Castle Howard - opulence on a grand scale

Stately Home & Garden

Castle Howard - opulence on a grand scale

Castle Howard is a magnificent stately home near Malton in Yorkshire, famous for its appearance in various film and television productions, and its staggering size for the home of an aristocratic family, with 145 rooms.

The surrounding estate is also enormous, extending to 8,800 acres, comprising 6,100 acres of farmland, 2,100 acres of woodland and 600 acres of parkland.

Construction began in 1701, on the site of the ruined Henderskelfe Castle, which had come into the Howard family through marriage. When the 3rd Earl of Carlisle inherited the estate, he enlisted the help of his friend and fellow member of the Kit-Cat Club, dramatist John Vanbrugh, to design the property. Vanbrugh had never built anything before, so recruited architect Nicholas Hawksmoor to assist him in the practical aspects of design and construction.

Vanbrugh's design evolved into a Baroque structure with two symmetrical wings projecting to either side of a north-south axis. The crowning central dome was added to the design after building had begun. Construction was undertaken in stages over ten years. All are exuberantly decorated in Baroque style, 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.

A large portion of the house was destroyed by a fire on the 9th November 1940. As well as the dome, the central hall, the dining room and the state rooms on the east side, some important decoration were lost, including Pellegrini's ceiling decoration, the Fall of Phaeton, and twenty pictures (including two Tintorettos). By 1961, the dome was rebuilt, and Pellegrini's painting recreated. The South East Wing remains a shell, although it has been restored externally.

Other rooms were superficially restored for the 2008 filming, of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. This was fitting, as the novel is about an aristocratic catholic family, and Castle Howard has been in the hands of the immensely aristocratic catholic Howard family since it was built. It had also been used in the earlier 1981 TV series of the same book. Castle Howard also appeared as the exterior set for Lady Lyndon’s estate in Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon, and has been used as a setting for numerous other films and television series.

The house is situated on a ridge, which was exploited to create an English landscape park, which opens out from the formal garden behind the property. Buildings set into this landscape include the Temple of the Four Winds, and the Mausoleum. Hawksmoor's Pyramid is an obelisk, restored in 2015, and there are several follies and eyecatchers in the form of fortifications The gardens are Grade I listed on the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. 

Located on the estate, but operating separately, is the 127 acre Yorkshire Arboretum, created between 1975 and 1992.

Over 269,000 people visited Castle Howard in 2019.

Further reading

Links to external websites are not maintained by Bite Sized Britain. They are provided to give users access to additional information. Bite Sized Britain is not responsible for the content of these external websites.