History of Castle Howard
is an English country house in North Yorkshire built between 1701 and 1724 by John Vanbrugh for
Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle.
The gardens were laid out by
George London during the same period. One of the largest, grandest and, architecturally, most
important country houses in England,
Castle Howard was first
planned in October 1698, when the 3rd Earl took out a lease for life on the ruinous Henderskelfe
Castle and its manor from his grandmother, Anne Howard, Countess of Carlisle.
The following spring he
consulted the architect William Talman, Comptroller of Works to William III, on the design for a
house to replace the old castle of Henderskelfe, but during the summer Talman was supplanted by the
playwright John Vanbrugh. Castle Howard was Vanbrugh’s first important architectural
A model in wood was shown to
the King in the summer of 1700, and work on the hill-top site began in the spring of
consists of a central nine-bay block in the Baroque style; it is surmounted by a domed cupola, and
curved wings form a forecourt on the north front . Its magnificent hall and saloon were ready to be
painted by the Venetian artist Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini in 1709, one of the most important
commissions Pellegrini received in England.
He painted a fine depiction of
the Fall of Phaeton in the ceiling of the dome as well as scenes from the Life of Aeneas in the
high saloon (the paintings were destroyed in 1940). Tapestries for the house were supplied by John
Vanderbank, and much of the decorative stucco was undertaken by the Italian Giovanni Bagutti
By the autumn of 1713 the 3rd
Earl was able to move into the main part of the house.
Following completion of the
principal rooms, the 3rd Earl lost interest in finishing the west wing, which was intended to
contain a chapel, and instead turned his attention to the garden.
Ray Wood, to the west of the
house, had already been laid out as an ornamental wilderness with fountains and statues in the
first decade of the 18th century by George London. During the second decade a grand means of
approach was provided by avenues, an obelisk (1714) erected to commemorate the victories of John
Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, in the War of the Spanish Succession, and the Pyramid Gatehouse
(1719), with its attenuated fortified walls built in the early 1720s.
In 1724 Vanbrugh’s Temple of
the Four Winds was built as a belvedere on the edge of Ray Wood, but the greatest of Castle
Howard’s landscape buildings is the Mausoleum designed by Hawksmoor in the late 1720s and completed
with a dual stairway and supporting walls by Daniel Garrett.
Henry Howard, 4th Earl of
Carlisle, was much less energetic than his father had been in making alterations to the physical
structure of the house, but he was responsible for accumulating an important collection of
For unknown reasons he
commissioned his brother-in-law, Thomas Robinson (i), to design a substantial west wing (built
1753–9) in the Palladian style, one quite out of keeping with the rest of the
During the early 1770s
Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, completed the west wing’s interiors and filled them with
sarcophagi collected on his Grand Tour. He also commissioned a new stable block, first obtaining
designs from William Chambers and then a more economical version from John Carr, which was built in
The 5th Earl’s trustees took
control of his finances in 1775 (owing to his gambling debts) and only in the 1790s was he able to
resume plans for developing the house and estate, when a great lake was created to the north of the
house. In 1801 Charles Heathcote Tatham was employed to redesign the interior of the west wing, and
in 1805 his obelisk was erected near the north front to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson’s death
at the battle of Trafalgar.
The most significant
subsequent alterations comprised the addition of parterres below the south front of the house by
William Andrews Nesfield in the 1850s and the design of the chapel in the house’s west wing during
the 1870s, which included stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones. In 1940 the interior of the house
was extensively damaged by fire; a programme of restoration began in 1960.
The house (with its rich
collection of works of art) and grounds, together praised by Horace Walpole in a letter to George
Selwyn as ‘a palace, a town, a fortified city, temples on high places, woods worthy of being each a
metropolis of the Druids, vales connected to hills by other woods, the noblest lawn in the world
fenced by half the horizon, and a mausoleum that would tempt one to be buried alive’, remain in
family ownership and are open to the public.
Castle Howard Visitor Information
The Castle Howard and its gardens are one of the most beautiful residences in
the world and they are open for public.
You cand enjoy its magnificent gardens in the summer as much as in the
For more information about opening times, tickets and events please visit the
official website or contact the visitor service at:
Phone: 01653 648333 (Monday - Friday 9,00 - 17,30)
Castle Howard Map&Location
Castle Howard is located in York, North Yorkshire YO60, UK. Get help with directions:
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