James Ewing of Strathleven

7th Dec 1775 - 29th Nov 1853

Claimant or beneficiary


Glasgow banker and West India merchant, head of the firm of J. Ewing & Co. Son of Walter Ewing Maclae (d. 1814). Brother of Humphrey Ewing Maclae (q.v.). He has a recent entry in the ODNB as 'West India merchant, slave owner and civic leader.'

  1. Born Glasgow 07/12/1775. Attended Glasgow High School, received an honorary DCL [sic] from University of Glasgow 1835. He established the Provident Savings Bank in Glasgow in 1815, was a founder of the Royal Exchange of Glasgow, was Chairman of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce 1818-1819. MP (Independent, later Liberal) for Glasgow 1832-4. Lord Provost of Glasgow 1816. Married Jane Crawford 1836, (dsp?). 'A major mercantile figure in Glasgow, who was apparently disliked by some because of his connection with slaves in the West Indies'. Purchased the Levenside or Strathleven estate for £110,000. Left £262,524 [though see no. 4 below].

  2. '. . .one of the founders of Glasgow's new West Indian trade, and whose town mansion stood amid a rookery at the head of Queen Street, on the site of the present Queen Street Railway Station. James Ewing was not only the owner of great estates in Jamaica, but an LL.D. of Glasgow University, Lord Provost in 1831, and elected M.P. for the city in the first parliament after the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832. He was the author of a "History of the Merchants' House," and the Ewing silver medal for Greek which he endowed is still among the most coveted prizes in Glasgow High School. He purchased Strathleven estate, then known as Levenside, in 1836, and in the same year married a young and beautiful woman. Miss Crawford of Port-Glasgow. After his death in 1853 this lady remained, as a life-renter, in possession of the estate for nearly half a century.' 'He was a strong supporter of free trade and contributed to the successful campaign for the ending of the East India Company's monopoly of trade to the Far East, as a result of which the first Glasgow ship reached Calcutta in 1816.'

  3. The portrait of Ewing is from the Glasgow Story, reproduced from the Mitchell Library, GC 332.61 BEW.

  4. Anthony Cooke shows James Ewing of Strathleven, Dunbartonshire and George Street Glasgow leaving £281,296, including a holding of £110,700 in Bank of Scotland; £115,000 (although some assets 'dependent on the valuation of subjects in the West Indies') co-partnership in James Ewing, Glasgow West India merchants; £8031 in the Forth and Clyde Canal; £10450 in Bank of England stock; debts from the Crum family £14,500. He made charitable bequests of £49,200.


In some sources he is confused with James Ewing (1784-1852), an East India Company man who was briefly MP for Wareham; Mullen, Stephen. "Ewing, James (1775–1853), West India merchant, slave owner, and civic leader." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 6 Oct. 2016; Accessed 17 Jan. 2020. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-53100.

  1. William D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? A biographical dictionary of British wealth-holders Volume Two 1840-1859 MS reference 1854/31. The comment about unpopularity may be sourced from Gentleman's Magazine 1854 I p. 203.

  2. George Eyre-Todd, Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909. A biographical dictionary of nearly five hundred living Glasgow citizens and of notable citizens who have died since 1st January, 1907 (Glasgow, Gowans & Gray, 1909). Digital edn.

  3. The Glasgow Story

  4. Anthony Cooke, 'An elite revisited: Glasgow West India merchants, 1783-1877', Journal of Scottish Historical Studies 32.2 2012 pp. 127-165, at p.158, SC 65/34/7/183, 21/02/1854.


Further Information

Name in compensation records
James Ewing
Jane Crawford
Wealth at death
Glasgow High School
West India merchant
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (6)

£2,671 15s 7d
Awardee (Assignee)
£1,204 2s 11d
Awardee (Judgement creditor)
£642 2s 2d
£2,929 7s 11d
Unsuccessful claimant
£2,514 4s 1d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£2,296 4s 1d

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1832 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (4)

Senior partner
James Ewing & Co.
West India merchant  
Railway Investment
Forth and Clyde Junction [1846169]  
Railway Investment
Caledonian and Dumbartonshire Junction [184666]  
Founder shareholder

Historical (2)

View of the Merchants House of Glasgow [founded on a Sketch by J. Ewing]; containing historical notices of its origin, constitution and property, and of the charitable foundations which it... 1866 
Memoir of J. Ewing formerly Lord Provost of Glasgow. With a series of letters written while on a tour in Italy. Switzerland,... 1866 

Physical (2)

Country house
Castle House [Built] 
description →
Holiday house in Dunoon, built by James Ewing c. 1824 and now a museum....
Strathleven [Purchased] 
description →
Strathleven, formerly Levenside, in Dunbartonshire, an estate purchased in 1830 and subsequently developed and expanded by James Ewing, especially through the purchase of Dumbarton Muir in 1841....
notes →
Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, Strathleven House: Building Conservation Plan April 1997...

Political (1)

election →
Wareham Dorset
1830 - 1831
election →
Glasgow Lanark
1832 - 1835

Relationships (4)

Uncle → Nephew
Notes →
Also business...
Son → Father

Addresses (2)

Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Central Scotland, Scotland
Strathleven Estate, Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire, Central Scotland, Scotland