The Mystery of the Salvin Bed…

I have often wondered how the large four-poster bed that now sits in the Salvin Bedroom found its way there. This unusual bed was created by Anthony Salvin (1799-1881), a British architect who designed the mansion here at Scotney Castle. Salvin gained a reputation for restoring castles and country homes in the Tudor style during the Victorian period. He was described by the acclaimed art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘the most successful restorer and purveyor of castles in the second half of the nineteenth century’[1]. He started his career as a pupil of John Nash, who was an advocate of the ‘Picturesque’ movement. This movement saw the revival of a Gothic aesthetic ideal, an approach to architecture seen throughout Scotney Castle’s mansion.

An oak four-poster bedstead with interior spring mattress designed by Anthony Salvin. The hangings NT/SCO/T/46

The ‘Salvin bed’, as it is now known, measures 7ft x 7ft and is made from solid oak. Many are surprised to learn that the bed is in fact a square. It’s enormous and peculiar width makes the bed appear wider than it is long. Its unusual size meant that the last owners of the house, Betty and Christopher Hussey, had a mattress specially made to fit the bed’s particular dimensions.

Originally there were three beds designed by Salvin in the mansion, two of which were sold by Betty and Christopher at a garage sale. It is not known for certain whether the current bed in the Salvin Bedroom replaced one of the two that were sold. The bed’s home in the 1950s was the Drawing Room, which is located in the Hussey wing of the house. To reach the Salvin Bedroom, the bed would have passed through slender doorways, narrow corridors and tight corners, a journey that would have been impossible if the bed was kept as a whole.

So, how did the bed get to be in what we now call the Salvin Bedroom?

It was only until the house had a visit from our National Trust furniture specialist, that an answer was soon revealed. The bed was made to come apart at strategic points, ready to be dismantled at a moment’s notice. Parts of the decoration were designed to detach from the main bed, allowing access to secret locks. These photographs shows some of these hidden locks that are usually covered by oak embellishments.


back of wood

It is exciting to see first-hand Victorian engineering at its best. The craftsmanship that went into the making of this bed is fascinating and one that is full of surprises. The elaborate structures that adorn the bed’s four posts were not carved out of single blocks of solid oak. The petal-like oak carvings would have been handcrafted individually and stuck onto the base of the design. It creates an ornate and impressive effect, an elaborate expression of decadence. The dark colouring of the wood also gives the bed an air of formality. I usually associate oak with imposing writing desks and grand wardrobes. It could be argued that Salvin’s choice of wood may have reflected the luxurious and striking impression he was striving for.

An oak four-poster bedstead with interior spring mattress designed by Anthony Salvin. The hangings NT/SCO/T/46

It is incredible that we can see original markings on the back of the dismantled pieces. This photograph of a detachable piece shows the date of the bed’s completion ‘1844’ and a signature of the workman who pieced the bed together. Written in bold numbers, it is clear that this bed was made with pride.


Light levels in this room are kept to a minimum in order to protect the collection from light damage. Textiles are susceptible to light exposure, and the coverings that adorn the Salvin bed are particularly vulnerable. Floral chintz was used for the bed’s hangings and this chintz theme, which clashes with the nineteenth century turquoise wallpaper, can be seen throughout the room. This collision of fabric and colour was brought in the 1950s, when the bed was moved and is an interesting insight into the changing tastes of Scotney Castle’s owners. The chintz covering the furniture, bed hangings and curtains dates back to 1907 and it is therefore important to protect the textiles from further damage.

Salvin also designed other items in the ‘Salvin Bedroom’, such as the dressing table complete with a triple mirror and the wooden pelmet. These objects are key pieces within Scotney Castle’s collection and together form a well preserved Victorian ensemble. It is a fascinating room to explore and I am constantly making new discoveries that alter my overall understanding of Scotney Castle.


[1] N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (London, 1967) p.111

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Life’s a Picnic…

Whilst carefully cleaning the contents of the Butler’s pantry, I came across a rather interesting object – Christopher Hussey’s picnic set. Inspired by this fascinating find, I decided to research the history of picnics in Britain, as I was curious to discover the origins of this summery excursion.


Twentieth century picnic set belonging to Christopher Hussey. Scotney Castle, ‘Hidden Collection’

Picnics are now widely regarded as being quintessentially British. However, the word ‘Picnic’ actually derives from the French word ‘pique-nique’, which although has Parisian roots is of unknown origin.[1] Some historians believe the word was originally used to describe gourmands who brought their own wine when dining out.[2] Interestingly, the term was not used to refer to a meal eaten outdoors until the mid-nineteenth century when ‘this linguistic adaptation was… embraced by the English and then the American, so that by the mid-nineteenth century the only picnic is an outdoor picnic. Even the reluctant French concurred’.[3]

Christopher Hussey’s picnic set dates from the mid-twentieth century and is a bright shade of green. It contains plastic plates, mugs, a flask as well as room for cutlery – the essentials for a perfect day out in the countryside. Embossed on the front of the case is Christopher Hussey’s initials, ‘C.H’, perhaps indicating the importance with which picnicking was taken in the Hussey household. The set provides a quaint insight into the leisure activities of wealthy families, evoking images of a day spent in the country, eating pork pies and drinking tea out of portable teacups.


Front of Christopher Hussey’s picnic set, embossed with his initials ‘C.H’

Popular British programmes such as The Great British Bake Off, which sees contestants bake often-complex recipes in a countryside setting, has kept the nation’s interest in baked goods that we can neatly pack into wicker picnic baskets and enjoy outdoors. Not only does this encourage us to eat and enjoy food in the countryside, but makes picnicking seem characteristically British. Although the idea of eating outdoors was obviously not a new invention before the word ‘picnic’, the specialised nature of picnicking as a leisure activity was only truly cemented during the nineteenth century.[4]

This leisure aspect towards picnics can be seen explored in numerous paintings, perhaps none more often than those found in the Victorian period. In particular, a famous painting by the French artist James Tissot entitled The Holyday or The Picnic (1876) depicts a picnic scene in the artist’s own garden by a circular pond.[5] The relaxed pose of the gentleman stretched out on the blanket and the pot of tea being leisurely poured into a teacup makes this painting the embodiment of a typical British picnic. Other depictions such as Thomas Cole’s The Picnic (1860) and Claude Monet’s The Picnic (1865) helped solidify this sophisticated understanding of picnics as something to be enjoyed and revelled in.

Holyday c.1876 James Tissot 1836-1902 Purchased 1928

James Tissot, Holyday, oil on canvas (1876)

What is particularly interesting about picnics is that they are not confined to the conventions of meal times such as breakfast, lunch or dinner, as they can be eaten at any time and at any place. In many ways they are the opposite of ‘timed’ meals, which are usually eaten indoors, since they are consumed outside and are generally regarded as a reward of leisure.[6] Picnics are often a spontaneous action, a quick decision to pack up and head to the countryside for some fresh air.

Perhaps ironically, it was only until people migrated to urban areas and away from small villages that the picnic as we know it today really came into being. The need to escape the polluted air of Industrial cities and the long hours spent indoors unleashed a new attitude towards leisure. The mass-production of cars and gradual improvement of public transport enabled many to take mini breaks to the countryside at short notice. Picnics were gradually able to cross class boundaries and books such as Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management gave many the means to put it into action.[7]


A close up of the inside of Christopher Hussey’s picnic set

Picnics are still popular today, with supermarkets creating ‘picnic ranges’ in stores during the summer months. Picnics have been enjoyed by many over the centuries, as it was able to cross class boundaries and formal dining conventions. It is interesting to see that picnics have not changed much since the Victorian period and are still a relaxed affair today. I love picnicking on a hot summer’s day and it is lovely to see that the Hussey family did too.


Anon. ‘The Great British Picnicking Tradition’, Forman & Field (2006-2011)

Butler. S, ‘History in a Basket: It’s Picnic Time!’ Hungry History (2013)

Levy. W, The Picnic: A History (Maryland, 2014)

Tissot. J, ‘Holyday’ (1876) Oil on canvas. Tate.

[1] W. Levy, The Picnic: A History (Maryland, 2014) p.7

[2] S. Butler, ‘History in a Basket: It’s Picnic Time!’ Hungry History (2013)

[3] W. Levy, The Picnic: A History (Maryland, 2014) p.5

[4] Anon. ‘The Great British Picnicking Tradition’, Forman & Field (2006-2011)

[5] J. Tissot, ‘Holyday’ (1876) Oil on canvas. Tate.

[6] W. Levy, The Picnic: A History (Maryland, 2014) p.8

[7] For recipes on Victorian picnicking see Mrs Isabelle Beeton’s, Book of Household Management (London, 1860)

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Gillray’s Talent

The next time that you visit Scotney Mansion, make sure that when you approach the Red Bathroom you don’t simply stick your head in the door and mutter “it’s another bathroom” and wander out again.  Next time, walk right in and take a close look at the prints on the wall.  I guarantee that these Georgian sketches will bring about a smile if not a chuckle at their cheeky humour.

These fascinating pieces of art are the work of the great satirist and caricaturist James Gillray (1756-1815).  He was famous for his bold, grotesque and risqué attacks on the Establishment, the Royal family and Politicians of the time. The great and good of Georgian society were etched onto copper plates, which were sold in colour print form by Miss Hannah Humphrey in her London shop.  In a society without television or photographs, if you were anybody of note, you would want to be caricatured and most certainly feel insulted if the great satirist did not find you worthy of his harsh and vitriolic portrayal.

The Gillray prints in the Red Bathroom are of a more sedate and refined nature being more a social commentary of the times; they mock with a strong sense of irony the fashions of the day and societal norms.  For instance, the topic of matrimony is portrayed by two prints.

Harmony Before Matrimony

harmony before matrimony

The first shows a young courting couple looking lovingly at each other, reading sonnets and playing music in a most harmonious, gentlemanly and ladylike manner.  Even the cat and dog are being playful with each other.  Young women of the time were taught music, French and drawing, essential attributes to attracting a husband and Gillray’s drawing implies that a happy match has been made.

Matrimonial Harmonics

matrimonial harmonics

Here we find the same couple some time after taking their marriage vows; what is Gillray telling us? The young wife has no skills to cope with the practicalities of married life and instead sings and plays through the chaos; her husband has no real interest in music, in fact, he once found her voice full of sweet harmony but now his body language seems to suggest that he thinks she sounds more like a raving Banshee. The lovebirds have turned their backs on each other, the Nanny is desperately trying to stop the baby screaming, the cat and dog are hostile to each other and sadly Cupid (above the fire) has died.  If this was Gillray’s vision of married life, it is no wonder that he and Hannah Humphrey never tied the knot.

It appears that James Gillray was not a particularly happy soul. As a boy, he began an apprenticeship as a letter-engraver but became bored and ran away with a travelling troupe of musicians. Eventually he found his way to the Royal Academy where he perfected his engraving skills.  Later he lived above Miss Humphrey’s shop, which attracted large crowds wanting to ogle or buy his latest prints. Sadly, by 1806 his eyesight was beginning to deteriorate and his depression became exacerbated by heavy bouts of drinking.  He made a suicide attempt in 1811 when his mental health declined further and Hannah Humphrey cared for him until his death in 1815.  So, when you open your daily newspaper and find yourself chuckling at a piece of satire or cartoon caricature of your favourite celebrity or politician, give a thought to James Gillray who blazed a trail in the 18th Century and continued to have a profound influence on many of our clever cartoonists of today.

Lesley McCall

Conservation Assistant

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Jelly Good Fun!

Jelly moulds. Perhaps not the most obvious of items to blog about, but nonetheless an interesting insight into the changing tastes and food fetishes of a country house kitchen…

Jelly has had quite a fluctuating history in terms of ingredients, methods and social trends. The use of gelatine can be traced back to Ancient Egyptian times and is even mentioned in Anglo-Saxon recipe books.[1] Its popularity as a dessert increased dramatically during the Georgian and Victorian periods, when jelly mould designs and recipes became much more adventurous.

Set of eleven assorted copper jelly moulds. Numbered 80, 109, 199, 261, 262, 422, 455, 459, 481 and 539 twice.

Set of eleven assorted copper jelly moulds. Numbered 80, 109, 199, 261, 262, 422, 455, 459, 481 and 539 twice.

Copper jelly mould, date unknown. Scotney Castle, Kent (National Trust)

Once only available to the upper classes, jellies and their moulds were a statement of wealth and affluence. It was originally savoury rather than the sweet dessert we know today, and was a complex dish to make. Before the invention of refrigerators, the concoction would have been poured into moulds, placed into a bowl of ice and then left to cool for a number of hours. Early nineteenth century moulds were often made of copper and were lined with tin to prevent the mixture from getting contaminated by copper oxidisation.[2] Their unique and creative appearance have led some food historians to describe these Victorian moulds as ‘one of the most iconic of items displayed in large historic house kitchens’.[3]

Tall circular tin-lined copper jelly mould in the shape of a castle.

Tall circular tin-lined copper jelly mould in the shape of a castle.

Copper and tin jelly mould, date unknown. Lanhydrock, Cornwall (National Trust)

In Victorian Britain, jelly moulds took on a new lease of life. The industrial revolution with its ability to mass-produce items increased the availability of factory made cheap gelatine. Combined with the growing use of huge pneumatic presses that could stamp out copper into detailed shapes, the manufacturing of jelly moulds was taken to a new level.[4] These mass-market moulds were cheap to make and were set in tin or Britannia metal to look like silver or pewter.[5] The Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace helped to spread this popularity, as they served brightly coloured jellies in the refreshment rooms to visitors.[6] Such advertisement proved successful in broadening jelly’s reach in class and social spheres. This was further helped by cost-effective recipe books, such as the widely read Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, which gave advice on how to cook economically.

mrs beeton

Isabelle Beeton, Beeton’s Book of Household Management (London, 1861)

Mrs Beeton was a widely respected and well-known author, who wrote for married women on the subject of cooking and household management. Although she died at the young age of 28, she wrote over 2000 recipes which were very popular amongst the new servant-employing classes.[7] She has multiple references to jellies in her book. For example, she wrote recipes on how to make ‘Lemon Jelly’ and ‘Apple Jelly’, and made detailed notes on traditional farming methods, cultural uses of staple ingredients and natural history. Cooking and food preparation was therefore seen as encompassing a whole way of life. One food historian has even suggested that ‘cream in its natural form within a jelly mould is a nice symbolic representation of nature controlled, a favourite recurring theme… noted [in] designs of Victorian gardens’.[8]

Although the gardens at Scotney Castle go against cultivated gardens made popular by Capability Brown, it is interesting that something as simple as the presentation of jelly was seen as a symbolic reminder of nineteenth century principals. It could be argued that jelly was therefore the embodiment of a culinary, and perhaps, social ideal as it could be moulded and cultivated into a number of shapes. Food and in particular, the process of making a jelly dessert, could be seen as mankind’s attempt to control its environment and make sense of the world around them.

Four circular copper flat topped jelly moulds.

Four circular copper flat topped jelly moulds.

Metal jelly mould, date unknown, Kingston Lacey Estate, Dorset (National Trust)

Perhaps as a reaction to the sudden accessibility of jelly moulds to a variety of social classes, a more complex jelly mould arose called the Belgrave mould. This is a mould that has inner compartments that could be filled with different fillings such as juices, blancmange or rosewater.[9] This gave jelly a more sophisticated and polished appearance making it a much more refined dessert appreciated by the upper classes. In preparation for this more complex jelly pudding, the mould would have been dipped in warm water and shaken carefully to loosen the set mixture. The results are quite dramatic, especially when the outer layer of jelly is made clear and the inner fillings can be seen beneath.

A circular mould, scalloped fancy, made by McManus Belgrave. L11 registered mould.

A circular mould, scalloped fancy, made by McManus Belgrave. L11 registered mould.

Copper Belgrave mould, date unknown. Dunham Massey, Cheshire (National Trust)

Back in 1995, Petworth House (a National Trust property) had a ‘Jelly Festival’ in which one hundred jellies and their moulds, dating from the 1390s to the 1930s, were exhibited. Jelly moulds were a common item in the country house kitchen and the variety available is a testament to their popularity. Nowadays, jellies are associated with children’s parties – plonked on a plate and garnished with a dollop of ice-cream (or cream, if you are so inclined!). In many ways the ‘art’ of making a jelly has been lost with the introduction of powdered and instant mixtures. Not to diminish the concentrated cube of jelly that was created in 1932, and made this desert more accessible to households throughout the UK.  I have fond memories of making jelly at home with my siblings this way, as well as eating raw cubes before sport matches… What I am trying to say, is that the time and effort that went into making a jelly has largely changed and so it is difficult to see it as a complex and intricate pudding. The fact that it can be mixed in seconds and set in a couple of hours, to me, perhaps reduces its credibility as a ‘specially’ made pudding.

1 of a set of 15 copper jelly moulds; Circular castellated mould.

1 of a set of 15 copper jelly moulds; Circular castellated mould.

Copper jelly mould, date unknown. Castle Drogo, Devon (National Trust)

However, just by looking at the complex designs of these Victorian jelly moulds it is apparent that jellies once held centre stage on the dinner table. I would love to make a jelly in these moulds using a recipe form Mrs Beeton’s book and even more to try it! I found these jelly moulds incredibly interesting to research and they have provided a unique insight into Victorian tastes and values.


BBC Learning, ‘Mrs Beeton’ (1836 – 1865)’ (2014)

BBC News, ‘Jelly set for a hard time’ (29 March 2000)

Chatelains Antiques, ‘Jelly Moulds’,

Food History Jottings, ‘Macedoine and other eccentric jellies’ (30 June 2013)

Kay. E, Dining with the Georgians: A Delicious History (Gloucestershire, 2014)

Walker. H, Look and Feel: Studies in Texture, Appearance and incidental Characteristics of food (Devon, 1994)


[1] BBC News, ‘Jelly set for a hard time’ (29 March 2000)

[2] Chatelains Antiques, ‘Jelly Moulds’,

[3] E. Kay, Dining with the Georgians: A Delicious History (Gloucestershire, 2014) p.110

[4] Chatelains Antiques, ‘Jelly Moulds’,

[5] E. Kay, Dining with the Georgians: A Delicious History (Gloucestershire, 2014) p.110

[6] Food History Jottings, ‘Macedoine and other eccentric jellies’ (30 June 2013)

[7] E. Kay, Dining with the Georgians, p.110

[8] Ibid

[9] H. Walker, Look and Feel: Studies in Texture, Appearance and incidental Characteristics of food (Devon, 1994) p.113; BBC Learning, ‘Mrs Beeton (1836 – 1865)’ (2014)

[10] H. Walker, Look and Feel: Studies in Texture, Appearance and incidental Characteristics of food (Devon, 1994) p.113

[11] Food History Jottings, ‘Macedoine and Other Eccentric Jellies’ (30 June 2013)

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The Chinese ‘Dogs’ of Fo?

Objects that seem out of place or unusual in comparison to their surroundings have always intrigued me. I have visited a number of National Trust properties over the years and the anomalous ‘Dogs of Fo’ are a common sighting. Arranged over door entrances, displayed on top of fireplaces and positioned on tables, these Asiatic lion-dogs are hard to miss. Often dividing opinion over their peculiar appearance these artefacts are nevertheless an interesting addition to these historic houses.

One of a pair of large Chinese famille verte figures of Buddhist lions, seated originally with a brocaded ball, with yellow body and green head, the rectangular bases with green ice pattern grounds. This the male facing right. Kangxi, early 18th century.One of a pair of large Chinese famille verte figures of Buddhist lions, seated with a cub, with yellow body and green head, the rectangular bases with green ice pattern grounds. This the female, facing left. Kangxi early 18th century.

A pair of glazed ceramic ‘Dogs of Fo’ (c.1730) displayed at Scotney Castle, National Trust.

Originating from China, these guardian creations can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206BC – 211AD) where they were traditionally displayed in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, temples, governmental offices and homes of the wealthy.[1] They are usually presented in pairs, symbolising ‘yin’ and ‘yang’, with males positioned to the right of entrances and females to the left. It is easy to tell the gender of these dogs, as the male is nearly always depicted with a ball placed under its foot (symbolising the Earth and dominance) and the female with a cub (emphasising fertility and fruitfulness).

 Model - One of a pair of porcelain Dogs of Fo sitting on rectangular fretted pedestals and enamelled in turquoise, blue and dark purple. from the reign of K'ang Hsi.

Chinese porcelain ‘Dog of Fo’ (1662-1722) displayed at Saltram, Devon. National Trust.

There are many names for these lion-dogs, such as ‘Chinese guardian lions’, ‘Foo Dogs’ or ‘Imperial guardian lions’. Despite such variety, it has been difficult to find the genesis of the term ‘Dogs of Fo’. The word Fo comes from the Chinese term for ‘Buddha’ or ‘prosperity’. However, the Chinese refer to these objects as Shi, which simply translates as ‘lion’.[2] This begs the question, are these artefacts dogs or lions? And where did the term ‘Dogs of Fo’ come from?

 Model; Dog of Fo - One of two dogs of Fo on pedestal base. Blanc de chine. See also C.41.b. Not a pair.

Ceramic ‘Dog of Fo’ (unknown date) displayed at Dyrham, Gloucestershire. National Trust.

One explanation as to why Western cultures call these guardian creatures ‘dogs’ is that the Japanese, having been introduced to these items via a trade route through Korea, named these objects Komainu – ‘Korean dogs’.[3] Europeans may have combined both Chinese and Japanese understandings of these artefacts, creating the term ‘Dogs of Fo’. Alternatively, it may be that these lions were mistaken for representing a particular Chinese dog breed, such as a Shih Tzu, and the name remained. Past scholarship has often leant the quirky appearance of these lion-dogs to the idea that many in Pre-Modern China would not have actually seen a lion. Up until recently, it was believed that many artists would have relied on written descriptions of lions, hence the object’s often elaborate and creative design. However, with the formation of the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty connecting West and East Asia, Asiatic lions were gradually introduced to China.[4] This enabled a large proportion of the population to see these animals first hand, strengthening the argument that these guardian artefacts are indeed intended as lions.

It is also important to note that between 206BC and 211AD Buddhism was slowly being accepted as a recognised religion in China.[5] Lions were, and are, an important symbol for Buddhists as they were thought to be protectors of truth. In accordance with Buddhist legend, its founder Sakyamuni was born ‘roaring like a lion’, with one hand pointing to Heaven and the other towards the Earth.[6] The lion is therefore an extremely important symbol to those of the Buddhist faith, a physical guardian and defender of truth. Originally carved out of stone, these lions would flank the entrances to Buddhist temples, protecting its inhabitants as well as providing a good omen. This goes some way to explaining the ‘Fo’ part of the Western description, a reference to the growing Buddhist religion in China. So, an important question to ask is, why do these houses in Britain have them?

A pair of Dogs of Fo, guardian lion defenders of Buddhist temples. Guandong, China, 2nd quarter of C19. Male dog with front paw on ball. Female with front paw on cub.

Ceramic ‘Dog of Fo’ (1825-1850) displayed at Ickworth, Suffolk. National Trust.

Although these Chinese ‘Dogs of Fo’ were completely unfamiliar to Western traditions they became extremely popular in eighteenth century Europe. With the booming tea industry strengthening trade links between China and Britain, these often ceramic based dogs were brought over with great success. British consumers were both fascinated and mystified by these exotic objects that became more easily available in an increasingly globalised world.[7] The sheer variety and number of these objects that found themselves in these wOne of a pair of seated Dogs of Fo or Buddhist Lions, decorated in gilt on iron-red grounds. Rests paw on a puppy.ealthy British properties, is further indicative of their popularity.

Ceramic ‘Dog of Fo’ (1825-1850) displayed at Ickworth, Suffolk. National Trust.

Personally, I think these lion-dogs are fascinating, as I find it remarkable these peculiar objects were widely collected and sanctioned by the wealthy classes in Britain. The variety of these artefacts is extraordinary and is a testament to the creativity of the artists who designed them. Whether these objects should definitively be regarded as either lions or dogs, is perhaps a question that should be left unanswered. I like to think of them as a combination of the two; fierce lion-dogs who are keeping watch over Britain’s historic houses and their collections.

Becca Carter

Conservation Assistant, Scotney Castle


Bates. R, 29 Chinese Mysteries (Beijing, 2008) Chinese Guardian Lions, Collector’s Weekly, Johns. C, Dogs: History, Myth, Art (Hong Kong, 2008) Long. L, Chinese Stone Lions’ (October 10, 2002) Porter. D, The Chinese Taste in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 2010)

Footnotes [1] C. Johns, Dogs: History, Myth, Art (Hong Kong, 2008) p.72 [2] Chinese Guardian Lions, [3] R. Bates, 29 Chinese Mysteries (Beijing, 2008) p.62 [4] Collector’s Weekly [5] R. Bates, 29 Chinese Mysteries, p.56 [6] L. Long, Chinese Stone Lions’ (October 10, 2002) [7] D. Porter, The Chinese Taste in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 2010) p.4

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Mini Beasts

Scotney Castle is home to a large array of wildlife: Green Woodpeckers, Newts and Dormice to name but a few of our flagship species. But there are plenty more that go unnoticed, unrecognised, and therefore unloved. Apart from by one gentleman, a certain John Davis, that has been become fascinated by mini beasts of Scotney Castle Estate.

Sloe Bug (Dolycoris baccarum)

Sloe Bug (Dolycoris baccarum)

All of these pictures were taken by John recently and I thought that they were too interesting not to share. Also, it is about time that these little creatures that are so important in the food chain of many bigger species, get the publicity that they deserve!


Dilophus febrilis - Fever-fly

Dilophus febrilis – Fever-fly

Adela reaumurella - Longhorn Micro Moth sp.

Adela reaumurella – Longhorn Micro Moth sp.

Rhagium mordax - Longhorn Beetle sp.

Rhagium mordax – Longhorn Beetle sp.

Rhagio scolopaceus - Snipe-fly_1

Rhagio scolopaceus – Snipe-fly

Syrphus vitripennis [female] - Hoverfly sp.

Syrphus vitripennis [female] – Hoverfly sp.

Tipula oleracea - Crane-fly sp.

Tipula oleracea – Crane-fly sp.

Propylea 14-punctata - 14-Spot Ladybird_1

Propylea 14-punctata – 14-Spot Ladybird

Pyrochroa serraticornis - Cardinal Beetle sp.

Pyrochroa serraticornis – Cardinal Beetle sp.

There is lots out there, one just has to look. Thanks for your hard work John. Mark, Ranger.

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The animals went in two by two, hurrah, hurrah!

The story of Noah’s ark is one that has long captured the imagination of adults and children alike for centuries. Stain glass windows, paintings, songs and films are just some of the ways in which the story has been communicated and expressed through the ages. And it is easy to see why the tale has been passed down with such success. It is a story containing adventure, destruction, hope and redemption – a terrifying account as to the dangers of indulging in sin:

And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. 16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth… 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man.[1]

Although the story is full of warning and caution, the beautiful imagery of the animals ascending onto the ark in pairs is one that lingers in the mind. It is perhaps unsurprising that this iconic scene was made into a children’s toy, a religious plaything to pass on Christian values to the younger generation.

Noah's ark

Exhibited in a display case on the staircase at Scotney Castle, sits such an example.

Made in the 1830s, the Hussey’s Noah’s ark is of German origin. Most Noah’s ark toys were made in the Erzgebirge region of Germany during the nineteenth century and it was largely a cottage industry run by families.[2] Such toy arks can be traced back as early as the seventeenth century, but seem to have reached their peak in the Victorian era. This may be explained by the rapid commercialisation of the toy industry, with as many as eight hundred toymakers recorded in London by the 1850s.[3] Indeed, it is claimed that nearly all children in the late nineteenth century had one or two toys, with children from all classes forming an intense relationship with their toys, as they do today.[4]

However, Noah’s ark toys would have only been common in wealthy nurseries, due to the intricacies of the design. These toy arks were varied, but can generally be divided into three styles – flat bottom, rounded bottom and boat bottom. Early arks had detachable roofs, but as these were often misplaced, hinges were added to later models. The Hussey’s Noah’s ark has a boat bottom design, which was the most decorative and expensive.[5] It is complete with a sliding side section that opens up to a big interior for the animals to squeeze into. Although the ark is of notable size, there is not enough room for all of the animals in the Hussey collection to fit in, as there are just over one hundred pairs of animals! The Hussey’s ark set is therefore a fantastic example of an extensive and varied nineteenth century collection.

At the very least ark sets contained a boat, Noah and his wife, a few pairs of animals and a dove. The dove is extremely important to the story of Noah’s ark, as it represented God’s reconciliation with mankind after the flood:

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made…8 … he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground… 11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off, so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth…[6]


On the Hussey’s ark, the dove is painted on its roof with a bright green olive branch held in its beak [see photograph]. Placed in the middle of the roof, the dove is given central importance – a constant reminder of God’s salvation to those who have faith. Clear lessons were to be learnt from toy arks and their religious symbolism meant that they were often the only toys children were allowed to play with on Sundays.

It is also interesting that there are five figures recorded in the Hussey collection – Noah, his wife, two females and a male.

NoahWifemisc.boywife brother 2wife brother

          Noah              Noah’s Wife           Misc. Man           Misc. Woman           Misc. Woman

More extensive sets included Noah’s children and their wives and it is possible that the miscellaneous male figure may be one of Noah’s offspring – Ham, Shem or Japheth – with the other two toy brothers lost or misplaced long ago. With this in mind, the two females could be two of the brothers’ wives – Sedeqetelebab, Ne’elatama’uk or Adataneses – although this is just speculation.

What I find particularly fascinating is the diversity and variety of the animals in the collection. To name some examples there are spiders, anteaters, guinea pigs, grasshoppers, moles, polar bears, otters, camels, hares, stags, rats, monkeys and panthers. These animals were made by families in cottage industries who had limited or no knowledge of exotic creatures. As a consequence, there are some very unusual looking animals of varying colours and sizes!

Weird animalstrnage aBNIMAL 2

These two miscellaneous creatures are my personal favourites, as it shows the creativity and imagination of the individual who made them.

It is evident that this ark was much loved and played with during its glory days, as it was passed down from generation to generation. The ark has an unsigned and undated note:

‘Noah’s Ark pertaining to Mary (Hussey) and Winifred Herbert / And to their Mother (Sykes)’.

Christopher Hussey was the last to receive the ark and it is fantastic that the boat, and its vast collection, still resides at Scotney Castle. I like to think that the ark was of some significance to the family, a happy reminder of a childhood spent playing. The powerful connection between toy arks and children can be seen explored in popular literature of the time. Charles Dickens mentions a toy ark in his book Our Mutual Friend (1884) in which a sick child turned in a hospital bed ‘to fortify himself with a view of the ark and fell asleep’.[7] Noah’s ark toys were evidently well received by adults and children alike, and the variety available by the end of the nineteenth century suggests a social acceptance of such playthings for children.

I think it is great that the Hussey’s ark is on display for all to see at Scotney Castle. Although it is not possible to show more of the ark’s impressive collection of animals, it’s mere presence gives the house a light-hearted atmosphere. Despite the sombre Christian message the ark symbolises, it was a child’s plaything – a toy to be loved and played with. The intricate make up of the ark and the ingenuity of the toy animals, suggests that this was an ark designed to encourage adventurous stories. It is an interesting example of Victorian eccentricity and it is wonderful to think that the Hussey family were a part of it.

Conservation Assistant, Scotney Castle

Becca Carter


Fletcher. A, Growing Up in England: The Experience of Childhood, 1600-1914 (New Haven, 2008)

Frost. G, Victorian Childhoods (Westport, 2009)

(ed.) Johnson. R; Dickens. C, Our Mutual Friend (New York, 1884)

Genesis 7:15-22; Genesis 8:8-12, New King James Version

‘Noah’s Ark’,


[1] Genesis 7:15-22, New King James Version

[2] ‘Noah’s Ark’,

[3] A. Fletcher, Growing Up in England: The Experience of Childhood, 1600-1914 (New Haven, 2008) p.xvii

[4] G. Frost, Victorian Childhoods (Westport, 2009) pp. 76-77

[5] ‘Noah’s Ark’,

[6] Genesis 8:8-12, New King James Version

[7] (ed.) R. Johnson; C. Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (New York, 1884) p.135

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