and coheiress of Lewis Pryse MP (c1683-1720) of Gogerddan[3] in Cardiganshire. Lewis Pryse had been MP for Cardiganshire for much of the period from 1701 to 1715; he was a Jacobite supporter and was expelled from the Commons for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to George I. His two daughters inherited some of his valuable mining lands in 1720 but not Gogerddan mansion itself which went to a male cousin. However Mary brought with her the valuable Glanfraed estate in Cardiganshire. On the day of his marriage John wrote to Sir Archibald Campbell saying “I was this morning married to Mrs Pryse, a young lady of North Wales, who possesses in the highest degree every virtue and agreeable accomplishment….her fortune is a small estate in land among the Welsh highlands”. John, however, was embarrassed by and opposed to his father in law’s Jacobite sympathies.

In 1727 John was elected as a Whig MP for Pembrokeshire and supported Sir Robert Walpole, Henry Pelham and Henry Fox. In the 1734 election he stood for both Nairnshire and Pembrokeshire and was returned for both seats, so was the first person to be elected both sides of the border. He served as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty in 1736-42 with a salary of £1,000 a year “with lodging, fire and candle” and then as a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury in 1746-54. He voted with the administration but understandably declined to support a Jurisdictions Bill abolishing hereditary posts in Scotland. As hereditary Sheriff of Nairn he later received £2,000 in compensation for the loss of this office. He served as Governor of Milford Haven from 1734 for life and was also Governor of Chester. In 1747, when his re-election for Pembrokeshire looked unlikely, he stood for Nairnshire and held that seat until 1754. He reluctantly supported a Bill for disarming the Highlands and restraining the use of Highland dress. In 1754 he switched to stand for Inverness Burghs which he represented until 1761. He was then asked by Henry Fox to stand for Corfe Castle which he inactively represented from 1762 to 1768.  He seems to have received Royal favour and attended a number of court balls and “kissed the King’s hand”.

In 1735 John started to replace the old house at Stackpole with a large new Georgian mansion in classic Palladian style, built upon the undercroft of the much earlier house whose original hall was later used as a cellar. The bailiff, John Wright, wrote to Pryse Campbell saying…

“Since the pulling down of the old house the rats that used to run behind the wainscot are gone abroad”.

Cawdor’s friend, John Vaughan, who was rebuilding Golden Grove  wrote to his son in 1756 saying that…

“…yt Stackbull, Mr Campbells, and several other Houses are not finished yet, which have been many years about, so that we should follow their Example and finish but one part, and the rest at Leisure”.[4]

The wonderful landscaping which took several years to complete was done with the help of their agent and general factotum, John Mirehouse. Two pieces of ordnance (cannons) dated 1754 and 1757 “Solano Fecit”, being wreckage from Spanish ships of war, used to adorn the lawn in front of the mansion.

John was a kind and affectionate family man who took a deep interest in his children, especially Pryse his eldest son. He wrote numerous letters to them despite his heavy Parliamentary duties; one recounted the visit of William Pitt (Earl of Chatham) to Stackpole in 1736. John died on 6 September 1777; Mary died on 18 October 1773 aged 69 and was buried in Stackpole Church. They had three sons and three daughters including their heir Pryse Campbell MP 17th Thane and:-

(1) Hon. John Hooke Campbell-Hooke (1733-95) of Bangeston, Pembrokeshire, who in 1762 married Eustacia Bassett. He served in the prestigious office of Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland, from 1759 to 1796. He legally changed his surname after inheriting the Bangeston estate from John Hooke.

(2) Lt Col. Hon Alexander Campbell (1737-85) who in 1768 married Frances Meadows,  daughter of Philip Meadows (1708-81) deputy ranger of Richmond Park who was the son of Sir Philip Meadows MP (1672-1757), diplomat and Knight Marshal of the King’s Household, and Lady Frances Pierrepont. Alexander served as a captain in the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards and Lt-Col in the 75th Regiment of Foot.

Pryse Campbell 17th Thane of Cawdor MP (1727-68)

Pryse was brought up at Stackpole and matriculated at Clare College Cambridge in 1745, well away from the Jacobite rebellion of that year in Scotland, following which he went on the Grand Tour in Europe. Having a Welsh mother and grandmother he was more Welsh than Scottish and was destined for a political career given his father’s position as a Whig MP and the influence of the Campbell Argyll family in Scottish politics. When he came of age in 1748 his father transferred to him the Cawdor estates in Nairnshire and Inverness-shire (his father retaining a life-rent interest) so he became Thane of Cawdor, although he died in 1768, before his father in 1777. Pryse was very keen on field sports especially his hounds which he collected from different counties.

On 20 September 1752 he married Sarah, daughter and coheiress of Sir Edmund Bacon 6th Bt of Garboldisham in Norfolk and Tory MP for Thetford and Norfolk; descended from Lord Keeper Bacon he was the premier baronet in England. Sarah died aged only 41 on 20 May 1767 and was buried in St Audley Chapel, Grosvenor Square, London.

In 1754 Pryse was elected unopposed as Whig MP for Inverness-shire with the support and influence of the Argyll Campbells; meantime his father was returned as MP for Inverness Burghs. Pryse held the seat until 1761 and, unlike his father, was a strong supporter of Pitt the Elder and during his administration was appointed a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury 1766-8, a post earlier held by his father. In 1768, under the alternating rule sharing MPs with Cromartyshire, Nairnshire would not be represented in the Commons, so Pryse stood instead for Cardigan Boroughs and held that seat until his illness in November. He died intestate on 14 December 1768 at Bath and was buried at Weston Church nearby, to the great distress of his father.

Pryse’s independence of character can be seen in his portrait which shows him hand on hip, grey wigged, in a kilt and tartan doublet wearing a tartan cloak; during the period after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion the wearing of tartan was outlawed.


Pryse Campbell and Mrs Sarah Campbell, c1762, by Francis Cotes.



Pryse and Sarah had four sons and three daughters including their heir John Pryse Campbell 18th Thane FRS MP 1st Baron Cawdor and: –


(1) Hon Alexander Campbell MP (1756-85) second son, was educated at Eton College 1766-8, Harrow School 1770 and Clare College Cambridge 1774. He joined the army as an ensign in the 55th Regiment of Foot in 1775, rising to Lieutenant in 1777. While serving in America in 1778 he was wounded; he was one of the Captains in the new 75th (Prince of Wales’s) Regiment which his brother John and Col Thomas Johnes of Hafod MP (1748-1816) raised.



(2) Admiral Hon Sir George Campbell GCB MP (1759-1821) third son, joined the Royal Navy in 1771, became a Lieutenant in 1778, Captain in 1781, and Rear Admiral in 1804. He commanded HMS Terrible in the Battle of Genoa in 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars, and then commanded HMS Berwick. In 1806 George was elected as Whig MP for Carmarthen Boroughs with the influence of his brother John Campbell 1st Baron Cawdor who since 1804 had been the leader of the Blue (Whig) party in Carmarthen; he held this seat until he stepped down in 1813 in favour of his nephew John Campbell 1st Earl Cawdor. Being a friend of the Prince Regent (the future George IV) he was made a groom of the bedchamber in 1817, despite opposition from Lord Liverpool.  On 23 January 1821, while commander in chief at Portsmouth, Sir George committed suicide, being found wearing a dressing gown by his valet with a pistol in his hand. The coroner returned a verdict of lunacy. His death was a huge shock to the Navy where he was held in the highest regard; “his abilities were highly esteemed by Nelson”.


John Campbell MP FRS 18th Thane of Cawdor 1st Baron Cawdor (1755-1821)


John (Jolly Jack), the eldest son and heir, was born on 24 April 1755 at Cawdor Castle. He was educated at Eton College and, in accordance with family tradition, matriculated at Clare College Cambridge in 1772. He was brought up at Stackpole so initially knew little of Scotland. He then made the Grand Tour of Europe and probably there met up with his friend John Vaughan of Golden Grove, who was two years younger. They would later become such firm friends that Vaughan, when he died in 1804, would leave all his estates, including Golden Grove, to John. The Vaughans of Golden Grove and the Campbells of Stackpole Court were both traditional Whig supporters.

In 1768 John succeeded his father Pryse as Thane of Cawdor and the owner of the Scottish estates in Nairnshire and Inverness-shire. Then in 1777 he succeeded his grandfather, John Campbell, so inherited the former Lort estates in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, and Cardiganshire, becoming a very wealthy man and the owner of substantial landholdings. He was said to be worth “11 or 12 thousand pounds a year” in income, a large sum. Given the family’s influential Whig traditions John was destined for a political career. In 1777, at the age of 21, he was elected as MP for Nairnshire which seat he held until the 1780 election when under the alternating rule Nairnshire would lose its seat. He then took over the Welsh seat of Cardigan Boroughs which he held for 16 years until 1796, the year he became a peer. Despite his Whig credentials he was independently minded and was a strong supporter of Lord North, Tory Prime Minister, during the American War of Independence. John supported his policy of war to prevent French influence. In 1777 he helped raise a new regiment of foot in South Wales, the 75th (Prince of Wales’s) Regiment in which his brother Alexander served and was wounded.

Lord Cawdor 1778 by Sir Joshua Reynolds

During the 1780s John visited Italy and Siily where he bought antiquities, commissioned paintings, bought sculptures and acquired the famous Lante Vase (now at Woburn Abbey). He begun a collection of Etruscan vases and established a museum in his London house in Oxford Street, hailed by the sculptor John Flaxman as “excellent news for the arts”. He became a FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries) in 1794 and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society on 4 June 1795. Whilst he was a dilettante and collector of fine art as well as a landscape gardener and romantic, he was also a spendthrift. In 1800 needing funds he sold the contents of his museum and many items went to Sir John Soane, the son of a bricklayer, who became a famous architect to the Bank of England and many other bodies and whose museum is today still based in 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. A cultured man, John became an Honorary DCL at Oxford in 1810.


On 28 July 1789 John was married to Lady Isabella (Caroline) Howard, eldest child and very beautiful daughter of Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle KG PC (1748-1825), the guardian to Lord Byron, at her father’s house in Grosvenor Place, London; his country seat was Castle Howard in Yorkshire. John was now fully part of the British landed gentry. Lady Caroline was described by Byron as “a sweet pretty woman” (they shared a great grandfather}.She was very influential in the landscaping of Stackpole, in the damming of the meadows to form Bosherston  lakes, in the drainage

of Castlemartin Corse, and in the design of the lovely gardens and terraces. They transformed the Stackpole estate.[5]

Stackpole Court c1758

In 1802 Lord Nelson visited Stackpole during his time in south west Wales, as did Richard Fenton who wrote…

…the house is distributed into a number of noble apartments, and the library is large and well furnished….The offices are all well-arranged, and the stables forming a detached large quadrangular building, are in a style of princely pretension. Of Stackpole, without straining compliment, it may safely be said that there are few places which display more magnificence without, or more sumptuous hospitality and elegant comforts within.

William Thomas designed and produced plans in 1783 for a classical front to the west wing, but these were never executed. Additional enlargements to the mansion were made in 1821 by the eminent architect, Sir Jeffry Wyatville RA, [6] who the Campbells also commissioned to build the third mansion at Golden Grove in 1826-34.  The icehouse at Stackpole, designed by Wyatville c1821, had a 5m deep shaft, 3m wide, lined with brick and stone having an entrance into a below ground passage and was north facing. The eight arch bridge was built in 1797 over a weir between two lily ponds to connect Stackpole Court and its home farm to Stackpole Quay and the new deer park.

Eight arched bridge

Having initially been neutral on the administration of William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), Tory Prime Minister 1783-1801 and 1805-6, John Campbell opposed some of his policies and voted with the opposition against his Regency Bill in 1788 and joined the Whigs although he did strongly support Pitt’s war policies. He became an important Whig leader in West Wales and was pro Catholic emancipation. On 28 June and again on 22 August 1794 John applied to Pitt for an English peerage with the support of his father in law. He was successful at the dissolution of Parliament in 1796 and on 21 June in that year was created 1st Baron Cawdor of Castlemartin. He went on to serve as Mayor of Carmarthen in 1808 to whom he presented two fine maces still in use.

John’s military career was also impressive and memorable. He served as Governor of Milford Haven 1780-1821, as Captain of the Castlemartin Yeomanry 1794-1802, Lt Colonel Commandant of the Royal Carmarthenshire militia 1798-1821, and Captain of the Pembrokeshire Volunteers 1803. He will always be remembered, however, for his defeat and capture of the French force which invaded in 1797 at Fishguard, the last invasion of Britain by a foreign enemy. [7]

While the French Revolution was raging across the Channel there was much fear in Britain of a revolutionary invasion to rally the poor against those in charge of government. On 22 February 1797 a French force of 1,224 men under the command of William Tate (a 70 year old American who could not speak French) consisting of French, Irish and American troops landed in four ships at Carreg Wastad Bay near Fishguard with a view to rallying the locals to their cause. The news of this unexpected landing reached Haverfordwest and within hours some 503 local troops under the command of Lord Cawdor were assembled consisting of 43 from Lord Cawdor’s Castlemartin Yeomanry, 100 Cardigan Militia, 93 Pembroke Volunteers, 191 Knox’s Fishguard Volunteers (Fencibles), and 150 naval contingent. The French force damaged some buildings including Llanwnda Church, stole food and items of value, raped two women, and drank a great deal of wine which they found in a local farm. Cawdor bravely made it known that his troops would attack the French invaders, despite Lt. Colonel Thomas Knox, commander of the Fishguard Fencibles, retreating.

The invasion was a farce, the French surrendered to Lord Cawdor on Goodwick sands wrongly thinking they were surrounded by thousands of British troops, none of the local troops were killed or injured, eight French troops were killed on the initial landing and about four French troops were killed before their surrender. Perhaps the most extraordinary fact about this invasion is that Queen Victoria later gave permission for the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry to put “Fishguard” as a battle honour on their standards and insignia, the only regiment ever to have been awarded such an honour for a conflict on British soil, and to a regiment which did not fire a shot or kill any of the enemy. Lord Cawdor gained great kudos for this surrender.[8]

Cawdor also gained popularity for acting as an improving landlord with a keen interest in new agricultural methods, like his friend John Vaughan at Golden Grove. He kept in touch with leading agriculturalists and under his guidance the Stackpole and Brownslade estates became some of the most productive in Wales. On his own home farm he experimented with the breeding of cattle, horses and sheep, various grasses and root crops; he introduced the Suffolk punch and crossed them with other breeds to produce fine draught horses. He planted over 8.5 million trees between 1800 and 1810 on his Welsh and Scottish estates. However, given the family trait of spending more than was prudent the debts of the Cawdor estates had increased to £153,000, so in 1802, short of funds, Cawdor sold some of the Stackpole estate including Henllan, Mullock and Sandyhaven. He also sold the Glanfraed estate in Cardiganshire which had come to the family through the marriage of John Campbell 16th Thane to Mary Pryse of Gogerddan in 1726.

By all accounts Cawdor was a handsome man, over six feet tall, courteous, and very able and effective in his dealings; “…a man of excellent manners and cultivated mind… and… one of the most amiable and unselfish men that ever existed”, according to his lawyer James Scarlett.[9]

Cawdor died in Great Pulteney Street in Bath on 1 June 1821, aged 66, and is buried at Bath Abbey. During his last illness Lady Cawdor sacked his physician Sir George Gibbs, who then wrote an angry letter to her after her husband’s death. This resulted in her son and heir challenging Sir George to a duel. Caroline died, aged 76, at Twickenham on 8 March 1848. Cawdor and Lady Caroline had two sons including their heir 1st Earl Cawdor.

Their second son was Rear Admiral Hon George Pryse Campbell MP (1793-1858). He joined the Royal Navy as a very young first class volunteer in April 1803 on HMS Culloden, the flagship of his uncle Admiral Sir George Campbell. In HMS Namur he saw action against four French ships after Trafalgar in November 1805. In 1821 he was promoted to Captain. He retired from the active navy list in 1846 and in the rank of a Rear Admiral in 1852. In 1820 he was elected, while absent on duties at sea, as MP for Nairnshire with the support of his father which seat he held until the 1826 election and was again elected in 1830 and held the seat until the following year when the seat reverted to Cromartyshire.

John Frederick Campbell MP FRS 19th Thane of Cawdor 1st Earl Cawdor (1790-1860)

John Frederick Campbell, the eldest son and heir, was born on 8 November 1790 in London. He was educated at Eton College and at Christ Church Oxford, gaining a 2nd Class Honours degree in classics (Greats) in 1812. That year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and later became a trustee of the British Museum.

When John had come of age his father Lord Cawdor prematurely tried to have him elected as MP for Pembrokeshire but he was defeated by John Owen. In 1813 his father persuaded his brother, Admiral George Campbell MP, to resign his seat in Carmarthen Boroughs, and John was elected in his place in the Whig interest and held this seat until 1821. However, mob violence ruled in Carmarthen and his re-elections in 1818 and 1820 were contested and it was impossible for him to chair a public meeting or canvass in public because of the threat of violence. In 1821 when his father died and he took his seat in the House of Lords, John was relieved to abandon his seat in the Commons. Politically John was a pro-Catholic Whig, keen on supporting criminal law reform, the abolition of the Welsh judicature and Courts of Great Session and integrating Welsh courts into the English system (he served as a select committee chairman on this issue), Catholic relief, and he opposed the suspension of habeas corpus.[10] He supported the Reform Bill in 1832 and then changed parties, like his father, but in the opposite direction, by joining the Tories. In 1846 he was one of 89 Protectionist peers who signed the protest against the Repeal of the Corn Laws.

On 1 June 1821 John inherited his father’s estates and became 2nd Baron Cawdor.  In 1823 he failed in his attempt to be appointed Lord Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire against the wishes of Lord Liverpool, Tory Prime Minister.

On 13 September 1821 the King of England landed from his barge at Milford Haven and was received by Lord Cawdor. In August 1826 the Duke of Gloucester on his tour of south Wales stayed at Stackpole. In 1827 the future William IV, then Duke of Clarence, stayed at Stackpole. Cannon were fired in his honour, visits were made to Pembroke Castle and Milford Haven, and a ball was held.

On 5 October 1827 John was created 1st Earl Cawdor of Castlemartin in Pembrokeshire and 1st Viscount Emlyn of Emlyn in Carmarthenshire. The motto above his crest was: Candidus Cantabit Moriens (The pure of heart shall sing when dying) and the motto under the arms was… Be Mindful.

 1st Earl Cawdor by Sir Thomas Lawrence


On 8 September 1831 he was the Bearer of the Queen’s ivory rod at the Coronation. He served as a Harleian Trustee of the British Museum from 1834-60 and was awarded an Honorary DCL at Oxford in 1841, like his father before him. On 4 May 1852, with the support of the Tory administration he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Carmarthenshire, which post he held until his death.

John Campbell spent much of his time in London at his home at 75 South Audley Street, off Hanover Square. His household in 1841 included 19 servants, which number had increased to 24 servants by 1851, ranging from butlers to footmen, grooms, maids of all varieties and nurses. Visits to Stackpole would have been frequent and to Cawdor Castle in the warmer summer months. Occasional visits by the family to Golden Grove, not least to check on the building of the third mansion in 1826-32, and the layout of the new gardens from 1830 to c1860 would have taken place.

John was charitable to the poor. For example in 1841 he supplied roast beef and plum pudding to all the poor in the Pembroke area at Christmas. He supported cultural societies, spent money upkeeping his seven castles, removed the famous Eiudon stone from its exposed state and brought it to Golden Grove, renovated the Church in Golden Grove and built the school nearby.

John died at Stackpole Court on 7 November 1860, the day before his 70th birthday, and was buried in the parish church. He had been suffering from the effects of a carbuncle on his right arm which led to gangrene, fever and death. He was described by the diarist Henry Greville, as “…one of the most amiable and unselfish men that ever existed”. [11]

On 5 September 1816 he had married by special licence Lady Elizabeth Thynne, daughter of Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath and Viscount Weymouth MP.  Lady Elizabeth died on 16 February 1866, aged nearly 71. They had 11 children including their heir 2nd Earl Cawdor.

John Frederick Vaughan Campbell MP 20th Thane of Cawdor 2nd Earl Cawdor (1817-98)

John was born on 11 June 1817 in Grosvenor Square. He was educated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford. In accordance with family tradition he stood for election as an MP, but chose Pembrokeshire (where the family had more influence) rather than Carmarthenshire. He held the county seat for Pembrokeshire from 1841 until 1860, when his father died, and he moved to the House of Lords. Like his father who had switched in 1832 to the Tories, John also supported the Tories under Sir Robert Peel, who was Prime Minister 1834-5 and 1841-6. John served as private secretary to the Lord Privy Seal from 1841-2. He also served as a Deputy Lieutenant for Inverness-shire

On 28 June 1842 he was married (in a double wedding with his sister Elizabeth) at St George’s Hanover Square to Sarah Mary, second daughter of General Henry Compton Cavendish MP, son of the 1st Earl of Burlington. His army career was in the Dragoons and Life Guards and he served as an equerry to William IV in 1831 and as chief equerry and clerk marshal to Queen Victoria in 1837, as well as being MP for Derby 1812-34.

On his father’s death John succeeded to the titles as well as to the family estates in Nairnshire, Inverness-shire, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. In the Great Landowners of Wales Report[12] in 1873 Lord Cawdor had 51,538 acres in the three counties of south west Wales, with an estimated annual rental of £35,043, in addition to the Cawdor lands in Scotland of 50,119 acres, with an annual income of only £9,620. In 1880 Lord Cawdor was one of only 28 noblemen who owned over 100,000 acres in the UK, although he was in 28th position.

By the 1880s the 150 room Stackpole Court, though architecturally undistinguished, was one of the finest houses in the country.

Stackpole Court c1871 (Courtesy of Thomas Lloyd)

 In February 1902 Edward VII stayed as the guest. The hospitality of the Cawdors was renowned, with their large number of servants, the lovely scenic location, well-kept gardens and deer park, 100 acres of lakes and lily ponds created by the damming of three valleys in 1780 and 1860, two ornate bridges, unspoilt beaches at Barafundle Bay and Broad Haven South, miles of cliff tops overlooking the sea, and the innovative home farm with the latest agricultural methods. Stackpole village itself was moved in 1735 from its original medieval site to its current location to make way for a lovely deer park.

Countess Sarah died, aged 67, at Stackpole Court on 21 April 1881 and was buried in the Parish Church. John died from paralysis, aged 80, at Stackpole Court on 29 March 1898 and was buried with his wife. They had seven children including their heir, 3rd Earl Cawdor and:

(1)Lady Victoria Campbell (1843-1909) who on 24 January 1866 married Lt Col. Francis Lambton (1834-1921) at St George’s Chapel in Hanover Square; her uncle Rev Hon AG Campbell conducted the wedding. Initially they lived at 45 Cadogan Place in Chelsea and often visited Stackpole travelling by train to Pembroke and then by horse drawn carriage. He retired in 1873 and the family moved to Brownslade Mansion in Pembrokeshire in Castlemartin near Stackpole, which was part of the Stackpole estate and let to tenants who had to vacate; and:-

(2)  Captain Hon. Ronald George Elidor Campbell (1848-79) who was born on 30 December 1848, educated at Eton, commissioned in the Coldstream Guards in 1867, promoted Captain in 1871, becoming Adjutant 1st Battalion 1871-78. Having applied for special service in South Africa he served in the Anglo-Zulu Wars (1879-96) as Staff Officer to Col. Sir Evelyn Wood and was killed leading an assault on Hlobane Mountain on 28 March 1879, approaching the entrance to a cave. His two colleagues took the Zulu position and were both awarded VCs. Wood stated that if he had survived Ronald would also have been recommended for the VC. He died “in the performance of a most gallant act. He was buried where he fell by his comrades under the fire of the enemy” according to the citation. His wife later visited his gravestone which is on the battlefield.

Frederick Archibald Vaughan Campbell MP PC 21st Thane of Cawdor 3rd Earl Cawdor (1847-1911)

Frederick Campbell, the eldest son, was born on 13 February 1847 in Windsor. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford in accordance with family tradition. As Lord Emlyn the celebrations at Golden Grove for his attaining of his majority on 13 February 1868 involved the usual bonfires, cannon, fireworks and great festivities.

As Lord Emlyn in 1874 he was elected as a Conservative MP, being one of the two MPs for Carmarthenshire (the Reform Act 1832 had increased the number from one to two for the county). In the Commons he was active in Welsh affairs serving on the Aberdare Committee in 1880-81, set up by Prime Minister Gladstone, which resulted in the establishment of university colleges in Cardiff in 1883 and Bangor in 1884 and the passing of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889. He held his seat in the Commons until 1885 when Carmarthenshire was split into East and West divisions. He stood in 1886 for West Carmarthenshire despite most of his lands and influence being mainly in East Carmarthenshire and lost the election to the Liberal, W.R.H Powell. He then made unsuccessful attempts to be elected in South Manchester in 1892 and in Wiltshire in 1898.

He inherited the title on his father’s death, on 29 March 1898 when he became 3rd Earl Cawdor, 3rd Viscount Emlyn and 4th Baron Cawdor.

He was appointed as ecclesiastical commissioner 1880-1911. In 1886-93 he served as honorary commissioner in lunacy, and he also served as a magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant in the three counties of Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Inverness.

Frederick was Lord Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire from 1896 until his death in 1911. He commanded the Carmarthenshire militia and became its honorary colonel and also served as President of the Pembrokeshire Territorial Association. He acted as ADC to Queen Victoria 1889-1901, to Edward VII, and then to George V until his death.

Like his forbears he was a keen farmer and joined the Royal Agricultural Society in 1863 serving on its council for many years and as its President in 1901, and as President of the Carmarthenshire Chamber of Agriculture in 1872. In 1908 he served as President of the MCC[13] and in 1909 welcomed the Australian Test XI to Cawdor Castle before they visited Balmoral.

In 1890 he became a director of the Great Western Railway, Deputy Chairman in 1891 and Chairman in 1895-1905. He was a most successful chairman during a time of expansion and growth and had undoubted management skills in economy and efficiency. In 1903 he was described by Joseph Chamberlain as “the best chairman now living”. In March 1905 he was appointed by Prime Minister Arthur Balfour as First Lord of the Admiralty (and as a Privy Councillor), despite his lack of naval experience and his not having sat in Parliament since 1885. However, he only held that office for nine months because of illness and frequent absences.

Frederick Campbell, who inherited his titles in 1898, lived mainly in London where his political career was based. He also lived at his seat at Stackpole. The 1891 census shows the family at Stackpole with 23 servants, which by the 1901 census had increased to 25. Lord Cawdor was very interested in local history and he very kindly deposited all the volumes of the Golden Grove Book at the Public Record Office, which has assisted numerous historians.

On 16 September 1868 at Stoke Rochford near Lincoln Lord Cawdor aged 21 had married  Edith Georgiana Turnor, the daughter of Christopher and Lady Caroline Turnor. Their early married life was based at Golden Grove but they moved to Stackpole in later years.  Frederick died from pneumonia aged 63 on 8 February 1911, after a short illness in a nursing home in Mayfair. He was buried at Stackpole Church. A memorial service held at Holy Trinity, Brompton was well attended by politicians including Prime Minister Asquith. His wife Lady Edith died on 2 September 1926.

Correspondence discovered in the family archives suggests that between 1903 and 1905 a young married girl called Emily Buttercase had an affair with Lord Cawdor and then tried to blackmail him. [14] Her letters dated 3 February 1904 and 10 May 1904 contain threats…

“Cold cruel heartless man any how your people & children will know what a double life you have been leading……I am surprised at a man that considers himself a gentleman & an Earl to treat a woman who has been his mistress for years like you have done….I shall make it my business to see Lady Cawdor & tell her everything unless I hear from you. It will not pay you to treat me with contempt.”

It is unclear how the matter was finally resolved but correspondence with his lawyers suggests that he was clearly concerned that his wife who was “leading an invalid life & is nearly stone deaf” would be badly affected by such news.

Cawdor and his wife, Lady Edith, had 10 children including their heir 4th Earl Cawdor and:-

(1) Lady Edith Campbell (1869-1944) who was born on 11 July 1869 and on 21 November 1908 married Charles Ferguson of Marston Meysey Grange, Swindon, son of Lt Col. George Ferguson of Pitfour, Aberdeenshire.

(2) Lady Mabel Campbell (1876-1966) who was born on 24 February 1876 and on 7 July 1904 married Major Sir Henry (Harry) Bernard de la Poer Beresford-Peirse 4th Bt DSO (1875-1949) of Bedale in Yorkshire.

(3) Col Hon. Ian Campbell DSO TD (1883-1962) who was born on 17 November 1883 and educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge (BA 1905).  During the Great War he served with the army, was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the DSO. He retired as Colonel of the Lovat Scouts Yeomanry and was later Brigade Commander of the 152nd Seaforth and Cameron Infantry Brigade (TA) 1928-32. He was a Fellow and Bursar of Trinity Hall Cambridge 1919-28.

(4) Lt Col Hon Eric Octavius Campbell DSO and bar (1885-1918) who was born on 3 December 1885. He joined the army via the militia and was gazetted to the Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, Duke of Albany’s) on 20 December 1905. In 1914 he went to France as adjutant of the 2nd Battalion. He was awarded the DSO on 18 February 1915 and was wounded at St Julien on 25 April 1915. He then served as Brigade Major from January 1915 to September 1916. He was in hospital towards the end of 1916 and on return to duty resumed his appointment as Brigade Major to 44 Infantry Brigade in January 1917. In May 1917 he briefly commanded the 2nd Battalion before being given command of another battalion in the same regiment until May 1918 when a breakdown of health after four years of active service resulted in his being admitted to hospital again. He returned to the UK and on 24 May 1918 was mentioned in despatches for the third time. On 3 June 1918 he was awarded a bar to his DSO. On 4 June he died aged 33 of a cerebral haemorrhage in hospital in London. He was buried in the Cawdor plot of Stackpole Elidor Churchyard.

Hugh Frederick Vaughan Campbell 22ndThane 4th Earl Cawdor (1870-1914)

Hugh was born at Cawdor Castle in accordance with family tradition on 21 June 1870 and educated, like his forbears, at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford.

On 11 June 1898 Hugh married Joan Emily Mary Thynne, daughter of John Thynne and Mary MacGregor at Westminster Abbey. The 3rd Earl Cawdor and his daughter in law, Joan Thynne, were second cousins, both great grandchildren of 2nd Marquess of Bath, and thus Joan’s children and her husband Hugh were also fifth cousins to Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1898 when he obtained the curtesy title of Lord Emlyn on his grandfather’s death, he stood unsuccessfully as an MP for Pembrokeshire, the county for which his father was Lord Lieutenant. He served in the Carmarthenshire Artillery achieving the rank of Captain and Hon. Major, retiring in 1905. He also served as a magistrate in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire and as a Deputy Lieutenant in Nairnshire and Carmarthenshire, but played no other part in public affairs.

He was a patron of homeopathy, launching in 1909 a National Homeopathic Fund of £50,000 with others to renovate the London Homeopathic Hospital, of which he served as president, treasurer and chairman. He was also chairman of the British Homeopathic Association. Joan’s grandfather Rev. Lord John Thynne, was a strong opponent of homeopathy and tried to get proponents prosecuted.

On 8 February 1911, Hugh inherited the titles, but was far too ill to manage his affairs. He was living at home at Stackpole in 1891, but during a later visit to Japan he contracted syphilis and became an invalid, very seriously ill and unable to manage his affairs for the last six years of his life. By 1911 he was in a sanatorium at the Retreat in Richmond, described as a “patient feeble-minded” aged 40. He died on 7 January 1914, aged 43, in a nursing home in Kingston upon Thames and was later buried in the open (like his father, rather than in the full family vault) at Stackpole Church, in a semi private service attended by many tenants of the Stackpole estate and servants in Stackpole Court. The circumstances and shame of his death traumatized Joan and affected the upbringing of their children who were quite young when their father died. Hugh and Joan had four children including their heir, 5th Earl Cawdor.

John (Jack) Duncan Vaughan Campbell 23rd Thane of Cawdor 5th Earl Cawdor (1900-70)

Jack was born on 17 May 1900. His early life was an unhappy one. He rarely saw his father who was in a sanatorium and died when he was only 14 years old. So Jack inherited the titles as a young boy. His traumatized mother never mentioned her husband again and Jack and his siblings became used to communicating with their mother by exchanging written notes. Eton was a tough school during the Great War. Jack joined the Royal Navy towards the end. He was keen on climbing and the outdoors and in 1924 set off on an expedition to Tibet with a botanist Frank Kingdon-Ward, to find a sacred waterfall and two new gorges not previously known in the West.[15] They were unsuccessful but brought back numerous species of new trees and plants. Jack later became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His writings and library of books and maps became well known; he was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. When in Scotland Jack always wore a kilt, sporran, tweed jacket and appropriate socks.

On 15 May 1929 Jack married his first wife, Wilma Vickers, the daughter of Vincent Vickers, of Edge Grove, Aldenham in Hertfordshire. The marriage was a difficult one, not helped by a bad car crash in which Jack suffered severe facial injuries which caused him years of painful headaches. The family lived principally in Stackpole and Cawdor Castle. Then in 1934 Jack returned to Cawdor Castle on his own, being unable to bear married life with his family in Wales.

Stackpole Court, a photograph taken by Jack Cawdor (Courtesy of the National Trust)

 In 1939 much of the Stackpole estate was requisitioned by the army for the Castlemartin Tank Training range. The Campbell family abandoned Stackpole and Golden Grove and the whole family returned to Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire, which was safe, although the Countess insisted on flying the Red Cross flag on the roof. Jack served in the army during WW2, was mentioned in despatches and achieved the rank of Lt Colonel of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders (TA) and was awarded the TD (Territorial Decoration). He also served as a magistrate for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, as a Deputy Lieutenant for Carmarthenshire, as Chairman of the Scottish Historic Buildings Council and as a trustee of the National Museum of Antiquities.

In the gardens of nearby Auchindoune House, then owned by his uncle Col. Ian Campbell and now the Cawdor summer residence and dower house, Jack created a wonderful Tibetan Garden with some of the collection of rare Tibetan plants brought back by him from his expedition. The arboretum and kitchen garden since added are popular with visitors.

Jack and Wilma had three children including their heir 6th Earl Cawdor. In 1961 Jack and Wilma divorced. On 29 June 1961 Jack married Elizabeth (Betty) Richardson, widow of Major Sir Alexander Gordon-Cumming 5th Bt MC with three young children. They continued to live in Cawdor Castle, Jack having handed over all the Welsh estates, including Stackpole and Golden Grove, to his son Hugh after his marriage in 1956.

On 9 January 1970 Jack died of a heart attack aged 70 and was buried in the graveyard of the local Parish Kirk at Cawdor. He had had a difficult upbringing, an unhappy first marriage, was addicted to alcohol and could be violent by nature. His son Hugh described him as a “rainbow of knowledge, anger, wit, courage and silence”.

Hugh John Vaughan Campbell 24th Thane of Cawdor 6th Earl Cawdor (1932-93)

Hugh was born on 6 September 1932 and educated at Eton and Magdalen College Oxford from where he was sent down for not working. He then went to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, and later qualified as a chartered surveyor. His varied interests included art (he became an accomplished artist), writing about Scottish history, a love of books and encyclopaedias, letter writing, conversation with wit, architecture, geology, fine wine, trees, of which he planted over one million, fast cars (he had numerous accidents and wrote off several), martial arts (he was a black belt of aikido), and piloting helicopters. He seems to have been a larger than life slightly eccentric figure. He also collected interesting writings. [16]

On 19 January 1956 Hugh married his first wife, Cathryn Hinde, second daughter of Major General Sir William (“Loonie”) Hinde of Shrewton House, Salisbury. She was  a member of the British ski team. Following their marriage his father, the 5th Earl, passed the Welsh estates to Hugh for him to manage and presumably to help avoid death duties. Hugh and Cathryn had five children.

Hugh and his young family lived initially at Stackpole, visiting Cawdor Castle from time to time. In 1939 the Campbell family had returned to Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire but after the war increasing costs and overheads as well as large taxes on the empty 150 roomed mansion were causing a real problem at Stackpole. Hugh applied for planning permission to refashion it into a more manageable size but when this was refused he demolished Stackpole Court in April 1963 after having removed the best internal features and moved them to a new house he had built in 1962 called Golden Grove House in Llangathen, across the valley from the old Golden Grove mansion. The remaining estate land in Pembrokeshire was sold, thus ending the family’s 260 year old ownership of the Stackpole estate. The sale of the remaining contents of Stackpole Court was one of the most important ever to be held in south west Wales. In 1967 some 1,993 acres of the Stackpole estate were transferred to the National Trust together with parkland, forestry, eight miles of coastline, beaches and dunes, and the lovely lily ponds.


*Unless otherwise stated illustrations are reproduced with permission of Lady Cawdor

[1] This article is based on the book by the author, The Vaughan (Earls of Carbery) and Campbell (Earls and Thanes of Cawdor) families of Golden Grove Carmarthenshire (2018).

[2] Francis Jones, The Chronicles of Golden Grove and Stackpole Court (unpublished in Francis Jones archives) and Historic Pembrokeshire Homes and their Families (2001), 264-5 and Treasury of Historic Pembrokeshire (1998), 256-293; RCAHMW; R. Fenton, A Historical Tour Through Pembrokeshire (1903),229-30. Thomas Lloyd, The Lost Houses of Wales (1989), 71.

[3] The Pryse family had won 14 Parliamentary elections in Cardiganshire between 1553 and 1714 as well as serving as Sheriff eleven times, they were Royalists and leaders in political and public affairs.

[4] Carms Record Office Cawdor archives – letter dated 13 April 1756.

[5] Charles Hassall’s Report c1796 (Francis Jones archives). Francis Jones, Some Farmers of Bygone Pembrokeshire in Cymmrodorion (1946),133-151, Cambrian 26 Jan 1805.

[6] Derek Linstrum, Sir Jeffry Wyatville Architect to the King ( 2004); ODNB; South Wales Daily News 11 Dec 1909.

[7] J.E. Thomas, Britain’s Last Invasion (2007); Francis Jones, Treasury of Historic Pembrokeshire (1998),100-102.

[8] Letter from Lord Cawdor to Lady Cawdor and Letter dated 27 Feb 1797 from Duke of Portland to Lord Cawdor expressing the King’s approbation of his conduct – copies in Francis Jones archives.

[9] PC Scarlett, A Memoir of Rt Hon James 1st Baron Abinger (1877), 94.

[10] M.Cragoe, Carmarthenshire County Politics 1804-37 in Carmarthenshire Antiquary (1993),75-9 and The Golden Grove Interest in Carmarthen Politics 1804-21 (MA thesis 1986) and Welsh History Review (1993),467-93.

[11] Henry Greville (1801-72), Diary 10 Nov 1860.

[12] Return of Owners of Land 1873. Francis Jones, Ceredigion (1960), 12-3. Brian James NLWJ (1966), XIV, 301-320.

[13], but the papers rather unkindly pointed out that he had failed to get into the XI at both Eton and Oxford –Evening Express 11 May 1908.

[14] Valerie Rouland, The Earl and the Girl-The Mystery of the Buttercase Case in Carmarthenshire Antiquary (2017),143-6.

[15] F. Kingdon-Ward and John D.V. Campbell, The Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges (1926). Ian Baker, The Heart of the World – A Journey to the Last Secret Place (2004).

[16] Thistles in Aspic (2000, published by the Dowager Countess Cawdor) contains part of his collection together with his own witty analysis of the visitors’ book at Cawdor Castle.