Myddelton family portraits return to Chirk Castle and go on display for the first time
- 13 July 2023
An exquisite portrait of Lady Margaret Myddelton and a portrait of Robert Myddelton-Biddulph which were both previously at Chirk, go on display for the first time. The portraits were gifted by the late Lady Aird, daughter of Lady Margaret Myddelton.
Chirk Castle is one of several border castles that were constructed in the late 13th Century to maintain the conquests of Edward I in Wales and subdue the Welsh. This medieval fortress has been continuously occupied since its inception, a period of over 700 years, and has been gradually transformed by successive owners from a monumental military stronghold into a comfortable country house.
Of great significance is the ownership and occupancy of the Myddeltons who have resided at Chirk Castle since the end of the 16th century, from which a vast collection of paintings, furniture and curiosities has grown.
From 14 July, portraits of two Myddelton family members will go on public display for the first time; Lady Margaret Myddelton, who most recently lived in the castle from 1946-2003 and Robert Myddelton-Biddulph who occupied the castle from 1801 to 1814. The paintings hold huge significance, depicting the two occupants who, up to now, have not had their portraits present in the castle’s state rooms.
The two portraits are a gift from the late Lady Aird (1934-2023) in 2021, daughter of Lady Margaret Myddelton, and her family to National Trust Cymru. Having been previously hung at Chirk Castle in the private family apartments, they were more recently displayed in Lady Aird’s home. In a video accompanying the display, Lady Aird’s daughter shares the reasons behind the family’s decision to see them return to the castle.
By being on public display, visitors can now learn the significant story of Lady Margaret Myddelton, a key character in Chirk Castle’s history, who married Colonel Ririd Myddelton in 1931 and in 1946 they moved to Chirk Castle. The couple worked passionately to restore the castle, gardens and estate. Lady Margaret was instrumental in the negotiations that enabled Chirk Castle to be acquired by the Trust, thereby saving the castle for future generations.
Painted in 1931 for her 21st birthday, the stunning portrait of Lady Margaret is understood to have been commissioned by her stepfather from the leading 20th-century society portraitist, Glyn Philpot. It depicts Lady Margaret exuding glamour in a debutant dress.
John Chu, Senior National Curator at National Trust describes the piece as “a real explosion of colour, with a blush of pink, the sea green chiffon and beautiful white silk dress”. He also commends Philpot’s inspired technique in painting the diamonds in her earrings, which are sculpted out of oil paint.
The portrait is of Robert Myddelton-Biddulph who assumed the name on his marriage to Charlotte Myddelton in 1801. The 19th century painting is attributed to Sir William Beechey, an official portrait painter to several members of the royal family. Robert is featured in the forefront with “kind eyes” as described by Caroline Allfrey, granddaughter of Lady Margaret. In the background, an illustration of Chirk Castle cements Robert’s connection with his new family and is created by visible brushstrokes and thick paint to depict a stormy Welsh landscape.
Karen George, Chirk Castle’s House and Collections Manager says, “These acquisitions are a rare and significant addition to our collection. We’re thrilled that they have come home and that we can share this charming depiction of Lady Margaret with our visitors”.
The portraits will be on display from Friday 14 July in the castle’s dining room, a room designed by Lady Margaret, alongside a video featuring an interview with Caroline Allfrey, granddaughter of Lady Margaret.
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Chirk Castle was never planned as a family home. It was one of several medieval Marcher fortresses along the Welsh-English border, built to keep the Welsh under English rule.
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