Sunday, 24 April 2016

Grimsthorpe Castle

A week ago the bf came over for the weekend, and on the Sunday afternoon after lunch we drove over to Grimsthorpe Castle - a place of great beauty and tranquility in the gentle, undulating landscape of south west Lincolnshire.
The castle is an atmospheric concretion and amalgam of hundreds of years of building and decoration, of both the monumental and domestic, and the cumulative effect is wonderful, and each visit increases my attachment. Without boring you too much with the history of things, the house developed out of a rectangular courtyard castle of which one tower (King John's) survives.  The most dramatic and architecturally important development came at the beginning of the 18th century with the building of the present north front and forecourt.  It is the design of that master of the English Baroque Sir John Vanbrugh - his last work, in fact -  and is the only complete section of Van's plan to rebuild the whole castle.  With his death the work just ceased.  Although I am a great fan of his work I have to admit that I'm pleased that the old house was not completely replaced - it has that layered, accidental quality I admire in a building.  In contrast the monumental north facade the south facade is the most domestic in scale, the east is the most varied, punctuated as it is by a series of great bay windows that light the state rooms.  The west facade was rebuilt in a quiet Tudorish Gothick in the early nineteenth century.
The interior is a delight.  (But, alas, no photography is allowed in the house.) There is the great pomp and spatial ingenuity of the Vanbrugh's Great Hall and attendant spaces - quite breathtaking.  However apart from that complex and monumental sequence of spaces, the interiors are, perhaps, more domestic than you would encounter in many Country Houses, and none the worse for that.  The enfilade of state rooms is itself quite short - there is, for instance, no 'state bedroom' to complete the sequence; and it could be that they occupy the same place as the Tudor 'state' rooms.  (Van's plan was to put an enfilade of state rooms in the west wing with the chapel at one end (N) and the state bedroom at the other, in the manner of an English royal household.) It may come as a surprise to some to realize that the decoration of the interior is largely twentieth century and the work firstly of that unsung Arts & Crafts architect Detmar Blow, and secondly John Fowler who worked at Grimsthorpe over a number of years in the Mid-century.  Their work is a triumph, uniting the various periods of architectural activity in the house in a cohesive whole.
The gardens are a delight too, and illustrate how in the last two centuries garden design in Britain returned to formality.  Happily.  The eastern sequence of formal garden and walled pottager is particularly impressive, the latter, developed in the 1960s, is a pioneer in the revival of that form of garden.

The photographs are in the order I took them

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