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BBC Local Hero Caroline Burges
and Eglinton Castle

One of the "Local Heroes" featured in the BBC2 programme of that name on 23rd May 2000 was Caroline Burges (d. 1863).  Briefly, she invented and patented a "drawing, sketching and delineating machine", a model of which was demonstrated by the presenter, Adam Hart-Davis.  Her family home was the estate of Beauport, equidistant from Hastings and Battle, East Sussex, and she spent her time there and at the family's other estate, which was in Ayrshire.  It is this latter connection, not elaborated in the programme but about which a little more information is given in the BBC Web site, that is explained in this article.

Caroline's father was Sir James Bland Burges of Beauport, baronet.  As Knight Marshall of the Royal Household, he played an important role in the coronation of George IV.  His eldest son, Charles, inherited the title and the Beauport estate.  In 1816 Charles married Mary Montgomerie, the widow of Archibald Lord Montgomerie, son of the 12th Earl of Eglinton, Hugh Montgomerie (1739-1819).  Archibald had died of consumption in Alicante in 1814, and it was his infant son Archibald William, born in 1812, who was heir to the title and the estate of Eglinton.

So the Ayrshire estate that Caroline Burges frequented was Eglinton.  Hugh Montgomerie, having survived all his sons, died in 1819, and his grandson Archibald William, age 7, became the 13th Earl of Eglinton.  Until the boy came of age, the responsibility for the estate fell to his stepfather Charles Burges.

Charles Burges took some part in the affairs of the county, appropriate to a landed proprietor.  In 1822 he attended the Land Tax Meeting in Ayr, entered in the register as "C. Burges of Beauport".  Around that time both he and his father decided to change their surname to Lamb, in recognition of a  gentleman of that name who had left a fortune to James Burges in 1794.  Charles again attended a Land Tax Meeting in 1832, this time as "Sir Charles Lamb of Beauport".

From his father he inherited, besides Beauport and the baronetcy, the medieval position of Knight Marshall to the Royal Household.  However, on the occasion of the coronation of Victoria, he was denied the opportunity to officiate in his regalia, because the Whig government had opted for only the simplest ceremony and pageant.  Aristocrats, including of course Archibald, 13th Earl of Eglinton, were denied their pomp and circumstance.

Charles and Mary produced a half-brother for Archibald William: Charles.  Ian Anstruther, in his book The Knight and the Umbrella.  An Account of the Eglinton Tournament 1839 (1963), describes him as "a dreamy artistic boy" with an obsession for tournaments who, even at the age of twenty-three, "lived entirely in a private world of shining knights and chivalry".  According the the BBC Web site, at the age of seven Charles began to build a fortress for his guinea pigs at the bottom of the garden at Beauport.  He developed and recorded this over a period of years.  Known as the "Kingdom of Winnipeg", it was a walled city, with a castle, pyramid tombs and a monument.

It is said that the grand folly of the Eglinton Tournament, held in August 1839, sprang directly from the disappointment of the so-called "penny coronation".  Archibald Montgomerie spent an estimated 40,000 pounds on staging a medieval tournament at Eglinton Castle, largely rendered farcical by heavy rainfall.  He presided over the affair; stepfather Charles was "Knight Marshall of the Lists"; half-brother Charles was "Knight of the White Rose".  While satisfying his own desire for a grand display of past chivalry, Archibald gave his stepfather the opportunity to play the part denied him at the coronation, and made real his half-brother's fantasies.  It was a very expensive gesture, the cost roughly equivalent to 4,000,000 today.  For a contemporary description of the event, see:  Peter Buchan, The Eglinton Tournament and Gentleman Unmasked (1840).

To convey his guests over the River Lugton to his castle Archibald built an ornamental "Tournament Bridge", seen in the engraving below.  Eglinton Castle was unroofed in 1925 and little of it remains today, but the restored bridge still crosses the Lugton in what has become Eglinton Country Park.

EGLINTON CASTLE  and the Tournament Bridge
Engraving by R. Dawson from "Cuninghame Topographized by Timothy Pont", ed. J. S. Dobie (1876).

David McClure

First published on the Ayrshire History web site in June 2000.

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