The Victorian Era At Dunimarle Castle


There were extensive additions to the house in an ornate, castellated and baronial style. These included the addition of a gothic orangery where citrus trees were cultivated. Miss Erskine changed the name of Castlehill to the more romantic “Dunimarle” , Gaelic for `fort by the sea''.
After settling there, Miss Erskine, while in her sixties, married an Admiral Sharpe. Apparently the marriage only lasted three days and terminated in permanent separation.
In 1853 Mrs Sharpe Erskine , as she now styled herself, aimed to turn Dunimarle into a museum. One of her brothers, Sir James Erskine, had been an art collector as well as a soldier. He had served on Wellington's staff in the Napoleonic Wars and after the close of hostilities had managed to acquire many fine paintings, furniture and other objets d`art from Berlin and Paris.
This collection included furniture used by Napoleon and presented to Sir James Erskine by the Duke of Wellington himself. When he died, Sir James left his collection to the nation, and this is now known as `The Torrie Collection` held by the University of Edinburgh. Sir James' other pieces from his London residence passed to his sister at Dunimarle. Mrs Sharpe Erskine provided that Dunimarle Castle, which then contained a number of interesting and valuable works of art, should be opened to the public. In 1873 at the bequest of Mrs Erskine,Dunimarle was turned into a museum, displaying 850 objects of art including paintings by Van Dyck, Ruysdael, Hobbena, Mouvermans, Teniers and Vandermeer. Other items in the collection included a pair of Marie Antoinettes ballroom slippers, and French gilt furniture that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte.