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A warm welcome to Lord Swire

Cunninghame House welcomed a recent visit from Lord Swire, the Great, Great, Great, Great Grandson of Archibald Montgomerie – the 13th Earl of Eglinton and first Earl of Winton.

The reason for his special visit…

Well, Lord Swire is currently researching the life of Lord Eglinton and recently made the trip over to Cunninghame House to view the famous Eglinton trophy which is on proud display across from the reception desk at Council HQ.

Although it is hard to miss, you may not have noticed the grand historical artefact which marks an important part of local history.

Created over 180 years ago, the strikingly ornate trophy was a gift to Lord Eglinton from some of his friends who participated in the Eglinton Tournament, back in 1839.

After dropping in to see the trophy then visiting Eglinton Country Park at the end of April, Lord Swire gained a new appreciation of the castle grounds and the significance of the trophy that was commissioned for the re-enactment of a famous medieval tournament.

Lord Swire said: “It was a privilege for me to see the trophy at last!

“I have heard so much about it and it was great to visit the Country Park again… despite the terrible weather! It is such a special place for local people and visitors alike to walk and one much enjoyed by all who visit.”

Eglinton Trophy Up Close at Cunninghame House
The Tournament

The 13th Earl of Eglinton, Archibald William Montgomerie (1812-1861), was a keen sportsman and had a particular love of horses. He formulated the idea of staging a grand medieval tournament in the grounds of his family estate at Eglinton Castle, located in Eglinton Country Park between Irvine and Kilwinning.

The extravagant three-day affair got under way on Wednesday, August 28, 1839, and aimed to bring to life the romanticism of the 14th century with the erection of pinnacled canopies, procession of banners, knights jousting and a grand ball.

The Eglinton Trophy was created as a commemorative plate for the event.

More than 100,000 people converged on Eglinton from all over the British Isles although heavy rains wiped out the early battle re-enactments. Finally, on the Friday, they saw a full programme of action.

The Earl was joined by old friends from his Eton days who donned armour to take part in the jousting before arming themselves with swords for a pitched battle, in front a packed grandstand.

There were no injuries and the overall winner was adjudged to be Lord Eglinton.

Lord Swire recent visit to see the Eglinton Trophy at Cunninghame House
The creation of the Eglinton Trophy

Made from Sterling Silver, the magnificent trophy is 140cms tall and weighs 45kg. Designed by Edmund Cotterill, the trophy was crafted more than 180 years ago and it took four years to complete.

Its intricate, gothic design has fascinated people the world over and the trophy depicts the Presentation at the end of the Tournament.

Cotterial was the chief designer at London silversmiths Garrards, and the trophy he created was worth £1,775 at the time in comparison to the astounding sum of £80K in modern times.

The wide, crenelated base bears the shields and coats of arms of the 14 Knights of the Tournament; while a 15th shield is blank.

Even today, more than 180 years on, it is one of the largest and most extravagant trophies of its kind.

A well-travelled historical artefact

Following the presentation of the trophy, the Earl of Eglinton installed it in his library at Eglinton Castle. It remained at the castle for many years as a towering piece of artwork in the bay window.

When the castle’s contents were put up for sale in 1925, the Eglinton family kept the trophy along with other Tournament memorabilia, such as shields bearing the arms of the tournament knights.

The Eglinton family then moved up the Ayrshire coast to their castle at Skelmorlie and took the trophy with them.

In 1936,  Archibald Seton Montgomerie, the 16th Earl of Eglinton, allowed the trophy to be put on public display at Ayr’s County Buildings before it was transferred to Cunninghame District Council’s new headquarters (now known as Cunninghame House) at Friars Croft, Irvine, where it was unveiled on October 2, 1976.

In May, 2011, the trophy was on show at the Dick Institute, Kilmarnock, before becoming one of the star artefacts in a travelling exhibition at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, and then at the Tate Britain, London.

Visit the trophy for yourself…

Now the trophy and its magnificent casing and base has returned to Cunninghame House to once again take pride of place in North Ayrshire.

Why not pop down to reception the next time you are in to see it up close for yourself?

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