International Museum Day: 30 Objects – the Victorian Smart House

09 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!

In the 1880s construction started on a grand scale on the Island of Bute when one of the most creative and wealthy men of his generation, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, began redesigning the family seat after a fire all but destroyed the previous structure. The building of Mount Stuart was a massive logistical effort including the building of a railway to deliver materials and the creation of a workers village to include schools, hospitals, bathhouses and workers homes with running water.

The family and creators of the fabulous gothic revival structure that is Mount Stuart were farsighted enough to ensure that all the detailed plans for its construction where carefully preserved in the Archive.  They also kept a photographic record of its construction and which is especially illuminating as the workers village has vanished back into what is now the front lawn and the railway that hugged the shoreline is now all but invisible.

A true Victorian smart-house the steel and concrete substructure was lovingly veiled beneath the finest marbles and carved surfaces all cloaking the truly modern aspects of the building. Mount Stuart was first private home in Scotland to be purpose-built with electricity in mind and the house also has a state of the art heating and plumbing system not seen outside the royal palaces. Indeed its designer and engineer Wilson Weatherley Phipson also completed the installation of a system at the Royal Albert Hall for Queen Victoria and would later fit out Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch the Bute’s Welsh properties.

Seen here is a beautiful architectural drawing by Mount Stuart’s main architect Robert Rowand Anderson for the elevation and cross sections plans for the grand marble chapel and the crypt which lies beneath it.