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17 Oct 2018

Architecture inspires art at Kellie Castle

Written by Lorna Weir (photographs by Christophe Brogliolo)
Elevation drawings of Kellie Castle
Kellie Castle, drawn by Robert Stodart Lorimer
Project Reveal takes a look at the elaborate ceilings at Kellie Castle and the artwork they inspired.

Another property has been completed by Project Reveal, and Kellie Castle did not disappoint in providing us with interesting objects, representing the history and architecture of the house and also the talents of its final owners, the Lorimers.

The castle was built in three phases. The original north-west tower dates from around 1360; in 1573 the east tower was built; lastly the south-west tower was added. All three were linked by a range, creating the T-shape of the building you see today. Some of the most prominent architectural features lie inside the house though, where a number of ceilings are decorated with elaborate plasterwork.

In 1878, James Lorimer, Regius Professor of Public Law at Edinburgh University, rented Kellie Castle, initially as a holiday home and subsequently it became their family home. When they first rented it, the castle was in a state of disrepair and so the family set about restoring it to its full potential, including work on the plaster ceilings.

The Lorimers were an extremely talented family: one of Professor Lorimer’s sons, John Henry, was a renowned painter; another, Robert Stodart, was a prominent architect. His grandson Hew was a famous sculptor. The work of each of these artists can be seen in many of the objects on show around the castle.

While working in the castle’s collections store, the Reveal Team came across artwork that not only shows the talent that Robert Stodart in particular had, but also his appreciation for, and the beauty of, Kellie Castle itself. These architectural drawings of the elaborate ceilings at Kellie were done by Robert in the 1880s and it's incredible to see the detail he was able to include in them.

Drawing of plasterwork ceiling
Drawing Room plasterwork ceiling drawn by Robert Lorimer

This image depicts the plasterwork on the Drawing Room ceiling, which commemorates the second marriage of Alexander, 3rd Earl of Kellie, to Mary Dalzell, in 1665.

The Library at Kellie Castle
The Library at Kellie Castle
Detail of the Library plasterwork ceiling
Detail of the Library plasterwork ceiling, drawn by Robert Lorimer

The Library ceiling dates from 1617, and is potentially the first plaster ceiling to be created in Scotland. It includes the initials ‘TVF’, which stands for Thomas Viscount Fentoun. The title of Viscount Fentoun, along with Earl of Kellie, was bestowed upon Thomas Erskine for his part in thwarting a conspiracy to murder King James VI in 1600.

Detail of the Vine Room plasterwork ceiling
Detail of the Vine Room plasterwork ceiling, drawn by Robert Lorimer

This room has one of the most impressive interiors in the house, and is named the Vine Room after the incredibly elaborate plasterwork on the ceiling. As the drawing shows, however, the features don’t entirely look like vines, and some people have suggested they look more like hops.

The Lorimers took great care in restoring the beautiful features of Kellie Castle and it’s interesting to see how much the family were inspired by this beautiful house. Kellie holds a lovely mix of art and architecture, and while we were working there it was extremely enjoyable for us to see how these two aspects have intermingled throughout its history. Visitors to the property can gaze up at the plaster ceilings for themselves and see just how talented the artist of these works of art was.

Project Reveal is a Trust-wide collections digitisation project. It will result in an updated database with high-quality images and unique object numbers for every item in the National Trust for Scotland’s material culture collections. Six regionally based project teams, supported by experienced project managers, will work across all our properties with collections to complete the inventory in 24 months from July 2017 until July 2019.

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