With due respect to the fine actors in the 2008 version of “Brideshead Revisited,” the hauntingly beautiful Castle Howard was the true star of the movie for me. Castle Howard is considered to be one of the grandest private residences in England today.
Brideshead novelist Evelyn Waugh visited it and is said to have used it as his inspiration for the ill-fated home in his book. I couldn’t take my eyes off it and was always peering around the actors, trying to get a better look at the walls and statues and staircases behind them.
Here are some of the photos I took from the movie of the castle, which is a castle in name only since it was never used for a military function. This great arch is just the beginning of the long drive to the castle:
When they drive over the hill, through the arch, Charles Ryder sees Castle Howard for the first time. “You live here?” he asks his friend Sebastian.
The Great Hall’s painted arches and dome are pretty spectacular for a family home:
Julia (Hayley Atwell) brings Charles (Matthew Goode) to Brideshead, where he’ll spend the summer with the family. Charles comes from a modest background and is quickly seduced by the family’s privileged lifestyle:
The home has its own private chapel. In this scene, Charles Ryder, who is an atheist, watches the devoutly Catholic family reciting their evening prayers:
The movie was so dark it was hard to get a good look at the chapel. I found an amazing photo gallery of the home by a photographer in the U.K. named David Foster, who was allowed access by the Howard family to these rooms. You can see much more detail of the chapel in his photo:
Foster also photographed a bedroom that is much clearer than anything I could get from the movie:
The turquoise drawing room:
The china landing:
The Long Gallery:
The Crimson Dining Room:
The Temple of the Four Winds, one of the two “garden buildings” on the estate, where the characters spent a lot of time hanging out and drinking:
The grounds are extensive. Castle Howard sits on 10,000 acres. When you go for a picnic in the garden, it’s best to bring servants to carry your refreshments for you:
The family gathers in the patriarch’s bedroom as he dies. Despite living “a life of sin” outside the Roman Catholic Church, he accepts a priest’s last rites and makes a sign of the cross. Evelyn Waugh said he witnessed something similar when one of his friends died, and the experience inspired him to write the novel (as a former English major, I feel obligated to share literary trivia like this with you):
The Great Fireplace:
The house looks so dark and cold in the movie that it almost gave me chills to look at (you can see it looks much brighter and warmer in the photos by Foster). Brideshead seemed more like a museum or old church than a home–which is somewhat the point of the film.
When the war starts, the British army takes over Brideshead. I’m always fascinated by how the great homes became military headquarters during war time. The movie shows the soldiers carefully covering all of the priceless paintings and statues as they took it over:
Ironically, Charles is stationed there during the war–the house he had once been willing to do almost anything to have:
The famous Atlas fountain:
The Rose Garden (another lovely photo by David Foster):
I love learning about the history of houses. Castle Howard took about 100 years to build, beginning in 1699, and the Howard family still lives there (much of the home is open to the public for tours, however). This picture of the home was published in 1819: