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Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott

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Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott (1806-1884) Fifth Duke of Buccleugh and seventh Duke of Queensbury


1884 Obituary [1]

WALTER FRANCIS MONTAGU DOUGLAS SCOTT, fifth Duke of Buccleuch, and seventh Duke of Queensberry, KG., P.C.,. D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S., was born on the 25th of November, 1806.

He died, full of years and honours, and universally respected, on the 16th of April, 1884. The story of his life is that of a great noble who, thoroughly imbued with the idea that wealth and position have their responsibilities as well as their privileges, conscientiously devoted himself during the whole of a long career to the good management of those estates from which he derived his princely resources. In realizing this view of his duties, farseeing enterprise induced him to engage, at his own cost, in great works of engineering, the successful achievement of which constituted him a public benefactor. It is in connection with these works that the late Duke was made an honorary member of the Institution on the 28th of June, 1812, and the present memoir mill therefore bear more particularly upon the circumstances which induced their carrying out.

The Duke of Buccleuch‘s ideas of the duties of a great landowner may be gathered from the following extract from a speech he made at what was long known as the Branxhohe Fete of 1839:- “What has been entrusted to me has not been given that it might be wasted in idle or frivolous amusements; nor would I be justified in wasting the hard earnings of the tillers of the soil by carrying them away and spending them in foreign countries, but I wish to see them employed as the means of producing good to them and to the country at large.”

Acting up to this his attention was early directed to the establishment of a harbour at Granton. The lands of Wester Granton became an adjunct to the estates of the House of Buccleuch through the marriage of Lady Caroline Campbell, eldest daughter of John Duke of Argyll and Greenwich into the family. At the beginning of the present century, great inconvenience was felt by those interested in navigation through the want of a harbour on the east coast which could be entered by vessels at all states of the tide. At that time the slow and always dangerous method of landing passengers was by transferring them to boats at low water. Thc suggestion to erect a pier which would allow the largest vessels to be run alongside, at once commended itself to the favourable consideration of the Duke, who obtained a report from Messrs. Robert Stevenson and Son in 1834. This thoroughly satisfied him as to the feasibility and utility of the proposed works, and hc lost no time in commencing operations.

The gigantic undertaking was begun in 1835, and from that time onwards it is estimated that half a million sterling has been expended in connection with the harbour. Attention was first principally confined to the pier, which was so far constructed as to admit of its being partly opened, amid considerable festivities, on the day of the Queen’s Coronation, in June 1838. But it was not till 1844 that it was finished to its present extent of 1,700 feet long by 180 feet broad. Before the final completion of the pier it was made use of for the landing of the Queen and the Prince Consort on the occasion of their first visit to Scotland, in September 1842, when the royal party was received by the Duke of Buccleuch and Sir Robert Peel. The point at which the Queen and the Prince Consort landed is at the northern end of the pier, and was sometime known as Victoria Jetty. The pier, the foundation of which was of stone from the neighbouring quarries, was constructed so as to have a depth of 10 feet at its outer end at low water, and 28 feet at high water spring tides. No expense was spared by the Duke in furnishing the pier with all the requisites in the way of warehouses, jetties, slips, coal-tipping apparatus, and cranes necessary to make it complete. The pier is protected by large breakwaters, for the construction of which an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1842.

The portion of the Forth within which he had control of the shipping extends from Wardie Burn mouth on the east to the march of the lands of Granton and Muirhouse on the wcst, and it runs out for a considerable distance between these points into the estuary. The breakwaters enclose an area of 130 imperial acres, 77 of which are on the west side of the pier, and 53 on the east. The western one was first proceeded with. Its total length is about 3,100 feet, or nearly three-fifths of a mile ; its breadth at the level of high tide is 24 feet, while at the base some portions are as much as 140 feet. Within the last few years this breakwater has been formed into a mineral wharf, with wide jetties for the accommodation of vessels coming to Granton to dischargc grain and timber and take in coal.

The eastern breakwater is 25 feet broad at the top, and l50 feet at the deepest part of the base. The width of the breakwater is 72 feet. Extensive dredging-apparatus was employed for the harbour, and the berths are being constantly deepened, so that in many of them vessels of large size lic afloat at low water of neap tides.

The Granton Road, which has been so advantageous to the district, was constructed at the Duke’s expense in order to give access to the harbour. It may fairly be stated that he port of Granton virtually owes its existence to the improvements thus made by the late Dnkc, and its inhabitants took many opportunities of showing their gratitude to him.

In all places where he had property, the Duke was forward in works of a public character, but mention should also be made of Barrow-in-Furness. He was Lord of the Liberty and Manors of Furness, and owner of extensive iron-mines. For the purpose of their better development he, in conjunction with the Duke of Devonshire, promoted, and chiefly at their own cost, constructed the original Furness Railway in 1843-44. This has been gradually developed into a coast-line of the first importance, and large docks have been built. The Duke of Buccleuch continued to be a director of the Furness Railway until his death, and always took an active interest in the progress of the company, and especially in the Barrow Docks. It may be mentioned, in passing, that Furness-Abbey railway station has been so built as to avoid, as far as possible, any flagrant violation of the genius loci, and that the noble ruins adjacent may be enjoyed by the public without the eye being offended by any harsh contrast between ancient beauty and modem utility.

He did not inherit much landed estate in Furness, but of late years he purchased largely, and at the time of his death practically owned the division of Lindal and Martin, in the parish of Dalton in Furness. He rebuilt the village of Lindal, converting it from a collection of hovels into a “model village,” with all sanitary and other modern appliances. He also built new farmhouses and outbuildings at most of his farms, and had he lived another two years, would have completed his improvements and made the estate as nearly perfect as such things can be.

The record of the Duke of Buccleuch’s great work at Granton, and his improvements at Barrow, have been thus noticed, as they constitute thc instances in which his ideas were carried out on the largest scale; but the same system was adopted, in unstinted fulness, on all his other estates.

In this connection an incident, which took place at a meeting during the agitation against the lam of hypothec some twenty gears ago, is worthy of being narrated. A farmer made a speech in which he pointed out the disadvantages experienced by his class under the existing law. A gentleman, who evidently knew the farmer’s Circumstances, said to him, "That you do not suffer from the grievances to which you refer?” And the farmer replied, "The land I rent is too near that owned by the Duke of Buccleuch for me to suffer from them.” So powerful was the practice and influence of the late Duke on neighbouring landowners.

He was an eminently practical man. He brought his great personal experience to bear on all the details necessary to ensure the successful carrying out of the various improvements on his estates, whether as regarded agriculture or building. He went to his office and transacted business much the same as a city merchant would do, and always kept in hand the personal direction of what was going on.

Of the Duke of Buccleuch’s public life it is not necessary here to speak. It may sufficc to say that thc same generosity of character he displayed in private matters he extended to his political connections, whether rival or friendly. Though a staunch Conservative, his political opponents were among the foremost to appreciate him, and no higher tribute could be paid to him than the eloquent fact of the present Prime Minister; Mr. Gladstone, being one of the first to subscribe to the national testimonial to the Duke, set on foot some years ago, to show the estimation in which he was universally held. His unanimous election to the Chancellorship of Glasgow University, in 1878, further testified how far personal esteem for him rose above political jealousies. He was President of the British Association at its meeting in Dundee in 1867, and was fellow or honorary member of many other societies, especially those established to encourage the advancement of agriculture.

The life thus usefully spent for the benefit of others was the successful effort of a good man to prove that the “bloated landowner” is not necessarily an enemy of the people.



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Sources of Information

  1. 1884 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries