A caddish cat and a real fire. Is that the reason why this was my biggest surprise on the Wales trip and possibly my favourite property?
Probably, but given they have nothing to do with real architecture and I’m just a sucker for a cuddle with a cat and a warming of my knees in front of a fire (i.e. things that bring life, warmth, vitality into a place, which once the family has moved out can easily become a cold cold museum full of seats littered with pine cones to stop me, the “general public” sitting down), I should mention that I was rather fascinated with the interiors at Chirk Castle, plus the lovely formal gardens.
Reason to visit: armoury-making demonstrations, interesting Georgian interiors with Pugin alterations and a lovely cat.
We also learned that the well in the courtyard is as deep as the courtyard is long, the tower stair incorporates ‘murder holes’ through which defending inhabitants could stab or pour hot nasties on intruders and that originally the castle was in England! I can see why little boys like castles!
For a full history click here: http://www.castlewales.com/chirk.html
In short, the castle dates back to the late 1200s with an array of 14th,15th and 16th century additions. Elizabeth I’s favorite, Robert Dudley, held the property at the end of the 16th century and may have inserted some of the larger windows that make the property more habitable. Shortly after, in 1595, Sir Thomas Myddelton purchased the property and it is this name that remains associated with the castle and he, a founder of the East India Company and an investor in the expeditions of Drake, Raleigh and Hawkins, who converted Chirk into a residence, adding the stone north range.
Civil war saw much damage to the structure and after the restoration a lot of rebuilding was needed – you can compare the depth of the original walls with the much thinner later ones.
Inside one visits a mixture of styles – Pugin’s take on the medieval in the Entrance Hall and vile brown paint effects in the main reception room, National Trust redecoration of a dining room, a Tudor long gallery (with snake skin trunk) and an array of Georgian and later bedrooms and living rooms – the ‘Georgianisation’ in the 1760s and 1770s (by Joseph Turner of Chester) only got so far as the lady of the house of the time died and her husband was far more interested in the garden, hence the lovely formal gardens.
The skin trunk
Thankfully some of what Pugin did to the interior has been reversed but I can’t quite get over why he thought brown walls would work in a Georgian reception room. For example, this room has been put back to a Georgian dining room.
But here the Pugin decoration has been left in situ. Yuck is all I can say.
The Long Gallery
This bed is naughty – it suggests Charles slept in it but actually it dates from after he was dead!
Chirk is not too dissimilar from Picton Castle, i.e. someone has taken a castle, pierced the walls to make windows of Georgian dimensions and added some stylish interiors, while wrapping some good topiary and garden design outside. Perhaps I’ll turn my attention to there next week.
When visited: April 2012
House * out of 5: ***
Garden * out of 5: ***