International Museum Day: 30 Objects – The Edinburgh Tapestry Company

17 May 2017

For International Museum Day on 18 May our Head of Collections, Alice, has chosen her top 30 objects from Mount Stuart’s Collections which we’ll bring to you throughout the Month. Ranging from books, furniture, silver-work, paintings and documentation from hundreds of years of Stuart family life, this barely scratches the surface of our Collections so make sure to plan your visit and experience it for yourself!

The two great tapestries which adorn the walls of the Marble Hall at Mount Stuart and were produced by the Edinburgh Tapestry Company in Corstorphine, established by the 4th Marquess of Bute in 1912. These two great works were both designed by William Skeoch Cumming and the finished tapestries contain a sprig of hawthorn – Skeoch meaning hawthorn in Gaelic.

The first tapestry to be produced depicts a hunting scene in the Scottish Highlands and is entitled ‘The Lord of the Hunt’. Work had begun on this tapestry in 1912 but was halted during the First World War. Two of the master weavers, John Glassbrook and Gordon Berry were both killed in the war and when their apprentices resumed work on the tapestry in 1919 their initials and dates of death were woven into the lower border with the weaver’s bobbin and shears symbolically cutting the thread of life.

The tapestry was eventually completed in 1928 and officially unveiled in its current home by Lady Jean Crichton-Stuart, daughter of the 4th Marquess, on the eve of her wedding to James Bertie which took place in the Marble Chapel in that year.

The tapestry was carefully researched and contains a wealth of detail from a little mouse to the dead stag lain in front of the Lord of the Hunt himself mounted on a dun coloured garron. In the border interspersed with fruit and foliage, are more than one hundred varieties of native birds. Woven in the top border with silk and gold are the Bute arms topped with Lord Bute’s coronet.

We also have the original cartoons and photographs of the staff of The Edinburgh Tapestry Company serving as models for the characters and many of the figures share the same facial features.