Our collection is made up of around 3,250 items, including accessories such as hats, fans, shoes and bags as well as household textiles, linens and dolls. Its highlights include a fine array of eighteenth-century costumes in fantastic condition, as well as a hanging pocket dating from around 1690 and embroidered Italian shoes dating back to 1740.
What makes our collection truly unique is that every item has been donated, with a significant number coming from families in the North West of Ireland. And the collection isn’t just about fashion, it’s also a testament to the techniques and skills used to produce the items.
Many have been made by hand, and the methods used to produce them lost in the modern technological age, which marks out the collection as an invaluable research resource well worth preserving.
300 years of costume
Each year, around 1.5 per cent of the collection is on display in the museum and in 2015, the exhibition focus is on the ‘Old Masters’ of Springhill which takes a closer look at the leading figures in the Lenox-Conyngham family who finished building Springhill in 1690 and lived in it until 1957 when it was bequeathed to the National Trust.
As the exhibition spans almost three hundred years of family history, we are able to provide almost all the costumes for the display from our own collection and were fortunate to be able to borrow two from our sister property, The Argory in County Armagh. In total the exhibition features 30 costumes, five of which actually belonged to the Lenox-Conynghams.
Visitors to Springhill in 2015 can see a frock coat dating back to 1775 and a stunning skirt decorated with beetle wing embroidery dating from 1850. One of our favourites from this year’s exhibition is the pelisse from around 1820, a lightweight women’s full-length overcoat in the empire style. It is made from an amazingly vivid green textured silk and there is beautiful rouleaux detail on the bodice and collar.