John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor

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The Lord Cawdor

John Campbell 1st Lord Cawdor.jpg
Member of Parliament for Cardigan Boroughs
In office
Member of Parliament for Nairnshire
In office
Personal details
Died1 June 1821 (aged 68)
Bath, Somerset, UK
Resting placeBath Abbey
Political partyPittite (from 1783)
Other political
Whig (until 1783)
Spouse(s)Isabella Caroline Howard
EducationEton College
Alma materClare College, Cambridge

John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor, FRS FSA (ca. 1753 – 1 June 1821), was a Welsh art-collector and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1777 to 1796.


John Campbell was born ca. 1753, the son of Pryse Campbell of Stackpole Court, Pembrokeshire, and Sarah (née Bacon). His siblings were Sarah, George, Alexander and Charles Campbell. He was sent to board at Eton College, Berkshire (1763–67) and afterwards studied at Clare College, Cambridge (1772).

His father died in 1768, so when his grandfather died in 1777 John inherited Stackpole Court in Pembrokeshire, his grandfather's other estates in Pembrokeshire and Nairn, and a mineral-producing estate in Cardiganshire; these lands and mines made him a rich man.

From 1777 to 1780 he was Member of Parliament for Nairnshire. He became Member of Parliament for Cardigan Boroughs from a by-election in June 1780 until he stood down at the 1796 British general election.[1][2] From 1780 he was Governor of Milford Haven.

Between 1783 and 1788 Campbell visited Italy and Sicily, where he bought antiquities from Fr. John Thorpe, Henry Tresham, James Durno and Thomas Jenkins, commissioned paintings of archaeological sites in Naples and Sicily from Xavier della Gatta, Tito Lusieri, Henry Tresham and Louis Ducros, and bought sculptures from the young Canova (but never received them).[3] In 1788 Campbell bought from Giovanni Volpato the celebrated Lante Vase, now at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. He also began a collection of 'Etruscan' (i.e. ancient Greek) vases from Nola and other southern Italian sites, and had further examples sent to him after his return to Britain, including the 'Campbell Krater' excavated at Lecce in 1790. He also continued to acquire architectural and sculptural fragments and casts. Campbell established a museum in his house in Oxford Street, London, which had an art-historical rather than decorative intention, and was hailed by the sculptor, John Flaxman, as 'excellent news for the arts'.[4] In 1794 Campbell became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and in 1795 a Fellow of the Royal Society.[5]

As a Parliamentarian, Campbell was at first a Whig and a supporter of Lord North. In debates on the North Atlantic slave trade he supported the abolitionists. He became a supporter of the younger Pitt's war policy. As a landowner he was an active improver - draining the Castlemartin Corse and creating Bosherton lakes. His generosity to the poor was proverbial. He gave up his seat in the House of Commons for one in the House of Lords when created Baron Cawdor of Castlemartin in the County of Pembroke on 21 June 1796.[6]

In 1797 he was the commander of the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry, who defeated Napoleon's troops in the Last invasion of Britain.[7]

In 1800 Cawdor sold the contents of his Museum. Several items were sold to the architect, Sir John Soane. In 1804 he added to his extensive land-holdings by inheriting John Vaughan's estates at Golden Grove, Carmarthenshire. In 1808 he was Mayor of Carmarthen.

Lord Cawdor died on 1 June 1821, at Bath and was buried at Bath Abbey. On 28 July 1789 he had married Lady Isabella Caroline Howard – daughter of Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle and Margaret Caroline Leveson-Gower. They had two children:

A portrait of John Campbell was made by Joshua Reynolds (1778; now in Cawdor Castle, Nairn); a miniature of him by Richard Cosway is in the National Galleries of Scotland.

Further reading[edit]

  • I. Bignamini, C. Hornsby, Digging And Dealing In Eighteenth-Century Rome (2010. Yale U.P.), p. 249-251
  • A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, Compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive by John Ingamells (1997)
  • F. Russell, 'A Distinguished Generation: the Cawdor Collection', in Country Life; (14 June 1984), p. 1746-1748
  • E. H. Stuart-Jones, The Last Invasion of Britain (1950)


  1. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "C" (part 2)
  2. ^ Stooks Smith, Henry. (1973) [1844-1850]. Craig, F. W. S. (ed.). The Parliaments of England (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 589. ISBN 0-900178-13-2.
  3. ^ H. Honour, 'Canova's 'Amorini' for John Campbell and John David Latouche', in Antologia di belle arti; 48/51 (1994), p.129-139.
  4. ^ W. G. Constable, John Flaxman, 1755-1826 (1927), p.33-34.
  5. ^ "Follows details". Royal Society. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  6. ^ "CAMPBELL, John (1755-1821), of Calder, Nairn; Stackpole Court, Pemb. and Llanvread, Card". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  7. ^ E. H. Stuart-Jones, The Last Invasion of Britain (1950)
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Cosmo Gordon
Member of Parliament for Nairnshire
1777 – 1780
Succeeded by
Alexander Campbell
Preceded by
Thomas Johnes
Member of Parliament for Cardigan Boroughs
1780 – 1796
Succeeded by
Hon. John Vaughan
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Baron Cawdor
Succeeded by
John Frederick Campbell