The Bute Archive and Family at Mount Stuart: Past and Present

Essay by Lynsey Nairn

The Bute Archive is housed at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, the ancestral home of the Crichton-Stuart family or Marquesses of Bute. In 1989, the last member of the family to have resided there, the late John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute (1933–1993) made over the house and grounds to a charitable trust which, in turn, opened Mount Stuart to the public in 1995. The impressive Victorian Gothic house and the spacious grounds are owned by the Trust while the collections within the house, including the extensive archive, are privately owned. As an educational charity, the Trust aspires to support, enable and promote learning, innovation and creativity.

Dating from 1158 to the present day, the archive consists of significant holdings of family and estate correspondence yet has, to date, never been fully accessible to researchers.1 With just under fifty per cent of the papers catalogued, it can be regarded as one of the most important untapped resources of privately held material in the UK with local, national and international connections. A recent survey of the archive has identified that the many strands of uncatalogued material range from the twelfth century right up to the present day. Most of the material pertaining to the Marquesses and Marchionesses of this more recent past has never been systematically assessed and, along with much of the other material, is waiting to be discovered by researchers.

The immense potential of the Bute Archive has been explored most recently by the group of scholars involved in the present research project, ‘Art and the Country House’. As the studies and related documentation brought together reveal, the Bute material, catalogued and uncatalogued, forms the linchpin of this project, enabling new research and fresh insights into the history of the family in relation to its extraordinary art collecting and display strategies.

Professional Interests

The first individual systematically to explore the Bute archives was Miss Catherine Armet (c.1900–1984), who worked for the Bute family for fifty years in a career which spanned the period from John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute (1881–1947) in the 1930s to the 6th Marquess, until her own death in the 1980s. Beginning in an administrative role, Armet was soon given the responsibility of looking after the family papers when the 4th Marquess reduced the number of transcribers he employed.2 During this period, the key ‘muniments’ were held at Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, one of several Bute properties and at this time the residence of the 4th Marquess and Marchioness. It was a practical arrangement as Armet lived in Eton Terrace, only a ten-minute walk away.3

When the Butes left Charlotte Square to move back to Mount Stuart in the 1950s, John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute was Armet’s employer. Since Miss Armet wished to remain living in Edinburgh, Lord Bute simply provided her with a first-class rail ticket to enable her to travel to Bute on a Monday and return home for the weekend on a Friday. Throughout this time Armet was treated as part of the family, staying with them at Mount Stuart during the week, where she occupied the prestigious Henry VIII Room.4 Armet carried out a range duties for the family such as numbering and sorting the historic correspondence into order, although no cataloguing as we understand it today was undertaken.

When her health started to fail in the 1980s, Miss Armet was provided with an assistant, a retired schoolmaster named Alexander Hunter. After her death in 1984, Hunter succeeded Miss Armet as archivist but shortly afterwards he suffered a stroke and was forced to retire. Miss Armet, however, remains a presence in the archive through her distinctive handwriting (fig. 1).5 Indeed, her annotations are to be found throughout the papers in the archive, as well as the many handwritten notes on correspondence which state ‘copied in 1976’ or such like – although for whom they were copied was is not always clear.

Example of Miss Catherine Armet's handwriting

Figure 1.
Example of Miss Catherine Armet's handwriting, [annotations in ink only], 21 August 1974. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (LSR/B1/).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Photo: Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

At this point, the significance and importance of looking after the archive was clearly recognised by both the family and the Mount Stuart Trust, resulting in the appointment in January 1997 of Andrew McLean, the first professionally qualified archivist. Like Armet, McLean originated from Edinburgh and was the archivist at Mount Stuart, later head of collections, between 1997 and 2011, before moving on and eventually being appointed assistant director in addition to head curator at the National Railway Museum in York. During his first six years in post, McLean embarked on a complete transformation of the archive, gathering up loose papers and the contents of metal trunks dispersed in various locations around Mount Stuart, and other properties, and bringing them together in a centralised archive on Bute. The additional influx of material included the archive from the Bute home at Dumfries House, Ayrshire and the Edinburgh Tapestry Company (now Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh) in 2000. This was followed by the accretion of legal documents and Wales-related papers, such as the 1866 William Burges Report on Cardiff Castle in 2004.6 During this period, the various materials were sorted into their respective collections, which include the Loudoun and Hastings families of Ayrshire, early deeds and charters, Bute Estate and Dumfries Estate, followed by individual earls and marquesses. The extensive and exemplary cataloguing that was undertaken by McLean meant that an impressive forty per cent or more of the archive became accessible and searchable for the first time (fig. 2). It is McLean’s great legacy that current and future generations of staff can build from these solid foundations towards complete cataloguing in the fullness of time.

A view of the Bute archive repository at Mount Stuart post Andrew McLean work

Figure 2.
A view of the Bute archive repository at Mount Stuart post Andrew McLean work, 2020.

Digital image courtesy of Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

Following McLean’s departure in 2011, I as the collection assistant completed my professional archive qualification, which allowed me to take over the mantle as full-time archivist in 2015. Recognising not only the value of the historic collections but also their enormous future potential, the Trust decided to invest in a professional departmental structure which would be able to make a step-change. The post of head of collections with overall responsibility for collections, archive and libraries was created in addition to a collections and conservation support team. Alice Martin, head of collections from 2013 to 2018, was instrumental in expanding the academic network nationally and internationally and bringing the first Bute fellow, Caitlin Blackwell, to Mount Stuart. Building on the work of her predecessors Charlotte Rostek, head of collections 2018-2020, has led the team in this next phase of widening access to the Bute Collection, facilitating scholarly and cultural engagement while while ensuring the completion of cataloguing and maintaining and consolidating the high standards of stewardship of the Collection.7

The Bute Family: ‘Stewarts’ and ‘Stuarts’

In order to understand the historic significance of the Bute Archive and its extent it is necessary to understand something of the Bute family history and thereby appreciate the various contributions of art, artefacts and documentary materials by successive generations.

The Bute family can trace their ancestry back to Walter Fitz-Alan, who became steward, or high steward, to David I of Scotland (c.1084–1153) in the twelfth century, an office which became hereditary in 1157 during the reign of Malcolm IV. Walter became the first hereditary high steward of Scotland until 1177. It was from this office that the Bute’s surname Stewart arose.8

By 1204, lands in Bute were held by these Stewarts and in 1315, the then steward, also Walter, married Marjorie, daughter of Robert the Bruce.9 Their son, Robert II, became the first Stewart king and thus began the royal Stewart line. Robert II had five children by two marriages and eight out of wedlock. One of them, John Stewart, was appointed hereditable sheriff of Bute in c.1385 and granted lands on the island; whether he was a member of the second family or one of the illegitimates is unknown.10 The French spelling of the family name as Stuart rather than Stewart first came into use during the time of Mary Queen of Scots (1542–1587), who had grown up in France. However, it was not until the eighteenth century, during the period of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713–1792) that the Bute family stopped using Stewart in favour of the newer spelling.

The Evolution of the Archive

The earliest item in the archive is a Papal Bull of 1158 signed by Pope Adrian IV, the first and only English-born Pope (fig. 3). The archive holds a collection of deeds and charters, the earliest of which was scribed for Robert III, dated 11 November 1400. This document confirms to his brother, John Stewart, the office of sheriff of Bute and Arran which he had previously received from their father Robert II in c.1385.11 Notable documents such as these were retained as proof of land ownership and have descended through the direct male line of the Bute family, creating a catalogue of land acquisitions between 1400 and 1700.

Papal Bull of Pope Adrian VI

Figure 3.
Papal Bull of Pope Adrian VI, 1158. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (LSR/D2).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

James Stewart, 1st Earl of Bute

The earliest correspondents represented in the archive are James Stewart, 1st Earl of Bute (1658–1710) and his son, also James Stewart (1696–1723). The subjects covered include a variety of estate, family, financial, military and political matters and coexist with correspondence to the 2nd Earl’s wife, Lady Anne Campbell and his Edinburgh lawyer, Ronald Campbell, between 1683 and 1734. There is also a direct connection with portraits in the Bute Collection by William Aikman of the 1st Earl, his first wife Agnes McKenzie and his second wife, Lady Anne Campbell. These can be traced to an inventory of 1717 and are discussed in more detail by Martin Postle and Lisa Ford, ‘Honours and Insignia: Georgian Portraiture at Mount Stuart’, in the present project.

The name ‘Mount Stuart’ first appears when Sir James Stewart was created 1st Earl of Bute and Viscount Kingarth, Lord Mountstuart, Cumra and Inchmernock (sic) on 14 April 1703 (fig. 4).12 During the reign of Queen Anne, Stewart became a privy councillor and a commissioner for the negotiation of the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England.13 However, by 1706 the Earl was convinced that a union with England would be detrimental, withdrew his support and consequently did not lend his signature to the Act of Union.14

Charter issued by Queen Anne creating James Stewart 1st Earl of Bute

Figure 4.
Charter issued by Queen Anne creating James Stewart 1st Earl of Bute, 14 April 1703. Bute Archive, items not individually numbered (BU/1/95).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

James Stewart, 2nd Earl of Bute

The family lived at Rothesay Castle in the town of Rothesay until the castle’s final destruction in 1685. Subsequently, they stayed just opposite in the old Mansion House, built in 1680–81. During 1715, James Stewart, 2nd Earl was made lord lieutenant of the Shire of Bute by George II.15 Documents from the same year give evidence of conversations with ‘Miller’ (probably William Miller, the Quaker seedsman) about yew trees and ‘allars’ (alder trees), possibly for the Earl’s proposed gardens at what became the first Mount Stuart.16 Stewart’s desire to create gardens and to build a grander house appears to have been the force behind the decision to leave the Mansion House in Rothesay in favour of the more expansive site on the east side of the island. In 1716 the Scottish architect Alexander McGill (d. 1734) was commissioned to draw up plans for the new house, a much larger Palladian structure with space for expansion and extensive gardens.17 Campbell (Bute’s lawyer) reported to Bute that McGill, having left Edinburgh ‘some days agoe’, should be paid certain charges for making such long journeys (from Edinburgh to Bute) for preparing plans for a house and policies for Lord Bute and added: ‘I hope he will please yow exactlie for he knows his bussines verie well.’18 Building work began in 1718 and over the next two years the original designs for the house evolved into a more complex house. Stewart’s brother-in-law, John Campbell (1680–1734), 2nd Duke of Argyll scarcely believed it would come to fruition: ‘you have at last laid the foundation of a house having I confess taken it for granted we should never see it but in black and white pray give my service to my letters and believe me your most faithfull slave. Argyll’.19 The eventual result of these plans was an elegant, symmetrical house with a hipped roof (fig. 5). There is evidence that the architect James Craig made additions to the house in the 1760s, during which time he also stayed at Mount Stuart for a five-week period Although not too dissimilar to the building that existed, this unexecuted design shows the addition of wings on either end of the main house which survive today. (fig. 6).20

Mount Stuart elevation

Figure 5.
Alexander McGill, Mount Stuart elevation, 1716. Drawing. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (PC4/1).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

Unexecuted west elevation with additions to Mount Stuart

Figure 6.
James Craig, Unexecuted west elevation with additions to Mount Stuart, 1860s. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (PC4/1).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute

Born in Edinburgh, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713–1792) had an eventful public life, which culminated in his appointment as the first Scots-born prime minister under George III. In the present project, Caitlin Blackwell’s case study discusses Bute’s relationship with the young Prince George, later George III, to whom he was a tutor and mentor, while other aspects of the 3rd Earl’s remarkable life and some of his most notable projects and art acquisitions are also discussed by other contributors – Martin Postle, Lisa Ford and Oliver Cox. Although not all the 3rd Earl’s papers are housed at Mount Stuart, the collection is also rich in his personal, political and botanical correspondence. Indeed, among other treasures is an original set of the Botanical Tables authored by this Bute in the 1780s, while the archive, in turn, can produce the original hand-drawn and coloured plates alongside the printed proofs which the finished tables display; they are signed and dated by the artist Johannes Sebastian Muller alias John Miller, the German engraver and botanist who was active in London during the eighteenth century.21

John Stuart, 4th Earl, later 1st Marquess of Bute

In 1766, the 3rd Earl’s eldest son, also John Stuart (1744–1814), married Charlotte Jane Windsor (1746–1800), a significant marriage, as discussed by Edward Town in ‘The Portrait of the Family of Edward Windsor, 3rd Baron Windsor at Mount Stuart’, in this project. Windsor was the daughter of Herbert Hickman-Windsor (1707–1758), 2nd Viscount Windsor of Blackcastle and Alice Clavering (d. 1776).22 Charlotte Windsor was also heiress to Glamorgan estates.23 Seven children were born of this marriage and following Charlotte’s death from apoplexy in 1800, the Marquess married again.24 His second wife was Frances Coutts (1773–1832), daughter of the wealthy London banker Thomas Coutts (1735–1822); this marriage produced two children. The 1st Marquess was a diplomat and politician sitting in the House of Commons from 1766 to 1776. Despite the 3rd Earl declining an elevation to marquess by George III, the 4th Earl accepted the title and became the 1st Marquess of Bute in 1796. As Postle and Ford discuss in their study, ‘Honours and Insignia’, the 4th Earl was concerned with both his father’s art collection and the public honours bestowed on his forebears, particularly as they were reflected in the family’s public portraits. And, as Caitlin Blackwell notes in ‘The Bute Collection and its Houses: A Historical Overview’ in this project, he took a close interest in cataloguing and curating the collection at Luton Hoo, the family seat created by his father in Bedfordshire.

John, Lord Mountstuart

The eldest son of the 1st Marquess of Bute and Charlotte Windsor, John, Lord Mountstuart (1767–1794) married Elizabeth Penelope Crichton in 1792, daughter of Patrick McDouall-Crichton, 6th Earl of Dumfries (1726–1803) and his wife Margaret (née Crauford; d. 1799).25 As an heiress Elizabeth also brought lands in Wigtonshire and Ayrshire including Dumfries House (near Cumnock) into the family fold. Mountstuart was educated at Eton and Cambridge and, like his father, undertook his own Grand Tour.26 Mountstuart also enjoyed horse-riding and, tragically, this was to prove a fatal pursuit.27 At the age of only twenty-seven, he fell from his horse and died a few days later from the injuries, leaving a young son, John, and his as yet unborn younger brother, James Patrick Herbert.28 As he predeceased his father, the Marquessate passed directly to the boy John who became the 2nd Marquess of Bute on the death of his grandfather in 1814.

John Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute

In 1805, in honour of his mother, John Stuart, the 2nd Marquess of Bute (1793–1848) added the name Crichton to the family name, becoming John Crichton-Stuart. This Bute was an industrialist; the vast lands in Glamorganshire which had passed down through the marriage of his grandparents allowed him to develop land and property. The most significant development at this time was the creation of the Bute Docks in 1839 in what was then the village of Cardiff in Wales. Rapidly the Docks became the world’s largest for exporting coal for almost a century, earning Bute the title of ‘creator of Modern Cardiff’ (fig. 7). Inevitably, Cardiff expanded into a large town and obtained city status in 1905, becoming the capital city of Wales in 1955. The 2nd Marquess married, on 29 July 1818, Maria North (d. 1841), daughter of George Augustus North, 3rd Earl of Guilford and Lady Maria Frances Mary Hobart. After Maria’s death, his second marriage was to Sophia Frederica Christina Hastings (d. 1859), daughter of Francis Rawdon-Hastings (1754–1826) and Flora Campbell (1780–1840), 6th Countess of Loudoun, in 1845 at Loudoun Castle. The Hastings connection added another illustrious set of characters to the Bute family circle and further archival material.

A view of Bute Docks

Figure 7.
A view of Bute Docks, Bute Docks Album, 21 June 1911. Bute Archive (PAW/4).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

John Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute

John Patrick Crichton-Stuart (1847–1900) was only six months old when his father died at Cardiff Castle on 18 March 1848. At the age of twelve he lost his mother, Sophia, and continued through his adolescence under the care of Charles and Elizabeth Stuart, two of three guardians nominated in his mother’s will.29 In terms of his adult life, a major turning point came later, in 1877, when, following a fire which devastated large sections of the Georgian family seat on Bute, the 3rd Marquess turned to the Scottish architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson (1834–1921) to design and build the new Mount Stuart, the eclectic and impressive Victorian Gothic mansion in red sandstone that stands today.

Another significant turning point had been nearly ten years earlier, in 1868, when the Marquess converted to Roman Catholicism. It was a highly controversial move that scandalised society, yet such was his commitment to the Catholic faith that he ate fish each Friday despite despising it. To make meals more bearable, the English ‘art-architect’ William Burges (1827–1881) was asked to design a set of fish plates; this also resulted in a set of soup plates between 1868 and 1878. Burges was well-known to Bute since, in addition to designing a small private chapel within the Georgian Mount Stuart, Burges and Bute had worked together on the restoration of Cardiff Castle. The architect’s design for a set of fish cutlery inlaid with mother-of-pearl exists alongside an extensive number of other Burges designs in the archive (fig. 8).30

Design for The Bute Cutlery Set: knives and forks (fish and dinner) with the arms of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart

Figure 8.
William Burges, Design for The Bute Cutlery Set: knives and forks (fish and dinner) with the arms of John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute and his wife, Gwendolen Crichton-Stuart, Marchioness of Bute. August 1879. Bute Archive (WB/1/17).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

Bute’s enthusiasm for the Catholic faith included translating the Roman Breviary from Latin into English, while his passion for architecture saw him involved in more than sixty building projects during his relatively short lifetime. Many of these projects can be traced in the Bute archive through original designs, including those relating to Bute Hall at Glasgow University, as well as detailed papers documenting the architectural evolution of the present Mount Stuart (fig. 9).31

Design for the West Front Elevation, Mount Stuart

Figure 9.
Robert Rowand Anderson, Design for the West Front Elevation, Mount Stuart, 1879. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (PC4/3).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

The 3rd Marquess of Bute was the first member of the family to add substantially to the archive in the form of architectural plans, elevations and designs. His travels as a child and as a young man gave him a thirst that was only satisfied when a vast number of the places he had visited were brought to Bute in the form of the second Mount Stuart building. The inspiration for the Marble Hall is taken from the Palatine Chapel in Aachen visited by Bute at the age of seven; he dictated a travel journal and described ‘three rows of arches one above the other, with marble pillars’ (fig. 10).32 Later, Anderson was sent to Aachen to measure the railings round the Chapel gallery, which were then replicated exactly and placed round the Gallery at Mount Stuart. The Roman Catholic cathedral of La Seo in Zaragoza, Spain was another inspiration, in this case for Mount Stuart’s Marble Chapel.

Travel journal dictated by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute during a tour of Belgium and Germany

Figure 10.
Travel journal dictated by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute during a tour of Belgium and Germany, 1855. Included is a description of the Palace Chapel of Charlemagne at Aachen/ Aix la Chapelle which would later inspire the Marble Hall at Mount Stuart. Bute Archive (BU/27).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

Bute’s vision for his new Mount Stuart is captured in the designs created by Horatio Walter Lonsdale (1844–1919). His exquisite work can be seen throughout Mount Stuart from the stained-glass zodiac windows to the vaulted Gallery ceiling of goddesses and on to the family tree of stained glass on the Marble Staircase. The original watercolours and cartoons survive in the Bute Archive and their vibrant colours and good condition have survived (fig. 11). As a result of wide interest in projects by the 3rd Marquess, and research relating to a recent biography of him, his papers right up to his death in October 1900 have now been catalogued, though others, including a number of literary papers, still await attention.33 Despite the inroads that have been made, the fact that numerous minute details of the 3rd Marquess’s building projects can be traced in the archive, as well as the huge amount of material (architectural, civic, religious, literary, philological and so on), suggests that far more research is required to comprehend fully the achievements of this complex and multi-faceted man.

Design for the Marble Hall summer stained glass windows at Mount Stuart

Figure 11.
Horatio Walter Lonsdale, Design for the Marble Hall summer stained glass windows at Mount Stuart, 1890s. watercolour on paper, 25.1cm × 66.3cm. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (L4/R3.8).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute

Other archive material was also acquired by the 3rd Marquess of Bute’s son, John Crichton-Stuart, the 4th Marquess (1881–1947), including a large body of correspondence of the Loudoun family – formerly of Loudoun Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland – known as the Loudoun Papers. They form part of a collection of papers which were sold in June 1939 to the 4th Marquess by Edith, Countess of Loudoun. At the time of purchase, the Marquess believed that he had secured the entire collection. However, unbeknown to him, another tranche of the papers had been sold in 1923 to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.34 Among those remaining at Bute, however, are papers pertaining to the American War of Independence, the earliest known hand-drawn and coloured map of Singapore and letters signed by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore (fig. 12).

Detail of letter from Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (including signature) to Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, Governor General of India

Figure 12.
Detail of letter from Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (including signature) to Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st Marquess of Hastings, Governor General of India, 5 October 1819. Bute Archive (HA/11/1/20).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

Born at Chiswick House, in west London, the 4th Marquess shared his father’s enthusiasm for new buildings and building conservation. Among his most important and most prestigious acquisitions were the spectacular New Town buildings on the south side of Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, designed by the Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728–1792). Numbers 5–8 were acquired by Bute’s property company, Mountjoy, and restored between about 1900 and 1922. Bute House, number 6, was conveyed to the National Trust for Scotland in 1966. Another of Bute’s passions was collecting art and artefacts, which resulted in the agglomeration of an exceptional assortment of archive material relating to the Bute family and to Scotland more generally, as well as Scottish silver, Welsh porcelain and Irish glass. Among the materials of national importance acquired were the marriage contract of Charles Edward Stuart, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’, to Princess Louisa of Stolberg in Italy in 1772; a first edition of Robert Burns’ poetry, Kilmarnock, 1786; and an eyewitness account of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587. Bute also ensured the safeguarding of internationally significant literary objects, notably an embroidered bible of Charles I, which has its own purpose-made hardback casing, an edition of the First Folio of Shakespeare which, having come into the family’s possession through an earlier generation, was rebound in 1932.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the 4th Marquess and Marchioness of Bute offered Mount Stuart for temporary conversion into a naval hospital. The layout of the house allowed it to be transformed and accommodate up to ninety-four patients at any one time across wards in the Drawing Room, Dining Room and Marble Hall (fig. 13). More than two thousand procedures were performed in the Operating Theatre (known as the Conservatory before and after the war); X-rays were performed in the Purple Library and contagious patients were accommodated in the Blue Bedroom.

Mount Stuart Marble Hall as a hospital ward during the First World War

Figure 13.
Mount Stuart Marble Hall as a hospital ward during the First World War, 1916. Bute Archive (MSH/5/4).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

The 4th Marquess also continued the work his father had started at Dumfries House, Ayrshire, by employing Robert Weir Schultz (1860–1951), a Port Glasgow-born architect, to complete the extension on the wings of the house. Schultz first saw Dumfries House in 1892 and prepared three schemes for new wings and altering the existing wings in 1895.35 Schultz also designed distinctive furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl for the family, which can be seen today in the Family Bedroom at Mount Stuart. Although this collection remains uncatalogued, three quarters of it have been box-listed to aid access prior to cataloguing.36 Like his father, the 4th Marquess presents a tremendous opportunity as the subject for future research: as a great conservationist, collector, philanthropist and Scottish nationalist.

John Crichton-Stuart, 5th Marquess of Bute

John Crichton-Stuart, 5th Marquess of Bute (1907–1956) was the eldest son of the 4th Marquess. Educated at Downside and Christ Church, Oxford, he later served in the Royal Navy and gained the rank of 2nd lieutenant in the Royal Artillery (TAR). As a keen ornithologist, he secured ownership of the island of St Kilda and later gifted it to the National Trust for Scotland under whose ownership it remains today. In April 1932, as the Earl of Dumfries, he married Lady Eileen Beatrice Forbes (1912–1993), daughter of Bernard Arthur William Patrick Hastings Forbes, 8th Earl of Granard and his wife Beatrice Mills.37 The following year, the 4th Marquess of Bute gave the Earl of Dumfries and new daughter-in-law permission to live at Dumfries House in Ayrshire as their permanent residence.38

By the time the 4th Marquess of Bute died in 1947, the Earl of Dumfries had already begun negotiations to have Cardiff Castle gifted to the people of Cardiff. These discussions were completed shortly after the death of the 4th Marquess.39 The new, 5th Marquess of Bute moved with his wife to Mount Stuart. This was a short-lived period as the 5th Marquess himself died in 1956 and the Dowager Marchioness decided to move back to Dumfries House, where she remained until her death in 1993 (fig. 14).40

John Crichton-Stuart, 5th Marquess of Bute with his wife Lady Eileen

Figure 14.
John Crichton-Stuart, 5th Marquess of Bute with his wife Lady Eileen, c.1953. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (BAR/17.8).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

On Bute, Isle of Bute Industries, known today as Bute Fabrics, was established by the 5th Marquess in the late 1940s to give employment to servicemen and women returning from the Second World War.41 As with the papers of his father, the 5th Marquess’s documents contained in the archive have been box-listed in anticipation of future cataloguing and to facilitate research.

John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute

John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute (1933–1993) was the eldest of the four children of the 5th Marquess and Marchioness and a twin to Lord David.42 Following his education at Ampleforth, he undertook National Service in the Scots Guards, before going on to read history at Trinity College, Cambridge.43 When his father died in 1956, the 6th Marquess was residing at Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. In part due to inheritance tax, numbers 5–7 were ceded to the National Trust for Scotland. The 6th Marquess was eager for number 6, now Bute House, to remain a residential property – as it had been for his family – and it became the official residence of Scotland’s first minister in 1999.44

On making Mount Stuart their Scottish home, Lord Bute and his second wife, Jennifer, undertook an array of projects at Mount Stuart during the 1980s and 90s (fig. 15). The house, which had never been completed due to the untimely death of the 3rd Marquess, saw a colossal amount of internal restoration and new, highly sympathetic decorative work with the same imagination and flair that had been applied by its original owner. Many contemporary artists including the muralist Tom Errington, who decorated the Marble Chapel Lantern, and the stained-glass artist Alison Kinnaird, who worked on the doors between the Horoscope Room and Conservatory, contributed to the owner’s flourishing vision. The couple’s attention also turned to the three hundred acres of landscape and garden where new and ambitious planting schemes were realised, as well as various restoration projects.

John Bute, 6th Marquess of Bute with his second wife Jennifer

Figure 15.
John Bute, 6th Marquess of Bute with his second wife Jennifer, c.1987. Bute Archive, uncatalogued (BAR/17.3).

Digital image courtesy of Bute Archive / Keith Hunter Photography. (All rights reserved)

During the early 1990s, the kitchen garden was remodelled by the celebrated garden designer Rosemary Verey (1918–2001); the centrepiece is a large glass pavilion acquired from the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival; the pavilion was later embellished with decorative finials and a Bute bee weathervane designed by Stewart Tod, the architect responsible for conservation works at Mount Stuart at the time. Other restoration work included the rebuilding of the eighteenth-century Hermitage or Folly, which had collapsed many years before. In 1990, the International Conifer Conservation programme was gifted approximately a hundred acres of woodland at Mount Stuart for the planting of endangered conifers and associated broad-leaf species from around the world. This initiative made Mount Stuart the first and largest of about a hundred sites throughout Britain and Ireland. 45 The papers of the 6th Marquess are currently file-listed, separating personal and family correspondence from gardens projects and correspondence relating to the trusts, committees and boards on which he sat. Future professional cataloguing of this collection will open up a much greater understanding and appreciation of the 6th Marquess as one of Scotland’s towering, cultural figures in the second half of the twentieth century.


Today, the Bute family and the Mount Stuart Trust continue to build on projects started by previous generations, to ensure the continued preservation and conservation of the holdings of the Trust. The concise summary provided here is intended to illustrate the calibre and extent of the Bute Archive. It may also serve as an introduction to an extraordinary and historically significant collection of papers and artefacts, which includes correspondence, inventories, maps, plans, designs, photographs, glass-negative plates, lantern slides and cine film. In 2021, the cataloguing of the outstanding fifty-plus per cent of the Bute Archive will begin, with the aim of making these collections more accessible to researchers, in order to present new stories in new ways to new audiences.

What emerges through a review of the Bute Archive and its history is the exemplary custodianship and stewardship of past generations of the Bute family with respect to the historic collection. Through the continuing support of the present generation and their ambition to enhance the collection and embark on new enterprises, it is now proving possible to reach a much wider audience by forging institutional partnerships, furthering academic research and developing the site of Mount Stuart itself into a dynamic place of learning and engagement not only for the scholarly community but for a much broader sphere, locally, nationally and internationally. The archive at Mount Stuart, among the most significant in its breadth and depth to feature in the Country House project, is a pivotal asset which brings us close to the past, offering in this instance insights and understanding of a family, their continuing modes of collecting and strategies for display in a range of historic properties for more than three hundred years.


  • Head and shoulders image of Lynsey Nairn holding an open book

    Originally from Ayrshire, my family and I moved to Bute – and another dairy farm – in 1997. I have been with the Mount Stuart Trust in various capacities since 1999; initially, in seasonal and temporary positions, before becoming a permanent member of staff in February 2004. I joined the collections department in April 2003 to undertake a database project to photograph the collections and continue to populate and update the existing collections database. Highlights include re-discovering the Burges cutlery set, which had not been seen for around 80 years, and the 4th Marquess of Bute’s wedding film from 1905. I have a BA in Management from Heriot Watt University and began the MLitt Archives and Records Management course by distance learning at Dundee University in 2009, qualifying as an archivist with a post-graduate diploma in 2012. I completed the Masters in 2014 and becoming archivist for the Bute family and Mount Stuart Trust in 2015. Each qualification has been completed while working full time. Since 2010, I have undertaken several visits throughout the UK, Europe, the USA and Singapore to accompany Bute collection and archive items to exhibitions. At Mount Stuart I have hosted and supervised student cataloguing placements from the Universities of Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling and the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and began a collaborative cataloguing programme with Aberystwyth University in 2017. I am currently leading the project to continue cataloguing of the internationally important Bute archive.


  1. A. McLean, ‘Around the Archives: The Mount Stuart Archives’, Scottish Archives (Scottish Records Association), vol. 8, 2002, p. 121.

  2. The 4th Marquess took a great interest in archive material and publishing documents from the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries and not only did he commission records to be transcribed and printed for private circulation, he too did some of the transcription work. Although the 4th Marquess was not involved in all of the transcription work, the documents were all transcribed and printed at his request. Printing took place between the 1930s until after the Marquess’s death, as late as the 1950s. An example being the Kirkcudbright town council records 1606-1658, which were transcribed by the 4th Marquess and Catherine Armet and printed by Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh and London, MCMLVIII (1958). Other examples include Minnigaff parish records, 1694-1750; Penninghame parish records 1696-1724; Canongate court book, 1569-1573; Rothesay town council records 1653-1688 and Kirkcudbright sheriff court deeds, 1623-1675. Printed copies of these transcribed documents can be found in the Blue Library at Mount Stuart.

  3. Catherine Armet’s sister, Helen, was also an archivist who worked with the City of Edinburgh archives; she too did transcription work on burgh records such as Register of the Burgesses of the Burgh of Canongate from 27 June 1622 to 25 September 1733, ed. Helen Armet. Edinburgh: Scottish Records Society, 1951. Reference for Helen Armet accessed 4 Nov 2020.

  4. Details pertaining to Catherine and Helen Armet kindly supplied by Andrew McLean, former Bute Family Archivist, now Head Curator and Deputy Director at the National Railway Museum, York, with thanks for his assistance: emails, September 2019 and October 2020.

  5. Much of the detail pertaining to Alexander Hunter has been kindly supplied by Andrew McLean, with thanks for his assistance.

  6. William Burges Report on Cardiff Castle, 1866, Bute Archive, WB/2.

  7. Staff 2003–present: Lynsey Nairn, collections assistant, qualified archivist from 2012, postgraduate in archive and records management, completed the Masters in 2014, became archivist in 2015; 2011–12: Barbara McLean, cataloguing archivist; 2011–12: Hildegarde Berwick, head of collections; 2013–18: Alice Martin, head of collections; 2014–16: Alexandra Healey, archive assistant, postgraduate diploma through Dundee University, qualified archivist; 2014–17: Karen Horsley, collections assistant; 2014–18: Margaret Kerr, administration assistant; 2015–19: Caitlin Blackwell, Bute fellow followed by research curator; 2018-2020: Charlotte Rostek, head of collections; 2019–present: Elizabeth Ingham, research and education assistant, postgraduate in information management and preservation through Glasgow University, newly, qualified archivist; 2019–present: Jessica Insley, collections curator.

  8. Anthony Crichton-Stuart, in Andrew McLean, ed., Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, Isle of Bute: Mount Stuart, 2001, p. 6.

  9. Walter Scott, A History of Scotland, London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1830, p. 219; see, accessed 5 September 2019.

  10. Crichton-Stuart, in McLean, ed. 2001, p. 6.

  11. Charter by Robert III. Witnesses: Walter, Bishop of St Andrews, Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen, Chancellor; David, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Atholl and Steward of Scotland; Robert, Duke of Albany, Earl of Fife and Menteith; Archibald, Earl of Douglas, Lord of Galloway; James Douglas, Lord of Dalkeith and Thomas Erskine; tag attached, seal missing, 11 November 1400, at Irvine, Bute Archive, BU/1/1/1.

  12. Deeds including a charter issued by Queen Anne to Sir James Stewart, sheriff of Bute, creating him 1st Earl of Bute, given at St James’s, 14 April 1703 and written to the Great Seal of Scotland at Edinburgh, 30 September 1703, ibid., BU/1/95, items not individually numbered.

  13. J. Davies, Cardiff and the Marquesses of Bute, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1981, p. 5.

  14. See James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton to the 2nd Earl of Bute, 2 November 1700, Bute Archive, BU/2/1/18. Hamilton sought Stewart’s assistance in preventing an act which would ‘destroy’ Scotland and points to a preliminary vote which was carried that day by one vote – ‘you see how much you have to answer by your abscence’.

  15. Deeds including that of creating the 2nd Earl of Bute lord lieutenant, given at St James’s, 19 August 1715, and sealed at Edinburgh on 31 August, ibid., BU/1/107.

  16. Document re ‘Miller’, ibid., BU/2/12/7.

  17. Ian Gow in McLean, ed., 2001, p. 9. The Mansion House stands today near the centre of Rothesay, opposite the Castle ruin, and acted as the Bute Estate office for many years until 2004 when the staff moved to Mount Stuart.

  18. Ronald Campbell to Lord Bute, 13 July 1716, Bute Archive, BU/2/13/7.

  19. Duke of Argyll to Lord Bute, 25 October 1718, ibid., BU/2/7. Later the Duke undertook the guardianship, alongside his younger brother, Lord Islay, of Stewart’s heir, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. Items not individually numbered.

  20. Francis Russell, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron and Collector, London: Merrion Press, 2004, pp. 179–80.

  21. Johannes Sebastian Muller, hand-drawn and hand-coloured plates, 1780s, Bute Archive, BU/124; printed proofs, BU/125.

  22. See the Peerage website, accessed 5 September 2019.

  23. See, accessed 21 July 2019.

  24. Discharge of the executors of Henry Graham, late Minister of Cumbrae, to Lord Bute, including mention of the death of Charlotte Jane Windsor, 18 June 1800, Bute Archive, BU/191/8/25.

  25. See, accessed 5 September 2019.

  26. Davies, 1981, p. 11.

  27. For references to the death of Lord Mountstuart in 1794 see Bute Archive, BU/185/10/4–6.

  28. Davies, 1981, p. 13.

  29. For Sophia, 2nd Marchioness’s death, funeral and guardianship of the 3rd Marquess, see Rosemary Hannah, The Grand Designer, Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2012, pp. 18-34.

  30. The Bute Cutlery Set, an example of a metalwork design by William Burges for the 3rd Marquess of Bute.

  31. An archive project was started in 2017 with the aim of mapping as many locations as possible which hold Bute material. An example here would be the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh. This archive holds a significant number of plans and designs from the office of Robert Rowand Anderson, including many specifically for the building of Mount Stuart.

  32. Travel journal of the 3rd Marquess of Bute aged 7, 1854, Bute Archive, BU/27.

  33. Shortly after McLean’s appointment as archivist in January 1997, he was asked whether a researcher, Rosemary Hannah (one of the guiding team in 1995–6), could undertake extensive work on the 3rd Marquess of Bute’s papers as she was undertaking a PhD based on the 3rd Marquess. These papers were catalogued to aid Hannah’s research, which was completed in 2010 and in addition to the PhD, Hannah wrote The Grand Designer, a new biography of the 3rd Marquess, which was published in 2012 by Birlinn, Edinburgh.

  34. The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA, is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public.

  35. Gavin Stamp, Robert Weir Schultz, Architect and his Work for the Marquesses of Bute: An Essay, London: Curwen Press, 1981, p. 33.

  36. Box-listing is when the contents of each box are listed to allow the collection to be more easily searched.

  37. See The Peerage,, accessed 1 November 2019.

  38. Dumfries Estate, box 147 (uncatalogued), Bute Archive.

  39. For further information on the Bute connections to Cardiff Castle see also, accessed 9 March 2020. See also Matthew Williams, Cardiff Castle and the Marquesses of Bute, Scala. 2020.

  40. Simon Green, Dumfries House: An Architectural Story, Edinburgh: Historic Environment Scotland, 2014, p. 217.

  41. For further information on Bute Fabrics see, accessed 26 February 2020.

  42. Maldwin Drummond, ed., John Bute, An Informal Portrait, Norwich: Michael Russell Publishing, 1996, p. 22.

  43. Peter Jones, John Crichton-Stuart, KBE, JP, MA, HonLLD(Glas), Hon FIStructE, HOnFRIAS, HonFCSD, FSAScot, FRSA, FCIM,, accessed 5 November 2019.[fn] From the death of his grandfather in 1947 until the death of his father in 1956 he was styled the Earl of Dumfries. John Bute sat on many trusts and boards including the Historic Buildings Council (now known as Historic Environment Scotland), the National Galleries of Scotland, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Museum Advisory Board. During the early 1980s Lord Bute was Chair of the National Museums of Scotland and instrumental in supporting the development of the Museum of Scotland, which opened in 1998.[fn]John Crichton-Stuart, 6th Marquess of Bute papers, Bute Archive, file 6/2/1 (uncatalogued), 1981.

  44. For further information on the properties in Charlotte Square, see A. M. Smith, Who Built Scotland, 2nd edn, Edinburgh: Historic Environment Scotland, 2018, pp. 185–96.

  45. Gardens information taken from the Gardens History Timeline at Mount Stuart, compiled in 2010 by Andrew McLean, head of collections and Graham Alcorn, living collections manager.



by Lynsey Nairn
20 November 2020
House Essay
All rights reserved
Cite as
Lynsey Nairn, "The Bute Archive and Family at Mount Stuart: Past and Present", Art and the Country House,