Castle Howard: The Castle that is not a Castle

Castle Howard: The Castle that is not a Castle

Castle Howard is one of the most treasured homes in England, located in North Yorkshire. It has been the home to the Howard family for over 300 years, and is still a private residence for the current Howard family. While the house is not a real castle, it was given the name as a standard for all houses that are built on the site of a former military castle.



Castle Howard is located on the site of another ruined castle, known as Henderskelfe Castle. It was inherited by the Howard family in 1566. Construction of the castle was originally started in 1699, however, it took a lifespan of three different Howard Earls and various architects to complete. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle commissioned the services of Vanbrugh, a member of the Kit-Cat Club, to design the plans for Castle Howard. Vanbrugh was assisted by Nicholas Hawksmoor, and his designs reflected a Baroque style, with two wings on each side of the structure.

Great Hall with domed ceiling.

Construction was started at the east end, with the East Wing being completed between 1701 and 1703. Other finished areas included the east end of the garden entrance, the Central Block which included the dome, and the west end of the garden front entrance. The finishing touches included an exuberant amount of baroque qualities, such as cherubs, urns, coronets, and Roman Doric pilasters. Much of the dome interior was painted by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini.

Before the West Wing was completed the Earl decided to focus on the gardens and surrounding grounds. At this stage, construction had cost the 3rd Earl of Carlisle almost 30% of his entire income. The rooms of Castle Howard were completed in different stages over the years and the overall completion did not occur until 1811. By the time of the 7th Earl of Carlisle the estate covered 13,000 acres and included the villages of Coneysthrope, Terrington, Bulmer, Slingsby, and Welburn.

On November 9, 1940 a large portion of the house was destroyed by fire. The central hall, dome, dining room, and the state rooms on the east side of the house were destroyed. A total of 20 priceless paintings were ruined, including paintings that depicted the Fall of Phaeton by Antonio Pellegrini. During the 1960s the dome was rebuilt, as well as a recreation of Pellegrini’s paintings.

The Howards have continuously taken up residency at Castle Howard since the 3rd Earl made it his home in the early 1700s. After the death of the 9th Earl in 1911, Castle Howard was inherited by his younger son Geoffrey, with later earls having Naworth Castle as their northern country house. In 1952, the house was opened to the public by then owner, George Howard, Baron Howard of Henderskelfe.


In Film & TV
Castle Howard gained iconic status as the setting of Brideshead Revisited. Other cinema credits include: Death Comes to Pemberley (2013), The Buccaneers (1995), and Barry Lyndon (1975).




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