Bowhill – Duke Walter’s cultural tour de force – We can’t say for certain where Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch, acquired the collecting bug.
But he must surely have been mightily influenced by Sir Walter Scott, one of the avid collectors of his day, and one of Walter’s six guardians.
Living just down the road at his ‘conundrum castle’ of Abbotsford, Scott was at the height of his popularity and a frequent visitor to Bowhill near Selkirk, the ancestral Scottish Borders home of the Buccleuch family.
We should be eternally grateful for any advice he passed on to young Walter who inherited his title in 1819 at the tender ago of 13. As Duke he added major works of art, furniture and silverware to Bowhill’s treasures.
He also played a major role in shaping the landscape around Bowhill, which sits in over 63,000 acres, and commissioned the services of the same architect who had worked for Scott on Abbotsford.
Duke Walter was responsible for bringing together a wonderful collection of miniature masterpieces that include works by Holbein, his tutor Horenbout, Nicholas Hilliard and Samuel Cooper.
It is one of the great private collections, second only to the Royal Collection, and includes the celebrated ‘warts and all’ portrait of Oliver Cromwell.
The 84 miniatures are on show in the Italian Room at Bowhill and their artistic ‘neighbours’ include works of Venice by Guardi, Marieschi and Belotto together with views of Naples and southern Italy by Antonio Joli.
In the Dining Room the eye is drawn to the huge Canaletto masterpiece of Whitehall (circa 1710) and just right of the fireplace the Pink Boy by Sir Joshua Reynolds; painted as a rival to Gainsborough’s famous Blue Boy and featuring Charles, 4th Duke of Buccleuch, as its study.
In this room, too, you’ll find a silver candelabrum telling the origin of the family name Buccleuch. Commissioned by Duke Walter it was made by Garrard’s of London in 1830 and weighs 13 stone.
Duke Walter and his wife Charlotte Anne were the first to live at the house and their vision is largely what we see today.
He was a patron of the arts and visitors will also find superb examples of French and Meissen porcelein as well as French furniture from the reigns of Louise 14, 15 and 16.
The art works are amazing and Winter by Reynolds (right) painted in 1777 is a special favourite with visitors. The little girl in the painting was Walter’s aunt, Caroline Scott. People also make special trips just to view the Gainsbrough’s and the portrait of Walter Scott by Henry Rayburn,” she said.
Bowhill, a couple of miles drive from Selkirk. More information about opening times at www.bowhill.org