The Taymouth Hours are named for Taymouth Castle.  The castle is near Kenmore in Perthside, Scotland, and was owned by the earls of Breadalbane.  An earl of Breadalbane who lived in Taymouth Castle is the earliest documentable post-medieval owner of the hours (Smith, 2012).  The castle itself was built in the early 19th century on the site of Balloch Castle, which was built in 1550 (Historic Scotland, 2013).


The Taymouth Hours were produced in the second quarter of the 14th Century – Smith (2012) dates the manuscript to 1331, as a wardrobe book for 1331-2 records that Edward III’s consort, Philippa of Hainault (b. 24 June 1314, d. 15 August 1369) paid Richard of Oxford (an artist) 40 shillings “for the illumination of two little books for the queen of diverse hours of the Blessed Virgin with diverse images and large and small letters of gold” (Smith, 2012, p. 13).  Smith argues that Philippa kept one of these books for herself and gave the other to Eleanor of Woodstock when she was betrothed to Reinald II of Guelders.  Other candidates for original ownership are Joan of the Tower (b. 5 July 1321, d. 7 September 1362), Isabella of France (b. 1295, d. 22 August 1358), and Philippa of Hainault.

The extant manuscript contains a calendar, a collection of “unusual” Anglo-Norman prayers (Smith, 2012, p. 1), standard Latin offices, and the beginning of a French story.  The British Library’s metadata for the manuscript points out that the subject and style of the Taymouth Hours, especially its bas-de-page narratives, are similar to the Neville of Hornby Hours (Egerton 2781) and the Smithfield Decretals (Royal 10 E IV).


f. 29v, drawn and painted by Richard of Oxford.

In the second quarter of the 14th century, London had eclipsed Oxford as a center for manuscript production.  The London book trade was primarily made up of professional craftsman, as opposed to monastic scriptoriums or courts (Smith, 2012).  The Taymouth Hours have two primary creators – Richard of Oxford and an artist referred to as “the Draughtsman (Smith, 2012, p. 32).  It is likely Richard of Oxford was trained in Oxford and relocated to London, as artistic migration was common in the 14th century.  Richard of Oxford is also credited with a miscellany in Glasgow (Hunter MS 231) commissioned by Roger of Waltham (Smith, 2012).  Richard of Oxford did nearly all of the miniatures and bas-de-page illustrations, but the bas-de-page illustrations in folios 60r-149v were drawn by the Draughtman and painted by Richard.

f. 124v, drawn by the Draughtsman and painted by Richard of Oxford

These London craftsmen did not model their work spaces on the monastic scriptoriums, but rather rented or owned small shops in close proximity to one another. This facilitated collaboration (Smith, 2012). 


While scholars debate over who the manuscript was comissioned by and for whom, there is no argument that its intended recipient was a royal woman (Smith, 2012).  As stated previously, the manuscript could have been made for either Philippa of Hainault, Joan of the Tower, Isabella of France, or Eleanor of Woodstock.  The manuscripts London origin is also supported by the presence of saints Ethelburga and Botulph in the calendar pages, the former the abbes of Barking and the latter venerated at three London parishes.

Arms of the Nevilles of Raby, f. 3r

The manuscript was next known to be in the possession of a member of the Neville family, as there are two instances where a shield has been overpainted – fol. 3r and fol. 151r – with the arms of the Nevilles of Raby: gules, a saltire argent).

Arms of the Nevilles of Raby, f. 151r





These were painted over the arms of St. George, seen on f. 153v, which unfortunately do not do much to help identify the original owners.  Edward III was a “vigorous and sustained” (Smith, 2012, p. 23) supporter of the cult of St. George that eventually resulted in his elevation as England’s patron saint.

Arms of St. George, f. 153v

The last known medieval owner is dated to the 16th century based on a pair of notations on f. 60 and f. 89, both in a Scots dialect.

Evidence of 16th century Scottish owner: f. 60 r, f. 89r.

The manuscript was then found in Taymouth Castle with the armorial book-plate of The Earl of Breadalbane.  It also bore the 17th-18th century inscription, “Self 29 number L” (British Library).  The Taymouth Hours were then in the possession of the fourth and fifth (the last) earls of Ashburnham – Bertram Ashburnham, the fourth earl (b. 1797, d. 1878) and Bertram Ashburnham, the fifth earl.  The latter Bertram sold the manuscript in May 1897 to Henry Yates Thompson (b. 1838, d. 1928).

Henry Yates Thompson was a collector of illuminated manuscripts and Publisher of the Pall Mall Gazette, which he recieved from his father-in-law (Bell, 2004).  His collection started when he was eighteen and recieved ten manuscripts from his maternal grandfather.  After he sold his newspaper, Yates Thompson spent a great deal of time and energy building his collection, and the Taymouth Hours was included in a purchase of over 200 manuscripts for £30,000 (Bell, 2004).  Between 1919 and 1921, Yates Thompson sold off his collection at auction, but he retained the Taymouth Hours. An inscription on the first flyleaf tells us why:

“‘This volume one of the choicest of my English MSS I gave to my dear wife on her birthday Jan’y 10th 1917 to mitigate her grief at the news that I intended to sell my collection of 100 illuminated MSS. HYT”

When Elizabeth Yates Thompson died in 1941, she left the Taymouth Hours ot the British Museum, where it resides today (British Library).