News. Explore the history of Dumfries House

28th of February, 2017

After the death of The 5th Earl of Dumfries, the House passed to his nephew Patrick MacDouall-Crichton for a 35-year tenure. But it would be his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Penelope, who would change the course of the estate’s history, by marrying Lord Mount Stuart, the eldest son of the 1st Marquess of Bute. Just two years after their marriage, Mount Stuart had a fatal fall from a horse, while Lady Elizabeth Penelope died of fever aged only 24. The eldest of their two sons succeeded his maternal grandfather as the 2nd Marquess of Bute in 1803 and married the daughter of Viscount Herbert Windsor, who owned all the land and mineral rights in Glamorgan. The family established the enormous Bute Docks in Cardiff. Such was their wealth that by the time Dumfries House passed to the 3rd Marquess of Bute, he was known as the richest man in the world.

A patron of Victorian architecture, the 3rd Marquess commissioned Robert Weir Schultz – who designed St Andrew’s chapel in Westminster Cathedral – to extend the original wings in the 1890s. Sympathy to the existing building was the pair’s greatest priority. “They planned to extend the wings out backwards, and that offered more space without altering the front elevation of the House,” says Thomas Breckney, Dumfries House’s Collections Manager. The 3rd Marquess also added a Turkish bath and a Byzantine chapel, unfinished in his lifetime but now divided to create the Great Steward’s Dining Room.

“Although he’s not talked about, the 4th Marquess’ work is far more evident at Dumfries House, because his father died just as the work was under way,” explains Simon Green, a historian and author of Dumfries House: An Architectural History. “While the scheme for the Tapestry Room, for example, was designed by the 3rd Marquess and Robert Weir Schultz, it was the 4th Marquess who finished it off. He also created the Billiard Room, as well as re-fashioning one of the new rooms twice: once as a gun room, then as a Toby Jug room.”