Step inside the upper-class Edwardian world of Mr. and Mrs. William Robert Reid, the last private owners of Lauriston Castle who bequeathed their home to the nation in 1926 on the condition that their priceless collection is maintained.
With 13th century origins as a medieval fortress belonging to the Napier family (to which the inventor of the logarithm, John Napier, belonged) Lauriston Castle is an extensively altered 16th-century manor house boasting idyllic grounds overlooking the Firth estuary. The house passed through several families over the centuries, ending with the Reids in 1903.
Born into respectively successful Edinburgh families, William Reid and his wife were the final residents of Lauriston Castle. When they moved from 78 George Street in Edinburgh, they brought with them a number of the objects that still adorn the castle’s interior today—including pieces of British furniture, Chinese porcelain, Dutch ceramics, an extensive collection of Blue John objects, and mezzotint engravings. The transition prompted their foray into collecting European furniture, oriental rugs, and other coveted decorative items that were popular in the day.
Highlights of the Lauriston Castle collection include a Scottish Lady’s writing desk constructed circa 1800, a late 18th-century French commode, William Reid’s exceptional collection of 18th-century Italian furniture, and a late 16th-century pietra dura tabletop boasting marble and magnificent semi-precious stones.
William Reid was the owner of Morison & Company, one of the nation’s most respected fabrication businesses; while his wife’s brother, William Barton, helmed a sanitary engineering company that dealt with plumbing, electrical work, and hospital sterilization. The brothers-in-law worked side by side given their complementary trades, and together they installed much of the “modern” cabinetry and interior décor in Lauriston Castle—not to mention the building’s plumbing, lighting, and heating.
In addition to the Reids’ notable collection of furniture and decorative objects, the museum exhibits a number of fascinating personal items from their daily lives like a newspaper clipping reporting the Titanic disaster, a telephone from the 1920s, Mr. Reid’s piano and sheet music, and Mrs. Reid’s walking stick.
Like most historic Edinburgh homes, Lauriston Castle is said to be haunted.