International Museum Day at Mount Stuart

18 May 2020

International Museum Day at Mount Stuart

This year, Mount Stuart is participating in the International Museum Day. The International Museum Day is an event created to raise awareness on the fact that, “museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples” As the house is currently closed to the public, we are sharing 10 of the most fascinating aspects of the Bute Collection held here at Mount Stuart.

1. Favourite Item

(One of) our archivist Lynsey's favourite items are the Horatio Walter Lonsdale (1844-1919) watercolour designs for the stained glass windows in the Marble Hall. This is the summer window design –not bad for being around 130 years old.

2. Unusual Item

Did you know that John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847-1900) had wallabies, porcupines and beavers on the policies at Mount Stuart? Here are some of the wallabies photographed on 7 April 1890. We also have correspondence from Charles Jamrach, Naturalist in London, offering to sell wallabies, kangaroos, Hungarian partridges, antelopes, pheasants, sloth bears and Canadian beavers to John Patrick Crichton-Stuart 3rd Marquess of Bute for the grounds at Mount Stuart in 1887.

3. Misconceptions

Something that crops up quite a lot is the assumption that our archive is fully catalogued. We would love to share our catalogues with you and that is the long-term plan. To date, however, we have approximately 45-50% of the 3,500 boxes, four plan chests, rolled items and loose volumes etc., completed. One of the many collections to be catalogued includes the papers of John Crichton-Stuart, 5th Marquess of Bute (1907-1956).

4. Conservation Win!

Un-framing this 1780 plan of Rothesay harbour in February was a recent win! Currently uncatalogued.

5. Something Spooky

Perhaps a bit creepy rather than spooky: a lock of hair, which according to the paper it is wrapped in, belonged to the Earl of Windsor and dates 25th March 1797. There are more in our collection!

Everyone loves a good ghost story. This is from a small bundle of correspondence to John Patrick Crichton-Stuart from Dr. William Huggins regarding some seemingly spooky photographs. This particular example aims to explain the face which appears at the top left of the photo.

6. Something New

During recent file conversion work a new item turned up: a letter relating to Admiral Sir John Byng whose failure to relieve a besieged British garrison at the beginning of the Seven Years War led to him being executed by a firing squad on 14 March 1757. This letter was written by Byng on his last day. BU/98/2/33.

7. Archive People

Miss Catherine Armet, (c.1900-1984) Bute Family Archivist for 50 years spanning the 4th, 5th and 6th Marquesses of Bute! Here she is sitting next to John Bute, 6th Marquees of Bute (1933-1993), enjoying a Bute family celebration in the 1970s.

8. A Typical Day

Cataloguing of the Bute archive restarted in January this year and between 2 members of the team we are cataloguing 5 days per week. Starting with the conversion of the papers of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute to Excel in preparation for data import into CALM. This is one of three historic libraries (the Blue Library) which doubles as one of our collections department offices and is also our Reading Room. Any researchers who visit us share the space with us–not a bad place to spend a day researching!

9. Archive Mystery

Something we get asked a lot when showing these designs is ‘Why was the conservatory never built?’ This addition would almost certainly have doubled the length of the present house (approximately 300ft). It is part of a set dated 1885 during the rebuilding of Mount Stuart following the devastating fire of December 1877. The inspiration is the Hagia Sophia. We hope that the answer lies in the archive somewhere…

Currently uncatalogued in the Bute Archive.

10. Something Small

Here is a small drawing by the 3rd Marquess of Bute in a letter to his wife, Gwendolen, instructing her to proceed with the Byzantine Chapel at Troon and illustrating how he thinks the chapel should look. He asked her to choose either Robert Rowand Anderson or R. P. Pullan as the architect but suggests that Pullan is 'rather a brute personally...’. From Sestri Ponente, 20 March 1882. The Bute Archive BU/21/75/10.