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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dress recreates glory of Bowes wedding day

THE owner of a bridal shop in Prudhoe has recreated an 18th century wedding dress to be used as the centrepiece of a new exhibition at Gibside Chapel.

hxtulipdress
Classic style: Cath Tulip with the Mary Eleanor Bowes wedding dress.

Cath Tulip, of The White Tulip Wedding Company, spent two weeks making the elaborate silk garment in the style once worn by Mary Eleanor Bowes, daughter of Gibside’s original owner, George Bowes.

In its day the dress would have cost around £3,000, with a further £10,000 invested in the stomacher, or bodice section.

Mrs Tulip undertook the work free of charge after speaking with textile design student Jerri Gibbons, who wanted to use it, and other Bowes-themed accessories, for her final degree show.

“When I decided to do it, I didn’t realise the amount of work that would be involved,” said Mrs Tulip. “I thought, ‘My goodness, what have I let myself in for?’

“I had made dresses before but never a wedding gown, so I was very proud of the results.

“I spent around two weeks completing it and Jerri then embroidered it. It looks really, truly magnificent.”

Mary Eleanor Bowes (1749-1800) was well educated for her time and was an enthusiastic dramatist and botanist.

Her father died when she was 11 years old, leaving her a fortune estimated at between £600,000 and £1,040,000, and making her the wealthiest heiress in Britain.

She wore the dress on marrying John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore, on her 18th birthday, February 24, 1767. But she is perhaps better known for her second marriage to Anglo-Irish adventurer Andrew Robinson Stoney.

A charming but cunning fellow, Stoney controlled and squandered her wealth, and subjected her to years of physical and mental abuse.

Jerri, who has just completed her textile design degree through Newcastle College, became fascinated with Bowes’s life story.

As Bowes was eventually buried in her wedding dress, she had to rely on extensive research to create specifications for Mrs Tulip to work to.

When the dress itself was complete, she added the embroidery, trimmings and jewels – opting for Swarovski crystals rather than the diamonds of the original.

She said: “We formed a brilliant collaboration and I was really happy with what Cath was able to create – she did it brilliantly.”

The ‘Con Brio’ collection will be on show at Gibside Chapel until May 31, and can be viewed between 10am and 4.30pm each day. Normal National Trust entry charges apply.

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