News. The impressive family bedroom

15th of February, 2017

Aristocratic empires need an heir and with the widowed 5th Earl of Dumfries in need of a fertile, second wife, a flamboyant display of great wealth and eligibility was never more needed than in the bedroom. But banish any thoughts of bodice-ripping and fluttering hearts from your mind, this isn’t a salacious tale. Pomp, extravagance and splendour were all indicators of a suitor’s worthiness, with prospective brides usually given an invitation to view private chambers as they served a secondary purpose: elaborate reception rooms that were often a house’s showpiece. Beds were a pertinent example of the potential groom’s ability to provide, due to their expense. The unique Chippendale four-poster sits in what is called the Best Bedroom and would have cost the Earl almost £100 – around £14,000 in today’s money. It was by far the most expensive piece he commissioned for the House. Swathed in its original style of brilliant blue damask, it’s been described by Curator Emeritus Charlotte Rostek as “the primary weapon in the Earl’s arsenal of seduction”. The flamboyant bed is one of many elaborate treasures in this room; it’s flanked by alluring pieces of furniture providing a rich seam for historians, while giving an insight into life at the Scottish house.

Did you know?

The four-poster is shorter than modern beds, as people used to sleep in a slightly raised position to avoid respiratory diseases. There was also a common fear of goblins alighting on sleepers, causing bad dreams. The middle English term for goblin was maere, hence the word nightmare.

Could it be true?

Legend suggests the bed was a copy of the Earl of Morton’s bed. Before the Earl of Dumfries married Lady Anne Gordon, he wished to court Morton’s daughter and bought the bed to display his wealth.

Above the mantel

The George II giltwood overmantel mirror with Savonnerie tapestry is a unique project undertaken by Chippendale and weaver Thomas Moore.


In the Bible, the Israelites made tassels to help them remember the commandments. But it’s the French who turned them into symbols of prestige.

In the Frame

The Chippendale bed frame is an excellent example of the designer’s early Rococo phase. It was fashioned from a single piece of mahogany; a task made more difficult as it would have been carved at Chippendale’s London workshop, which was lit only by candlelight.


Originally there would have been a minimum of three mattresses: a horsehair one on the bottom, stitched and firm, then a wool-stuffed mattress, and finally a goose-feather-and-down mattress on the top.


The Muirfield tapestry firescreen protected not just the Axminster carpets, but the ladies' wax-based make-up from melting. The phrase ‘saving face’ originates from this time.