Castle Howard: The story of North Yorkshire’s early 19th-century house owned by the Howard family, which has its own Channel 4 show

Although building work on Castle Howard began in 1699, the process took more than 100 years to complete, and the estate dates back to before the 16th century.

Castle Howard is situated on the Henderskelfe estate, which was first purchased by Lord William Howard in 1557. Lord William Howard, also known as ‘Belted Will’ was the third son of the 4th Duke of Norfolk and married his half-sister Elizabeth Dacre, who eventually leading to his execution.

The 100-year construction of Castle Howard spanned the lives of three Howard Earls. Eight generations of the Howard family have lived in the 19th-century house since it was first built; each with their own unique style to their design.

The large house is part of a new Channel 4 show called Castle Howard: Through The Seasons, which explores how the house copes with the ever-changing seasons. The four-part series started on 12 November 2022 and is broadcast on Saturdays at 4 p.m.

Castle Howard. (Image credit: James Hardisty)

The Story of Castle Howard

Castle Howard was commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, who was a descendant of Lord William Howard, and the creation and design began in 1699. John Vanbrugh started the design work and it was completed with the Long Gallery decoration in 1811.

The house is surrounded by a large estate near York in Henderskelfe and was first occupied by the 7th Earl of Carlisle and covers more than 13,000 acres which includes the villages of Welburn, Bulmer, Slingsby, Terrington and Coneysthorpe.

From 1845 to the 1950s the estate had its own railway station, Castle Howard station, and while attending Girton College in the early Edwardian period, Lady Dorothy Georgiana Howard, daughter of the 9th Earl of Carlisle, befriended six of her schoolmates . , including future archaeologist Gisela Richter.

Yorkshire Arboretum, Castle Howard. (Image credit: James Hardisty)

The castle was opened to the public by the owner at the time, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, a younger son of Geoffrey Howard in 1952.

The design by Vanbrugh evolved into a baroque form with two symmetrical wings on either side of a north-south axis. In the later stages, when building started, the crowning central dome was attached to the design.

Building started at the east end, with the east wing built from 1701 to 1703, the east end of the garden front from 1701 to 1706, the central block, including the dome, from 1703 to 1706, and the west end of the garden. Cover from 1707 to 1709; all are decorated in the Baroque style with coronets, cherubs, urns and cyphers, with Roman Donc pilasters on the north front and Corinthian on the south. Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini designed the interior.

By the year 1725, most of the construction of the exterior was completed and its interior luxuriously finished. But its architect at the time, Vanbrugh, died in 1726, leaving the house incomplete. It lacked a west wing as landscaping of the gardens became a priority, and it was still incomplete when the 3rd Earl died in 1738, according to Castle Howard’s official website.

Dogs and their owners take part in the first day of the Festival of Dogs weekend at Castle Howard. (Image credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The house was completed by Carlisle’s son-in-law Sir Thomas Robinson and, through its Palladian wing, Vanbrugh’s baroque design was revived. The discrepancy in the exterior design of the house led to a mixed reaction from the public.

It was finally completed between 1801 and 1811 with the decoration of the Long Gallery by Tatham.

Recent history of Castle Howard

In the early hours of 9 November 1940, a fire started in the castle chimney in the south-east corner of the South Front and spread through the building.

It caused severe damage to rooms in the basement, main and upper floors of the house, as well as the dome, which fell onto the main floor. The fire service managed to extinguish the fire before it caused more extensive damage and thanks to the girls from Queen Margaret’s School, Scarborough, who were evacuated to Castle Howard and were able to save some of the contents.

On 25 January 1954, Castle Howard was listed as a Grade I listed building.

It took 20 years before the restoration began. From 1960 to 1962, George Howard and Lady Cecilia began repairing the dome and rebuilt and restored Castle Howard as a family home and historic tourist attraction.

In 1981, Garden Hall was built alongside Granada Television and the filming of Brideshead Revisited. In 1994, the Central block’s roof was replaced.

An underwater geothermal heat recovery system was implemented in 2009 under the castle’s lake. More than 269,000 people visited Castle Howard in 2019, according to figures revealed by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

Many films and TV shows have been filmed there, including the 1981 TV show and 2008 film adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s book Brideshead Revisited, the ITV series Victoria and the Netflix period Bridgerton.

It is currently owned by a Howard family company, Castle Howard Estate Limited and managed by the Hon. Nicholas Howard and his wife, Victoria.

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