Arrol’s Seafield House revealed: our new virtual exhibition

Friends of Seafield House had planned to launch the exhibition “Arrol’s Seafield House revelealed” on 16th May 2020 at Rozelle House, Ayr, in association with South Ayrshire Council, as part of 2020 Year of Coastal Waters.  The exhibition was in celebration of the 130th anniversary of the completion of Seafield House and the opening of the Forth Bridge, Sir William Arrol’s greatest construction.  However, as one of Arrol’s favourite poets, Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”.  Due to the COVID-19 lock-down we postponed the launch and instead bring you this virtual exhibition as a taster of the full exhibition, now planned for May 2021.

Screenshot of the home page of the exhibition titled "Arrol's Seafield House revealed" with balck and white photograph of the house.

Click on the image to enter the exhibition


The exhibition was created by FoSH Committee member, Kirsty Menzies, and offers a guided tour through Seafield House using the photographs of Bedford Lemere and Co., which are held by Historic Environment Scotland.  The photographs were taken by Harry Lemere on 12 May 1890, not long after the construction and interior decoration of Seafield House was completed. Our grateful thanks go to Historic Environment Scotland Archives for permission to use the images from their Bedford Lemere Seafield House collection.

Screenshot of tweet by Historic Environment Scotland on 15 June 2020 saying "William Arrol was the engineer whose company built the Forth Bridge - but have you ever wondered what his house was like?  No cantilivers in sight, but there is some rather interesting stuff from our #HESarchives in this from @ Friends Seafield!"

There may be no cantilevers in sight but we hope you will find the exhibition riveting nonetheless.



Seafield House in collection of finest British interiors

Images of the Library and Billiard Room of Seafield House have recently been identified in a collection of cyanotypes of British House interiors of the 1880s-1890s. Cyanotypes are an early form of photographic print, so named because of the cyan-blue image that the printing process produces. The collection was acquired by Bernard Quaritch Ltd, antiquarian booksellers, and is included in their Autumn Listing of rare books and manuscripts for sale.  The set was subsequently acquired by the Yale Center for British Art, a museum and study collection at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where it will be digitized and soon made accessible via their web site.

Cyanotype 67 - Seafield House Library

Cyanotype 67 – Seafield House Library

The cyanotype collection  is of 86 photographs of architectural and decorative interiors in a catalogue entitled “Intérieurs Anglais”.  It is thought that the catalogue was compiled for the French market as a showcase of the finest interior designs in fashionable British homes of the time. The two Seafield House pictures are by Bedford Lemere & Co. and  similar to those held in the  RCAHMS Seafield House Collection.  Joanna Skeels, of Quaritch, who was cataloging the collection, had been in touch with Friends of Seafield House (FoSH) to find out more about the house. FoSH committee members have a wealth of knowledge about Seafield House and Sir William Arrol. From research material on Arrol’s art collection, we were able to provide information to help identify a the painting hanging on the wall in one of the photographs, as well as providing general background information on the house and it’s history.

Joanna Skeels said    “It is significant that Seafield is positioned in the context of other great houses.  It is exciting to think it was being showcased abroad as some of the finest British interiors.”

Friends of Seafield House were delighted to hear of Seafield House’s importance, being recognised, at the time, as one of the finest decorative interiors of the late nineteenth century.

Our thanks go to Quaritch for acknowledging Friends of Seafield House in the details for the Collection and we are pleased that they will remain in the public domain with the Yale Center for British Art.