Crichton-Stuart, John, second Marquess of Bute and sixth or seventh Earl of Dumfries 1793-1848, landowner and industrialist, was born 10 August 1793 at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, the eldest son (there were no daughters) of John Stuart, Baron Mountstuart of Mountstuart House, Isle of Bute, and his wife Elizabeth Penelope, the younger daughter of Patrick Macdowal Crichton, fifth or sixth Earl of Dumfries. Baron Mountstuart (1767-1794), who predeceased his father, was the eldest of the eleven children of John Stuart, first Marquess of Bute. The second marquess inherited the titles and the estates of his maternal grandfather on the death of the fifth/sixth Earl of Dumfries in 1803 and those of his paternal grandfather on the death of the first Marquess of Bute in 1814. On 26 August 1805 he took the arms and the name of Crichton.
Following the death of his mother in 1797, he spent his boyhood in the various houses of his paternal grandfather. He was educated at Eton and at Christs College, Cambridge (MA, 1812), where he was strongly influenced by his tutor, John Kaye [qv.], later the bishop of Lincoln. Between 1809 and 1814 he travelled extensively, making the acquaintance of Madame de StaŽl, Louis Philippe, and Napoleon.
Butes fame rests upon his achievements as a landowner. He owned over 100,000 acres; most of his property was situated in the counties of Bute, Ayr, and Wigtown, but he was also a major proprietor in Glamorgan, where the Cardiff Castle estate, originally granted in the sixteenth century to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke [qv.], had passed to his grandfather through marriage. He spent his adult life in a circuit of his estates, staying in turn at Mountstuart House, Dumfries House, Newcastle upon Tyne, Luton Hoo, and Cardiff Castle. (During the lifetime of his first wife he had also had estate responsibilities at Banbury in Oxfordshire and Kirtling in Cambridgeshire.) A passionate improver, his vast correspondence chronicles his attempts to develop his estates and to improve the lot of their inhabitants.
His most significant contribution to estate development came in Glamorgan, where the Cardiff Castle estate included almost all the land of the ancient borough together with manorial rights over the valleys of the central part of the south Wales coalfield. He was the landlord of the Dowlais ironworks, in the 1840s the largest ironworks in the world, and his paltry returns from the Dowlais lease caused him to drive a hard bargain with those seeking the coal of his estate. As a result, his son John, third Marquess of Bute [qv.], would by the later nineteenth century be the largest individual receiver of mineral royalties in Britain. In order to prove the commercial value of his coal reserves in the Rhondda valley, he initiated steps to show that the steam coal of the valley lay at exploitable depths, an act which led to the astounding growth of the Rhondda.
His main contribution to the development of the south Wales coalfield was his construction of a masonry dock at Cardiff; opened in 1839, it was the first of the five Bute docks, docks which would in the late nineteenth century be handling more coal than any other port in the world. Cardiff, which in 1801 was twenty-fifth in size among the towns of Wales, expanded rapidly in the wake of the dock development, and the marquess paid assiduous attention to the layout of new streets and the design of frontages. By the 1870s Cardiff had become the largest town in Wales and the marquess was being hailed as its creator.
An intensely dutiful, rather dour man, he was plagued by eye troubles and as a result he shunned fashionable society. He was a friend of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, and his views on issues such as Catholic emancipation, parliamentary reform, and the corn laws closely mirrored those of the duke. An ardent champion of the Established Church, both English and Scottish, he was nevertheless a tireless advocate of the relief of the disabilities of the Jews.
He served as lord lieutenant of the counties of Glamorgan and Bute from 1815 until his death. He was also colonel of the Glamorgan militia and high steward of Banbury. His honours included FRS (1818), DCL (Oxford, 1834), LLD (Cambridge, 1835), FSA (1838), and KT (1843). He was high commissioner to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1842-6, a period which coincided with the disruption crisis.
In 1818 he married Maria, daughter and co-heir of George Augustus North, third Earl of Guilford [qv.]. Maria died childless in 1841. In 1845 he married Sophia Frederica Christina, daughter of Francis Rawdon Hastings, first Marquess of Hastings [qv.], and his wife Flora, suo jure Countess of Loudoun. They had one son. Bute died at Cardiff Castle 18 March 1848 and was buried alongside his first wife at Kirtling in Cambridgeshire. He was succeeded as third marquess by his son John Patrick (born 1847).
John Davies, Cardiff and the Marquesses of Bute, 1981.
Contributor: John Davies