J. & W. Campbell & Co.

J. & W. Campbell & Co., Warehousemen, Ingram Street. —

    The annals of mercantile effort and activity in Glasgow present no more striking example at any period, past or present, of well-directed, energies and commercial skill combining their influences in the development of a gigantic business than that afforded, by the records and achievements of the great representative firm whose title heads this sketch. The distinguished house of Messrs. J. & W. Campbell & Co. dates its noteworthy history from the year 1817, when it was founded in the Saltmarket, that famous trade thoroughfare of old Glasgow, by the brothers James — afterwards Sir James — and William Campbell. From these two principals it took the title it has since retained, and under their joint pilotage it steered a course of unerring rectitude and ever-increasing import towards the prosperity which it has long since attained. The spirit of enterprise and progressive energy which has always prevailed in the councils of this firm is still put forth in full and enhanced vigour by the proprietary of to-day, who have inherited in a marked measure all those sterling business attributes and qualifications which placed the founders of the house among the first British merchants of their time.

    From the Saltmarket the Messrs. Campbell transferred their continuously growing business to Candleriggs, where it passed through an intermediary period of development, and evinced in many ways signs and indications of a great destiny and future fame. Eventually, in 1856, the firm took possession of their present premises in Ingram Street, which were built with a particular view to the requirements of their trade, and very largely in accordance with the ideas and suggestions of the late Sir James Campbell, then head of the house.

    This warehouse, it is not too much to affirm, has no superior in Great Britain to-day in any point of commodiousness or adaptability to the purposes of a vast wholesale “dry-goods” business ; and although the greater portion of it is more than thirty years old, it is in no single respect behind the modem standard — a circumstance which speaks for the far-seeing judgment brought to bear upon its planning and construction. The warehouse is one of the best examples in the West of Scotland of that peculiarly massive and imposing architectural style known as the Scottish Baronial, and has a noble facade along the stately thoroughfare of Ingram Street, with a scarcely less impressive frontage on Brunswick Street. At the corner of these two thoroughfares the building presents a singularly striking appearance, with its unique angular turret and its long perspectives of square massive windows and pointed dormer projections ; and there is little room for surprise that this establishment is recognised as one of the first of the “sights to be seen” in that portion of Glasgow in which it is such a prominent feature.

    Internally, no detail of arrangement or appointment has been overlooked ; and on every hand there are evidences of the masterly intelligence with which all available facilities afforded by a structure of quite exceptional convenience have been turned to the best account. Anything like a detailed survey of this, one of the first of Glasgow’s colossal warehouses, is quite beyond the capacity of a limited and necessarily succinct sketch ; but a passing glance at the numerous departments is here desirable, and such may be briefly undertaken.

    Entering the establishment from Ingram Street, access is gained to the commodious counting-house, where a busy army of clerical employees testify by their constant activity and industry to the magnitude of their routine duties evolved from the workings of an immense trade. Descending to the basement, which flat rises well above the street level and is remarkable for its excellent light, we find the departments for such heavier classes of goods, as flannels and blankets, shirtings, blind materials, waterproof fabrics, moleskins, cotton linings, grey cottons, towellings and sackings, carpets and floorcloths — each of which sections comprises a stock complete in its every feature and representative of the best national products of its kind.

    The first floor is notable as containing the department in which perhaps the greatest celebrity of this house has found its origin — that for woollen cloths, embracing every variety of the tweeds of Scotland and England, and including the productions of most of the first manufactories of the United Kingdom in textiles of this nature. These goods are stocked and shown in a saleroom of large dimensions and splendid light ; and elsewhere throughout the remainder of this floor are conveniently arranged the departments for cotton damasks, red twills, prints and cretonnes, all kinds of plain and fancy hosiery, Irish linens, calicoes, white shirtings, napery, slops, yarns, gloves, and all those various descriptions of made-up shirts in cotton, wool goods, and unions, in the production of which Glasgow especially has developed an industry of much importance and magnitude.

    The magnificent second floor of the warehouse, reached by way of a broad and handsome staircase, cannot well be described by any single word or term. It is something more than a showroom, something more even than a hall ; but its proportions are noble, its space exceptional, and its arrangement remarkable for excellence even in this headquarters of order, system, and organisation. The stock here is large and comprehensive, and represents prominently such leading lines of cloths as coatings and jacketings, ulster materials, wool tartans, &c., together with all piece goods in wool, cotton, and union shirtings, dress goods of home and foreign make, skirtings, collars and scarfs, handkerchiefs, &c., &c. Here also is the ready-made clothing department, containing a stock of considerable size and variety, and developing every day an increased importance and success which amply justify the enterprise which prompted the firm to inaugurate this additional feature of their establishment a few years ago.

    The third and top floor has a most extensive and attractive stock of muslin and lace curtains, another of ladies' underclothing ; and others, no less noteworthy, of silks and satins, ribbons, laces, flowers, fancy goods, smallwares, fans, bags, umbrellas, stays, braces, mantles, millinery, and shawls.

    The above enumeration, brief as it obviously and necessarily is, and quite inadequate as a resume of one of the largest and most inclusive stocks of its kind in Great Britain, may, nevertheless, convey some slight indication of the comprehensive scope of Messrs. Campbell’s mercantile undertakings, and afford some clue to the magnitude and representative character of a wholesale trade whose markets are those of the world.

    In public and in private life, as merchants and citizens alike, the deeds and principles of the two estimable founders of this famous house were always such as to command the highest admiration and respect. Few men, indeed, have accomplished greater things, or rendered services more noble, unostentatious, and munificent in the cause of real philanthropy and true benevolence ; and the memory of their disinterested work, and of their untiring efforts to aid the general welfare of the whole community, will live for many a year in the hearts of Glaswegians. James Campbell was elected a member of the Glasgow Town Council in 1831, and remained connected with it continuously until 1843. In that year he completed the term of his Lord Provostship, to which high office he had been elected in 1840. Being Lord Provost of Glasgow during the natal year of the Prince of Wales (1842), Mr. Campbell was knighted in commemoration of that occasion. In 1817 he purchased the fine estate of Stracathro, and was thenceforward known as Sir James Campbell of Stracathro. He died on September 10th, 1876, in his eighty-seventh year, thus closing a long life the singleness of purpose and great usefulness of which it would be difficult to over-praise or over-estimate.

    Sir James Campbell was father of the present Mr. James A. Campbell, M.P., and of Mr. Henry Campbell-Bannerman, M.P., both of whom were for a considerable time connected with the business. The other founder of the firm, Mr. William Campbell of Tullichewan, brother of Sir James, was father of the present head of the house, Mr. James Campbell of Tullichewan, a gentleman who has won the respect and confidence of the whole commercial community and his employees. With him are associated, as partners, Messrs. William A. Campbell and Matthew Pearce Campbell, his nephews, and Mr. Adair Campbell, his son. These gentlemen have been connected with the house for some time, and compose, with their eminent senior, a proprietary well qualified to maintain the prestige, prosperity, and every honourable tradition of the firm.

    Messrs. J. & W. Campbell & Co. employ between five and six hundred hands in their warehouse and offices. Their status as a firm to-day offers yet another striking illustration of the good fruit borne by the remarkable native enterprise and business capacity that have at all times flourished so well in Glasgow’s mercantile system ; and the substantial and exceptional success achieved by the house is creditable alike to the always honourable spirit governing its operations, and to the great arm of the national commerce in which it is unquestionably a factor of the first importance.

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