LOWTHER CASTLE, CUMBRIA

(Formerly Westmorland)

Grid Ref: NY 522 237
Date: 7 September 2014

 

Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle from the side
Park
The Park
The Park
The Escarpment

Lowther Castle, just south of Penrith in Cumbria, is very impressive and deserving of larger pictures than I often display. I was fortunate to visit on an ideal day in September 2014. The site has an interesting history and is now owned by a trust set up to restore and run it. The staff are very enthusiastic and helpful. The Castle is well worth a detour from the M6 on a fine day. It has its own website with many pictures taken at different seasons of the year showing the castle, the gardens, the grounds and restoration work. My small contribution is four pictures.

The estate was owned by the Lowther family, Earls of Lonsdale. The first Lowther to be knighted was Sir John in 1640. His grandson, also called John, was made Viscount Lowther in 1694. He built the church and the castle and died in 1700. It was illustrated in the book Vitruvius Britannicus. The property was badly damaged by fire in 1720 and Robert Adam, the celebrated Scottish architect, made plans sor castellated mansion but this plan was not adopted. When the house was rebuilt it was with the architect Robert Smirke, for whom, aged just twenty-five, it was his first assignment after returning from studying in Italy and Greece. Building took place from 1806 to 1814. Pevsner visited the site before the recent rescue and renovation. He mentions that the shell of the abandoned house should be safeguarded as it is a spectacular ruin. The frontage is 420m feet in lenght

The castle was closed in 1937 when the spendthrift 5th Earl ruined the family finances. Apparently he was called the Yellow Earl as he drove a yellow Rolls Royce. Then, during World War II, the site was taken over for use by the tank regiment. The contents of the house were removed in the 1940s and then the roof was deliberately removed to avoid paying rates on the property. The castle then fell into increasing disrepair and it was impossible to visit it. Perhaps surprisingly in view of the immense nature of the work required, the castle has now been stabilised and the site with its magnificent grounds opened to the public. I quote from the Wikipedia article..

"In 2000 the Lowther Estate and English Heritage jointly commissioned a team of historians, landscapers, architects and engineers to review the status of the castle and its grounds, and they produced the Lowther Castle & Garden Conservation Plan. In 2005 the estate formed an informal partnership with the Northwest Development Agency, English Heritage, Cumbria Vision and the Royal Horticultural Society to regenerate the site. The objectives are to consolidate the restore the 50-acre (200,000 m2) garden and open the site to the public. Sheppard Robson RIBA have been appointed as architects. The castle and 130 acres of grounds have been transferred to a charity called the Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust, and the site opened to the public on 22 April 2011. However the full restoration of the garden is expected to take 20 to 25 years."

One of the features of the restoration of the site, which one would not have expected, is the removal of a huge area of hard standing that was used by the tank corp.

Sources

Buildings of England, Westmorland & Cumberland, by Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin Books, 1967, reprinted 1973, ISBN 0 14 071033 7
Wikipedia

 

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