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Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Scottish Art’s Hidden Treasure – Hospitalfield House: A visit by the Society of Authors in Scotland

Society of Authors' members on the visit

Hospitalfield House has often been described as Scottish art’s hidden treasure and thought by many to be one of the finest country houses in Scotland. I was lucky enough to be asked to arrange a visit there for members of the Society of Authors in Scotland.
 
Hospitalfield House
The organisation of the visit was a fairly smooth process due to the helpfulness of the staff. Scott Byrne, in particular, was instrumental in ensuring the visit went smoothly. He arranged the guide, the coffee and cake before the tour, and lunch afterwards. Thanks to him the visit was an outstanding success.
I couldn't resist this view of the first-floor landing leading to the rooms

Twelve members of the Society of Authors booked for the visit and we gathered outside the house before the commencement of the tour. Most of us were strangers to each other but we soon gelled into a friendly group over coffee and cake. Then the tour guide, who said he was a volunteer, provided an in-depth talk on the history of the house and its artefacts as he guided us through the various rooms.
A few of the wonderful tapestries on display

You will find Hospitalfield House in the seaside town of Arbroath which is also known for its abbey where the Declaration of Independence, officially known as the Declaration of Arbroath, was signed in 1320. The house was founded, in 1260, by the monks of the abbey as a leprosy and plague hospice. By 1325 the building and land was leased, by the Church, to two farmers, a provision being that they build a byre and a barn. But the Reformation in the 16th century spelled the end of the ownership of Hospitalfield by the Church.


The Fraser family assumed ownership of the house and lands in 1664 when the Reverend James Fraser, of Arbroath parish, bought Hospitalfield and made it his home. The house remained in the Fraser Family until the death of Patrick Allan Fraser in 1890.


Patrick Allan Fraser was a renowned artist, curator and collector, and a philanthropist who supported and encouraged the arts. He and his wife were childless and on his death Hospitalfield was left in trust to support and encourage young artists. The trust still carries the original name The Patrick Allan-Fraser of Hospitalfield Trust, and the aims are the same  - to run Hospitalfield as a cultural organisation for artists and for education in the arts. This aim is met by a variety of programmes.
 
Where else would you find writers but in the library
But, enough of the history, the house is magnificent. It certainly lives up to its name as one of the finest country houses in Scotland, and I was fascinated by the number of heads and faces carved into the stone facade of the house. Inside we were conducted through room after room containing statues, oil paintings, antique furniture, tapestries and lots more. Words cannot express the magnificence of what we viewed and the photos I’ve included here only show a very small selection of the treasures we saw. I can only advise you go to Hospitalfield and look for yourself.
 
One of the carved heads overlooking the front door
At the end of the tour a lovely buffet lunch awaited us. Healthy salads quiche and meats, followed by less healthy scones with spread with strawberries and cream. I think it safe to say a good time was had by all.
 
The lunch must have been good, the plates are empty
After lunch a visit to the fernery


Thank you, Hospitalfield for a lovely experience.

Links to Hospitalfield House






I can strongly recommend a visit to Hospitalfield.

Chris Longmuir




4 comments:

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I'm so envious, Chris - would love to have visited it with you all! Great photos.

Chris Longmuir said...

It was a brilliant visit, Rosemary, and the thing I didn't mention in the post is that Walter Scott's 'Monkbarns' in 'The Antiquary' is reputed to be modelled on Hospitalfield House.

Rae Cowie said...

Ashamed to admit I hadn't heard of Hospital field House, Chris but your interesting post means that I'd now love to visit. Beautiful photos. : )

Chris Longmuir said...

Thanks, Rae. It's a hidden treasure indeed.