Monday, 10 April 2017

Exploring a Victorian 'Mauchline Ware' Souvenir of Dunkeld


1870's 'Mauchline Ware' box with image of Dunkeld
[From my own collection]

In this blog I am featuring a recently purchased circa 140 year old Scottish Mauchline Ware velvet lined jewellery box covered with no less six engraved block images of 1840's to 1860's era Victorian buildings and scenes from in and around Dunkeld in Perthshire. I have also been able to identify and research not only the retailer who sold it, being a Mr McLean of Dunkeld, but also, quite unusually, the engraver. For my previous blog featuring a history of Scottish made "Mauchline Ware", including other examples in my slowly growing collection, click HERE.

An advertisement for
"McLean's Bazaar", Dunkeld, 1879.
[Source : Google Books]

Being a small town fifteen miles north of Perth, my box purports to be "Made of Dunkeld Wood", almost certainly sycamore, which according to advertising, would be from the plantations of the Dukes of Athole. "DunkeldC. McLean, Publisher" appears under the above attribution. This is Charles McLean, being both an historical author and retailer of Dunkeld  who owned "McLeans Bazaar", a corner shop at "8 Athole street" in Dunkeld where he additionally sold "Fancy Wood Work from the Athole Plantations". In 1857 McLean commendably wrote and published "Dunkeld : It's Straths and Glens" which comprehensively details the history and scenic highlights of the area. McLean published updated editions in 1865 and 1879.

Statutory records show that Charles McLean, "Jeweller, Stationer and Dealer in Fancy Goods" died at Dunkeld in 1882 aged 55 years. So, while this box would definitely have been sold in his shop as a small souvenir or gift this was more likely to have been prior to 1882 when his son Alexander appears to have formally joined the business. As at 1881 his son was 19 years of age with his occupation given only as "Assistant to Father". After 1882 the business appears to have traded as "Dunkeld. McLean & Son Publishers" then later as "Dunkeld. McLean & Sons Publishers" so another of Charles' sons will have latterly joined the business as well. The census also lists residents from 1 to 8 in Bridge street then jumps to the McLean's at 8 Athole street which would appear to confirm the location of the shop on the corner with Brae street. Today No 8 is one residence along although the buildings are contiguous.

An Engraving of Dunkeld by "W. Banks, Edinburgh"
from "Dunkeld : It's Straths and Glens"
published in 1879.
[Source : Google Books]

Usefully, all the engraved illustrations appearing in McLean's 1879 edition of "Dunkeld : It's Straths and Glens" note the engraver as being "W. Banks, Edinburgh", being William Banks, Artist and Engraver. But two of the self same and very detailed engravings also appear printed on my box so we can also safely attribute all these printed and very detailed block engravings to Mr Banks as well. While William Banks, "Engraver of James Square" died in 1866 aged 55 years, his line engraving of Dunkeld Cathedral published in the 1857 first edition appears again in the 1879 third edition of McLean's work as well as on my box. While I cannot access the 1865 second edition it is noted as being "illustrated", assumedly also by Mr Banks. So by 1879 Mr McLean would simply have used Banks' very detailed pre 1866 but still very useful engravings for his third edition. While the sycamore box manufacturer is unknown the majority of Mauchline Ware was made by "W & A Smith" in the town of the same name in Ayrshire.    

Velvet Lined inside of Mauchline Ware Box

I have unfortunately never visited this very picturesque town set in the Tay Valley, being known as "the Gateway to the Perthshire Highlands". I have however passed through Birnam which is just a short walk across the bridge over the Tay River from Dunkeld on the rail line from Perth to Aviemore and have also driven within 12 miles of Dunkeld on my way north from Perth and over the Spittal of Glenshee on my way to Royal Deeside. But the scenic Tay Valley, including the picturesque township of Dunkeld, would definitely appear to warrant further exploration in the future.

"Dunkeld", An Engraving by "W. Banks", Edinburgh

So let us look more closely at the images portrayed on the box. The largest view is looking over the market town of Dunkeld set among the hills of the Tay Valley and clearly shows the very attractive stone bridge over the river with Dunkeld Cathedral just visible to the far left. Dunkeld mostly dates from post 1689, the majority of the township having been all but burnt to the ground on the 24th August of that year after the 'Battle of Dunkeld' between the Jacobites supporting the deposed Catholic King James VII of Scotland and the Cameronians supporting the Protestant William of Orange (King William III). The latter would claim victory after the valiant Highlanders, "depleted of energy and ammunition", eventually withdrew after a sixteen hour battle and with the loss of 300 men which all but ended their campaign. Holes made my musket balls can still be seen in the walls of the Cathedral.

The opening of the new bridge in 1809 led to the construction of the row of substantial and very well preserved buildings leading off the bridge along what is now called Atholl street. It was here that our Mr McLean had his shop, most likely on the corner of Brae street.

The bridge, built with elegant stone arches by Scottish Civil Engineer Thomas Telford, dates from 1809. This was originally part of the main road north to Inverness hence the substantial nature of its construction which still serves its purpose well today. Since 1977 the A9 has diverted traffic through Birnam. The township itself features a very well preserved and delightful 18th century streetscape, being acknowledged as "one of the most complete 18th century country towns in Scotland".

"Dunkeld Cathedral" and "Murthly Castle",
Engravings by "W. Banks", Edinburgh 

Dunkeld Cathedral dates from the 13th to 15th centuries but suffered greatly after the reformation. Today only the much restored choir, having originally been built in 1318, is in use today as the Parish Church. The nave, which is now roofless, was built between 1406 and 1448 with the aisles and porch being finished in 1460. A Chapter House followed in 1469 then the still extant tower in 1501, now including a clock with four faces and a chime of bells, having been installed by the Athole family (click HERE to hear the bells]. Around the outer walls of the Cathedral may still be seen the arms of the various Bishops who erected the various parts of the building for "the worship and glory of God".

At the time of the Protestant Reformation "the superior enlightenment of the reformers considered it their duty to destroy [the Cathedral] in 1560", leaving it in a ruinous state. While the order from the Scottish Privy Council had simply asked for all idolatrous images to be taken down and burnt and to "cast down the altaris [altars]", the rest of the building, including the windows and ironwork were to be left intact, "Faill not, but ye taik guid heyed that neither the dasks, windocks, nor durris, be onywise hurt of broken - eyther glassin work or iron wark." But the reformers were not about to entertain any half measures and completely sacked the Cathedral, including smashing all the windows.

An Engraving of Dunkeld Cathedral 
by "W. Banks, Edinburgh", 
from "Dunkeld : It's Straths and Glens",
published in 1857.
The same image appears on the Box.
[Source : Google Books]

It was however the local laird who was responsible for removing the roof of the Cathedral, despite one of his ancestors having built a considerable portion of the building. In the year 1600 Stewart of Ladywell, a "neighbouring proprietor", re-roofed the choir then in 1691 the Dukes of Athole, being owners of the cathedral ruins, converted the choir into the present day Dunkeld Parish Church. In order to save it from further decay restoration of the fabric of the roofless parts of the old Cathedral were first undertaken in 1815.

"Dunkeld House", An Engraving by "W. Banks", Edinburgh

The Dunkeld House Hotel website claim that the present Dunkeld House (now being incorporated into the Dunkeld House Hotel) had been built by the Duke of Athole after 1897, being situated a mile further up the river from the previous older pre 1811 Dunkeld House which had been situated on the Cathedral lawns. The former had been an old Inn and was bought by the 4th Duke of Athole as a "summer house", being renamed "St Adamnan's Cottage". Over the following years it was extended, mainly by the 6th Duke, George Murray, who spent £20,000 to £30,000 on his "Palace". Queen Victoria stayed here on one occasion and in 1887 I note that it served as the residence of the Dowager Duchess of Athole.  On the Duke's death it was still unfinished and the 7th Duke decided to build the new Dunkeld House which is now incorporated in the present hotel and country club. While this must be correct I do not know what became of the 6th Duke's pre 1897 "palace". But if you look at images of the current hotel (click here for link) the central block bears a very striking similarity to the above pre 1866 engraving of the old Dunkeld House.

The present day hotel is surrounded by 280 of woodland and guests can engage in many outdoors activities including walks, cycling, shooting and salmon fishing.

"Murthly Castle", An Engraving by "W. Banks", Edinburgh

The "[New] Murthly Castle" portrayed on my box [image next to Cathedral image above] was a magnificent Elizabethan style house designed by James Gillespie Graham being built between 1828 and 1836 for Sir John Drummond Steuart. But building work ceased on the death of Sir John and the house was never finished, always being classed as a folly, and being demolished in 1949. The stone work was used as "ballast" for the Hydro Electricity Boards dam at Pitlochry. Even by 1879 a great many of the stones were "decayed" and "it's completion may be considered doubtful." While the house always remained a shell some quite ornate interior rooms intended for installation in the new castle were simply transferred to the old castle where they remain today. The former (and present) castle dates from the 15th century, being remodeled in the 17th century.

"Birnam", An Engraving by "W. Banks", Edinburgh

The town of Birnam, through which I passed on the train on my way to Aviemore and Inverness some years ago, lies just across the Tay River from Dunkeld. It owes its existence mainly to the "Perth and Dunkeld Railway" which arrived in 1856. It is well known for the neighbouring forest of Birnam Wood which also features in Shakespeare's "Macbeth". The large building with the corner tower is the still extant "Birnam Hotel" being built in the "Saxon Gothic" style around 1840 to 1850.

"Pass of Killicrankie", An Engraving by "W. Banks", Edinburgh

The Pass of Killiecrankie lies about 16 miles north of Dunkeld, being an impressive mountain gorge between the 2,757 ft Ben Vrackie and Tenandry Hill on the River Garry, also being famous for the Jacobite battle which took place nearby in 1689.

"[The] wooded gorge is a popular location for walkers and naturalists. There are a number of easily accessible trails by the River Garry through fine oak and deciduous woodland, rich in wildlife. Autumn colours are particularly spectacular, with the view along the pass from the Garry bridge being one of the most photographed in Perthshire. The gorge is a Site of Special Interest and lies within the Tummel National Scenic Area."

An advertisement for
"McLean's Bazaar", Dunkeld, 1879.
[Source : Google Books]

Sources :

- Wikipedia
- "Dunkeld : It's Straths & Glens", by Charles McLean, 1879 (Google Books)
- "Scotland's Lost Houses" by Ian Gow, 2006 (from my own collection)
- "Leslie's Directory for Perth and Perthshire 1891-92" (Google Books)

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