Miss Campbell’s role in bringing the English to Ajaccio

Anglican Church AjaccioIt was after having discovered the Côte d’Azur during the XIX century, that the British landed in Ajaccio in 1860. Miss Thomasina Mary-Ann-Elisa Campbell, a rich rentier, had been living in Moniack Castle in Scotland until 1867 – she visited Corsica from north to south and of course, fell in love with the island, and decided she was going to live here.
In 1868, she settled in the ‘Hotel de France’ in Ajaccio. Her next move was to start writing about the island: ‘Notes on the island of Corsica’ – dedicated to those in search of good health and pleasure, which she had printed by Pompéani. Thus, it was thanks to her and the widespread propaganda concerning her notes, that the English were to discover the island.
In 1873, she bought land very near the ‘Casone’, and had a sumptuous dwelling of 1800m2 built in cut stone: ‘La villa des Paons’ – which later would become ‘La tour d’Albion’, within which she would live alternating over a period of around twelve years, in company of her friends and associates Bernard Bradshaw (English) and Strasser-Ensté (German). This controversial and inseparable trio, would nourish themselves with gossip relating to trials, miscellaneous news items, and chronicles from daily life in Ajaccio. Needless to say, it soon became a fashionable seaside resort, with splendid hotels, villas and a casino. Constantly concerned about the well-being of her compatriots, Miss Campbell decided to buy 750m2 of land from Ajaccio in 1874, situated in the ‘Quartier des Etrangers’ (literally, the foreigners district), and build an Anglican Church in homemade granite – the church opened in 1878.
More land was to be bought in 1883 from Count Multedo, a large amount, which Bradshaw would inherit after her death, five years later. Strasser-Ensté then built the luxurious Cyrnos Palace Hotel there, and welcomed the first clients in December 1896.
Finally, in June 1912, the town of Ajaccio officially declared it as a ‘climatic resort’.
Several names at that time were associated with Miss Campbell – ‘Zia Tumasgina’, the ‘Queen Thomasina’ or even ‘the Campbell’ .. depending on how one wished to describe her regular interferences with local affairs.
On September 9th, 1888 in Geneva, Miss Campbell suddenly died. Bernard Bradshaw inherited all her goods/assets. And in 1906, he decided to leave his fortune to Strasser-Ensté, who immediately put a large part to public auction, notably the Tour Albion, that will be bought by François Coty in order to create a school of commerce.
Source text: Corsica Mea ©
Image: OT d’Ajaccio ©

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