Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Royal Residences of Queen Victoria - Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, 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 attempt to portray something of Her Majesty's personal world away from the public gaze. Actual original extant photographs or images of Queen Victoria when resident at each Royal residence are also featured. Our second blog in this series features images taken at Queen Victoria's beloved Scottish Highland retreat of Balmoral Castle.

Much of the Castle was decorated in Royal tartan with pine coloured woodwork and Victorian patterned wallpapers. Subsequent redecoration has replaced the printed wallpaper and some of the tartan décor with a blend of modern contemporary styles although tartan is appropriately still evident.

Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside. Photochrome Print, c.1900

Queen Victoria on "Fyvie" with her Highland Servant
John Brown, taken at Balmoral Castle by
 George Washington Wilson, Jun 1863

Queen Victoria's Drawing Room, 1857.
The whole house was decorated in royal tartans.

Queen Victoria on a pony at Balmoral Castle
with John Brown  holding the reigns,
Taken by "W&D Downey", June 1868

An early photographic view of Queen Victoria's Drawing Room, c.1880's?
The patterned wallpaper has not yet been put up.

Queen Victoria with "Sharp", the Border Collie,
taken at Balmoral Castle, 1867

Queen Victoria's Drawing Room, taken 1890's.
The patterned wallpaper is now evident.

A lithograph of Queen Victoria receiving  Lieutenant-General
Sir Garnet J. Wolseley G.C.B. G.C.M.G. in the Drawing Room
upon his return from Egypt.

Queen Victoria's Drawing Room, circa 1890's

Queen Victoria's Drawing Room, circa late 1890's(?)
By now the room is filled with even more Victorian 'clutter', a light fitting
has been installed on the ceiling, the wall mounted candle sconces have
been removed, and the couches have been (temporarily?) removed.  

Queen Victoria's Bedroom, 1850's

Queen Victoria's Bedroom, circa 1880's-90's

Queen Victoria in her carriage outside the main entrance to Balmoral Castle.

Queen Victoria's Dressing Room.
A Watercolour by James Roberts, 1857

Abdul Karim ('The Munshi') waiting on Queen Victoria as
she attends to her red boxes at Balmoral Castle, 1897
Note the collie dog by her side.

The Prince Consort's Study at Balmoral Castle, from a watercolour
by J. Roberts, 1860's.

The Dining Room, taken 1890's

Queen Victoria's Birthday Present Table at Balmoral Castle, 24th May 1873

Balmoral Castle by Francis Frith, circa 1860's - 70's

Two extremely rare cine films of Queen Victoria, the first
 taken at Balmoral Castle in September 1896 (refer below 
for names) and the second shows the Queen riding down 
Pall Mall London in a carriage during her Jubilee 
Celebrations of 1897.

Queen Victoria described "moving pictures" as "a very wonderful process, representing people, their movements and actions, as if they were alive." She viewed the footage taken at Balmoral Castle with delight, requesting a second viewing which was unfortunately not possible due to the difficulties of quickly rewinding and re-threading the film in the projector.

A still from the "animated pictures", taken in September 1896

Czar Nicholas II stands behind Queen Victoria sitting in her pony carriage. Next to the Queen are her Granddaughters, the Princess Louise of Wales, The Czarina (Princess Alix of Hesse), her Daughter in Law Princess Louise of Prussia, and the Duchess's Daughter Princess Margaret of Connaught, Princess Patricia of Connaught is in foreground seated on the pony carriage step holding a dog.    

The Lower Corridor and Staircase,
a watercolour by James Roberts, 1857

The Household Drawing Room, 1895
(used by Ladies in Waiting and other member of The Queen's Personal Staff)

The Entrance Hall, hung with stag heads shot by Prince Albert, taken 1890's.

Queen Victoria with [left to right] Alexandra, Tsarina of
Russia holding her Daughter Grand Duchess Tatiana;
Tsar Nicholar II of Russia; and Edward Prince of Wales.
Taken September 1896

Balmoral Castle Ballroom, 1890's
The annual Gillies' Ball would normally be held here. 

A large tent decorated for the Gillies' Ball in 1857

Bibliography :

- "Life of Queen Victoria", T Nelson & Sons, London, 1897 (from my personal collection).
- Various written and Internet sources.
- All other images appear to be in the public domain however if copyright has been infringed please advise me.
- Images are only from my own personal collection where specifically indicated. These may be freely copied providing a link is given back to this page.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Die Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur / The Royal Porcelain Manufactory, Berlin

King Frederick the Great of Prussia, Owner and Patron of
Die  Königliche Porzellan- Manufaktur [KPM], Berlin until
1786. Incidentally, 2012 marks the 300th anniversary of
 the birth of Frederick the Great in 1712.
From a painting by Anton Graf.
[Source : Wikipedia]    

Die Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur, or literally "The Royal Porcelain Manufactory" in Berlin [KPM] has a long and fascinating history stretching over 250 years with strong connections to Prussian royalty.

The predecessor of KPM, known simply as "The Berlin Porcelain Factory" [Berliner Porzellanmanufaktur], dated back to 1751 and early on secured Prussian Royal patronage and support. This was partly through the Prussian military presence in Saxony during the Seven Years War making it possible to "acquire" trained staff from the famous "Meißener Porzellan-Manufaktur" ["Meissen Porcelain Manufactory] near Dresden.

A KPM biscuit figure of Frederick the Great,
manufactured in 1850 and presented to
Prince Albert, Consort of Queen Victoria.
[Source : Victoria & Albert Museum]

It was only with the purchase of the company in 1763 by the legendary Frederick the Great of Prussia for 225,000 Prussian Thalers that the company secured the coveted "Royal" [Königlische] title - and the right to use the Royal Sceptre. This purchase not only saved the business from bankruptcy but also ensured the continuation of a company which the King held dear. Die Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur then operated from premises at no 4 Lepziger Straße in Berlin.

A modern KPM reproduction of Frederick the Great's favourite
Rococo style pattern tea service,"Rocaille".
[Source :  Welt-Online]

The KPM company demonstrated surprisingly modern work practices such as regulated hours of work, higher-than-average earnings, secured pensions, company health insurance, and benefits for widows and orphans. The King forbid child labour, not merely for humane reasons but also for professional reasons: Only highly qualified craftsmen could maintain the high standards of production which he set. Production techniques also remained progressive.

A later circa 1900 KPM porcelain plaque in a wood
and gesso frame which demonstrates the oil painting
like ability to paint on porcelain.
[Source : Artnet Galleries]

With Royal ownership, and up until his death in 1786, Frederick ordered at least 21 table services with as many as 450 individual pieces each, primarily as gifts. These gifts may still be found in royal houses and museums across Europe. The cost to Frederick was in the region of 200,000 Prussian Thalers, being almost as much as what the company had cost him to purchase. Frederick the Great's successor,  his nephew King Frederick William II, continued to support KPM by various purchases, off-setting the cost against profits due to him.

A KPM Lithothane in relief of Frederick the Great
[Source : Wikipedia]

Steam power was first utilized by KPM in 1793, the first company in Prussia to do so. However the occupation of Berlin by the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's troops between 1807 and 1808 had  a lasting and detrimental effect on the company which led to significant losses. The company's receipts were seized and KPM warehouses in Breslau and Warsaw were auctioned off to the benefit of the French authorities.  

The same KPM Lithothane of Frederick the Great,
as viewed through a light source.
[Source : Wikipedia]

By 1814 the development of new colours enabled the painting of porcelain to impart similarities to oil painting. Lithothanes, a novel and highly ingenious manufacturing technique which originated in France from 1827, were from 1830 another early KPM success. These were essentially images moulded in relief in varying thicknesses on opaque porcelain. When held up to the light an image (created by the varying thickness of the porcelain) becomes visible.

Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur [KPM] 26cm Cabinet plate in scalloped
Rococo style with hand-painted decoration and gilding, circa 1837 - 1844
[From my personal collection]

My own Rococo styled KPM cabinet plate dates from the period 1837 to 1844 and exhibits not only the blue "Royal sceptre mark" and the letters "KPM" which are printed under the glaze, but also the red orb [blaue zeptermarke 'KPM' und rote Reichsapfelmarke] which are printed over the glaze. The cross on the orb has not clearly printed due to a slight depression in the porcelain.

A closer view of the elaborate and delicate hand-painted flowers and
gilding on my KPM plate. Note the raised areas highlighted with gilding.
[From my personal collection]

Despite many changes KPM, not least State ownership from 1918,  destruction of the factory during an allied bombing raid in Nov 1943, re-establishing production after the war, the creation of a limited liability company by the State in 1988 and sanctioned to use the KPM title, and finally complete privatisation in 2006, KPM's emphasis remains on quality handmade products. 

The blue "Royal Sceptre" and letters KPM under the glaze
 plus the Royal Orb in red printed over the glaze. These
 marks were in use from 1837 to 1844.
[From my personal collection]

Bibliography & Sources :

- General Internet Resources
- Wikipedia
- Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur, Berlin
- My personal collection

Thursday, 14 June 2012

An Appreciation of Old Scottish Stately Homes & Castles (Part Two)

This is the second 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 give a short history of each home or castle however the fact that many such old homes no longer exist or are ruinous 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. Look for highlighted links to interesting sites with further pertinent information. Any concise but abbreviated additional information to add to these entries is welcome. My email link appears at right.

Airlour House, Port William, Wigtonshire, pre 1907

Airlour House at Port William Wigtonshire is recorded as being a Dower House belonging to the Maxwell family of Monreith. A Dower House is defined as a moderately large house available for the use of a widow of an estate-owner.

The Maxwell family first acquired the Lands of Monreith in the 15th century, building Myrton Castle on the estate. Created the First Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1681, the then 4th Baronet commissioned Alexander Stevens to design and build the new family seat of Monreith House in 1791. The 9th Baronet, Sir Michael Maxwell, inherited the estate in the 1980's, the family seat of Monreith House then being in a state of disrepair. The house has now been restored and includes self-catering apartments. Airlour House itself [the Dower House] survives today set in Airlour Wood in the estate grounds.

Auchlochan House, Leshmahagow, Lanarkshire, pre 1907.

Auchlochan House at Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire appears to have been built about 1814 for the Brown family, replacing an earlier home. The Brown [also spelt Broun or Broune] family are recorded as occupying the "Lands of Townfoot of Auchlochan" at least as early as 1572 and quite possibly earlier. The name Auchlochan signifies "Field of the Small Loch".

At what point the Brown family sold Auchlochan House is unknown, the last record I can find of the Brown family at Auchlochan is 1880 although I would imagine their tenure of the property continued well into the 20th century. The house survives today on New Trows Road Lesmahagow as a base for the Christian based Auchlochan Charitable Trust, set up to provide care for the elderly with a large rest care facility and bungalows being sited in the grounds.

Footnote : Sadly, Auchlochan House, which was apparently not a listed building, was demolished June 2014.

Birkwood "Castle", Lesmahagow,
Lanarkshire, pre 1907.

Birkwood House, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, pre 1905. 

Birkwood House [Castle] at Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire, "a handsome castellated mansion" and the seat of the McKirdy [or MacKirdy] family, is recorded as having been designed prior to 1859 by the Glasgow Architect John Baird. John McKirdy Esq. had been possessed of considerable estates in British Guiana but settled on the Lands of Birkwood at the close of the 18th century. As of 1864 Birkwood House was in the possession of his son John Gregory McKirdy Esq., "owner of 1250 acres in the shire." As of 1892 Birkwood had then passed to his son, General David Elliot McKirdy who in 1890, and at great cost, added a new wing to the house. Birkwood House became a psychiatric / learning disabilities hospital in 1923, then becoming known as "Birkwood Hospital".

Birkwood closed in 2002 and remains vacant but the interior retained many original features. Plans were revealed in 2008 to turn the now deteriorating "B Grade" listed building into a 28 bed hotel and leisure centre however the developers went into receivership in 2011. There appears to be no further news on any new development. Click Here for some interesting modern photos which includes the interior.

Update July 2015 : Part of the walls of Birkwood House have now collapsed (the end tower wing to the left of the picture above) taking with it the floors attached to it and what remains of the house continues to deteriorate from significant lack of maintenance and water damage with beautiful moulded ceiling now lying crumbled on the floor. (My thanks to Vivienne for this sad update)

Bothwell Castle, pre 1907.

Bothwell Castle is situated on a bend of the River Clyde about 10 miles south-east of Glasgow. The Barony of Bothwell came into the hands of Walter de Moravia by marriage in 1242. He began construction of the castle but only the main donjon [fortified central tower], the prison tower, and the short connecting curtain wall had been completed by the start of the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1296. King Edward I of England seized Bothwell but capitulated after being beseiged by the Scots for 14 months from 1298 to 1299. Edward returned in 1301, capturing the Castle with 6,800 men and using siege engines. The Castle then remained the headquarters of Edward's Warden of Scotland for some years.

After Robert the Bruce's victory at Bannockburn in 1314 the Castle eventually surrendered to the Scots who partially dismantled it to make it unusable as a fortress. King Edward III of England arrived in 1336 and restored the Castle, only to have it again taken back by the Scots in 1337. The fortress was again partially dismantled and remained derelict until the 1360's. A rebuilding of the Castle commenced after 1362 by Archibald Douglas, Lord of Galloway and Earl of Douglas. But in 1455, the "Black" Douglases were forfeited of their lands which then passed to the Crown. A further two forfeitures occurred and after passing through various owners, one of whom used stones from the castle's north-east tower for his new house. In 1935 the last owners, the Earls of Home, gifted the remains of Bothwell Castle to the State, now being managed by Historic Scotland.  

Bibliography :

- Internet sources
- "Scotland's Lost Houses" by Ian Gow, 2006
- All images are from my own collection and may be freely copied for non-commercial use provided a link is given back to this page.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Miss Jean Batten - "Anything but Love and Kisses"

Miss Jean Batten in her Heyday
[Source : "Alone in the Sky"]

The 1930's solo flying exploits of the fearless New Zealand Aviatrix Extraordinaire Miss Jean Batten are still legendary. But she is best remembered in this part of the world for her 14,224 mile 11 day record-breaking but gruelling solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936. Her "Percival Gull' aeroplane is 'hung' in pride of place in the departure lounge of Auckland International Airport. My own brief 'meeting' with her in 1980 has forever remained vividly etched on my mind but more of that later.  

Rather than list her endless achievements and tortuous personal life, an excellent 1988 Television New Zealand documentary provided on-line courtesy of the New Zealand Film Archive accurately describes her life including her lonely end : Jean Batten - The Garbo of the Skies [Click this title to view].

Miss Jean Batten's 1936 England to New Zealand  record flight
Percival Gull Aeroplane
[Source : Wikipedia]

Ever enjoying the limelight and adulation she appears to have craved attention, forever reliving her glory days of the 1930's. But conversely she was also an extremely private person, "going to ground" like a lost soul for long periods of time. In her later years she made her second to last trip back to New Zealand as Guest of Honour to open the Aviation Pioneers Pavilion at Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology in 1977. What became her final visit to New Zealand in 1980 appears to have been mainly to promote her newly published book "Alone in the Sky". While she stayed with family in New Zealand she is reported to have been distant and 'somewhat difficult'.

The still glamorous Miss Jean Batten with bleached hair
as she appeared around the time I met her.
[Source : Jean Batten - The Garbo of the Skies"]

My own brief 'meeting' with Miss Batten occurred at a book signing in a departmental store in Invercargill during her 1980 visit. Arriving after 1pm and presumably after the lunchtime rush she cut a rather lonely figure standing beside a table of her books, the book department then being devoid of shoppers - or admirers. I expressed an interest in her book whereupon she gave me instructions in her authoritative and cultured voice to take it to the counter, pay for it, they would put it in a bag for me, then to bring it back to her whereupon she would sign it.

And the Treasured Autograph of Miss Jean Batten 

Her words to me have remained vividly etched on my mind. "Now what would you like?" she asked when opening the front cover of her book, then in a no nonsense tone of voice, "You can have anything you like as long as it's not love and kisses". I replied that "Anything would do". I suppose I was somewhat star-struck! Whereupon she asked my name then signed the book personally to myself adding "best wishes, Jean Batten, 13/3/1980". As she proceeded to place it back in the bag she turned the book over to reveal the appealing photo of herself on the back of the dust cover shown at the top of this page. She merely said "That's me" with a smile and in a proud tone of voice, obviously revelling in being able to bring to my attention such a glamorous photo of herself from her glory years. Always immaculate, there was never anything deshabilé about Miss Batten, especially later in life.

The Statue of Miss Jean Batten outside
Auckland International Airport.
[Source : Wikipedia]

It was Miss Batten's intention to return to New Zealand in 1981 as the Guest of Honour aboard a specially chartered supersonic 'Concorde' flight to celebrate the 45th anniversary of her 1936 record-breaking flight. The 14 hour flight was to follow the route she herself had taken. But sadly, lack of bookings meant the flight had to be cancelled. Jean was "absolutely devastated that it didn't happen". Again she 'went to ground' and it was to be almost five years later that news of her eventual demise finally emerged.

Miss Jean Batten, taken in 1936
[Source : Wikipedia]

Not letting anyone into her personal life, she quietly met her end as a lonely recluse living at Palma on the Island of Majorca on the 22nd November 1982, her leg having become infected after a dog bite for which she had refused medical attention. Although 'a woman of means', a bureaucratic bungle by the Spanish authorities on Majorca meant that she ended up being buried in a communal pauper's grave. The immediate news of her demise was exacerbated by Miss Batten's own intense desire for privacy. But her intention that her ashes should be interred close to the Auckland International Airport Terminal Building remained unfulfilled. A life-sized statue of her has however been installed outside the airport terminal.

In life as in death Miss Batten (for few were ever allowed to call her Jean) remains enigmatic. But her undisputed achievements will keep her name alive, least not by her fellow New Zealander's. And as you walk through the departure lounge of Auckland International Airport cast your eyes up at her Percival Gull aeroplane suspended from the ceiling and remember for one quiet moment Miss Jean Batten - Aviatrix Extraordinaire.

Bibliography :

- Wikipedia
- New Zealand on Screen

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