A return to Castle Howard

Looking down on the Great Hall

Looking down on the Great Hall

What finer place to start today than where I left off my tour of Castle Howard at Christmas, in the Great Hall?  The fire was roaring in the grate, and it needed to be, to heat this vast space.   I had completely forgotten the chill outdoors, in the sumptuousness of my surroundings.  Looking up at the dome, I could only marvel at the skill and resourcefulness that had repaired the enormous damage done by the 1940 fire.

The story of the fire and the Brideshead connection are the subjects of the exhibition in High Saloon, where my tour takes us next.  These rooms were completely destroyed in the fire, including painted frescoes by Pellegrini from 1709. New joists and flooring were installed in the 1970s, but the interiors were still burnt-out shells in 2007.  It was maybe a stroke of genius to turn these rooms into a film set for the filming of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited.  In 1981 and again in 2008, Castle Howard became Brideshead, with a cast of stars.

Castle Howard has been used for a number of film productions, the most recent of which was Death comes to Pemberley in 2014.  Is it really any wonder?

Look what I've spotted?

Just look what I’ve spotted! Haven’t owls always been popular?

The Crimson Dining Room

Such an opulent dining room

What a setting!

And what a table setting!

A room recently opened for viewing by the public is the New Library, formerly the Canaletto Room, which also was destroyed by the fire.  Books have been collected on every conceivable subject relating to the estate, creating a warm and welcoming space.

Everything for the good Victorian child appears to be the theme of the next room.  See any old favourites?  Ooh, that rocking horse, please!

Nor have the adults been knowingly neglected.

And how hard is it to pick your favourite tree?

And how hard is it to pick your favourite tree?

I think we’re not too far from the end.  The Long Gallery comes next, 160 feet long, with an Octagon lined with books as its centrepiece.  Today a cellist is playing Christmas tunes.

Just a little venture into the Chapel, then I think we can go home.  Originally intended to be a dining room (another one!), in the 1870s the floor was lowered, a new entrance created and the now chapel was redecorated in the pre-Raphaelite style.  The Howard family were patrons of William Morris, and one of his works was a stained glass window for a nearby Reformatory. This has long since closed and the window is currently on loan to Castle Howard.

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I expect your eyes are tired of looking now.  Mine are, just a little, but I’ve so enjoyed putting together my experience of Castle Howard at Christmas.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.  The website is full of details and photographs and I’ve included a few links, in case you’re interested.

Last year I went to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire at Christmas time, and the two stately homes have much in common.  Both have hosted film crews for Brideshead and other period dramas. Where Chatsworth enthrals with its grand themes, Castle Howard seduces with a very traditional Christmas.  I have to say that I like both.  How about you?

90 comments

      1. Poor Oscar is starving, but I’ll bet if you bring him a glass of wine, he’ll forget all about food. Have a fabulous Christmas, Jo. 🙂

  1. It looks the perfect place to get in the Christmas spirit. I love that they still light the fires- some of these places don’t- as it creates a perfect atmosphere.

  2. I really liked the close-up of the bulb on the tree – there is a reflection in it and I also just like the swirls and elegant feel. Looks like a cool castle – thankless for the share amiga ❤

    1. I loved that ornament too, Yvette. I took quite a few close-ups of the tree and a lovely old gentleman guide came over and asked if I collected the decorations! I think he was just a little bored and wanted someone to talk to, but he was very sweet 🙂

  3. I enjoyed the lovely tour, Jo, especially the chapel. The ceiling is a work of art as well as that dinning room. I remember how much I enjoyed the Narnia theme last year at Chatsworth that you posted. Looks like Lisa gets to visit again.

    1. Hi Lynne 🙂 Back from your travels? This is the third part of my Castle Howard adventure and I didn’t get to share it with Lisa. 😦 She’s going back to Chatsworth (which is nearer to her) with friends next week. I dragged the other half along to Castle Howard, and he rather enjoyed it 🙂

    1. I really enjoyed Chatsworth last year, Debbie, but part of the excitement was going with Lisa, and also the fabulous Narnia theme. Castle Howard was very different in style and I loved those traditional trees. 🙂

  4. Traditional Christmas in every sense of the word epitomised here, what a truly magnificent home, absolutely perfect for this time of year. I adore that doll’s house, always loved them. Oh why couldn’t I have been a good little Victorian girl? Your beautiful photos capture the opulence as well as the intimacy of this place Jo, just gorgeous 🙂

    1. It really was a treat, Sherri, and I enjoyed every moment. I just discovered that Lisa is going to Chatsworth on 21st, with friends 😦 Ah well- we had the best time last year! Got your tree up yet, hon? I spent today doing mine so I keep stealing little peeps at it, twinkling away beside me. 🙂

      1. So finally getting over here and so, so late for everything! I’m stressed, can you tell? But yes Jo, I can report that we do now have our tree up as of this weekend, yay! It is lovely isn’t it to be able to admire all the twinkles. Now I’m making endless lists…great so long as I don’t lose them 🙄 Loved the video of Chatsworth…hopefully you will get to go again soon 🙂

      2. I’m calm at the minute 🙂 Don’t suppose it will last. I went to Morrisons this morning and couldn’t help but think how obscene it is the money we spend on spoiling and gorging ourselves at Christmas. It’s all about a cuddle and a little present, isn’t it, but trying to keep it that way gets harder. I’m only cooking for 4 Christmas Day so not really much need to stress. Hugs sweetheart! It’ll be here and gone before you know it. 🙂

      3. Oh I know Jo, tell me about it. That’s what gets me so much…and the idiot drivers who aren’t paying attention 😦 You are right, the joy is in those, small, precious moments. I’m cooking for 6 so again, not too bad. Come Christmas Eve I’m okay…what I haven’t done by then, too bad, it’s too late and I’m going to enjoy every moment for what it’s worth with my family! Hugs back you sweetie…I feel so much better now 🙂

  5. Oh I enjoyed that wander through such sumptuous rooms and the decorations were so beautiful. I did like the bare branch look for the trees. Were you on your own looking around Jo? Or did you just have to keep waiting for the crowds to move on for the photos.

    1. We chose a midweek day thinking it would be relatively empty, Pauline. At weekends Santa is there, and you know what that means 🙂 I’m quite good at waiting politely till people have moved on, and there are so many rooms, it wasn’t difficult 🙂

  6. What’s wrong with me? I can’t adore grand. I felt relief at the plain white walls and ceilings in the Long Gallery. The gigantic flowers on the table of the pink-swathed chairs would make intimate (or any) conversation across the table impossible – or is it the custom to move them? I want a large version of the white rocking chair from the sleigh, with a few William Morris cushions to soften it, and I’d sit and listen to a cello all day – it could make “Jingle bells” sound profound. Another great slide show: I’d forgotten that method of display. Watch out. I’ll now overuse it!

    1. Get that slide show rolling, Meg! 🙂 🙂 The rooms are very ‘staged’- I don’t think every meal would be quite like that, but there must be a little of my daughter in me somewhere. I rather like ‘twirly, wirly’ and ornate. Living with it? Maybe not 🙂

  7. It is difficult to wrap our modern heads around the fact these stately homes were, weel, somebody’s home! We now have Downtown Abbey to show us what life in these mansions was like, but still, it is different when you see yhe place for yourself, right?

  8. An absolutely wonderful guided tour, Jo! The sumptuousness just takes one’s breath away, although I couldn’t help, just for a brief moment, wondering who does all the dusting. 🙂 I’ll take the rocking horse. he would look so nice in my new house when it’s finished. He could stand next to my piano. The Christmas trees are all lovely, but I will actually plump for the one with bare branches. It’s rather classy, I think.

  9. oh, Jo!!! I could scroll through these again and again. Sumptuous is the word that comes to mind and a crackling fire in the grate amidst those beautiful marble columns …just divine!

    1. It’s a whole other time and place, isn’t it, Sammy? Toasted crumpets by the fire, a sip of sherry and afternoon tea…. those were the days! I’d only have been a parlour maid, not landed gentry 🙂

      1. Me, too, Jo but honestly I don’t think I could stand to wear those corsets and have maids fussing over me in my bedroom!! I’d rather be in the basement with my homies 🙂

  10. Takes the idea of re-decorating to a whole new level !
    Fabulous wandering round with you Jo . and no … I lost count with the baubles …
    One sumptuous festive time the family will have of it all . Hide and seek anyone … coming ready or not … may take some time 😉

  11. Oh my. Just beautiful. 🙂 And I’d forgotten they made a movie version of Brideshead Revisited. I didn’t bother with it (even if one of the writers was Andrew Davies) because, really, how do you top Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, amongst others?

    Thanks for the visit. I am feeling quite nostalgic. 🙂

  12. Have always loved Castle Howard Jo – last went there with my dad a couple of years ago plus I really liked the BBC production of Brideshead Revisited have seen it many times and have the DVD! Lovely post 🙂

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