Opening our two-day Five Centuries auction, the impressive collection offered here is from Kimmerghame, by Duns, the family home of the Late Major General Sir John Swinton, KCVO., OBE., DL (1925-2018). It is comprised of fine furniture, paintings and works of art led by two rare Venetian enamel chargers, a George III mahogany side cabinet, a still-life in the manner of Jan Weenix the Younger and a half-length Portrait of Margret Mitchelson, Lady Swinton attributed to Allan Ramsay.
Major General Sir John Swinton began his military career in 1944 with the Scots Guards, rising in rank to Major General in 1976. He was also Brigadier of the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland (Royal Company of Archers) in 1977, and retired from Army life in 1979. With his strong military background, he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Berwickshire in 1980 and Lord Lieutenant from 1989 to 2000. A high point of his tenure was escorting the Stone of Scone back to Scotland in 1996.
The Swinton family history and ownership of land in Berwickshire can be traced to the early part of the 12th century, when Ernulf de Swinton received one of the first private charters recorded in Scotland which confirmed his property from David I of Scotland (1084-1153). This is one of two original charters of David I kept in the cartulary of Durham; both are to Ernulf and also refer to Ernulf’s father (Udard), grandfather (Liulf) and great-grandfather (Eadulf) as holding the land before him. This would make Eadulf the first land owner of Scotland whose ownership could be proved, and means that the Swinton family would by this hypothesis be one of only three (the two others being the Arden and Berkeley families) that could trace its unbroken land ownership and lineage to before the Norman Conquest, making it one of the oldest landed families in Britain.
Kimmerghame itself was the site of an earlier house, the home of Sir Andrew Home in the 1730s. The lands and estate of Kimmerghame came into the ownership of the family of Swinton in 1776 when Archibald Swinton of Manderston married Henrietta Campbell of Blythswood in Glasgow. This older house was demolished and rebuilt in the early 1850s, the architect being the celebrated David Bryce, who employed some materials from the older house. Bryce’s Scots Baronial house was substantially damaged by fire in 1938 and only partially rebuilt. The family still retains Kimmerghame and its contents.
The Swinton family have had strong connections with the Army and the legal profession. They were also keen on supporting artists over the generations as can be seen by the selection of portraits and paintings offered here. A second part of the collection will be offered in our Fine Asian Works of Art sale in London in May 2022.
Selling fine antique furniture has always been at the core of our business, ever since Lyon & Turnbull’s establishment in 1826. Today, our specialist Fine Furniture Auctions department conducts four auctions throughout the year both through our beautiful period saleroom in Edinburgh and via our live online auctions. Our specialists’ knowledge of furniture and the current market are essential to the overall success of sales of antique pieces spanning five centuries of design; from 17th century oak through the finest walnut, mahogany, and satinwood examples of the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods.
The Works of Art department sells a wide variety of antique items covering nearly 400 years of European and British design. Sold as part of our Five Centuries: Furniture, Paintings & Works of Art sale series, items offered at auction range from the esoteric to those of popular appeal and include sculpture, mechanical items, textiles, decorative objects and artworks. Primarily focused on works produced during the 18th and 19th centuries, our team of specialists and consultants are able to value and advise on the current market.