of Yorkshire's best-kept secrets lie in the rolling Howardian Hills between
Malton and Thirsk, home of Castle Howard which is one of the most famous
landmarks of the North Yorkshire countryside.
It recently celebrated its 300th anniversary after surviving a series
of historical set-backs, financial restraints and family misfortunes.
That survival is thanks largely to The Hon Simon Howard whose enthusiasm
and drive has been a powerful force in the regeneration of one of Britain's
finest stately homes, which plays host to hoards of tourists from all
over the world. As they tramp respectfully through the echoing corridors
and glorious halls, hushed by the overwhelming splendour of this great
house and its extraordinary setting in rolling acres of land, few will
imagine the blood, sweat and tears which epitomise the building's glorious
Even when it was built, it took more than a century to complete, spanning
the lifetimes of three Earls and countless architects and craftsmen who
dedicated themselves to the extraordinary work of art. Tragically, the
years of hard work were almost wiped out in a single fire which broke
out in the south-west wing on November 9, 1940, and swept through the
house into the Great Hall, destroying the dome and nearly 20 rooms. After
the blaze, many people thought there was little hope in saving their heritage,
but George Howard who inherited the building after his two brothers were
killed in action during the war, was absolutely determined that the family
pile, such an architectural masterpiece, should be rebuilt.
At the time, many people thought he was mad, but Lord Howard and his wife,
Lady Cecilia, set about restoring the huge house to its former glory,
instilling in their sons the same sense of responsibility and foresight
which was to help them turn Castle Howard into a glorious 18th century
elysium. Their ancestors would undoubtedly be delighted.
The Howard family, who have lived in the house ever since it was built,
stems from Lord William Howard (1563-1640), youngest son of Thomas, 4th
Duke of Norfolk, whose "skill at marrying heiresses" eventually led to
his execution. "Belted Will", as he was known, took possession of Henderskelfe,
the site of Castle Howard, as part of the inheritance of his wife, Elizabeth
Dacre. Fifty years after his death, Charles, the third Earl of Carlisle,
created Castle Howard with the help of his friend, John Vanbrugh, who
had never built a house before in his life, but whose charm and self-conviction
assured Charles that he was the man to design one of the greatest country
houses in Europe.
Today, the responsibility of running a house so vast is hard to imagine.
The expanse of roof is so huge it is measured in acres. The cost of replacing
a broken public loo leaves little change out of £120,000 and the thought
of 220,000 tourists trekking through your family home and gardens from
dawn till dusk, is difficult to contemplate. Yet their support means Castle
Howard can continue to play host to some of the finest treasures in the
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