© Country Life Picture Library
Alexander, 10th Duke
of Hamilton (1767-1852), developed a love - indeed, an unhealthy
passion - for Irish black marble, from quarries situated near the
city of Galway, on the west coast of Ireland.
As part of the refurbishment of the old palace
in the late 1820s / early 1830s, Alexander decided to install two
colossal chimneypieces of black marble in the Long Gallery and to
erect a black marble doorway with porphyry columns at the west end
of the gallery.
These chimneypieces really were colossal: 1.95m
high by 2.56m wide by 1.13m deep. They were in a hybrid Neo-Baroque
/ Neo-Classical style, with acanthus-clad volutes, a frieze of oak
leaves and acorns bound with ribbon, egg-and-dart borders, and foliate
and beaded ornamentation. Similar, smaller, chimneypieces were set
up in other rooms in the old state apartments. The chimneypiece
from the Drawing Room was acquired by the National Museums of Scotland
in 1991-92. The two chimneypieces from the Long Gallery were in
New York in 1970, but their present whereabouts are unknown.