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Brideshead Revisited: A trip to Castle Howard

Posted in - photography, travel on October 20th 2012 13 Comments

Brideshead Revisited

“I should like to bury something precious in every place where I’ve been happy and then, when I’m old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.” – Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

One of my favorite things about living in the UK is having the opportunity to visit so many stately homes. I love buildings that are steeped in history. We don’t really get that in America – not on the same scale, anyway. The British have a thing for preserving their heritage and that makes me happy because there are so many beautiful stately homes and other architectural wonders here to photograph.

Last Monday, my friend Ali and I traveled to York to visit Castle Howard. Literature and film lovers probably know it best as the setting for the fictional Brideshead Castle in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Both the 1981 Granada mini-series featuring Sir Laurence Olivier in an Emmy Award-winning performance as Lord Marchmain and the 2008 feature film starring Matthew Goode and Ben Whishaw were filmed here. In 1940, a fire broke  out and destroyed the dome and the East Wing of the castle. Although it has been restored on the outside, the East Wing remains gutted and tourists are only allowed to walk through the West Wing.  In 2008, Julian Jarrold transformed a few of the rooms into sets for his Brideshead adaptation. These rooms are now a permanent exhibit about Castle Howard’s involvement in the Brideshead films.

In real life, Castle Howard is home to one of the oldest aristocratic families in England. Charles Howard, the 3rd Duke of Carlisle, commissioned Sir John Vanbrugh to build his stately home in the countryside outside of York. It was constructed between 1699 and 1712 and is still occupied by the Howard family today. Everything about the house and grounds is lavish. From the ostentatious interiors to the beautifully landscaped grounds and the giant Atlas Fountain in the south-facing courtyard, Castle Howard offers no shortage of photogenic beauty. Like Charles Ryder in Brideshead, I had been here before, years ago. This time I came armed with a sense of nostalgia and improved photography skills, or so I like to think!

This is Castle Howard through my eyes.

All photos © Kendra Bean

Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited

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Interior set used for 2008 film Brideshead Revisited.

Brideshead Revisited
Brideshead Revisited informational display.

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Brideshead Revisited

As of now (13) people have had something to say...

  • David - Reply

    October 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Kendra … Your photos are wonderful! I’m so happy you got to make this trip and that you chose this subject for a post. “Brideshead” has been among my top-5 favorite books for many years now, and I’m also a huge fan of the original mini-series (the later film version, not so much!). I can never read Waugh’s description of Julia Flyte without thinking how perfect a role it would have been for Vivien … not only because of the character’s obvious physical beauty, but also because the role of a lapsed Catholic was something Vivien would have understood very well. But I digress. Castle Howard is just amazing, and as familiar with it as I’ve become after so many viewings of the “Brideshead” mini-series, I enjoyed getting to see another side of it through your beautiful photographs. Also, it’s nice to know that you finally got some much-needed recreation after how hard you’ve been working on your book … good for you!!

    dwb

    • Kendra - Reply

      October 21, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Thanks, David! It’s interesting what you said about how you think Vivien would have been perfect for Julia Flyte. I read a letter in the Olivier Archive and apparently Evelyn Waugh was keen to have Oliver play Charles Ryder had a film been made in he 1940s. Alas.

      • David - Reply

        October 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm

        Hi Kendra … I’m so glad you discovered and shared that little nugget about Evelyn Waugh. He’s a pretty fascinating character in his own right, and I had read somewhere that he was a big admirer of both Oliviers. If Larry was his first choice to play Charles Ryder then that tells me a great deal about Waugh’s conception of the character. Can’t you just imagine a 1940’s film version starring both Larry & Vivien? What dream casting that would have been!

        I can’t remember who it was that said, after Vivien had died, that the parts she DIDN’T play (and should have) began to form their own peculiar legacy around her. Julia Flyte is an obvious example in my opinion, but I also think Vivien is the only person that could have done full justice to two F. Scott Fitzgerald characters … Nicole Diver in “Tender Is The Night” and especially Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby”. Daisy in particular seems to be a very tricky character for actresses to pull off, but as we know, Vivien was brilliant at portraying unsympathetic characters. “Alas” is right, but still, it’s fun to contemplate what might have been!

        Thanks again for a fascinating post and for sharing your travels with the rest of us. Once again you’ve touched on a subject that means a great deal to me (“Brideshead”)!

        dwb

        • Kendra - Reply

          October 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm

          I’m pretty sure I remember reading that she had been in talks to star as Nicole in Tender Is the Night. She was offered so many prime roles in the 40s and 50s that would have suited her well, but theatre commitments and illness prevented her from doing them. It’s a shame, really.

          They’ve got Hedda Gabler on at the Old Vic right now and that was another one Vivien said shed have liked to play.

  • Rita - Reply

    October 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Hi Kendra, hi David! Needless to say, I agree with David, these photos are gorgeous, I’m always amazed by your ability to capture the atmosphere of a particular place, Kendra
    I loved the TV series Brideshead Revisited and Olivier in it.He was a magnificent Lord Marchmain but the whole cast was superlative.

    • Kendra - Reply

      October 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Thanks, Rita! I agree that the mini-series is better than the feature film, although I loved the cinematography and soundtrack in the 2008 version. At any rate, Castle Howard is amazing!

  • Perrie - Reply

    October 20, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Beautiful photographs Kendra. Castle Howard has been on my ‘must visit’ list for awhile now. This post has inspired me to get organised and make the trip. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kendra - Reply

      October 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks, Perrie! Id definitely recommend spending a day there. It’s a great location to photograph – so beautiful!

  • R.A. Kerr - Reply

    October 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Stunning photos. I feel like I’ve been on a mini vacation!

    • Kendra - Reply

      October 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks, R.A.! Well worth a trip!

  • Sylvia Kodis - Reply

    October 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Once again, fabulous photos! Thanks for sharing!

  • Rita - Reply

    October 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I too remember having read somewhere about Vivien being offered the role of Nicole and certainly Olivier’s name came up when discussing the casting of Selznick’s production of “Tender is the night”…anyway , they both would have been cast as the Fitzgeralds , in my opinion!

  • Rita - Reply

    October 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    I mean , “ideally” cast as the Fitzgeralds, of course

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