Devotees of Downton Abbey will instantly recognise this image as being a photograph of a house party - in this case, a royal house party. The house is Ugbrooke House (referred to in the local press at the time as Ugbrooke Park), on the outskirts of Chudleigh, the home of an ancient Devon family, the Cliffords of Chudleigh. The party is to mark a visit paid to the West Country in July 1899 by the Duke and Duchess of York, later to be known as King George V and Queen Mary.
Lord Clifford, 9th Baron of Chudleigh will have chosen his guests with great care before submitting his guest list to the Duke and Duchess of York and will have gained royal approval for each and every one of these people to be present. They are all members of an exclusive in-set who are regularly seen in the "right" place alongside the "right" people and who wait patiently while James Dinham, the Torquay photographer, records their status for posterity.
Details of the lives and activities of wealthy aristocrats were meat and drink to the newspaper readers of the the day, so fortunately, we can find many detailed paragraphs reporting what was happening at Ugbrooke together with full details of the entertainment laid on by Lord Clifford for the amusement of his guests as well as details of the public events which surrounded the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York. The public read and re-read these paragraphs and their content would for weeks have formed an ever-interesting topic of conversation.
On the 23rd of May 1899, the following announcement appeared in the Western Times: