St Andrews and Empire Object Description

Welcome to our object description tour of the current exhibition on St Andrews and Empire! This tour will provide an innovative and engaging insight into the museum’s collection and its links to the British Empire.

Let’s start with some background information with regards to the definition of an Empire, and its relationship with the museum’s collection of objects and artefacts.

In 2021, museum staff worked with a Museum & Heritage Studies Post-Graduate student at the University of St Andrews to research colonial links in our collection to begin the process of decolonising the collection.

But what does this mean?

To decolonise a museum collection means to recognise the role that Imperialism played in the creation of British museums, and to re-examine whether the stories being told by objects acknowledge that history. Our collection has been developed with a focus on local history. However, as you walk throughout this exhibition, local history collections are not immune from the web of colonialism and empire.

This exhibition centres museum objects that have links to the British Empire due to most objects in our collection dating from the peak of empire in the early 20th century. Examining our collection through the lens of empire has provided new perspectives on the origin of objects, and the impact on people across the world. These objects are a snapshot of the hundreds of objects in our collection linked to colonialism and empire. Yet, they represent our first steps in exploring the wider, and perhaps more complex, narratives that our collection holds.

As you come into our museum space, there are objects on display on both sides of the room. Turning left leads you to our first display cabinet which tells the story of Mount Melville.

A Painting of Mount Melville

Object Description:

The estate and establishment of Mount Melville is depicted in a landscape photograph with details featuring a mansion house and its gardens. Melville built a new mansion house at Mount Melville and landscaped the grounds, purchasing 230 trees in 1790.

Object Description: John Whyte-Melville of Bennochy and Strathkinness (1797 – 1883)

A gentleman is standing on the Old Course, with iconic landmarks such as the Swilcan Bridge, the R&A, and the West Sands in the background. This gentleman is John Whyte- Melville who is dressed in his golf attire comprising a red coat, long grey trousers, and a small black top hat. His hands are overlapping one another, holding a golf club. A caddie is a young boy dressed in brown overalls, a black cap, and carrying a golf bag. He is replacing a golf ball onto the ground ready for Melville to undertake a shot. There are golfers playing in the background too. The whole scene illustrates the tension, and the spectators are on tender hooks watching the game as it unfolds.


Fairrie Small Cube Sugar

Object Description: A medium rectangle box with a yellow and dark red – almost maroon like background. The title ‘Fairrie Small Cube Sugar’ stands out in its bold font, and the box details the company’s logo with a upside down triangle and the letter ‘F’ enclosed within it.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup

Object Description: A medium sized green tin with ‘Lyle’s Golden Syrup’ written across the front. There is a gold background with the title displayed in white. There is also an illustration of a golden lion just under the title.


Wooden Tea Caddy

Object Description: On display here, a medium wooden box which could almost depict a mini chest containing treasures. In this case, the box would be full of tea! Beside the box, there are two silver teaspoons – one small and one medium – which are used to scoop out tea leaves and to diffuse into a teapot with boiling water. There is even a key lock on the box which demonstrates just how tea was such a valuable and luxurious household good!

Tea pot and teacup

Object Description: An elegant, decorated teapot with flowers of pink roses, purple tulips and green leaves scattered around the centre of the pot, and the lid. Its background colour is cream, which makes the colourful flowers stand out. Its spout is quite unique, as it is shaped like a luxurious and elegant slipper. There is a small white feather lining the side of the spout. A thin gold line above the flowers surrounds the teapot.

Darjeeling Tea packet

Object Description: A light green box with the title ‘China Darjeeling Tea’ outlined on the front.

Advertising Sign for Choice Packet Teas

Object Description: A large navy blue board promoting this brand of tea! There is an illustration of the town of Melrose, where the Abbey is at the forefront of this image. The board highlights the fact that Choice Packet Teas are the oldest in Scotland, and it claims that their tea is the best in Scotland!

Britannia metal teapot:

Object Description: A large metal teapot which looks quite dull and solid in comparison to the elegant and decorative teapot on display here.

Wooden tea caddy with puzzle lock

Object Description: A dark brown wooden box with details featuring carved patterns of leaves and is shaped like a tree trunk.


Object Description:

Macdonald’s Cut Golden Bar Tobacco Tin

Object Description: A round, golden tin where the lid displays a Log Cabin, and in which it highlights tobacco as a valuable item.

A rectangular tin where the lid displays a Highlander dancing on swords. The Highlander is dressed in a mix of colours including red, blue, green and brown. He is wearing a distinctive blue hat with a red feather on it. He is wearing a sporran which is like a sunrise in colour, conveying colours of yellow, gold and pink.

Lambert & Butler Tobacco Tin

Object Description: A round tin, faded yellow with some red font. There is a picture depicting a log cabin scene with cowboys and horses.

Gallaher Tobacco Tin

Object Description: A long rectangular tin, with ‘Gallaher Two Flakes Tobacco’ picked out across the base of the tin. It is quite plain with a light brown background and gives the impression of a smoky environment.

Paisley Pattern

Paisley Wool Shawl

Object Description: There are two Paisley Wool Shawls on display upon the top of a wooden chest of drawers. One Shawl comprises the colours of pink and light orange, all coming together in a bubble of cheery colours. The colours illustrate a golden sunrise appearing first at the West Sands where the sun glows across the whole skyline of the town. Picture this, and the shawl pattern provides a warm feeling of happiness and peace.

Sitting next to this shawl, there is also a white shawl, with bundles of colours of blue, pink, green, yellow and red all coming together to form patterns of flowers, and leaves. The pattern conveys a sense of being in a tranquil garden with nature surrounding you, and in a calm sense of being.


Object Description:

A Sari is traditionally made up of a long piece of fabric where one end ties around the waist and the other is draped and wrapped around the body. Its colour is navy blue, with a pattern of green leaves and purple and red flowers running throughout along the edge of the sari. The sari is displayed on a mannequin and flows nicely to the floor and overall conveys a sense of elegance.

Cable & Wireless Great Circle Map

Object Description: A large scale world map is hanging on the wall here above the fireplace. Countries such as Africa, Asia, North America, South America are coloured in yellow. Great Britain and Ireland at the time, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are coloured in red.

Please continue around the space to your right which leads you to where our last display cabinet shows a collection of Luxury Goods.

Ostrich feather hat:

Object Description:

A very glamourous pink round hat with feathers attached to the back of it. The hat itself has lined narrow columns surrounding it. The feather hat portrays value, and status. It is certainly an item of sheer luxury one could buy!

Luxury Goods

Object Description – Staffordshire China Figures

Sitting on the top shelf above our display cabinet, there are two Staffordshire China Figures. One Figure is dressed as a Scottish Military figure with a white dress kilt and stripes of red and green tartan draped across the body. There are traces of gold across the outfit from its necktie to patterns of tassels on its kilt and top of knee socks. The figure is standing proudly on a gun carriage and holding a gold pole with a flag displaying colours of white, red and blue in stripes. At the base of the figure, ‘Scotland’s Pride’ is outlined in gold.

The other figure depicts a Sailor leaning against the bow of a ship almost as if he is gazing towards the sea. He is dressed in a typical sailor outfit with white trousers, a white shirt, a red bow tie, a navy blazer and a black hat. The figure has medium wavy brown hair, a beard, and has rosy cheeks which are perfect features to describe a typical Naval Officer! Again, at the base, the phrase ‘Britain’s Glory’ is outlined in gold. These figures are an example of British identity and play a role in the culture of the British Empire.

Coronation Tea Tin

Object Description: A medium-sized, square, gold box with Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait with an oval frame on the face of the tin. On either side of the tin is depicted ‘Elizabeth R 1953’ in a red oval frame with an impressive Crown detailing gold jewels with red trimmings to the crown, and white fur lining the base of the crown. The edges of the frame are illustrated with 6 scrolls which surround the red frame. The significance of this could indicate a new era where it represents the Queen’s dedication to a lifetime of service to the United Kingdom.

The frame displays a smiling portrait of the Queen. Make up is simple with red lips and light rosy cheeks which displays her natural beauty. She has dark brown hair which is styled with set curls. She is dressed in a light blue gown – almost like the colour of the sea in the Mediterranean. A simple round necklace with blue sapphire stones set throughout, complementing long drop silver earrings of the same stones, and a grand silver crown on her head all demonstrate a display of a new era and national glory within the British identity.

Crocodile Leather Purse

Object Description: A small sized brown and beige leather purse is on display on the top shelf. Its pattern depicts the skin of a Crocodile which is formed into small boxes and stripes across the purse.

Crocodile Leather Handbag

Object Description: A medium sized brown and beige leather handbag. Its pattern depicts the skin of a Crocodile.

Tortoiseshell Comb

Object Description: The comb has beautiful shades of dark brown and beige – almost like the colours of a Bengalese cat. There are two combs on display here. They are quite long and piercing, almost symbolising an animal’s long claws. There is also a medium sized comb which has 8 long and thin ‘claws’ with a dense back attached.

Ivory Glove Stretchers

Object Description: The ivory glove stretchers are long, slim, and almost shaped like a pair of scissors.

There are two of these – one in white and another in beige.

There is also a pair of white small gloves on display here.

Portrait of Lieut-Colonel D.O.W Lamb OBE

Object Description:

A black and white photo depicts Lieutenant Colonel David Ogilvy Wright Lamb in his military uniform where he is standing with his hands together looking straight at the camera. His uniform is quite plain, with a shirt and jacket tied together with a belt, plain trousers and black shoes. The Colonel looks serious, is wearing glasses, and presents a calm atmosphere in this picture.

The background depicts a white stone curved entrance almost like the roof of a temple, and, through the doorway, it is very open and spacious.

Golf Club Medals

Object Description: Two Golf Club Medals are on display here. One depicts the portrait of a ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh of Kashmir, whose reign lasted from 1885 to 1925.

The other medal depicts the scene of a mountainous resort with the inscription ‘Open Handicap ‘1934’ D.O.W. LAMB’.

Indian Anna

Object Description:

A copper coin is on display, inscribed with ‘12’ and ‘Anna’ across the centre. There is an illustration of leaves scattered throughout in the background.

Biscuit Tin:

Object Description:

The lid illustration is a reproduction of the painting ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ by the famous British artist J. M. W Turner (1775 – 1851). The Temeraire was one of the ships that famously took part in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). The battle was crucial in establishing Britain’s naval supremacy over other European nations, and propelled the maritime expansion that would lead to further colonisation in the 19th century.

The illustration captures a very colourful scene of a ship with a very vivid sky of pink and yellow reflecting off the ship.

Cadbury’s Chocolate Tin

Object Description: A turquoise round tin displays an illustration of a lion and its owner standing proudly with a British Flag.