Eglinton Tournament watercolours to form momentous double show for East Ayrshire

By Ben Miller | 19 April 2011
An image of a painting of knights charging on horseback
© East Ayrshire Council, courtesy Abbott and Holder JV
Exhibition: 1839 – A Gothic Adventure, Dick Institute and Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, April 30 – August 20 2011

The campaign to buy the export-barred £156,000 Eglinton Tournament, the series of shimmering watercolours capturing Lord Eglinton’s three-day blitz of jousting, banqueting and reverie in the grounds of an East Ayrshire castle in 1839, ended in triumph for Dean Castle two years ago.

A photo of a knight on horseback
The Eglinton Tournament cost £40,000 to put on© East Ayrshire Council, courtesy Abbott and Holder JV
The works mark one of the most flamboyant events in the region’s history – a key reason why they were saved was their “outstanding significance” for studies into the hedonistic ghosts of Scottish social past – as well as the end of the Gothic Revival prevalent in 19th century Britain.

Little wonder, then, that the paintings, shields and artefacts which make up the most ambitious show ever staged in the area are being greeted with an air of celebration.

“They form such an important part of our Ayrshire history,” explains Douglas Reid, the leader of the Council, who says the deal to secure the array of mementoes was “fantastic news” for locals.

An image of a crest showing suns and crosses
Crests and badges from the tournament feature in the collection© East Ayrshire Council, courtesy Abbott and Holder JV
“The display at the castle and major exhibition at The Dick will help cement East Ayrshire as an important cultural destination. We are extremely grateful to the funders and everyone who has supported this project in such a short timescale.”

Their star exhibits include the Eglinton Trophy, costumes and armour worn by duelling knights and the watercolours themselves, created for lithographers to use in a folio record of the tournament.

A whirl of interactive elements have been introduced at both venues to explore the story, and a programme of events and workshops will accompany the exhibition.

  • Dick Institute open 9am-8pm (10am-5pm Wednesday and Saturday, closed Sunday). Dean Castle open 11am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday. Admission to both venues is free.
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