Furnishing the tower house: nobles, lairds, merchants & craftsmen

This post is about the furnishings of tower houses, and the documentary record. The first thing to note is that Scottish furnishings from the sixteenth- and seventeenth centuries are very rare. This may be contrasted with the apparent survival of quantities of English chunky Jacobethan furniture, and it occurs to me that a rather smaller…

Kinneil House: The Power of Women

This blog is about the early wall paintings at Kinneil House, West Lothian, Scotland, based on a talk given to the Friends of Kinneil, partly about how they were restored, and came to look as they do today, and about what they may have meant in the sixteenth century. The paintings are a very rare…

Inchkeith: The Island of Women

An English diplomat Thomas Randolph wrote that merry men in Edinburgh had a joke that Inchkeith Island in the Forth, between Edinburgh and Fife, ought to be called the Isle des Femmes, because there were so many women on it. Usually called the Island of Horses, Mary of Guise, queen regent of Scotland preferred the…

Craftsmen in the royal accounts

The treasury of James V left an extensive archive with the treasurer’s accounts and exchequer rolls. In addition there are two series of household books and inventories of household goods. Much of the building work on royal palaces is also well documented, with the survival of volumes produced for audit by the Master of Work,…

At Coldingham Abbey in 1592

In 1890 William Fraser recorded a household and teind income account book for Coldingham Abbey in 1592. Fraser noted the physical condition of the booklet as 'partly decayed' or 'much mutilated at the beginning'. He printed a brief summary of the contents and the historical background, and while 'none of the entries contain special historic…

The Earl of Dunfermline’s purse

My PhD research Vanished Comforts: Setting the Context for Furniture and Furnishings in Scotland, 1500-1650, was an AHRC-funded project involving National Museums Scotland and the University of Dundee, running from 2012 to 2016. The purpose of the research was to imagine and understand the use and purpose of rooms and planning in Scottish homes and…

Closet and Cabinet

Mary Dudley (1586-1644), a cousin of Lucy, Countess of Bedford and friend of Lady Ann Clifford, married Alexander, Earl of Home in 1605. Widowed in 1619, she continued to build and extend family townhouses in Edinburgh and London, and collect paintings and bronzes. She was a patron of Nicolas Stone, Isaac de Caus, and the…