Kames Estate and Castle: Bannatynes and later owners.

Jess Sandeman.

Transactions of the Buteshire Natural History Society Vol.25, 2000.

The Hamilton era

In 1810 the Estate was sold to James Hamilton, another Edinburgh advocate. His wide Harriet's portrait by Raeburn hands in the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.lii Harriet was the youngest of five daughters of Agathe Camille de Royer and Richard Wynne and she had a most unusual upbringing. The family spent most of their time touring the continent accompanied by a secretary, a tutor, a dancing master, drawing master and servants including a drunken cook! While they were in Florence in 1796, Napoleon invaded Italy, and abandoning his entourage, Wynne rushed to Leghorn with his family and boarded the Inconstant proposed to Betsey, the second oldest daughter, and they were married 48 hours later. The wedding was stage-managed by the notorious Emma, Lady Hamilton.

Betsey kept a diary, which reveals a lot of details about Harriet Hamilton. Once, after visiting Skipness, Betsey and her sisters sailed to Ettrick Bay, and walked to "Chateau Kaimes." She was "much pleased with the situation, as it is entirely surrounded by trees, and is really a very pretty place." The Rothesay Gentry were invited to the Castle for a Turtle Feast – drinking – and dancing to follow!liii

Like his predecessors, James Hamilton was "asset rich, not liquid rich" and was soon in financial trouble. He decided that the farm was not paying its way and instructed George Nelson, his factor to sell off most of the stock and equipment. On 28th April 1815 there was a Public Roup of 100 sheep, 30 cows, 4 bulls, 10 horses, 12 pigs etc. The prices paid were poor. James Allan of Lenimolloch got a black mare for £8.10s while Captain Campbell only paid £4.7s. for 2 sheep and 2 lambs.liv The following year a full statement of the acreage and estimated annual value of the land and Estate of Kames was drawn up for his creditors, as detailed below.lv


Acreage (Scots)

Annual Valuation (£ s d)

North St Colmac



Muirtown of Edinbeg



Hilltown of Wester Kames










Old Castle of Kames



Tree House



Kames Castle and No.1 of Crieslagmorie



Acholter & No.12 of Bannatyne Mains



Part of Aucholter (old camp)






Part of Crieslagmorie



Port Bannatyne Mains and Parks



Muir Parks












Point House



Craigagowal and Loch Guy



Pasture & raodes near Port Bannatyne



The total estimated rates & value in 1816 were £55,799.

There is little difference in the 1817 rentals,lvi but two items of interest were noted. Drumachony was to get a reduced rent for repairing the two houses, and North St. Colmac was also to be compensated by a rent reduction on account of the damage to his fields caused when channels were dug to drain water out of the slate quarry. (These channels, and the ravines created as a result by flood water running down the fields, can still be seen). The estate continued to shrink, and by 1822 the total assessed rentals was down to £45,141.1s.5d.lvii

Also In 1816 a complete inventory was taken of all household furnishings and effects. The full list is in the Lochgilphead archiveslviii and makes fascinating reading. The North Bedroom, for example, must have been very overcrowded – it contained a mahogany bedstead with a hair mattress, a straw mattress and a feather bed, a binding blanket, three blankets, a counterpane and bed steps. There were also six mahogany chairs with covers, three settees, an escotoir, two mahogany tables two bedtables, two washstands with basins and jugs, a carpet and a rug. There is no mention of sheets in any of the silver candlesticks and six silver plated snuffers, while the butler, as well as glasses and crystal condiment sets, had six wine decanters and also six cut crystal decanters in his pantry. In the drawing room there seemed to be quite a clutter of furniture, settees etc., and a piano stool, but no piano in any of the rooms. Perhaps it had been sold at an earlier date, although there is no record in the archives of any sale of household effects.

In 1834 the second Marquess decided to have a church built for the Church of Scotland worshippers in North Bute, in particular for Gaelic speakers, and feued the land at Cnoc an Rath (Croc-an-Raer) from Hamilton. Hamilton charged him £5 per annum instead of the usual 5/- but as he was in the hands of his creditors at that time, the feu charter was drawn up in their names.lix Until 1886 the service at noon was in English and at 1.30 p.m. in Gaelic.

It was said that there were no Roman Catholics on the island at that time except Mrs Harriet Hamilton and her personal maid. A small chapel was built for them at the red-sandstone villa Stella Maris Shore Road, Port Bannatyne. It is thought that the date of the building of Stella Maris was 1849, but as that was the year of Hamilton's death it is unclear whether it was built with his approval or not. Rev. A S. Borrowman wrote: "There are a few tales told about the building of Stella Maris (for no written record exists) but from local, verbal tradition we can piece together a feasible love story."lx

When James Hamilton died in 1849 he was buried according to his express wishes, alone, in the plot of ground he had specially reserved for this purpose, in the wooded ground opposite Croc-an-Raer cemetery gate. His careful preparations and insistence on being buried alone, gives rise to the suspicion that he was bowed down with the burden of debt, and probably blamed Harriet's extravagant life style for some of the trouble. The family continued living at Kames for a further 5 years but there is no evidence that they had to reduce their staff or economise in any other way.