Chance to see rare Victorian era artefacts at Selkirk exhibition
10th July, 2017
A new exhibition of rare and fascinating items collected in the Victorian era have gone on display at Bowhill, near Selkirk – home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch.
Entitled ‘Love and Respect in the Victorian Age’, it will showcase a range of around 70 items including silver, porcelain, jewellery, books and manuscripts, paintings and miniatures.
Objects of immense value mingle with the practical and domestic to tell the story of Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch and 7th Duke of Queensberry and his wife, Charlotte-Anne, whose marriage in 1829 lasted until his death over half a century later. As he neared the end of his life, he reflected to his ‘dearest Char’, that, ‘I would never have loved you so much had I not respected you more.’
As well as being the principle builders of Bowhill they were huge collectors of all forms of art. Highlights include the beautiful Mayflower Tiara – a diamond, gold and silver tiara made in the 1870s, which has been worn by many of the family’s brides on their wedding days. The antique headpiece can be disassembled to form nine brooches.
On show will be a silver-gilt plate, one of 12 engraved with the Parable of the Prodigal Son which dates from 1568, an incredibly rare survivor from Elizabeth I’s reign, and one of the ravishing, turquoise blue, dinner plates commissioned by Louis XV in 1751 from the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory.
Curator Scott Macdonald, Buccleuch’s Head of Collections and Conservation, said: “While some of the items showcased have been seen in a limited fashion in the various Buccleuch homes or on loan to exhibitions, many such as the exquisite Mayflower Tiara and diamond earrings have never been seen by the public at large.
“A special treat will be the opportunity to see close up details on the immense solid silver candelabrum made in 1829 by Robert Garrard which tells the story of the Scotts of Buccleuch in silver figures and which weighs in at an astonishing 12 stone 4lbs.”
While the Duke of Buccleuch expects visitors to be dazzled by some of the objects on display, he is also hoping they will have a chance to think about the lives of the two principle characters, how they lived, what they did to contribute to society and who they knew.
He said: “There are items that are deeply poignant, such as the Duke’s travel journal written in 1839 when the couple’s children contracted measles while they were in Naples and Francis, their youngest son, died. However, there are also items displaying a sense of humor. My particular favourite is the leather bound book recording the changing weights of family members and house visitors over the decades, often with wry comments about the clothing worn – ‘a heavy overcoat’ or ‘hunting boots’ by way of excuse.”
The family’s links with Queen Victoria are also highlighted, the Visitors Book with her and Prince Albert’s signatures in 1842, and letters from the Queen. An enchanting gold bracelet contains Victoria’s portrait and is engraved with an affectionate message reaffirming the closeness of the ties.
“It has been a wonderful revelation to research and tell the story of the two people who had the greatest influence on the creation of Bowhill and its collections. Theirs is a story that has never been told but they were archetypal Victorians, very much of their time, who achieved a great deal as a partnership of equals.”
The exhibition is the first to be presented in Bowhill’s newly completed exhibition room, fully equipped with the latest museum display and lighting technology.
The exhibition is open at Bowhill House, Selkirk, every day in July and August from 11am-4pm; and in September from Friday to Monday, 11am-4pm. Entry costs £6 or £4 if purchased with a House ticket. Entry to Estate and exhibition only costs £6 (£5 concession).