Campbelton or Campbeltown (surveyed in 1865)


Campbeltown lies at the head of Campbeltown Loch, on the east coast of the Kintyre peninsula. Apparently built on the seat of the ancient kings of Dalriada, the modern town was founded by the 7th Earl of Argyll around 1607-9, and was named after his family. With fishing as its staple industry, Campbeltown grew quickly. The town was chartered as a burgh of barony in 1667, and in 1700 was made a royal burgh, giving it improved trading rights and civic entitlements. The burgh population in 1851 was measured at 6,880.

Town Planning

Campbeltown's early streetscape follows the most common model in Scottish town planning. Its long main thoroughfare runs from an elevated castle and parish church, down to a broad marketplace bordered by the town hall and commercial properties. Secondary streets and vennels run perpendicular to the main street, and a network of later streets surrounds the original centre.

Trade and Industry

The 7th Earl of Argyll licensed a distillery in Campbeltown on its foundation, and by the mid 1850s the whisky industry was one of the biggest employers in the area, with 25 distilleries operating in Campbeltown alone. Campbeltown is the principal market town in Kintyre, and in the mid-nineteenth century a weekly market operated in the town for the sale of grain and farm produce. Fishing generated significant associated employment in Campbeltown, with the population including fish curers, coopers and net makers. The town also contained various tradespersons vital to a thriving nineteenth-century burgh, including blacksmiths, cartwrights, masons, joiners and colliers.


Farming and fishing dominated the hinterland of Campbeltown. The Statistical Account of 1845 records that the number of agricultural workers in the parish, including farmers, cottars and servants, was 390. Fishing in the area had suffered briefly after 1830 when the British government ended the system that saw every fisherman paid a bounty for his catch, but with the boom in the herring industry that coincided with the removal of the bounty, Campbeltown, like the rest of Scotland, saw a reversal in the decline of its fleet. Again in the Statistical Account, it is noted: 'During the months of June, July and August last, 150 boats, with crews of four men in each, were employed fishing herrings'. The bulk of the catch, while processed and packed in Campeltown, was either sent to the Glasgow markets, or partially dried and exported.

Religious Life

In the 1840s Campbeltown had two parish churches, one in which sermons were preached in Gaelic, the other (the Castle Church) where English was the spoken medium. In addition to these, the town contained a Relief church, a Secession church, a small Independent meeting house, and an even smaller Roman Catholic chapel.


In the mid-nineteenth century there were more than a dozen schools in the parish of Campbeltown, of which six were within the burgh. In the fee-paying burgh and parochial school, English reading, writing and grammar, mathematics, arithmetic and book-keeping, geography, navigation, Latin, Greek and French were taught. The suburb of Dalintober contained two charitable schools, founded by a Miss Campbell, intended for the education of poor boys and girls, and several other schools in the parish were church-run. The town also contained branches of the Commercial Bank and the Clydesdale Bank, ten insurance offices, a customs house, and a jail.

Culture and Society

Cultural and social institutions in 1850s Campbeltown included two circulating libraries, four friendly societies and a total abstinence society. The principal social events of the year were the seven agricultural fairs, although a regatta was also held in September.