Located in York, northern England is Castle Howard. Despite its name, it is not a traditional castle. Castles are a fortified structure to defend against attacks, but the term “castle” is often part of an English estate home’s name. Likewise, when a building sits on the site of a prior castle the term castle is common. Castle Howard is a stately home. Furthermore, the term stately home is an English phrase for a large and fine house occupied or formerly occupied by an aristocratic family.
There are approximately 3,000 stately homes in England. Of the 3,000, most are privately owned. Three hundred are maintained by National Trust, an organization founded in 1895 to promote the preservation of and public access to buildings of historic or architectural interest and the land of natural beauty.
The Howard Family privately owns Castle Howard. Castle Howard is one of England’s largest private stately homes, the film location of Brideshead Revisited, and is open to the public.
The Family History Of Castle Howard
The Howard family is a famous English family with a long linage.
William Howard is the founding member. Howard’s family acquired the duchy (the territory of a duke or duchess; a dukedom) of Norfolk through the marriage of Robert Howard with Margaret, daughter of Thomas Mowbray, 1st duke of Norfolk.
Robert and Margaret’s son, John, was appointed The Duke of Norfolk in 1483 but killed in 1845 at the Battle of Bosworth Field fighting for Richard III.
Thomas Howard, 2nd duke of Norfolk, served in King Henry VII’s court as councilor and military commander. His son, Thomas Howard, the 3rd duke, continued as his father did under Henry VIII. King Henry, infamous for multiple wives, married Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both Thomas’s nieces.
The execution of Catherine leads to accusations of treason for both Norfolk and his son Henry Howard. Consequently, a series of tragedies and deaths ensued. As a result, it was not until 1660 that the Howards regained the duke of Norfolk’s title.
Castle Howard sits on the former location of the ruined Henderskelfe Castle. Construction started in 1699; however, it took almost a hundred years to build under three Howard Earls.
Charles Howard, The 3rd Earl of Carlisle, commissioned John Vanbrugh to design Castle Howard. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle was the great-grandson of Lord William Howard – the youngest son of Thomas Howard. Duke of Norfolk. Charles Howard, the 1st Earl of Carlisle, took possession as part of the inheritance of his wife, Elizabeth Dacre. Both Charles Howard and John Vanbrugh died before the completion. Carlisle’s son-in-law, Sir Thomas Robinson, continued the project, and Charles Heathcote Tatham completed it in 1811.
The design set out to be Baroque, a theme common with the times. However, when Sir Thomas Robinson took over the build, he toned down many of the original plans and added new elements.
The house has two symmetrical wings that protrude on both sides. The iconic gold dome is a late addition. The gold dome took shape in the final stages while the central block was built. While a late addition, the gold dome is a focal point internally and externally.
The enormous house and estate boast approximately 8,800 acres and a staggering 145 rooms. Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini decorated many of the rooms inside Castle Howard.
Note: While open to the public, not all rooms are on display and the Howards still live in Castle Howard.
Touring Castle Howard
When you visit Castle Howard, you can either take a self-guided tour and explore at your own leisure. Likewise, you can take one of many guided tours.
Self Guided Tours
There are two self-guided tickets:
- House & Gardens Ticket
- Gardens Ticket Only
If you visit Castle Howard for the first time, you must do both the house and the gardens to appreciate the entire estate. The garden option is great for those that have seen the house and want to bask in the expansive manicured gardens.
Choose from any of the following or enquire about a particular area of interest; additional charges apply:
- House Preview Tour -Enjoy an early morning private tour of the house before opening to the public.
- Introduction to Castle Howard Talk– Familiarise your group with the house and family history before enjoying your house visit.
- Gaslight & Riot: The Visit of Queen Victoria– Discover more about the visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Castle Howard in the summer of 1850.
- The Hidden Lives of the Women of Castle Howard – The stories of the women of Castle Howard, told through paintings, documents, and hidden objects from our collection.
- Castle Howard and Brideshead – Uncover the relationship between Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel and Castle Howard, as well as the filming of Brideshead not just once but twice at Castle Howard.
- The Pre-Raphaelites and Castle Howard – Explore a wealth of paintings, textiles, wallpapers, and archive material that tell the story of the 9th Earl’s relationships and his Pre-Raphaelite friends.
- Grand Tours and Farcical Journeys – Discover hidden objects from our archives brought back from the Howard family ancestors’ Grand Tours.
- Duty Calls – Uncover the impact of war upon the Howard family and estate, with a chance to look at precious mementos for past generations.
Originally intended to be a part of a dining room, the Chapel forms a part of the House’s mid-18th century west wing. In the 1870s, a radical alteration took place—a change to the lower floor entrance. Boasting impressive Edward Burne-Jones & William Morris designs, the Chapel was redecorated in the pre-Raphaelite style.
The chapel is still active today. It is used for organ practice and occasional services. There is a prayer box in the Chapel, where almost 100 prayers are left every week. Prayers left are always prayed by the Chaplain each week.
Castle Howard As A Film Location
Castle Howard England is a popular film location for multiple television productions and films since the 1960s. The beautiful grounds and home is the ideal setting for feature films, costume dramas, and documentaries.
For example, these productions all took place at Castle Howard:
- Barry Lyndon
- Lady L
- Brideshead Revisited
- Death Comes To Pemberley