Lady Henrietta Gilmour photographic collection

Scope and Content

Lady Henrietta Gilmour obviously regarded photography not as an end in itself but as a means of record, and her photographs have a unique quality of unaffected honesty - the posed elements are clear but not obtrusive, and many of her photographs are the simple record which differentiates the historical document from the contrived photograph which tries too hard to aspire to art. Nevertheless, her work was not unaffected by the aesthetic movement in contemporary art photography where the aim was to use straightforward technique to render the subtleties of light in the subject. This is demonstrated in her splendid portraits where the portrayal of dress is as important as the delineation of feature.

The photographs reflect both Lady Gilmour's social status and her daily life and activities and thus cover subjects such as members of her family, workers and livestock on the estate farms, and photographs of family holidays in the north-west of Scotland. Many have subjects such as stalking, shooting, fishing, picnicking, bathing, boating, seasonal servants, gamekeepers and ghillies. Many are of trees and water. In addition, Lady Gilmour's husband was chiefly occupied with agriculture and the breeding of prize livestock. His stud of Clydesdale horses (sold in about 1912) was of national reputation and this, with his prize crossbred cattle and sheep, provided the subject of a series of sympathetic, but never sentimental, photographs.

There are also lantern slides of travels in India, Ceylon and Japan.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henrietta Gilmour (ca. 1850-1926) was second daughter of David Gilmour of Quebec. In 1873 she married her cousin, John Gilmour of Lundin and Montrave, who, at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, was created a baronet. The Gilmours were a Renfrewshire family who had extensive interests in Canadian timber and shipping. One branch of the family settled in Fife, acquiring the estates of Lundin in 1872 and Montrave in 1873, adding Greenside, Pratis and part of Kilmux later.

One of Scotland's earliest named women photographers, Lady Henrietta Gilmour took up photography as a hobby after the birth of her seventh and last child, pursuing the activity between c.1890 and 1912. The family leased a sporting property in the west of Scotland for the annual shooting season: Ardlamont for 25 years, then Black Corries out from Kingshouse, Glencoe, from 1888-99, then had Achdalieu on the north side of Loch Eil, west of Fort William in 1903, and Inverewe from 1905-8.


The negatives have been allocated a two-part sequential reference number by the library relating to a box and negative number. Most negatives also have an original non-unique letter or number on their envelopes which appear to be the originator's method of grouping the photographs by subject matter.

Conditions Governing Access

The photographic collections are currently the subject of a major digitisation project. It is the intention to have the entire archive captured in electronic form, and available (with sophisticated searching facilities) on line via the web. A full version of the software can be accessed in the Library and researchers are welcome to visit the library to use it but it is important that appointments are made in advance. Access to original photographic material may be restricted.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist, with reference to RN Smart, Beauty, Beasts and Ballgowns: photographs from the camera of Lady Henrietta Gilmour, 1890-1910 (St Andrews Exhibition catalogue, ca. 1986)

Other Finding Aids

Hand list in numerical order.Slip index of negatives by Alphabetical series; Numerical Series; Negatives without numbers; Negatives in numbered boxes; and Large negatives.

List of lantern slides, mostly of India, Ceylon and Japan, but some of Fife farm animals etc.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies of images held in the photographic collection (with the exception of any photographs which are held either without copyright or under other restrictions imposed by the donor or photographer) can be ordered. Photographs thus provided for purely personal or research purposes are not subject to any fee beyond the photographic costs (for which a scale of charges is available). Prior written permission must be obtained before any further reproduction is undertaken of images supplied, for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Reproduction fees may be charged.

True photographic reprints of most images can be provided, or computer-generated prints of an increasing proportion of the collection at low, medium or high resolution. Given the fragility of the original material our preference is to provide computer prints where possible. We can also provide transparencies and a range of electronic formats.

Custodial History

Deposited in 1978 by Sir John Gilmour, 3rd Baronet of Lundin and Montrave, grandson of creator.