From the moment I walked into Castle Howard, I knew that I was in for something very special. Lozenges of light filtered down the Grand Staircase, from the 74-paned skylight overhead. It was almost like walking on hallowed ground. Yet I knew that the Howard family were a very real presence, in this home that brims with history.
On Monday I took you for a walk in the magnificent grounds, and I promised you a little more colour than my grey skies. Do you recognise the Mausoleum in this painting?
The passages and hallways are full of exquisite works of art. Rarely have I seen so much wealth and beauty accumulated under one roof. Furniture and porcelain collections are lavishly distributed throughout the house, and there are guides on hand, more than happy to engage with you and share the tales that surround each piece.
Around all this is woven the magic of a classical Christmas. I will take you through the house in the order that it was revealed, with great pride, to me.
The Howards have lived almost continuously in this house ever since it was built by Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, at the beginning of the 18th century. The current residents are the Hon. Simon Howard and his wife Rebecca, with their twins.
You couldn’t accuse the house of being understated. It’s very much a case of ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’, but with beautiful elegance.
Impressive it may be, but all this is but a prelude to the main feature. The Great Hall is likely to provoke at least an intake of breath! Astonishing to think that the lovely dome which crowns it crashed to the floor during the great fire of 1940. The details of the ongoing restoration are contained in the ‘Brideshead Restored’ exhibition in High South.
The High South stairs offer dramatic glimpses of the Great Hall through the arches.
I am only halfway through my tour of this magnificent house and, as I don’t want eyes to glaze over, I propose to stop here. I hope you’ll return with me. There is still much opulence to be enjoyed, including the Chapel, with stained glass by William Morris.
If you’d like to see Castle Howard in all its Christmas finery, you have until 21st December. Just time, isn’t there? Full details are on the website.