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The collection at Killerton

Sir Thomas Dyke Acland 7th Baronet, by Joshua Reynolds, hanging in the Drawing Room at Killerton, Devon.
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (1722-1785) 7th Baronet of Columbjohn by Sir Joshua Reynolds C.1767 | © John Hammond

Enjoy highlights of the Killerton collection from the comfort of your own home. Robert Meakings is Killerton's Collections and House Officer. Here, he recommends historical pieces of interest in the collection.

Miniature of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (1752-1794), 9th Baronet of Columbjohn C.1792/93
Miniature of Sir Thomas Dyke Acland (1752-1794), 9th Baronet of Columbjohn C.1792/93 | © Robert Meakings

Joshua Reynolds

At Killerton, we are fortunate to have three examples of Sir Joshua Reynolds' work at Killerton. Reynolds revolutionised British art to such an extent that it has been said “That there was hardly any art in England before the days of the great Joshua Reynolds.”

Reynolds’s brilliance was that he worked in collaboration with a sitter to create a pictorial fiction, offering both a recognisable appearance and a pictorial identity. Reynolds had a particular preference for depicting his fellow Devonians as sportsmen. The result, as in the case of our picture are portraits both of great naturalness but also a strongly implied message. In 1767 Sir Thomas became a reluctant MP for a second time and the relaxed portrait of Sir Thomas with dog, whip, hunting coat and riding boots was painted as a reassurance to his family and friends that his heart remained in Devon.

A further version of this portrait can be seen at Saltram. Although changes to the foliage, tree and costume in the portrait at Killerton suggest that this portrait was used to work out the final composition, it is by no means a sketch and is just as highly finished as the second portrait at Saltram. Certainly, Sir Joshua seems to have valued them equally as both portraits were charged at 70 guineas.

Sir Thomas Dyke Acland 9th Baronet

Sir Thomas did not expect to become Baronet, but following the death of his brother in 1778, and the subsequent deaths of his father and nephew, he became the 9th Baronet of Columbjohn in 1785, and within three months he married Henrietta Hoare of the Hoare banking dynasty.

It is likely that this miniature was commissioned to celebrate Sir Thomas’s recovery from an illness that kept him from his beloved hunting field for the entirety of the 1792 season. Lady Henrietta Acland's account at Hoare's Bank confirms that she made payment to Mr Shelley for the Miniature of £12-12-0 on 1st January 1793.

Samuel Shelly (1750-1808) was one of the leading miniaturists of the time. Entering the Royal Academy School in 1774 he was strongly influenced by Sir Joshua Reynolds and exhibited at the Royal Academy for the next 30 years. In 1804 he and six other artists, including Francis Nicholson, founded the watercolour society.

Music was integral to family life at Killerton, and our collection of printed music is one of the most important in the National Trust’s care. This is not only due to the quality of the collection but also to its size, the survival of sheet music in such quantity is rare as it was usually used to the point of destruction.

Music Scores in the Dining Room C.1700-1900

The majority of the of the 825 music scores at Killerton belonged to Lady Lydia Acland (1786-1856). Lady Lydia was a keen and competent musician, in 1814 she took singing lessons during a trip to Vienna and in 1836 she performed pieces from her music book “A Traveller” to the great Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen.

The collection at Killerton also contains two instruments given to Lydia by her father, Henry Hoare of Mitcham Grove, the extremely rare 1802 Broadwood grand piano in the Drawing room and the chamber organ in the Music room. Lydia was known to be a fine organist having taken lessons from Samuel Sebastian Wesley.

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A view of the study room at Killerton, with red walls and two grey sofas

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