Peaceful Scotland may have been at the beginning of the century: prosperous she was not. Huge financial losses were caused by colonial ventures and King William's wars with France severely damaged Scottish trade. Economics were probably a significant factor in the easy passage of the 'Act of Union', which stripped Scotland of her parliament. In 1707 the Scottish Parliament was abolished and many trade restrictions were removed. With notable exceptions, such as the Jacobite Rebellions, the country was peaceful and for some, prosperous.
Alexander 9th Earl of Eglinton 1701-1729
Alexander effectively controlled the Eglinton lands for the 53 years following 1676. He laid the foundations for the improvements wrought by his successors, repairing the ravages of the 17th century, repaying the family's large debts and extending the lands with the purchase of estates at Dundonald, Kilmaurs, Glassford and Southannan. A member of the Scottish Parliament, he became a representative peer in London and served as Privy Councillor to both King William and Queen Anne.
Archibald 11th Earl of Eglinton 1769-1796
But for his bachelor brothers murder by a poacher, Archibald might not have succeeded to the title. ON the completion of his education in Geneva, he had entered a military career. This culminated in his leading the 78th Regiment of Highlanders in the American Campaign during the seven years war (1756-1763). Lieutenant Colonel Montgomerie was especially commended for his expedition against the Cherokees. He became a politician on his return and continued his brothers' efforts on the estate.
Hugh 12th Earl of Eglinton (1796-1819)
Alexander dies without a son and the title is passed to the Montgomeries' Coilsfield branch, descended from the fourth son of 'Greysteel'. Hugh was 57 years old when he became Earl and had already built a new Coilsfield House. Like his cousin his military career had included service in America and he had been a member of Parliament and Inspector of Roads. Building a new Eglinton Castle did not satisfy his hunger for development and the family debt increased by his investments in ambitious projects including the Glasgow-Paisley-Ardrossan Canal.
Painting of Hugh Montgomerie 12th Earl of Eglinton
An age of rebellion reached it's peak during the French Revolution and following the Napoleonic War, societies throughout Europe were shaken to their foundations. By the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 the processes of reform were under way in the United Kingdom. Within a few decades, democratic measures that had appalled the establishment were embodied in legislation. Wealth and power were claimed by commercial and industrial magnates and the noble families were becoming less involved in national affairs.
The spread of towns and cities and the demand for raw materials had a huge effect on the countryside. In the race for profits to fund increasingly expensive lifestyles, many landowners threatened and in some cases destroyed their own inheritance. In many parts of the country the improvements of the 18th Century were followed by exploitation and destruction in the 19th.
Archibald 13th Earl of Eglinton (1819-1861)
Knight of the Thistle, Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland: these were among the many posts occupied by the 13th Earl when he came of age in 1837. However worthy and responsible he became in later life, his renown revolves around a riotous youth that culminated in he great extravagances of the Eglinton Tournament.
Archibald 14th Earl of Eglinton (1861-1892)
A sailor in his early life, the 14th Earl inherited and estate and a tradition that were already disintegrating. His father had gained the Earldom of Winton but had, from his accession, been disposing of capital assets. The collapse of the Glasgow Bank in 1878 forced the Earl to sell Coilsfield and Eagleshame.
George Arnulph 15th Earl of Eglinton 1892-1919
A lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards and later Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire, George Arnulph was unable to halt the deterioration of the family fortunes. He did, however introduce cricket to the estate and survived three rounds at Wimbledon.
Some noble families have retained their long standing relationships with the land. A few strive to hold a place in national affairs. For many the addition of death duties to already large family debts had a devastating effect. In 1925 Archibald Seton Montgomerie, 16th Earl of Eglinton removed himself, his family and his servants from Eglinton Castle.
The sell off of land and standing timber began under the 13th Earl, but it was the financial difficulties after the Glasgow Bank failure in 1878 that forced the most telling action. The lands of Eagleshame, the Montgomeries first Scottish home, were sold, after 700 years. The battle to save their main legacy was lost in the subsequent decades and final defeat came with the realisation that the family could no longer afford the expense of Eglinton Castle itself.
Dowells, the Edinburgh auctioneers, were engaged to arrange the sale of complete contents of the castle. Between the 1st and 5th of December 1925 everything from the smallest ornament to the largest carpet was sold. The lots realised the grand total of seven thousand and five pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence.
Does anyone know where any of these items ended up? I would love to know.