The long term management of an eighteenth century Banffshire estate
Management decisions taken on one 80,000 acre estate over the
course of a century, are examined to determine the extent to which
architectural and other environmental improvements corresponded to a
consistent strategic plan. Inconsistencies and departures are shown to be
largely those of innovation prompted by wider social and economic forces,
and to a lesser extent prompted by the personal whims and interests of
The specific strategic plan examined is that of the four generations
of the Earldom of Findlater in Northeast Scotland. The selected period
begins with relative impoverishment in 1707, and ends in 1793 with the
transformation of the estate and the lives of the more than 6,000 people
comprising it, into a prosperous condition through the creative force of
technological and social innovations which were on balance deliberately and
carefully imposed. Crucial decisions in this process were at first made by
visionary proprietors, but authority, was later delegated to professional
administrators and eventually to the larger community.
Decisions have been firmly placed within the context of the larger
world. Chapter two presents the evolution of national and regional
conditions favorable to a spirit of improvement. Chapter three analyzes the
estate's organization as though it were a contemporary corporate entity.
Chapter four explores changing corporate attitudes towards innovation
resulting in diversification of capital investment and in new architectural
forms. Chapter Five examines the impact of innovative land use policies
upon the 20,000 acres immediately surrounding the estate nucleus at Cullen.
Chapters six and seven provide a detailed stylistic analysis of Cullen House
as a corporate headquarters; the chapters are divided between the stylistic
objectives achieved over a long term and those attempted by the last Earl.
The effectiveness of the estate's long term management is
evaluated within the final chapter. Although it will be argued that a
strategic plan existed, it was not explicitly articulated as a document for
public scrutiny, nor was it a conventional planning process. Much of the
evidence of a strategic plan providing management continuity from one
generation to the next is apparent only as assumed personal confidence
between father and son, and husband and wife, unrecorded, but strongly
inferred by the details of the estate records.