Curious connections across museum collections bring us to Glen Tanar


This photograph of Glen Tanar House with a tennis court was taken by George Washington Wilson in the 1870s. He was a popular photographer among the middle classes and landed gentry in Victorian Aberdeen.

The Glen Tanar estate is set in the spectacular Cairngorms National Park in Royal Deeside. Banker and MP Sir William Cunliffe Brooks bought the estate in 1865. He made many changes to Glen Tanar House included the addition of the Victorian Ballroom, landscaped gardens and the tennis court.



In 1905, the Glen Tanar estate was bought by George Coats. He was the director of the fine cotton thread manufacturer, J&P Coats Ltd. In the advent of the industrial revolution, the Coats family were instrumental in establishing the weaving and textile industry in Paisley, and by 1905 J&P Coats Ltd were one of the largest companies in the world.

In 1916, George Coats was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Glentanar of Glen Tanar. He passed away two years later in 1918 and his son, Thomas Coats, became 2nd Baron Glentanar and a director of the family firm.

Thomas Coats, known as Lord Glentanar, was said to be the second most eligible bachelor in Britain, behind the Prince of Wales. In one of the most highly talked about romances of the year, he married Grethe Dagbjort Thoresen in Oslo, Norway, in 1927. She was the daughter of a wealthy Norwegian shipping magnate. The wedding was attended by Crown Prince Olaf of Norway and gifts were received from the King and Queen of Norway, as well as from King George V and Queen Mary.

When World War Two started in 1939, Lady Glentanar threw herself enthusiastically into war work. She was president of the Aboyne Red Cross branch and president of the local War Efforts Association. Every week two days were spent at Glen Tanar House knitting and sewing clothing for both service personnel and evacuees billeted on the estate.



Lady Glentanar’s British Red Cross commandant’s uniform comprises a double-breasted overcoat, single-breasted jacket, knee-length skirt and a hat. The coat and jacket are adorned with British Red Cross brooches and badges. Sadly, Lady Glentanar contracted acute influenza and died during wartime, in 1940, when she was just 32 years old.

Blog by Jenna Rose, Curator (Decorative Art)