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Issue 23 - Protecting history

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 23
October 2005


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Protecting history

Charles Douglas visits Bowhill, near Selkirk, the Scottish Borders home of the Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry.

AS the owner of no less than four spectacular and historic houses, the 9th Duke of Buccleuch and 11th Duke of Queensberry, must, on occasion, become confused as to where he is.

Each year he divides his time between Boughton, known as ‘the English Versailles,’ in Northamptonshire; Drumlanrig Castle, in the rolling hills of Dumfriesshire, and Bowhill, near Selkirk.

At least he does not have to concern himself overmuch with his fourth estate, Dalkeith Palace, which was modeled on William of Orange’s palace in Holland, and is leased to the University of Wisconsin USA as a European study centre.

Now there are those who might envy his grace for his portfolio of possessions, but he remains profoundly stoical on the subject of his great inheritance.

In the final analysis, he says, he is only the lifetime custodian of his properties. All of them have, at some stage, played a pivotal role in the story of his family and therefore, the history of Britain, and he sees it as his duty to preserve them for the good of the nation. Under such circumstances, the repair and maintenance costs might be considered far from enviable.

The Scotts of Buccleuch have their origins in Galloway, but in the 13th century appeared in Yarrow, Eskdale and Liddesdale where the ruins of their fortifications at Newark, Branxholm, Hermitage and Langholm bear testimony to their presence.

However, it was one of their number, Walter Scott, who, in 1596, brought them to prominence, when he captained a daring raid to rescue William Armstrong, known as ‘Kinmount Willie,’ a Dumfriesshire Moss Trooper held prisoner at Carlisle Castle.

Queen Elizabeth I of England was outraged at his audacity but when she later confronted him, he won her over by responding, “What is it that man dare not to do?” In 1606, this Walter Scott became Lord Scott of Buccleuch. Thirteen years later, his son, having commanded the British army in the Netherlands, was made Earl of Buccleuch, and it was his granddaughter Anna who married the darkly handsome James Stuart, Duke of Monmouth, natural son of King Charles I.

To celebrate the union, Monmouth was created Duke of Buccleuch, and his wife, Duchess of Buccleuch in her own right.

In 1685, when Monmouth was executed following his unsuccessful uprising against his uncle, James VII and II, the Duchess retained her lands and titles which were passed on to her descendants.

Thirty five years after her death, in 1732, her great-great-grandson Henry, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, united the Scotts with the wealthy English house of Montagu of Boughton. In 1810, the death of the 4th Duke of Queensberry brought him the estates and titles of the Douglases of Drumlanrig, thus making him the largest private landowner in Britain.

The Bowhill estate has been owned by the Scott family since the 12th century, with a brief interlude between 1690 and 1745, when it was occupied by the Murrays.

In 1812, the architect William Atkinson built a block onto the 18th century house consisting of the gallery hall, the drawing room and the morning room. In the upper gallery are three tapestries woven in Mortlake in 1670 from Mantegna’s cartoons in Hampton Court. The gallery hall features several striking portraits by Sir Peter Lely.

A notable feature in the Dalkeith Room is the four poster bed from Dalkeith Palace which was used by General Monk while planning the Restoration of the British Monarchy during the period of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

His portrait here is attributed to William Dobson.

There is also an interesting collection of 19th century Scottish landscapes by the Reverend Thomson of Duddingston.

The Monmouth Room is the work of the architect David Bryce, and dates from the late 1870s. It was designed as a Chapel, but never consecrated, and is now a focal point for relics of the Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch.

Monmouth’s full length portrait wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter by Sir Peter Lely faces the door, and hangs beside a portrait of his wife with their two sons. Relics include Monmouth’s cradle, his saddlery and harness, and the shirt in which he was executed.

In the Italian Room are Venetian scenes by Francesco Guardi, and the interior of the Pantheon in Rome by Pannini. A 19th century musical automaton, with monkey musicians and conjuror stands on a Louis XIV marquetry writing desk.

There is a fine mahogany longcase clock made by John Smith of Pittenweem c.1780 which plays eight different Scottish airs every 24 hours.

In the dining room are some magnificent paintings by Thomas Gainsborough including a portrait of the 4th Duke as a youngster, painted as the ‘Pink Boy,’ in response to his rival Sir Joshua Reynold’s celebrated Blue Boy. Reynold’s portraits of the Duke’s sister, mother and aunt also feature a magnificent picture by Canaletto depicts Whitehall in London, and shows Montagu House and Downing Street looking over the River Thames to St Paul’s Cathedral.

The drawing room is of an unusual shape with two fireplaces, and here there are Boulle cabinets containing parts of Meissen dinner and dessert services. Sir Joshua Reynold’s portrait of Elizabeth Montagu, Duchess of Buccleuch, hangs in an alcove by the entrance door.

More spectacular family portraits are to be found in the library before entering the study, which is dominated by Sir Henry Raeburn’s portrait of the novelist Sir Walter Scott against a background of Hernitage Castle and the Liddesdale hills beyond.

In 1805, Sir Walter Scott dedicated his great work The Lay of the Last Minstrel to Charles, Earl of Dalkeith and the original manuscript now takes pride of place in this room.

Our tour ends with the Victorian wing and boudoir, and the Victorian corridors and Miniature Room, the latter featuring the largest and finest collection of portrait miniatures in the world.

With such a dazzling wealth of treasures, visitors are often speechless when they step out into the open amid expansive views of the surrounding countryside. Children love to come here.

In the adjoining country park is an adventure woodland play area, a Victorian kitchen, an audiovisual presentation, a gift shop, and a tearoom/restaurant.

Apopular innovation are the Sotheby’s ‘Works of Art’ courses held in the house, and there is a small theatre, catering for local entertainment.

House open
June, Thursday and Sunday 13:00 to 16:00;
July, from 1st to 31, 13:00 to 17:00;
August, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 13:00 to 16:00.

The Country Park is open from Easter to end August, but opening times vary.
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1750 222 04
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