Harvest and the delights of dining at Castle Ward
Neil Watt, house and collection manager at Castle Ward explains the importance of a plentiful harvest for the Ward family and reveals what an eighteenth-century dining experience in this great house would have looked like.
In the beautiful panelled dining room at Castle Ward, there is a reminder that the Ward family relied on a good harvest so that they could provide a table of plenty for both themselves and their guests.
In Celtic, Greek and Roman mythologies, the idea of gods and goddesses which presided over aspects of the world were never far from peoples’ thoughts and illustrate the superstitions which persisted throughout history.
Placed above the fireplace in the dining room in altar-like fashion, is a beautiful and intricate eighteenth-century wooden wall panel, carved in the shape of the goddess Demeter, the goddess of Agriculture and Harvests. Demeter is surrounded by four Putti, who symbolise the celebration of a good harvest and the abundance of the first fruits of the season. The panel’s location at the heart of the dining room, adds to the ritualistic and symbolic nature of the piece and reflects the importance of a successful harvest to the family.
Dinner with the Ward family
It is interesting to quote Sir James Caldwell who visited the Ward’s in the autumn of 1772. Invited into their dining room, he describes a table of plenty overflowing with cooked meats, fish and exotic fruits: “There was an excellent dinner, stewed trout at the head, chine of beef at the foot, soup in the middle, a little pie at each side and four trifling things at the corners… The second course of nine dishes [was] made out much in the same way. The cloth was taken away, and then the fruit – a pineapple, not good; a small plate of peaches, grapes and figs…and the rest pears and apples.”
We can only guess that the goddess Demeter was good to the Ward’s that year and gave them a bountiful harvest.