Friday, November 7, 2014

Naworth Castle - The Mighty Fortress of Cumberland

Naworth Castle has a long and enduring history in Cumberland, particularly as the fortress that helped keep the "rievers" (the Scottish raiders) at bay over many centuries. Home to the Dacres family, then the Howards (all inter-related), the castle is famous for "Belted Willy's Tower", seen above with the flag on it, as it is the primary section of the original castle (along with the outside walls) remaining after a disastrous fire on May 18th, 1844. It is in this tower that amateur sleuths Violet Paget and John Singer Sargent have a great and marvelous adventure in The Spoils of Avalon.

Some thirty years after the fire, the heir to the title of Earl of Carlisle, Mr. George Howard, (who became the 9th Earl in 1896), hired Morris & Company to re-design and re-build the main halls of Naworth, with stained glass designed by Edward Burne-Jones, and architecture by Philip Webb. The rooms are gloriously Arts & Crafts, with painted ceilings, lovely sconces and hand-carved stairwells.

I was privileged to visit Naworth Castle, the country residence of Mr. Philip Howard, on my research trip recently, and I was given a glimpse of the round, stone staircase leading up from Lord William's bedroom to the Tower rooms above--it is indeed very narrow, perhaps about 18 inches in width, and the steps are roughly hewn from solid stone. Seeing it helped me picture very intensely how it might have seemed to Violet and John as they ascended it by candlelight and lamplight during a raging storm!

N.B. - The photo above was taken by me from the public road. Although I was graciously allowed to take a few photos during my visit, I promised I would not publish any of them, in order to protect the family's privacy.

The road to Naworth from the main Brampton Road ascends through a woods to the top of a plateau, from which one can gaze upon the surrounding meadows and rolling hills, with mountains (fells) in the distance. It was fascinating to be on the spot of the scenes I had been describing in my book, and fortunate, too, in that I was able to re-write a few descriptive scenes more accurately--including one in which I had Violet "looking out for a glimpse" of the crenellated towers of Naworth as they rode along the Brampton Road--turns out that was not possible! But easy to correct! 

1 comment:

  1. Mary, I'm looking at these pictures and they're magnificent! :)


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