On Saturday 14th July 41 members and friends joined together and looked forward to the 2nd Outing of this years “Summer Programme”. As usual we had hired a luxury coach and whilst almost everyone embarked at the Melton Mowbray Indoor Bowls Club, a further 3 members joined us at the Wilton Road Car Park. From there we had a very comfortable journey to Castle Howard arriving a little later than planned at 11.00 am due to traffic congestion on the route.
On route it was clear that the day was going to be hot and sunny and as we approached Castle Howard everyone was privileged to admire a view of the magnificent house and the fabulous parkland that surrounds it. The coach pulled up right outside the main entrance and whilst the group leader booked us in and collected the entrance tickets and drinks/luncheon vouchers for those who had pre-ordered them everyone else chatted happily discussing what the day might hold. For everyone then the first thing was to head to the “Coffee Shop” located in the stable courtyard. It was for many a welcome relaxation and proved to be one of many such breaks during the day.
Our tickets provided access to the House, Gardens and Parkland where despite the long hot and sunny spell the landscape brought out the colour and drama of the season. The House itself is a grade 1 stately home located 15 miles north of York and is the private residence. It has been the home of the Howard family for more than 300 years and is familiar to television and film audiences as the fictional “Brideshead”, in Granada Television’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and a two-hour 2008 remake for cinema. Today, it is part of the Treasure Houses of England group of heritage houses.
The building of Castle Howard began in 1699 to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. It took over 100 years to complete and at one time the estate covered over 13,000 acres. This included the villages of Welburn, Bulmer, Slingsby, Terrington and Coneysthorpe and was served by its own railway station from 1845 to the 1950’s.
After the death of the 9th Earl in 1911, Castle Howard was inherited by his younger son Geoffrey, whilst in 1952 the house was opened to the public by the then owner, George Howard, (Baron Howard of Henderskelfe). The house is now owned by “Castle Howard Estate Ltd.” and is run by Nicholas and Victoria Howard.
Castle Howard is prominently situated on a ridge and this was exploited to create an “English Landscape Park”. This includes a number of different gardens from formal to parkland which merge together with 2 major garden buildings set into this landscape. These are the “Temple of the Four Winds” at the end of the garden, and the “Mausoleum” in the park. Together with lakes on either side of the house there is woodland garden, Ray Wood, and the walled garden containing decorative rose and flower gardens. Further buildings outside the preserved gardens include Nicolas Hawksmoor’s Pyramid – restored in 2015, an Obelisk and several follies and “Eyecatchers” in the form of fortifications which have been restored in recent years. In nearby Pretty Wood there are two more monuments, the “Four Faces” and a smaller pyramid by Hawksmoor.
The gardens, extensive woodland walks, temples, lakes and fountains offer breath-taking views at every turn whilst also taking in the countryside of the Howardian Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The house itself is constructed in the Baroque style with two symmetrical wings projecting to either side of a north-south axis. Building began in 1701 and was not completed 1811. The east wing was constructed from 1701–03, the east end of the Garden Front from 1701–06, the Central Block (including dome) from 1703–06, and the west end of the Garden Front from 1707–09. All are exuberantly decorated with coronets, cherubs, urns and cyphers, with Roman Doric pilasters on the north front and Corinthian on the South. Many interiors were decorated by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini.
Although now resplendent with its central dome, originally built in 1703 – 06 a large part of the house was destroyed by a fire which broke out on 9 November 1940. The dome, the central hall, the dining room and the state rooms on the east side were entirely destroyed. Antonio Pellegrini’s ceiling decoration the “Fall of Phaeton” was lost when the dome collapsed and in total, twenty pictures (including two “Tintorettos” and several valuable mirrors) were lost. Some of the devastated rooms have now been restored and in 1960–61, the dome was rebuilt. In the years that followed Pellegrini’s “Fall of Phaeton” was recreated on the underside of the dome and some first floor rooms were superficially restored for the 2008 filming, and now house an exhibition. The South East Wing remains a shell, although it has been restored externally. Castle Howard is one of the largest country houses in England, with a total of 145 rooms.
Whilst some members took advantage of beginning their day with a tour of the house, others began their day by exploring the various points of interest. These included the walks mentioned above but there was also the opportunity to visit the various eateries including the “Boathouse Café” on the bank of the Great Lake where we relaxed watching the pleasure boat taking visitors on a tour of the lake and watching the various waterfowl and the numerous dragonflies which covered the water surface. Finally, on our way back to the coach park, there was the opportunity to visit the souvenir shop, buy local farm produce and/or vegetables from the butchery or visit the “Garden Centre”.
At 17.30 we boarded the coach and enjoyed a very restful journey back to Melton, tired and pleased that we had decided to take part in such an enjoyable day out.