Opening to the public for the first time in 1995, this eclectic array of infrastructure has served to be one of the most breathtaking manors in British history, situated on the gem of the Clyde: the Isle of Bute. Mount Stuart has come to be a hidden gem in its own right, surrounded by 300 acres of landscape and nature which is just as famed as the building itself.
Though popular, the house is certainly as mysterious as it looks. From both its interior and exterior, Mount Stuart tells a story of its own; from its blend of Georgian and Neo-Gothic architecture, to its uncarved pillars. This building has seen death, tragedy and jubilation all within its grounds. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about Mount Stuart:
1. The original building was destroyed by fire!
The magnificent building that we know and have come to love today wasn’t initially built until the late 19th century. The original house was constructed in 1719, designed by Alexander McGill, however, was severely damaged by fire in 1877.
Most of the contents of the house were salvaged and can be seen today in the new build which was commissioned by the 3rd Marquess of Bute and co-designed with Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. These contents include library books that date as far back as the 1400s and dining room fireplaces.
Fortunately, the Georgian wings of the original house also survived the fire and can be seen today incorporated with the Neo-Gothic design.
2. The house has been left unfinished due to death TWICE!
Described as the “best amateur architect of his day” and a “scholar of the highest order” as well as the “richest man in Europe” by knowledgeable Mount Stuart tour guide, Jim Bicker on Channel 5’s Secret Scotland, the 3rd Marquess of Bute commissioned a rebuild of the house in the late 19th century, inspired by his travels, nature, philosophy and astronomy.
It’s said that the Marquess loved animals and as a child, would perform little ceremonies whenever he happened across a corpse of an animal. This would explain why the entire interior is coated in them from carvings to paintings.
However, the work that was being put into the house ceased abruptly as Lord Bute passed away at the age of 50 in 1900 with a stroke. The work of 21 years had suddenly came to a halt for over 60 workmen and Mount Stuart was, regrettably, left unfinished.
Rather coincidentally, the 6th Marquess of Bute met a similar fate. In 1988, the work that was left unfinished by his Great-Grandfather was taken up again by John and his wife, Jennifer. However, it wasn’t before long that he unfortunately passed away young and for the second time, plans for this incredible mansion were halted by death. Mount Stuart was once again – left unfinished.
Even to this day, you can still see evidence of unfinished work from uncarved pillars to unpolished arches, and even the signatures of workmen that never got to finish their work.
3. It holds a lot of ‘first’ titles
- Million pound house in Scotland
- House in Scotland to be wired for electricity (which Queen Victoria got word of and wanted in place for her home in Balmoral)
- House to have a lift in Scotland
- House to have an indoor heated swimming pool in the world (though there is speculation that it is likely that Romans had beaten the marquess to this)
- House to have a central heating system in Scotland
4. It served as a hospital during WWI
The home of the Marquess of Bute was used as a Naval hospital during the Great War- a war that seen over 300 men from the island losing their lives while on active service in the Royal and Merchant navies & Territorial armies.
For those wounded, an operating theatre was put in place in a conservatory situated on the Chapel side of the building and was said to be placed here for better natural lighting whilst operations were carried out.
Very few people knew that one of the surgeons operating in the conservatory was a local Bute man, Sir William Mcewen, widely considered ‘the father of neurosurgery’ and made many contributions to the advancement of bone graft surgery as well as the surgical treatment of hernias and removal of lungs.
Mcewen was born in Port Bannatyne, Bute, in 1848 and studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, gaining his degree in 1872.
Today he is buried in the churchyard of St. Blane’s Church at Kingarth.
5. It’s hosted many famous weddings!
It may come as no surprise that this glorious, 80ft tall chapel has been host to some of the most extravagant weddings but in recent years, it’s hosted some big names within its walls.
The White Marble Chapel is a direct copy of La Seo, a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Zaragoza, Spain and its floors inspired by the Sistine Chapel-a luxurious design fit only for the most luxurious.
The Chapel was scene to the wedding of the 4th Marquess of Bute’s daughter- Jean Crichton-Stuart in 1928 and was said to be the first wedding at Mount Stuart in 200 years.
In 2003, fashion designer and daughter of Beatle legend, Paul McCartney; Stella, reportedly dined in Mount Stuart after her wedding ceremony with names such as Madonna, Guy Ritchie, Hugh Grant, Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss and Tom Ford, according to Vogue in a 2003 article.
Furthermore, in 2014, JLS star ‘JB’ Gill married his then fiancé, Chloe Tangney, in the Chapel- telling the Scotsman that he wanted “a traditional wedding” and claiming that it was the best day of his life.