Hospitalfield, Day 5

The last object that we looked at yesterday was a red Jasper table that was made specifically from a large piece of Jasper found on the shore.  This room with its magnificent marble fireplace and piano is the largest room on the second floor.  It is the table in front of the window – one solid piece of Red Jasper.  On the walls, you will notice lots of pictures.  Patrick Allan-Fraser, who you will recall was a member of The Clique Art Group, wrote to his fellow members and friends and said that he would pay them 100 GBP if they would send him a portrait they had painted.  At the time, the average wage for a Headmaster (considered one of the highest paying positions) was 70 GBP.  Allan-Fraser was well known for helping artists to further their training.  He even paid for some to attend art school in Edinburgh.

One of only two members of the group, Edith Ballantyne, sent the portrait below. She was active as a painter for only seven years, 1880-87.


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The title is Afternoon Tea.  The parrot makes reference to Allan-Fraser’s wife, Elizabeth, who was a member of the Parrot family at Hawkesbury.  It was her inheritance that bought this grand property.

One other portrait is D O Hill of Hill and Adamson.  They were pioneers of Scottish photography.  Hill supplied the picture, The Old Mill.


This room contains a number of paintings and ceramics.  Sadly, Allan-Fraser had no interest in ceramics! Tomorrow I will talk about the use of bitumen to darken the oils and the subsequent unstoppable deterioration on these 19th-century pictures because of it.

One other picture from the group is A Bell Middleton, Portrait of A Bell Middleton.




Turning around and to the left is the room that for a better title I will call the Harp Room.  Hospitalfield recently held a fundraiser to restore this 17th-century harp and they have harp concerts during the year.


There are several other curiosities in this room.  One is the large cedar cabinet with its camphor wood drawers.  Inside, after Elizabeth died, Patrick had some of her clothes kept including the dress she was wearing in the portrait he painted of her earlier in this blog.


There are also two other cabinets that hold collections of shells and rocks as well as flora.  These were typical hobbies during the 19th century.

Every day Simon bakes homemade bread for us and there is a growing interesting in using handmade wooden breadboards.  The one below was carved by John Hutchinson who also did other fine wood carvings in the house.  One of his pieces is encased in a glass frame in the Harp Room.

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Also in this room are several marble groups and a number of pictures.

W. Calder Marshall carved the beautiful figure of Psyche.  Marshall was born in Edinburgh (1813) and attended Edinburgh University before he became a student at the Royal Academy in London in 1834.  There his tutors were Francis Chantrey and Edward Hodges Baily.  Two years later, in 1836, Marshall travels to Rome to study classical sculpture.  He returns to England in 1836.  At the age of fifty-one, he was commissioned to carve the allegorical group, Agriculture, for the Albert Memorial.  In that magnificent work, a female figure symbolizing Agriculture directs the attention of the farmers to the benefits of the latest farming technology including a steam cylinder, cob, and a retort.  Marshall was the most accomplished and prolific sculptors during the Victorian era.

Also in the room is a lovely group, Hen and Chicks, by Longbardi.  I have yet to find information on this sculptor.  If you know, write to me!


And right as you exit, to your right, is a lovely genre picture by Alexander Bell Middleton’s (1829-1860), The Evening Guide Sir!  It is one of three or four pictures by Middleton in the Hospitalfield collection.


It is such a privilege being at Hospitalfield House.  When I was reading for my PhD, I wished that I could transport myself back into the lives of the people in the 19th century.  Decades later that wish has come true!

And now, my project.  I came with the anticipation of casting 54 ovoid bottles and placing them along the coastline.  Two problems:  too damp to dry that many bottles even with mechanical assistance (heat lamps and lights) and you cannot actually get right down to the sea because the railway is there.  So they are being placed among the plants in the kitchen garden.


The forecast is for snow tomorrow.  It is Saturday and I am due to take a day off and drive up through the Scottish Highlands.  More images to share with you!

Cosmic Joke?

I was so looking forward to getting out of snowy Winnipeg that I couldn’t think of anything but green grass, lochs, dramatic hills, daffodils, and Scottish shortbread.  The weather reports were for ‘rain, rain, and rain’.  That chill to the bone cold is something that we got used to I was a student at the University of Leicester.  And speaking of Leicester, I was going to get to connect with one of my friends from that era, Hazel, from the Shetland Islands now working for Scottish Museums.  Our original plan was to walk through the Old Town part of the city with its cobblestones, public statuary, and beautiful stone buildings.  The icy wind and rain meant that we shifted from one sitting spot to another during the course of the morning.  Our first stop was for tea and scones (OK, Hazel had an elephant-shaped piece of shortbread).

The Elephant House is located in the old part of the city.  It is easy to find and any local can give you directions because this lovely boutique cafe claims to be one of the cafes where J K Rowling wrote Harry Potter.


The Elephant Cafe is one of a few coffee and tea shops that Rowling visited with her baby daughter so that she could write.


Rowling is a true rags to riches individual.  As a single mom struggling on welfare in Edinburgh, she had, of course, no idea that two decades later people would travel to Edinburgh to visit the sites of her stories.  Rowling’s home was full of books and from a very young age, she wanted to be a writer.  Her website says that she wrote her first book at the age of six called ‘Rabbit’ while she finished her first novel five years later at the age of eleven.  Rowling went on to University, spent a year in Paris while she was a student and eventually marries a man from Portugal.  But, in 1995, that marriage fell through and she returned to Edinburgh only for her mother to die shortly after.  In the midst of two tragic events, the divorce and the death, Rowling took the skills she had learned in her Classics courses and set about to finish a book that she had started years before.

In 1990 on a delayed train from Manchester to London King’s Cross, she conceived the idea for the Harry Potters series.  She built up the outline for the series of seven books on odd pieces of papers.  In 1997, Bloomsbury Children’s Books published the first of the seven books.  For many, it is like a fairy tale and it is easy to see from all of the shops selling Harry Pottery memorabilia that the books continue to have a great following.  If you travel to Edinburgh, you can go on the Harry Potter tours.  But if you just want a great scone or shortbread and a pot of British tea, then step into the Elephant House Cafe.  One bit hint, this is a very popular bistro cafe amongst the locals as well and tables at the normal busy times of day can mean a lineup.

We then spent our time catching up on our lives for the past two decades sitting amongst the Titians at the National Gallery.  What a beautiful gallery.  It was Valesquez’s Old Woman Cooking Eggs that caught my attention after the colossal images by Gainsborough with fabrics you can reach out and touch – it sure feels that way.  The Museums in Scotland are free admission and those in Edinburgh are located within walking distance of one another.  If you stay in this part of the City, you never have to hire a taxi but you can simply walk from one venue to another with ease.

There are a number of ways to get to Edinburgh.  In fact, this trip taught me a lot.  If you live in Canada, you can fly via Halifax to Glasgow with WestJet Airlines.  You can also fly to Edinburgh via either London Gatwick or London Heathrow.  When I booked, Gatwick was the cheapest option.  Then you take the Thameslink to London San Pancreas International.  The return ticket is 21 GBP.  Today that is roughly $42 CDN.  It takes about 40 minutes.  In San Pancreas you can find some lovely food shops – much better in my opinion from those at King’s Cross.  Then you take the LNER train to Edinburgh.  Now here is also a big tip:  If your train is delayed by 30 minutes you will get some compensation.  If it is delayed by an hour you can get the entire cost of the ticket refunded.  My train was 78 minutes late in arriving.  Bingo!

Edinburgh is a very cultural city and there are festivals throughout the summer.  Most of the big manor houses or even Balmoral Castle allow for visitors.  They open April 1.  There are even cottages to let on the grounds of Balmoral Castle.

I am leaving for Arbroath tomorrow instead of today.  The snow is tapering off and melting so I have hope that the 8 degrees C is for real.