Aske Hall Case Study: The properties after the death of Sir Lawrence

2. 'Chinese' ScreenThe properties after the death of Sir Lawrence

On his death in 1781 ‘Lawrence Dundas of Arlington Street in the County of Westminster’ left ‘to my dear son Thomas Dundas all my real estate in England, Ireland and Scotland and in the West Indies’, and made him sole executor of his will.[i]  He also left debts which amounted to £1,000 in mortgages, £224,787 in bonds owing in Scotland, and annuities of £4,971. Thomas Dundas rapidly came to the conclusion that some of the properties would have to be sold.  Moor Park was despatched first, in 1784. It fetched £25,000 at auction, and was stripped of its magnificent contents.   The Moor Park paintings were auctioned in 1797. Dundas Mansion in Edinburgh was sold in 1825.   Significantly Kerse remained in the family until 1958, when it was demolished. 19 Arlington Street was not sold until 1935 and Aske Hall became the ‘family seat’. Inventories of the 1830s to 1860s show a consolidation of goods in this process.  An inventory and valuation of 1839, shows ‘India screens’, Indian trunks and an ‘India Cabinet brass bound’ have found their way to Aske, which was becoming the central family property.[ii] ‘Lord Anson’s Model of a Ship in a glass case’ which had been left at Moor Park when Sir Lawrence purchased after Anson’s death in 1762, also found its way to Aske, as well as much of the ‘Nankeen’ ‘India China Vases’, and other chinaware.[iii]  They went to a geographically peripheral, but genealogically central home in Scotland to an archetypal English country house.

Case Study Conclusion

This exercise in the exploration of nabob taste reveals the importance of thinking about a country house not in isolation, but within a network of properties that cross national boundaries.  Each has a role within a family’s personal, dynastic, political, social, cultural  and economic situation, which changes over time. Sir Lawrence’s skills gained whilst working as a merchant contractor gave him a logistical confidence that enabled him not only to deal with many new projects simultaneously, but also to draw objects from all over the world into his properties. His East India Company connections were crucial to the operation of these acquisitions, providing not only the finances, but also a network of associations through which he could acquire them.  It is clear that he considered his ‘India goods’ in a distinct way. They are coralled in the house that was possibly the first Sir Lawrence bought, in the heart of Stirling, his dynastic homeland. He chose not to mix them with the furnishings of his show homes in London,  Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire.  While his patronage of Adam, Chambers, Chippendale and Carr followed the pattern of so many other country house refurbishers, his very particular collection of Asian goods suggests a parallel story, that was also part of a meaningful and ‘civilising process’ centred on consumption.

They were kept after Sir Lawrence’s death, although shortage of funds put pressure on the family to sell, and they were shipped to an English country house that became in later generations the central family home. Perhaps it was here that Sir Lawrence Dundas’s great great grandson, Laurence John Lumley Dundas, 2nd Marquess of Zetland (1876-1961) became fascinated with the East.  He focussed his lengthly career on India, first as a member of the Royal Commission on Public Services in India (1912) , then as Governor of Bengal (1912-1915) and finally as Secretary of State for India (1917-1922 and 1937-1940).  In the search for ‘India goods’ we have found not only a network of commodities, but also of houses and of people; linking the British country house very firmly with the East, and crossing boundaries of place, culture and time.

This case study started out as an examination of one Dundas house, Aske Hall, in an attempt to understand from where and when the Asian goods currently in the house originated. In the process we have unearthed the scale and importance of his East India Company connections, and a very particular attitude to the Indian and Chinese goods that were the fruits of this Company’s trade. The next step might be to compare Sir Lawrence’s strategy with that of his neighbours in North Yorkshire and Hertfordshire. Only thirty miles from Aske Hall, Sir Edwin Lascelles (1713-95) was employing many of the same architects, designers and cabinet makers at Harewood House which he was building and furnishing between 1759-1771, with money made by his father in the West Indian sugar trade. Lascelles  chose to have his Chippendale furniture set against Chinese wallpaper, possibly acquired via his brother Henry’s position in the East India Company.  Entries in the Day Work Book written by the steward Samuel Popplewell evidence the fact that Chippendale’s men were hanging Chinese papers in many rooms in the House including putting up India paper (the contemporary name for Chinese wallpaper) in the Chintz Bedroom between the 1760s and 1790s. Here is a very different strategy of accommodating the East within the British country house.

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[i]  The National Archives: Probate 11/1082.

[ii]  NYCRO ZNK/X/1/0121, s above.

[iii] NYCRO ZNK, X/1/00391 Inventory  of household furniture,.pictures, linen etc belonging to Aske 24 March 862.