John Campbell (October 10, 1680 – October 4, 1743), 2nd Duke of Argyll, the statesman and army officer who became one of the chief proponents of the union between Scotland and England in 1707. He gained distinction fighting under the Duke of Marlborough on the continent during the Spanish War of Succession and a few years later in 1711 was appointed the governor of Minorca. In 1715, as commander of the British forces in Scotland, he managed to quell the Jacobite rebellion, in which the “Old Pretender” James Edward Stuart attempted to regain the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland for the exiled Stuarts, with very little bloodshed. He was made a field marshal in 1736 but, only a few years later, after strenuously opposing a bill to penalise the city of Edinburgh over the Porteous riots, resigned from office. Retirement afforded him plenty of opportunity to pursue other interests. He had owned a small field in the area, which is where he had built his townhouse, now the site of the London Palladium, since at least 1706. He gradually started acquiring the land around the house as part of a speculative building project and, having purchased some neighbouring land from Benjamin Pollen, vacated his home to make way for the development of a small freehold estate. An agreement between the duke, his carpenter Roger Morris and architect James Gibbs, dating to the 1730s, outlines their intention to “build on the ground of the said Duke…one New Street of dwelling Houses to be called Argyll Street.” As well as Argyll Street, the development included Little Argyll Street and terraces at the junction of the south end of Argyll Street and Great Marlborough Street which became known as Argyll Place and was later demolished to allow Great Marlborough Street to connect with Regent Street. Now something of a forlorn backwater, Dan Cruickshank in Soho contrasts the street’s illustrious beginnings: “Argyll Street in particular must have been a Palladian paradise and, with its solemn and precisely proportioned uniform elevations, a statement about how the city ought to look. It must also have been something of a political statement. Like most Palladians, Argyll was a Whig, a Protestant and a supporter of the Hanoverian regime and parliamentary (as opposed to French absolute) monarchy. These convictions gave him a keen sense of British national pride and identity that the stately, restrained and ordered architecture of the street was no doubt intended to express.” The duke is buried in Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.
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