Lord and Lady Alva’s Georgian House: The Auction of 1801

‘Articles to be left in the house’, the 1801 roup

Another manuscript, also in the Library of Scotland, lists items that were to be left in the house after Lady Alva’s death. These were described as Lady Alva’s property and some of them went on to be auctioned in May 1801. It is interesting to note that although Lord Alva was the book collector in the family, the bookshelves in the Dressing room and cabinets and other furnishings in the Library belonged to his wife.[1] The family kept certain items including an ‘Old Cabinet and Charter Chest’ which had no value and ‘A Carron Grate in the Blue room’. The Blue room also had a closet which contained a ‘A Mahogany book press with drawers’.[2] The family also kept many furnishings from the library including ‘A Carron Register Stove’, ‘A 6 leaved painted Screen’, and ‘A Telescope and Microscope’.[3]

Records for the auction in May 1801 show that the primary customer was a  ‘Mrs. Erskine’. This was probably Christian Carruthers, widow of Lord Alva’s son, John Erskine. She reserved an extensive list of items and was willing to pay the valuation prices for them. Her purchases included:

  • Bed & Window curtains of Lady Alva’s room
  • A Mahogany Bureau
  • A Chest of Drawers
  • 6 painted chairs with slips
  • 4 window curtains
  • 4 painted chairs
  • 3 footstools
  • 6 old chair slips
  • a Carpet
  • blue china cups & saucers
  • 2 bed covers
  • A mahogany night table.

She also purchased ‘a Linnen Press’ on the day of the auction so presumably she also acquired some the family’s extensive collection of tablecloths and napkins.

Other customers included Miss Hope who bought a small feather bed, Mrs Brown who bought some blankets, and Mrs Carr who ‘got 2 chairs & 2 Stools’.[4] Cash buyers who did not leave their names picked up the distinctly unglamorous sounding ‘4 small hair cushions’ and an ‘old iron’.[5]

Lord and Lady Alva’s Georgian House

The inventories compiled for the Erskine heirs at the end of the eighteenth century offer a source for studying the contents of a wealthy family’s house. The rich textiles, expensive mahogany wood furniture, glittering silver tableware and candlesticks, the gilt details on frames, chairs, and sofas, and the profusion of paintings and prints found in the Alva’s house must have come together to create an elegant and tasteful manor house that properly reflected its owners’ wealth, status, and success.

[1] NLS MS 5114, f. 28. [2] NLS MS 5114, f. 32v. [3] NLS MS 5114, f. 32v. [4] NLS MS 5114, f. 32. [5] NLS MS 5114, f. 32.

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