Friday 26 October 2012

The Melbourne Cup

"The Lawn" at Flemington Racecourse on Melbourne Cup Day, circa 1906.
[From my own collection]

Held annually at 3pm on the first Tuesday in November, the Melbourne Cup, being a 3200 meter horse race at Flemington Racecourse is arguably the most electrifying event in Australasia. Then, as now, parading in one's finery on the day is obviously nothing new. "The Lawn" would appear to be the place to be and the place to be seen. And what a marvellous snapshot of Edwardian summer fashions.

A contemporary view of Swanson Street looking towards Flinders Street,
Melbourne, circa 1906. The Melbourne Town Hall with clock tower at
left survives. The building behind with a high-pitched fanciful roof
unfortunately does not. Note the elegantly multi-wired phone and/or
telegraph poles. Trams still traverse this busy street today.
[From my own Collection] 

Cup Day is one day a year, more so than even ANZAC Day, when two countries virtually join as one to watch or listen to a race which has truly become an international institution. And no self-respecting office or work-place in Australia or New Zealand would be complete without an office sweepstake. To those of us who are not normally passionate about horse racing this event manages to engender a level of passion and interest which is hard explain.

The Princes Bridge, Melbourne with the earlier Flinders Street
Railway Station across the Yarra River, a passenger carriage
just being visible. Pre 1907 [From my own collection]

My family were unfortunately not in Melbourne for the above race, these cards were purchased by my Great Uncle in February 1907, having just arrived from Scotland and waiting to cross the Tasman Sea to New Zealand on another steamer.

But my own Mother and Grandfather fortuitously arrived on the 'R.M.S. Orontes' from England on the 1st November 1937 just in time to watch "Trump" win the Cup on the 2nd. Neither were of the horse racing fraternity but happily made that 'pilgrimage' to Flemington. But, despite being on an extended holiday, I doubt both were of a mind to stay and enjoy "the pleasures of a gay social season".

Newspaper article for the 1937 race

Newspaper article for the 1937 race

I will, however, not attempt to cover the history of this great annual racing and fashion event which is very capably detailed in an interesting Blog on The Melbourne Cup by Hels. While I dearly love Melbourne, truly one of my favourite cities of the world, watching the Melbourne Cup in person and to experience the electrifying atmosphere on the day is one event which still eludes me. As this vibrant city keeps drawing me back it will definitely have to be added to my 'bucket list'. 

Fire Brigade Station, Melbourne.
Happily, this building survives today.
[From my own collection]

Bibliography :

- All images are from my own personal collection and may be freely copied provided a link is given back to this page.

Friday 19 October 2012

The Royal Residences of Queen Victoria - Buckingham Palace

The original frontage of Buckingham Palace as designed by
Edward Blore, and viewed from St James's Park Lake, 1897
[From my own collection]

During Queen Victoria's long reign she made use a number of royal residences, primarily Windsor Castle in Berkshire, Buckingham Palace in London, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Holyrood House in Edinburgh, and Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

This series primarily features 'behind the scenes' period images from Queen Victoria's Private Apartments which will attempt to portray something of Her Majesty's secluded world away from the public gaze. The quality of all images varies considerably. Actual original extant photographs of Queen Victoria when resident at each Royal residence are also featured. Our fourth blog in this series features images taken at Buckingham Palace. I have also included some semi-state apartments as the decoration of these less-used rooms has markedly changed since the Victorian period.

Much of the 'clutter' and even some of the early 19th century decoration of coloured scaliola columns and blue and pink lapis in the public and semi-public rooms were swept away after the accession of Kind Edward VII in 1902. The predominant colour scheme after his 'clean up' then became 'Belle Epoque' cream and gold. Much 'Victorian embellishment' was actually alien to the original Regency style of the building.

Queen Mary also left her expert mark on most of the Royal residences with one of her favourite past-times being "redecorating and re-arranging rooms" - apparently much to the despair of her staff. As an expert connoisseur of the arts and especially of the Regency style she did in fact take a keen interest in the Royal collection of furniture and art. This included not only recovering and restoring long lost original furniture and objects d'art but also returning many rooms in Buckingham Palace to an authentic - and intended - Regency style of decoration.

These views of the Victorian era Private Apartments generally follow a route from the North end of the West Wing (facing the Palace front lawn and gardens), through Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Private Apartments in the North wing, then along to the east wing facing The Mall.

The Minister's Staircase.
Note the Memorial Window to the Duke of Clarence.

The Minister's Staircase is located in the East Wing at the end of Queen Victoria's Private Apartments. To the North East lie the State Apartments and to South East lie the Private Apartments. 

A close-up of the Memorial Window to the
Duke of Clarence, the son (and heir
apparent) of King Edward VII and Queen
Alexandra, who died in 1891.

This window, which is visible in the wall above, was later moved and the window space blocked up.

The Princess Royal sitting for a portrait in
The Throne Room, 1842

The Throne Room lies at the North end of the East Wing, and with the Royal Closet (a small Drawing Room) alongside, separated the State Apartments from Queen Victoria's Private Apartments.

The Tapestry Room

The Tapestry Room is located in the East Wing near the South East Corner of the Palace and faces the front lawn.  Separating The Royal Closet and The Tapestry Room is another Sitting Room which is recorded as having been used in the latter years of Queen Victoria's reign by Miss Charlotte Knollys who served as Lady of the Bedchamber.

The Sheraton Room

This image is believed to show the Sheraton Room which  is located at the very North end of the West Wing and also facing the Palace front lawn.  

Queen Victoria and four of her children at Buckingham Palace.
[L to R] Princess Louise, Princess Helena, Prince Alfred holding
Princess Beatrice, Princess Alice, Queen Victoria
Taken by Colonel the Hon. Dudley de Ros, 23rd Baron of Helmsley
29 February 1860

The Private Audience Chamber

This room would appear to adjoin - or be very close to - The Sheraton Room at the North end of the West Wing of the palace. It does not appear to be the current Queen's 'Audience Room' nor (as some have suggested) the current 'Regency Room' on the Ground Floor. Many rooms have changed their style of decoration - and their use - in the intervening years which makes identification as to their exact original position difficult. One would at least assume that it would be close to 'The Minister's Staircase' shown above.

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room, by James Roberts 1855

The rest of Queen Victoria and all of Prince Albert's Private Rooms are all located on the First Floor of the South Wing.

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room

Queen Victoria's Sitting Room

Queen Victoria's Bedroom

Queen Victoria's Bedroom

Queen Victoria's Dressing Room

Queen Victoria's Dressing Room

Prince Albert's Dressing Room

Prince Albert's Dressing Room

Prince Albert's Writing Room

Prince Albert's Music Room (engraving)

Prince Albert's Music Room, circa 1870-1900

The Indian Room
[Source : Getty Images]

The Indian Room, [Little] Chinese Room and The Pavilion Breakfast Room all form the last three rooms at the East end of the South Wing.

Some rooms at Buckingham Palace have a Chinese theme. That is because they feature furniture and décor which were originally based in the Prince Regent's oriental-style Royal Pavilion at Brighton (later sold by Queen Victoria to fund building work at Buckingham Palace).

The [Little] Chinese Room
[Source : Getty Images]

The Pavilion Breakfast Room, which lies at the extreme east end of the South Wing included many features removed from the Brighton Pavilion Music Room and Banqueting Room which Queen Victoria sold to the town of Brighton in 1850.

The Pavilion Breakfast Room, 1850

The Private [Chinese] Breakfast Room

The Royal Visitors Gallery [Principal Corridor]

The Principal Corridor runs the length of the East Wing facing The Mall. 

The Duke of Connaught's Bedroom

Rooms in the East Wing served as suites for Victoria's children. Shown above is Arthur The Duke of Connaught's bedroom, being the third son of Queen Victoria.

The Yellow Drawing Room,
a watercolour by James Roberts,  1855

The Yellow Drawing Room lies at the south end of the East Wing shown below and served as a Drawing Room for guests. Further round into the North Wing were rooms for the Ladies in Waiting and other senior staff.

The Original East Frontage of Buckingham Palace, circa 1900

The Belgian State Apartments :

The 'Belgian Apartments' illustrated below are situated at the foot of the Minister's Staircase, on the ground floor of the West-facing garden wing of Buckingham Palace. These rooms, which form a suite, are linked by narrow corridors, one given extra height and perspective by saucer domes designed by the Architect, John Nash. A second corridor in the suite has Gothic influenced cross over vaulting. The rooms themselves are named for King Leopold I of the Belgians, the first King of the Belgians (and Uncle of Prince Albert), who was the first to occupy these rooms. This suite of rooms are now used by visiting Heads of State and other dignitaries.  

The King of the Belgian's Bedroom

The King of the Belgian's Bedroom

The Orleans Room

The Spanish Room

Directly underneath the State Apartments are a suite of slightly less grand rooms known as the semi-state apartments. Opening from the Marble Hall, these rooms have always been used for less formal entertaining, such as luncheon parties and private audiences.

The 1844 Room

The 1844 Room was decorated in that year for the State visit of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

The 1844 Room

The Bow Room [Library]

At the centre of this suite is the Bow Room, through which thousands of guests pass annually to the current Queen's Garden Parties on the front lawn.

The Bow Room [Library]

The 1855 Room

This 1855 Room room is named after a visit in that year by Emperor Napoleon III of France. 

Bibliography :

- "Life of Queen Victoria", T Nelson & Sons, London, 1897 (from my personal collection).
 - Various written and Internet sources.
- Most images have been "collected" over the last couple of years and I have not always recorded the source. Most appear to be in the public domain and often frequently copied or are only low resolution however if copyright has been infringed please advise me so that I can remove them or provide a link.

Friday 12 October 2012

An Appreciation of Old Scottish Country Homes and Castles (Part Seven)

This is the seventh part of my gallery celebrating Scottish stately homes and castles. The images in this gallery were taken during the Edwardian period and are from my own family collection. I have attempted to provide a history of each home or castle however the fact that many such old homes are in ruinous, vacant or no longer exist is to be regretted. The loss of any historic building is indeed unfortunate so this gallery also serves as a celebration of this lost heritage and the various families over the centuries who built and owned these fascinating properties.

Douglas Castle, the chapel is visible to the rear.
The old tower is covered in ivy to the right.  

Douglas Castle in South Lanarkshire dates from 1757 but a Douglas family owned castle had been on the site since around 1288. After being captured during the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1307, the original castle was then recaptured by Sir James Douglas. A grateful Robert the Bruce then bestowed the title 'Earls of Douglas' on the family. But by the 15th century, the power of the "Black" Douglases had come to threaten the Stuart monarchy. In 1455 James II led an expedition against the rebellious 9th Earl, defeating his forces at the battle of Arkinholm. Douglas Castle was sacked and the family's lands and titles forfeited. The "Red" Douglases, Earls of Angus, had sided with the King against the senior branch of their family, and it was they who gained the Douglas lands in Lanarkshire. It is likely that the castle was rebuilt soon after 1455. In 1703, Archibald Douglas, 3rd Marquess of Douglas was created Duke of Douglas, with his principal seat at Douglas Castle. The castle was again rebuilt around this time as a tower house with an enclosed courtyard and corner tower but fire destroyed all but the corner tower in 1755.

In 1757 the Duke of Douglas commissioned the Adam Brothers to design and construct an enormous five storey castellated mansion at Douglas in a very extensive park spanning the valley of the Douglas Water. The Duke however died in 1761 with only around half of the original design completed. The Duke's estate then became the subject of a bitter legal dispute known as the 'Douglas Cause' between his nephew, the first Baron Douglas, and the Duke of Hamilton. Lord Douglas was eventually victorious, the castle then descending through him to the Earls of Home. In 1883 the 12th Lord Home commissioned an elaborate private chapel from the Architect Henry Wilson. The chapel included exquisite early Florentine Renaissance-inspired polychrome decoration with remarkable tree-like trusses projecting from the bas-relief frieze to support the painted vault.
During the 1930s the 13th Earl of Home allowed the mining of coal in the park adjacent to the castle in an attempt to relieve desperate levels of local unemployment. Sadly the mining caused dangerous subsidence to the castle and it had to be demolished about 1938. The Chapel survived until after 1959. Today, only the semi-ruinous 17th corner tower of the old castle remains. This had been retained as a garden folly when the later mansion was built. 

Fort Castle, Ayr, pre 1908

Fort Castle [St John's Tower] in Ayr is now the town's oldest surviving building. The old church of St John the Baptist had stood on this site since the very early 13th century, the earliest verifiable reference being 1233. In recent history it has been alleged that the church occupied the site of an earlier Culdee Church, skeletons having been found under the old 13th century Church foundations which may have been consistent with earlier Culdee burials. The present tower, being the only remaining evidence of St John's Church, was built up against its west gable in the 15th century.

St John's church witnessed many historic occasions. In 1315 the Scottish Parliament met here and granted the Crown of Scotland to Robert the Bruce. The son-in-law of John Knox served as Minister here, and Elizabeth, a daughter of John Knox, is buried near the tower. John Knox himself may also have preached here. But when Cromwell built his great Citadel at Ayr in 1652-54 he turned St John's into a shelter for his forces, enclosing the Church and graveyard with a defensive wall, parts of which remain today. The old sanctuary thus became the centre of the Fort of Ayr [later being referred to as Fort Castle] with the tower having an unobstructed view of the surrounding area and sea. In compensation, Cromwell gave the Church members one thousand Scots Merks to build another Church. The old Church was re-used for worship in 1687-88 but about 1736 the Ayr Town Council authorised the Church stones to be used in the construction of the Tollbooth steeple in the Sandgate. A parapet was added to the remaining tower in 1778.

Mr John Miller purchased the tower in 1857 and turned it into a gentleman's Gothic residence, adding additional towers (as shown above). Upon his death it was sold to the Marquis of Bute who removed the extra recent additions in 1914, restoring the original form of the Tower. In 1949 Lord Bute transferred ownership to the Burgh of Ayr.

The last witch to be burned in Scotland (1727) is said to have been buried in the grounds around the Tower, and two escape passages are believed to reach the shore from the Tower. Excavations have exposed the foundations of the old church, showing that it was cruciform, measuring about 140ft in length by 80ft over the transepts. The foundations of six nave piers and the moulded base of one have been uncovered. In 1891 stones from the original floor were taken to build an altar in the Episcopal Church.

Bibliography :

- Various Internet sources
- All images are from my own collection and may be freely copied provided a link is given back to this page.

Friday 5 October 2012

Late Victorian & Edwardian Era Scottish Passenger Steamers (Part Four)

This is the fourth and final part of my gallery featuring a series of views of late Victorian to Edwardian era Scottish passenger paddle and screw steamers. Sadly few examples of this type of transport remain, let alone in operation.

"T.S. Duchess of  Argyle"

The turbine steamer "Duchess of Argyle" was built in 1905-06 by William Denny & Brothers for the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. Powered by three direct drive steam turbines, she achieved 21.65 knots on trial, speed being essential for her intended Ardrossan to Arran run. In 1908 a co-operation agreement with the Glasgow and South Western Railway unfortunately deprived her of this route. So after having her main forward deck plated and port holes cut to enable sailing on more exposed routes she regularly ran between Larne (Northern Ireland) and Stranraer. Requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1915 as a troopship, she made 655 sailings across the English Channel until her release in 1919.

The "T.S. Duchess of Argyle" then made the Isles of Arran via the Kyles of Bute run her own route until 1935 before moving to the long distance routes of Gourock to Campbeltown and Inverary in 1936.

From 1939 and apart from some Admiralty tendering work during the war she mainly operated around the Firth of Clyde. She was unfortunately not suited to shorter "ferry routes", her lack of astern power earning her the less than complimentary title of "The Slow Boat to Rothesay". While she returned to the Kyles of Bute run after the war her days in service were now numbered and she was sold in February 1952.

Surprisingly she continued to be used by the Admiralty for experimental work in Portland Harbour until finally being scrapped at Newhaven as late as 1970.

The Osian (?) and horse-drawn passenger coach at Loch Etive

A steamer, believed to be the "Osian" (1885 - 1913), moored at a pier on Loch Etive. Since 1877 a tour had run from Oban sailing the 17 miles up Loch Etive (via Connell where it opened to the sea), with coach connections to Tyndrum and Ballachulish Railway Stations. From a pier at the north end of Loch Etive tourists were able to link with a carriage service which took them up Glen Etive to see Glen Coe. That is most likely the view illustrated here.

"P.S. Neptune" entering Ayr Harbour

The Paddle Steamer "Neptune" was built by Napier, Shanks & Bell of Yoker on the Clyde, being launched on the 10th March 1892, and achieving a credible 18 knots on trial. Then considered one of the fastest vessels of her size she was fitted out to a high standard by her owners, the Glasgow & South Western Railway. She went on to serve on the Ardrossan to Arran service, then the Rothsay and Kyles of Bute service from Greenock. She was replaced on services out of Ayr by the "P.S. Juno" in 1898. 

"P.S. Neptune" was requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1914 during "The Great War" and renamed "HMS Nepaulin" but was lost on the 20th April 1917 when she struck a mine laid by the German submarine UB-12 near the 'Dyck lightvessel'. 19 persons on board were lost. UB-12 herself, which had been converted to a mine layer in 1917, disappeared without trace in August 1918 with all hands lost.

Bibliography :

- Internet Sources 
- All images are from my own personal collections and may be freely copied for non-commercial use provided a link is given back to this page.