The Lady Waterford Room

Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford (1818-1891), was the younger daughter of Lord Stuart de Rothesay. The family lived in Paris, London and at Highcliffe Castle near Christchurch in Dorset. Louisa and her elder sister, Charlotte (later Lady Canning), both showed great artistic talent from childhood.

In 1842, Louisa married Henry, 3rd Marquess of Waterford, and they lived on his estate at Curraghmore in Ireland, although he also owned Ford in Northumberland. Sadly, in 1859 Henry was killed in a fall while hunting. Louisa went to live at Ford, where she remodelled the castle, transformed the village, and in 1860 built a school which she decorated with huge Biblical scenes showing children. Lady Waterford used her village tenants as models and many of the people in the paintings can be identified. The school closed in 1957 and the building is now open to the public. It is a fascinating place to visit.

Lady Waterford moved in artistic circles throughout her life. The beautiful terracotta statuette showing her reading is by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm and there is a bronze of it at Woburn Abbey. She corresponded with John Ruskin, knew the Pre-Raphaelite artists – Rossetti called her ‘a swell and a stunner’ – and George Frederic Watts, who designed her grave at Ford. Unusually for an aristocratic lady at that time, she exhibited her work at the Grosvenor Gallery in London.

Two exhibitions of Lady Waterford’s work were held in London after her death, in 1892 and 1910, with over 300 pictures in each. Kiplin is fortunate to have more than 50 of her watercolours, mostly sketches, because Louisa was an aunt by marriage of Admiral Carpenter and his Talbot siblings. Bridget Talbot brought the paintings here from the houses of her aunts, uncles and parents when they died. Many have religious subjects or show children at various pursuits. The large watercolour over the fireplace shows young Andrew Trotter, son of the head gardener at Ford Castle, in medieval costume with a mandolin.

This room was a bedroom from the 18th century, with a dressing room next door. It is now displayed as a lady’s sitting room, to enable us to show many of Lady Waterford’s delightful paintings. The fine walnut cabinet with gilt monograms dates from about 1725, although experts continue to debate whether it is English, Dutch or German. The embroidered fire screen to the left of the fireplace was made from a kit sold by Morris & Co., William Morris’s Arts and Crafts design and furnishing company in London.

Lady Waterford Hall, home of the Lady Waterford Gallery, in the village of Ford in Northumbria, contains a collection of murals and some of Lady Waterford's other paintings.