Image is ‘The Honourable Mrs Caroline Norton and Her Sisters’ by William Etty. By kind permission of Manchester Art Gallery
PRESS RELEASE “THE THREE GRACES”
A queen of beauty
A feminist social reformer
A literary talent
Muncaster Castle celebrates the astonishing achievements of three remarkable Victorian women. For over 800 years, talented, plucky and spirited women are found peppered liberally throughout the family tree of Iona Frost-Pennington, the current owner.
Thomas Sheridan and Caroline Henrietta Callander, had three daughters: Caroline, Helen and Jane Georgiana. Collectively these three sisters were known by their contemporaries, because of their beauty, wit and accomplishments, as “The Three Graces”. Georgiana is Iona’s great-great-great grandmother.
Installations transform the Castle rooms into an Exhibition showcasing the lives of the Sheridan Sisters with, costumes worn by Georgiana when she was Queen of Beauty at the Eglinton Tournament, songs and poems by Helen, and the determination of Caroline. Local dressmaker Celestina Mahović is stitching a replica of Georgiana’s Queen of Beauty dress for Iona’s daughter, Isla. The finishing touches will be made just in time for the Exhibition opening and, when not being modelled by Georgiana’s 4x great granddaughter, will be on display in the Castle.
Georgiana was crowned the Eglinton Beauty at the renowned Scottish Eglinton Tournament in 1839.
“No lady throughout the empire could have been chosen whose preeminent attractors of face and figure, whose elegance of manners, whose correctness of taste and feminine dignity and demeanour could better have entitled her to have the proud rank of the ‘Queen of Beauty’”
(Commentators of 1839)
Caroline Norton was married to an abusive man at only 19 years old. He prevented her from seeing her three sons after their marriage fell apart and she successfully challenged the lack of legal rights for women which still impact on laws today.
“Mr Norton held my children as hostages; he felt that while he had them, he still had a power over me that nothing could control.”
(Caroline Norton, “English Laws for Women in the 19th Century.”)
Helen was a beloved songwriter, composer, poet and author admired for her literary talents and wit. She was a well-known figure in London society and became Baroness Dufferin and Claneboye.
“You see, Georgy’s the beauty, and Carry’s the wit, and I ought to be the good one, but I am not.” (Helen speaking to Prime Minister Disraeli.)
It is no wonder the sisters were so talented, having inherited their literary skills primarily from their Mother, renowned novelist Caroline Henriette Callander. Her first novel was ‘Carwell, or Crime and Sorrow’ (1830), where she highlighted the inequitable sentences pronounced upon those who had been guilty of relatively minor misdemeanours. When her husband Thomas Sheridan died of consumption, she brought up and educated her children on a small pension in “grace and favour” rooms at Hampton Court Palace, granted by the Prince Regent.
Their Grandfather was Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the famous satirist and playwright, famous for “Rivals” and “School for Scandal”. Sheridan, Iona’s x5 Gt Grandfather, was a long term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Iona is one of 4 daughters as was Phyllida her mother and between them have owned the Castle & Estate since the early 1980’s. Muncaster has been a very matriarchal society for almost 40 years now, with the ladies, at last, fully in charge!
“I used to work for my mother-in-law & wife and now I work for my wife and daughter.” (Peter Frost-Pennington) The tradition continues!
Research at Muncaster is fascinating. We are forever discovering more stories, facts and gossip! We have only just scratched the surface on what we can uncover on this topic and are sure that the amazing Sheridan sisters will pop up again in exhibitions in the near future. External funding such as sponsorship and more volunteers are always welcome!
Notes for Editors:
1. The Three Graces Exhibition will be open from the 19th August – 2nd September 2019 inclusive.
2. Entry is included with General Muncaster Entry Tickets purchased for Castle Entry. Advance tickets available from www.muncaster.co.uk.
3. The Three Graces Exhibition coincides with Medieval Weekend 24th – 26th August 2019 at Muncaster, more information at www.muncaster.co.uk/medieval-muncaster.
4. Muncaster Castle has been the ancestral home to the Pennington Family since at least 1208 when ownership of the land was confirmed through a Charter from King John.
5. The Castle sits majestically in 77 acres of wild, woodland gardens with breath-taking views of the Lake District Fells, including Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. Reputedly haunted, the Castle is home to fabulous collections of art, antique furniture & textiles.
6. Muncaster is home to the Hawk & Owl Centre which offers two flying displays daily during the main season at 11.30am, 2pm and a wild heron feed at 4pm. Owls, falcons, eagles kites and even vultures swoop low over the audience as the expert bird staff enthral visitors with how they can help conserve these amazing birds of prey in the wild
7. Opening times for The Three Graces Exhibition will be 12noon – 4pm daily.
8. General Muncaster opening times can be found at https://www.muncaster.co.uk/plan-your-visit/opening-times/
9. High Resolution images available on request, email@example.com. If possible please credit ©Muncaster Castle. Image of Caroline Norton and Her Sisters Portrait courtesy of Manchester Art Gallery.
Directions to Muncaster – Follow signs for Western Lake District from the motorway
From the South
Leave the M6 motorway at junction 36. Follow the signs for Barrow-in-Furness on the A590, but before you get to Barrow, turn right at Greenodd onto the A5092 and follow this road for Workington and Whitehaven. This road joins the A595 which will bring you to Muncaster. The journey from junction 36 to the Castle will take you approximately an hour and a quarter.
From the North or East
From Carlisle (M6 Junction 44) follow the A595 for Cockermouth and then Whitehaven and Barrow. From Penrith (M6 Junction 40) take the A66 to Cockermouth then follow signs for Whitehaven A595. This road bypasses Ravenglass and goes straight through to Muncaster. The journey from Carlisle should take about an hour and a half.
The Main Gate and car park is on the A595. For visitors to invited functions, coach groups, B&B guests or any visitor with mobility issues, please use the Church Gate Entrance which is near the top of the hill on the left (if coming from the south) and ¼ mile past the main car park up the hill & round the corner if coming from the north.