Victorian 'medieval tournament' paintings acquired for Dean Castle

By Culture24 Staff | 18 December 2009
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a watercolour of a knights on horseback

(Above) Eglinton Knights by James Henry Nixon. Courtesy of Abbott and Holder JV

East Ayrshire Council has acquired a series of watercolours depicting the Eglinton Tournament of 1839 for display at Dean Castle, Kilmarnock following an export bar by former Culture Minister Barbara Follett.

Privately funded by Lord Eglinton at a cost of £40,000, the Eglinton Tournament took place over three days in August 1839 in front of the castle on his Ayrshire estate.

100,000 people travelled across Britain, Europe and even America to attend the spectacle, which included a procession, jousting by tilt and mêlée, a banquet and a ball.

The paintings, by little-known artist James Henry Nixon, were made for a folio of the flamboyant event published in 1843 and perfectly capture the Victorian fascination with everything medieval.

An accompanying series of historic shields used to furnish the knights’ tents have also been purchased for £7,000, along with the watercolours.

The £156,100 funding package, supported by the National Fund for Acquisitions, The Art Fund, The Heritage Lottery Fund and East Ayrshire Council means that the watercolours and shields can now go on display at Dean Castle, Kilmarnock during March 2010.

“The Eglinton Tournament is a flamboyant piece of Ayrshire’s heritage which impacted upon the whole of Scotland,” said Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland. “We are delighted to have helped secure these significant watercolours and shields so that they can be kept in the country and enjoyed by the public.”

A new exhibition is planned for 2011 featuring collections from throughout the country relating to the tournament as well as the Gothic Revival of the period.

For more information and to view the watercolours and shields, visit

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