The Great Hall
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Fri 9 May 2014 22:27
The Great Hall
The Great Hall is the heart of the house, It is in the centre of the building beneath the soaring dome, which was Vanbrugh’s architectural masterstroke: no private home in England had ever been built with a large lantern and cupola like this before. Wherever you look, directly upwards or through the great arches towards the staircases, there are breath-taking views. The same when you look down from above, into the hall from the balcony.
On one side of the hall is the fireplace with a cunningly concealed chimney flue: people puzzle over how the smoke escapes. To the right of the grate, a thoughtful addition is an invisible door that leads via steps to the chimney allowing the sweep easy access. On the west side is the niche made from scagliola, a decorative technique using plaster and marble chips. In the centre stands a statue of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, an appropriate figure since the idea for Castle Howard was born in the convivial surroundings of the Kit Cat Club in London, where Vanbrugh first met the 3rd Earl.
The hall was designed as the main entrance to Castle Howard. Carriages would draw up in the forecourt outside and people would arrive through the doors on the north side. When Queen Victoria visited in 1850 a reception was held in the hall beneath a ring of gas burners specially fitted to the balcony in the dome: these spelled out God Save the Queen. The hall is still regularly used for receptions, concerts and weddings, and keeps alive a long tradition of welcome and hospitality at Castle Howard.
On the grand piano there is a model of the Temple of the Four Winds. Commissioned in 1994 from Timothy Richards, this exact model of Vanbrugh’s Temple is made from plaster, with brass and white metal castings for the window and door details. It is number one of a limited edition of fifty, next to it stands a family portrait.
A film crew getting a different view of the Great Hall.
The castle has been used many times in films, TV dramas and advertisements, all proceeds going to the immense upkeep of this beautiful house.
From High Saloon to Film-Set: For many years the shell of the High Saloon was used as a lumber room, but in 2007 the area was cleared, and carpenters, set-builders, and painters moved in to transform this space into a dramatic painted interior. The room is decorated with murals convincingly distressed to look as if they have been part of the fictional Brideshead Castle for generations. In the Miramax film this room was used for two memorable scenes: dinner on the first evening when Charles Ryder stays with the Marchmain family, and Lord Marchmain’s deathbed scene. In both cases some licence was taken by the film-makers. The religious images on the walls reinforce the key theme of the Catholic faith of the Marchmain family, but in fact the decoration for ‘the Painted Parlour’ in the novel has a classical flavour. Similarly in the book Lord Marchmain elects to pass his final days in ‘the Chinese Room’ at Brideshead Castle, lying in the Queen’s Bed.
Today the room was being ‘dressed’ for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party photo shoot
The producers recognise that this area offered great flexibility: it was a large empty space in which a set could be constructed, it was on an upper level allowing views down onto the gardens and the fountain – which features strongly in the film, and the doorway onto the balcony offered spectacular views into the Great Hall. For these reasons they chose to shoot these important sequences in this area.
Given the dramatic impact of the original decoration of the High Saloon by Pellegrini – so tragically lost in the fire of 1940, it is fitting that the room should have been temporarily recovered as a film-set, just as the Garden Hall below was used by Granada Television for their production of Brideshead Revisited in 1980.
In the film Julia’s birthday ball takes place at Brideshead Castle, and ends with Charles being asked to leave because he has given Sebastian money.
ALL IN ALL SPECTACULAR
IMPRESSIVE AND UNIQUE