John Cabbell of Crossbasket

John Cabbell was born about 1810 and was noted later in life primarily as a businessman, an insurance agent of Glasgow. Later to become Justice of the Peace. He was amongst a handful of owners of Crossbasket who owned the Castle for an incredibly short period of time. In John’s case, only 44 months. His surname is derived from medieval English origin, meaning “a measure of rope.” Frustratingly, I have been unable to find a picture of Cabbell.

Several historical accounts misspell his name as “Caddell”. He should also not be confused with John Cabbell Breckinridge, an unrelated American politician who lived in the same era. Nor should he be confused with John Caddell, a Cockenzie merchant trading at the time of Cabbell’s birth.

John Cabbell formed an insurance company in Glasgow called “John Cabbell & Co”, operating at a tenement at the corner of Virginia and Wilson Street.

1848 – On 22nd May at the age of 38, John Cabbell won the auction for Crossbasket, buying the property for the asking price of exactly £13,000 from the Downie’s estate.

Immediately following his acquisition, Cabbell constructed the east lodge house, known as ‘Main Lodge’, in similar fashion to the castle. Located at the estate entrance on Stoneymeadow Road, the lodge dates from 1848. It housed the coachman and his family. The house was constructed to have its own little garden, with entrance pillars to the estate, forming the entrance of Stoneymeadow Road. The Lodge was sturdy, stone built and even had its own little battlements on the roof profile. Cabbells decision to build a lodge house, may have been due to seeing nearby Maxwell’s lodge house being used in a similar fashion. ‘Main lodge’ exists today, is well kept and is now a private home, detached from Crossbasket.

37 2010 East Lodge by J Brown

Main Lodge, Crossbasket, built by Cabbell in 1848. Photo by Jim Brown 2010

1849 – On 7th April, John Cabbell advertised letting out the fields of Crossbasket for anybody who wanted to farm them for the season. This suggests that Cabbell was without sufficient staff at Crossbasket to farm the land, or perhaps could not face seeing the previously tended Downie fields, becoming overgrown. I cant help but feel, he may have underestimated the work involved in keeping the estate as a working property, not finding time to manage the estate as well as run his controlling interests in Glasgow. His building of the lodge was Cabbell’s primary legacy on Crossbasket.

In September that year, scandal occurred close by. The Forrest’s who had bought the aforementioned Downie’s Bridge Meal Mill, only the year before were caught up in a murder investigation, when somebody was shot nearby on the Stoneymeadow Road. The full story can be read at the back of this book, in “Tales of Crossbasket”. Needless to say, Cabbell would not have been pleased at such unwanted press attention so close to his new home.

1851 – On 26th and 27th March 1851, a fancy bazar took place in Glasgow selling items of women’s work. Amongst the stall holders, was Mrs. Cabbell, of Crossbasket.

On 9th June 1851, the Forrest’s were selling the Mill stones at the Bridge Mill. Now, I can only assume that it would have been difficult to continue working mill business without those stones. It would appear that the murder story had taken its toll on this family. The mill was being vacated.

Despite Cabbell living there just a short time, we’re lucky enough that the census poll occurred in 1851, providing an insight into John’s family and who were also living at Crossbasket.

41 year old John Cabbell was living in Crossbasket Castle with wife Margaret, a 32 year old woman born in Jamaica. There were no children or anybody else there of the name Cabbell, but the census does record a further 9 people living in the building. Elizabeth Dewer (a relation) aged 23 visiting Crossbasket on that day, Agnes Buchanan aged 25 from East Kilbride also visiting, Anne D Burrchge a cousin from Jamaica and William Dewer aged 10, John’s nephew. Also there was William Martin a 23 year old servant, Margaret Doth a 25 year old servant, Isabella Suckie a 27 year old servant, and servants Mary Ross 34 and Margaret Irvine aged 36.

Despite being surrounded by all these people, 1851 was to be a year John Cabbell would wish to forget. On the 9th December 1851 his company, “John Cabbell & Co” became bankrupt in Glasgow. He was broke, along with partner Plummer Dewar. The bankruptcy invited creditors from afar to attend a meeting in the Star Hotel on 11th December and 2nd January 1852.

The London Standard had reported on the 3rd of December 1851, “the suspension of the extensive house of John Cabbell.” Another paper commented on “the suspension of the Colonial House of John Cabbell.” The report suggested the company had been interested in iron and railways and their debts ranged massively from estimates of £250,000 to the vast sum of £400,000.

1852 – On 23rd February 1852, Cabbell was forced to put the Crossbasket estate up for sale. He had only been there for about 44 months. We know he was still living at the time of selling Crossbasket, as he later went on to continue working in insurance in Glasgow, albeit as an employee. The advert in the Glasgow Herald describes Crossbasket, “The lands are well wooded and the River Calder runs through the property. The mansion house is large, in excellent order and commands excellent views. The house is all lighted by gas, made on the spot, with little expense and a constant supply of water is supplied to the highest part of the house. The lodge is new and substantial. There are three gardens (on terraces). The Kitchen Garden, The Fruit Garden and The Flower Garden with conservatory, greenhouse and store all in excellent order. There is a chipwood mill and corn mill (vacant) with substantial house for the miller available for rent at £120 per annum. The 3 pastures can be let at an aggregate of £30 per annum.”

The advert lends some weight that the terraced gardens must have been constructed by General Peter, Charles Mcintosh or Downie (unlikely to have been Cabbell in his 44 months). The most likely candidate for the construction of the terraced gardens in my opinion was General Peter, as mentioned previously in this book.

48 Gardens & steps April 15

Ruins of 3 Crossbasket Garden terraces in 2015, now a grand stairway

The Crossbasket auction date was set as 3rd March 1852 at 2pm, for the asking sum of £7,000, only just over half of what Cabbell had parted with just 44 months previously. It is believed that his bankruptcy forced him to sell for such a vastly reduced sum. It would indicate he or his creditors, were after a quick sale, regardless of the outcome.

On 3rd March, the auction never met the reserve price of £7,000. It was rescheduled for 22nd March, with the Crossbasket asking price reduced to £6,500, then worth about £3,000,000 of 2015 money. However, it’s worth noting that this particular sale was around 27 metric acres of land immediately surrounding the house, indicating Cabbell’s liquidators may have held on to larger areas outwith the immediate vicinity of Crossbasket. These other areas likely acquired by other land owners, e.g parts of Auchentibber coming to mind.

On 22nd March, again the reserve price was not met. It was rescheduled again for 31st March, reducing the asking price further to £6,000 and this time, well advertised.

On 31st March, again the reserve price was not met. It was further rescheduled for 21st April, reducing the asking price again to £5,500 and again advertised well. The successive and rapid nature of reducing the price so drastically, may gave an insight into his desperate predicament.

On 21st April 1852, Mr. Robert Clark bought Crossbasket from John Cabbell, being the successful bidder at the auction. It is undisclosed what he eventually paid.

1853 – In February, the creditors of John Cabbell received a dividend from the sale of Crossbasket, clearing some of his debt.

Cabbell continued to work as Secretary for the Scottish Provincial Fire and Life Assurance Company throughout the remaining 1850’s and 60’s. He regained some standing by continuing to be Justice of the Peace and supporting the “Deaf and Dumb Institution.”

1875 – Luck changed when a distant cousin Benjamin Bond Cabbell of Norfolk died and left £100,000 to John within his will, John being the nearest, surviving male in the family. Interestingly, Benjamin left just £2,000 for his own wife and £20,000 in trust for his only daughter, Georgina Sarah.

John Cabbell died a decade later.

On social media:

Jan McFarlane Brilliant loving these stories.😀

The Blantyre Project Thanks Jan. I’m especially proud of the work I put into writing about Crossbasket. I felt like i knew each owner personally by the time i had researched their life stories and association with the building.

Bruce Baldwin Brings a whole new meaning to the old places in Blantyre .. Crossbaskets and stoneymeddow rd and sydes brae were the rural delivery from Blantyre with Royal Mail out of the back of the main PO on Glasgow rd

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