'Spirit of Scotney' exhibition

J Shannon painting Rosamund Hussey on the Bastion

From Scotney’s rare green-winged orchids and Rosamond Hussey's famous black and white striped dress, to the measuring stick on the dining-room cupboard door showing the heights of the growing Hussey children, and the Queen Mother's tulip tree, the 'Spirit of Scotney' exhibition charts the history of Scotney Castle, its estate and gardens from the building of the Ashburnham Tower in the late 14th century and the creation of the new mansion house in the 18th century, through to the work of Christopher Hussey in the 20th century and the ongoing conservation work of the 21st century.

Originally created to celebrate 125 years of the National Trust in 2020, we're delighted we can now share the 125 objects, people and stories that make Scotney such a special place. Covering six themes - the Picturesque, Early History, People, Family, Nature and Conservation - the 125 items range from the very early history of the Old Castle right through to Betty Hussey's life in the house in the 2000s. Many of the items in the exhibition have rarely or, in some cases, never been on display to visitors before, and when the exhibition closes at the end of October, will go back into drawers, cupboards and the archive.  


Over the years, many clothing items have been discovered throughout the house in cupboards, drawers, suitcases and in the attic spaces. Due to the fragility of textiles, every costume has to be carefully assessed before it can be put on display. In the Green bedroom you can see two Victorian children’s fancy dress costumes; on the bed is a stunning fairy outfit, complete with green satin shoes, silk stockings, sequined skirt and bodice and antennae, while on the mannequin is a red playing card dress. Both of these costumes are on display for the first time in many years.

You can also see the Edwardian black and white striped dress worn by Rosamund Hussey for her sitting of the J.J. Shannon portrait that hangs on the staircase, and get a sneak peak inside Betty Hussey's wardrobe. In the Dressing room you'll find Betty's wedding dress from her marriage to Christopher in 1936.


Discover the rest of the fairy fancy dress costume at the Spirit of Scotney exhibitions
Green satin shoes forming part of a Victorian fairy costume
Discover the rest of the fairy fancy dress costume at the Spirit of Scotney exhibitions

Other 'firsts'

Scotney has one of just three ascham in the National Trust. Taking their name from Tudor scholar, Roger Ascham, aschams are cabinets used to store archery equipment and ours is open to visitors to see inside for the first time. The thirteen bows, two quivers and 50 arrows in it are believed to have belonged to the six children of Edward Hussey III.

Other archery-related items include the green archery finger tabs and the silver horn won by Edward Hussey 1 in 1794 and presented to him by the Prince of Wales, later King George IV. The tassels on the horn's red leather case are the colours of the Society of Kentish Bowmen of which Edward Hussey I was an early member.

Another first is the Salvin-designed Ornamental Dairy. With its octagonal shape, original slate shelving and ceiling decoration it forms part of the ‘Brewhouse’ complex and has never been open to visitors before. Cool and dark, it was originally used to store milk products for the family, but it is believed that Edward Windsor Hussey, a keen amateur photographer, converted it into a darkroom in the 1860s.

Inside the ornamental dairy at Scotney Castle
Inside the ornamental dairy at Scotney Castle
Inside the ornamental dairy at Scotney Castle

Globes reunited

An unusual pair of 19th century globes, manufactured in London by Newton & Son, have been reunited for the exhibition. Used by the Hussey family in the Study and the Library, one globe is terrestrial and depicts the earth; the other is a celestial globe and shows a map of the stars. Made from wood, metal and paper, in the past they had been damaged by use and their varnish had turned yellow and brittle from exposure to light. The celestial globe had also been dented, possibly by a teenage Edwy. Following conservation work in London to stabilise the paper of the globes and repair their surfaces, the globes have been put on display together for this exhibition, the first time in many years that they have been viewed in the house together.


One of the questions raised by the exhibition is how do we decide what to conserve. Should it be the older items, or more modern - often plastic - items that were used by Betty and Christopher? These decisions can often be influenced by the story behind an object or whether it will be used in future exhibitions, rather than by the item’s age or value.