Gothic ro­man­ti­cism

A spec­tac­u­lar neo-gothic cas­tle is strug­gling for sur­vival. Ju­dith Hill de­scribes the re­mark­able his­tory of this build­ing in­spired by Straw­berry Hill and War­wick Cas­tle

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden - Pho­to­graphs by Will Pryce

Charleville Cas­tle, Co Of­faly

In a de­scrip­tion of Charleville Cas­tle, built be­tween 1800 and 1809, the owner Lord Charleville wrote of his new cre­ation in Co Of­faly that it aimed ‘to ex­hibit spec­i­mens of Gothic ar­chi­tec­ture, as col­lected from Cathe­drals and Chapel­tombs, and to show how they may be ap­ply’d to Chim­ney Pieces, Ceil­ings, win­dows, balustrades, etc’.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that this pas­sage is an al­most ver­ba­tim quo­ta­tion from Ho­race Walpole’s 1784 de­scrip­tion of Straw­berry Hill in Twick­en­ham. Lord and Lady Charleville had vis­ited his house and ad­mired it suf­fi­ciently to bor­row di­rectly from its reper­toire of me­dieval dec­o­ra­tive de­tails. How­ever, by the early 19th cen­tury, it was no longer ground­break­ing to trans­pose me­dieval de­signs to do­mes­tic in­te­ri­ors re­gard­less of func­tion, con­text or scale as Walpole had done. At Charleville, this ap­proach was en­riched by a more con­tem­po­rary ro­man­tic sen­si­bil­ity.

The cas­tle’s ar­chi­tect was Fran­cis John­ston (1760–1829), born in Ar­magh and trained in Dublin un­der the English ar­chi­tect Thomas Coo­ley. When he was ap­proached by the Charlevilles, John­ston’s rep­u­ta­tion was al­most en­tirely as­so­ci­ated with Clas­si­cism, as for ex­am­ple at Town­ley Hall, Co Louth, com­pleted in 1802, where he demon­strated his re­mark­able gift for or­ches­trat­ing spa­tially com­plex in­te­ri­ors within an aus­tere and box-like vol­ume.

His an­ten­nae at­tuned to the mar­ket, how­ever, John­ston had vis­ited south­ern Bri­tain in 1796 and given as much time to me­dieval cathe­drals and cas­tles and newly built Gothic Re­vival churches as to the great houses of Glouces­ter­shire and Wilt­shire. His tour di­ary re­veals that prac­ti­cal con­cerns with struc­ture and ma­te­ri­als were never far from his mind, but that did not pre­vent him from be­ing over­whelmed by the great me­dieval build­ings; the mas­sive­ness of Caernar­fon Cas­tle, the sub­lim­ity of the cathe­drals at Glouces­ter and Sal­is­bury.

He was just as sus­cep­ti­ble to the Pic­turesque, eval­u­at­ing castel­lated style in terms of land­scape set­ting and build­ing type, crit­i­cis­ing Sa­muel Wyatt’s ad­di­tions of 1782 at Pen­rhyn Hall for not be­ing in ‘that sub­stan­tial style which the sit­u­a­tion & char­ac­ter of the build­ing re­quires’.

John­ston’s pa­tron at Charleville, Charles Wil­liam Bury (1764–1835) in­her­ited the es­tate from his ma­ter­nal un­cle, Charles Moore, Earl of Charleville, in 1785. Bury im­me­di­ately com­mis­sioned Thomas Leggett in 1786 to re­design the demesne and em­ployed James Byres in 1789 to draw up plans for a Clas­si­cal man­sion, al­though this was never built. Moore’s earl­dom had be­come ex­tinct on his death and Bury worked hard to re­gain it, be­com­ing Baron Tul­lam­ore in 1797, Vis­count Charleville in 1800, as a re­ward for sup­port­ing the Union, and Earl of Charleville in 1806.

Cu­ri­ously, his in­ter­est in neo-gothic de­sign seems to have de­vel­oped in tan­dem with this as­cent into the peer­age, for, in the year he be­came Baron Tul­lam­ore, he com­mis­sioned

‘Tow­ers and bat­tle­ments it sees, Boo­som’d high in tufted trees

Fig 1:

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.