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The Characters & Objects of House of Dun

Wednesday 10th July 2019

Having done a recent guided tour of House of Dun we were fascinated to discover what a weird and wonderful history the house has had! Each room we went into uncovered more tales and secrets so we asked Visitor Services Supervisor and walking encyclopaedia of House of Dun history Shona to give us a bit of a walk through for sharing on here...

We would thoroughly recommend doing a tour and if you want to visit during our Exploring Angus all ticket holders will receive 50% discount on a house tour!

Interesting Characters of House of Dun:

David Erskine, 13th Laird, Lord Dun
David was the person who built the House, a Scottish advocate, judge and commissioner to parliament, and lord of the judiciary.

Lady Augusta Fitzclarance  
Lady Augusta married into the Erskine family and became Lady Augusta Kennedy Erskine. Illegitimate daughter of King William IV and actress Mrs Dorothy Jordan, one of 10 children they had together. Lady Augusta modernised the layout of the House for the Victorian fashions, and designed the walled garden. She was very skilled at embroidery, and you can see examples of this all over house.

Violet Jacob
Violet was the daughter of House of Dun's 18th Laird and sister of its 19th Laird (Lady Augusta’s granddaughter). She was a poet and author, and a very skilled artist, some of her illustrations are in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh. She lived in India for a time as well as South Africa and Egypt. She also wrote in a local dialect. Once described by Hugh MacDiarmid as “the most considerable of contemporary vernacular poets".

Millicent Lovett

21st and last Laird. She gifted the House, collection and estate to the NTS in the 1980’s in her will.

William Adam

Architect of the House of Dun (and Haddo House). Father of Robert Adam who created the Adam’s style. Robert was influenced by William’s love of symmetry and classical form which is very distinct in both of these NTS properties.

Interesting Objects of House of Dun:

Boot Bath
Similar to the more common slipper bath however this version kept your modesty intact while also keeping the heat in.

Clockwork Spit
Used for slow roasting over the kitchen fire. Would have saved the job being carried out by a child. The spit will continue to rotate as long as there is space for the counter weight to fall. 

Plaster work in the Saloon
Created by Dutchman Joseph Enzer, commissioned by architect William Adam. Contains the following symbolism relating to the family and estate:
Neptune: Reference to the fact the family owned the Montrose Basin at the time.
Mars: Reference to the Earl of Mar, kinsman of David Erskine, and who had influence on the design of the house. He was also a General in the Jacobite Army (Mars’s foot has been placed on an image of the crown).
Minerva: Reference to David Erskine himself who was a judge.
Baskets of Fruit and Agricultural Instruments: Reference to the larger estate and how bountiful it was.
Musical Instruments: Reference to the fact the Saloon was designed as an entertaining space.
Erskine Family Crest: To remind everyone this was the seat of the Erskine’s, crest is repeated throughout the house of furniture, embroidery and in the gardens on ironwork.

Naïve Portraits
Decorating the staircase in the House. These would have been created be a travelling artist. The torsos would have been pre painted and the faces painted to match the family.

Timekeepers Hooves
Timekeeper was the charger of the 18th Laird, William Henry Kennedy-Erskine. He was so fond of the Horse that when he passed away he had him buried on the grounds and turned his hooves into inkwells.

Silent Companion
Silent companion sits in the parlour. It is thought they we used to ward off loneliness.

Embroidery
The house contains a large collection of embroidery most of which was completed by Lady Augusta. The bedspread in the Red Bedroom was done for her son’s wedding, she embroidered the following message in ornate floral text:
WHKE
FROM
HIS
MOTHER
AFGH

These are a just a handful of the stuff you'll learn on a tour of the house so grab your Exploring Angus day out now for a fascinating day out!