Royal highlights: bedrooms for the Duke and Duchess

Royal highlights: bedrooms for the Duke and Duchess

In 1901 the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall & York, the future King George V and Queen Mary (for more on this royal couple see Mark Stocker’s post from last week), toured the Southern Hemisphere to thank commonwealth countries for sending troops to support Britain in the Boer War. As part of the New Zealand tour the couple visited Dunedin and stayed at the Fernhill Club which was remodelled especially for the occasion.

This post combines photographic images of Fernhill, as it was set up for the royal couple, and a newspaper article describing the accommodation published while the couple were in residence on 26 June 1901 – a day when ‘the weather was superb, and the streets thronged.’

The Duchess of Yorks State Room, Fernhill, 1901, Muir & Moodie, Te Papa.

THE ROYAL RESIDENCE – Fernhill Club, which will be the residence of the Duke and Duchess of York during their stay in Dunedin, was built by the late Mr John Jones in the late sixties, and occupied by the late Duke of Edinburgh during his visit to our city in ’69. It contains over 30 rooms, the most spacious being the two drawing rooms, each measuring about 27ft by 20ft, the dining room 40ft by 20ft, and the billiard room (one of the finest in the colony) about 40ft by 20ft, provided with two of Alcock’s best tables. In preparation for the approaching visit very extensive alterations in painting, papering, and decoration have been carried out, the whole of the furniture has been removed, the house is now being completely refurnished by Messrs Scoullar and Chisholm.

The Duke and Duchess at Fernhill, The Drawing Room, 1901, Muir & Moodie, Te Papa

From the hall (56ft by 12ft) the drawing rooms open to right and left. The furnishing of these has been completed, and they present a tasteful and luxurious appearance. In the right-hand drawing room the carpet is a magnificent Axminster, and there is a very fine Chesterfield sofa upholstered in saddle bags, with easy chairs to match, while the couches, occasional chairs and tables are most handsome pieces of furniture. The curtains are of chenille and guipure, and the walls are adorned by many fine watercolours of New Zealand and European scenes.

The right-hand drawing room is similarly furnished, with the addition of an upright grand piano by Sames in walnut and gold, a fine carved walnut over-mantle, and, for the use of the Duchess of York, a writing table in kauri, stained and carved. The dining room has a magnificent Turkey carpet, the chairs, are walnut and morocco, and the curtains crimson chenille. The table, which is tee shaped, seats about 30 persons, but the partition between this room and the second drawing room can be instantly removed and the two rooms converted into a magnificent banqueting hall, capable of accommodating 63 persons.

Other rooms on the ground floor are the billiard room (converted into a bedroom for male servants), sitting rooms for his Royal Highness the Duke of York and Lord Ranfurly 18ft by 18ft), office for the Duke’s private secretary (18ft by 12ft) with oak desk by Cutler, and chairs in oak and morocco; servants’ dining room, butler’s pantry, telephone room, kitchen, etc., etc.

The three front rooms upstairs, which command magnificent views of the city and harbour, have been turned into bedrooms. The western room (26ft by 20ft), which has been prepared for her Royal Highness the Duchess of York, is papered pale green. The bedstead is of solid brass, the sofa a Chesterfield in French chintz, with chair to match, the carpet a very fine seamless Persian square the cheval duchesse table, the washstand, and wardrobe are in walnut and mottled kauri.

The Dukes State Room, Fernhill, 1901, Muir & Moodie, Te Papa

The eastern room has been prepared for his Royal Highness the Duke of York. It is papered a salmon colour, and the furnishings are very much the same as in the Duchess’s room, the ware being Bolique and the furniture in the Chippendale style. The centre room is to be used by the Duchess’s maid, and along the corridor are the Duke’s dressing room, the Duchess’s sitting room and opposite these the Duchess’s dressing room, a room for the Duke’s valet, and rooms for Lady Ranfurly and Lady Mary Lygon all furnished in a style that reflects great credit on Messrs Scoullar and Chisholm. The total value of the furniture is about £2000 and of the pictures about £3000.

Newspaper article from the Otago Witness, Issue 2467, 26 June 1901, Page 29.

The photograph on the wall in the Duke’s room

Lake Ada- Milford Sound, 1887, Burton Brothers (printed circa 1900 by Muir & Moodie), Te Papa.

As well as photographing the royal couple’s Dunedin residence, the Muir & Moodie studio displayed framed versions of the best scenic photographs from their back catalogue on the walls of the rooms at Fernhill. The photograph of Lake Ada (Milford Sound), seen hanging on the wall in the Duke’s bedroom, was taken by Frederick Muir while he was an employee of Burton Brothers during the 1880s.

The photograph of the Duchess’s bedroom is currently on display in the exhibition Letting Us In, on until July, part of Nga Toi / Arts Te Papa, level 5.


Lissa Mitchell – Curator Historical Documentary Photography


  1. We hold the albums prepared for the stay of the Duke and Duchess at Te Koraha, then the home of the Rhodes family, and now central to the life and activity at Rangi Ruru Girls’ School

    1. thank you – this is good to know about

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