The Bettine, Lady Abingdon Collection

This is an extensive, remarkable and eclectic group of objects which were collected by Lord Stuart de Rothesay, owner of Highcliffe Castle, during the early part of the 19th century.

After the death of Lady Abingdon in 1978, the remaining treasures, as well as her jewellery, were bequeathed to her close friends, Tahu and Joyce Hole. Joyce, in turn, donated all of these pieces to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1987.

We have created this page to allow you an insight into the fantastic furniture collection we have at Highcliffe Castle lent by the V&A Museum, and the stories behind these pieces.

The Collection

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Centre Table 1830-40

This is the only piece of furniture from the collection categorised as English rather than French. Although it incorporates elements of French giltwood and gilt-bronze.

It has a label printed with the arms of SR and the table is referred to in Lord Stuart’s correspondence with George Gunn.

It has spectacular dragon legs and a range of Rococo motifs and a black marble top.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Console Table 1815-25

This table is mahogany with a slab of Naploeonite, a beautiful and striking ornamental stone, named because it is found on the island of Corsica.

It reflects Sir Charles Stuart’s passion for this type of material, given the large quantities that he acquired.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dwarf Island Bookcase 1810-15

This bookcase has mahogany on a carcass of oak with chased and gilt mounts and top slab of grey granite.

It has excellent condition paper labels with the Stuart arms and heart shaped label dated 1816, (the labels are the best preserved on all the furniture).

This one of a pair clearly visible in Country Life photographs of Highcliffe Library.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fall-Front Secretaire 1815-30

This small writing desk is considered to be of excellent quality.

It is made of mahogany with finely figured veneers and unusual gilt-bronze mounts in the form of theatrical masks.

The slab of marble creating the desktop is not its original.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

X- Framed Stool c.1805

This stool is mahogany with parcel gilt and lacquered brass mounts. Carved leopard heads on upper-X.


It is from the Marshal Ney collection from the Petit Salon of the Hotel de Saisseval in Paris and was created by the renowned French furniture maker Jacob Desmalter.

This stool is illustrated in the 1942 Country Life article on Highcliffe and is shown in the Chinese Dressing Room.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dressing Table 1760-70

This dressing table has beautiful, floral decorative marquetry ans was possibly brought for use for Lady Stuart or her daughters.

The Original maker, Schlicting, was a German émirgé cabinetmaker who undertook work for Marie Antoinette.

The piece has a “secret” pastel portrait on the interior.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Marquetry Cabinet 1828 – 30

This cabinet has marquetry of mahogany with other woods.

Incorporates the monogram SR Stuart Rothesay on rear.

The doors are inlaid with plaques, specifically made for Lady Stuart de Rothesay, reflecting an English aristocratic trend of the 1830s.

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