Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Sunday, 14 June 2009

04 Jun 2009 - Dumfries House Visit

A lovely sunny afternoon saw around twenty of our members, including Janice and Alistair Menzies from Aberdeen, embarking on the eagerly anticipated visit to Dumfries House near Cumnock.Dumfries House was designed 250 years ago by the architects John, Robert and James Adam. This building presents a calm, imposing, unfussy exterior: inside is a wonderful treasure trove of 18th century rococo furnishings. The furniture collection is exceptional containing many pieces by Thomas Chippendale and by the important Edinburgh furniture makers Alexander Peter, William Mathie and Francis Brodie.

It is only by a small miracle of organisation and generosity that all these delights, most carefully tended, are there for us to see and enjoy, for upkeep costs forced the owner, John Bute, living in the principal family property of Mountstuart, Isle of Bute to put Dumfries House on the market. Fortunately for us all, the estate, the house and all its furnishings were purchased by a consortium headed by HRH the Prince of Wales and Duke of Rothesay and an independent trust with the marvellous title of ‘The Great Steward’s of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust’ was established to manage the house, its collection and grounds. It had been a close call, however, as quite a few pieces of furniture retain their Christies labels and, indeed, some had already been carefully packed in vans on the drive and some were even recalled whilst on their journey to London for sale!

From beautiful ceilings to intricate mirror surrounds, from well worn 18th century carpets to the pleasing designs of small tables and chests of drawers to breathtaking Gobelin tapestries – there was a feast for the eyes wherever one looked. This was not a pretentious house, but a much loved country home, a place for relaxation and holiday and as such, its interior furnishings changed little over the years, making it now a unique national asset.

Our two guides were delightful, extremely knowledgeable and first-rate communicators and our enjoyment of the visit is due in no small measure to their enthusiasm and skills. A bonus for those experiencing difficulty in negotiating the stairs and/or standing while the contents of rooms were described was the offer of lightweight yet solid shooting sticks. Definitely a plus for many!

Well now, Barbara, what about a visit to Mountstuart next June?!

Sheila Dinwoodie

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