Friday, 23 September 2016

Summer Holiday - Day seven

July 29 – Castle Howard 

On Friday we went off to visit Castle Howard. This is the stately home of the Howard family and it is known as Castle Howard because it was built for them on the site of a part ruined medieval castle, but is not actually a castle. In 1699 building was started on their new house but seemed, like many projects today, to have overrun a bit and actually took one hundred years to complete.

Probably a bit over budget by that time too.  It has extensive grounds and formal gardens and seems to be more famous for its links to the TV and film versions of Brideshead Revisited than its status as a 600 year old stately home. Both the TV and movie versions of the book were filmed in and around the buildings and some rooms were still arranged as they had been as sets for the movie. 

Aside from that, as stately homes go it was quite impressive. It is my opinion, that once you have seen one stately home, you have seen them all and more often than not I am left not exactly unimpressed, but seeing nothing that I have not seen before in other homes open to the public. Castle Howard was an exception and its interiors are amazing. The front entrance from the outside is quite grand, but inside the main entrance the hallway is impressive.  Lit from above by a glass dome it is a profusion of marble and statues.

Most other parts of the interior are much of a muchness, the bedrooms, the drawing rooms, lounges and the inevitable library all stuffed with antique furniture, statues and paintings are as per normal for stately homes.

However, the chapel was another gem of elaborate decor with some murals painted high up on the walls which were several orders better than those we saw in the church at Pickering and unlikely to give children nightmares.

One thing I do like to see in stately homes are the Roman statues and busts, I am impressed by the age and the lifelike and individual faces they show.  Because many of them are of known people such as emperors they are probably as good a likeness of their features that any modern photograph could produce.

This one has character.  A bit grainy, the light was not good
These statues are a view of the past that would have otherwise been unobtainable if some long forgotten artisan had not been able to bring their faces to life in stone. Obviously not every bust you see is a genuine Roman bust and are quite often copies, but they are usually very good copies.

Over the years many stately homes will have had Roman-like busts made of the family or other notable people, but some are genuine Roman antiquities and the bust of Antonius Pius is genuine.  It was used to pay off death duties and is now owned by Liverpool museum, but it is allowed to be displayed in Castle Howard.

The day was a damp day to start with and so we explored the interior of the house first, but later, whilst gloomy it was not actually raining, so we wandered around the grounds.

The fountain is a major feature of the lawns area and the figure in the centre is supporting a globe with the signs of the zodiac all around it.

This part of the formal grounds, which is visible from the house, ends in the inevitable ha-ha.  A ditch designed to be impossible to see from the house,  This was a common feature of stately homes because the owners did not want a wall or a fence because that would hide the view.  A ha-ha would seem to be a continuous part of the grounds, whilst still preventing stray animals and unwanted guests wandering into the formal grounds from the open farmlands.

In the distance, you occasionally caught glimpses of this pyramid which is a mausoleum for the Howard family.
There are a number of statues and buildings in grounds and we walked to the Temple of the Four Winds which is a kind of elaborate summer house and a good way away from the house.

On the way back we came across this plaque which claims to be above a time capsule.

The opening date seems rather optimistic, being two thousand years hence. I do not know of any Human culture that has lasted so long, so presumably whoever opens it will be from some strange and different culture who will almost certainly not be unable to understand what it is all about.

We then visited the gardens where there were all manner of cultivated plants and flowers.

By this time we, that is the older members of the family, were well and truly pooped and so we departed for Pickering and supper.  Having bought some locally made sausages from the farm shop at Castle Howard. When we got back we went out for chips from the nearest chippy and so, with very little effort, had sausages and chips to finish off the day.

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