Castle Howard: Magnificent State Room in need of restoration 82 years after a devastating fire left it derelict

An ambitious proposal was submitted to Ryedale Borough Council to restore the spacious Cabinet Room as it would have looked in the early 18th century, including a range of period artwork, intricate plasterwork and period furniture.

Plans for the space follow careful research that will see the Four Seasons tapestries made for it in 1706 returned to their original location at the 145-room estate near Malton, which attracts more than 250,000 visitors annually.

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The three-bay cabinet room would have functioned as an antechamber, forming the first tier in a gradual procession through the estate, with each room representing a higher level of the visitor’s social or political status.

Castle Howard is undergoing a transformation

The neighboring rooms were also destroyed in the fire of 1940, as was the floor above. However, the Garden Saloon was restored in 1979 prompted by the filming of the television series Brideshead Revisited, and the New Library was redecorated immediately afterwards.

The cabinet room was partially restored in 1988 when floor panels were replaced and curtains draped over the walls to create a temporary exhibition area and improve visitor access to the rest of the property.

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In the documents submitted with the planning application, a Castle Howard agent states: “The proposal to restore this derelict interior in a new version of the Tapestry Drawing Room marks a very significant moment in the long and gradual restoration of these interiors after the 1940 fire .”

The architectural shell is based as far as possible on the appearance of the early 18th century. Pre-fire photos have provided a guide to door frames, windows, panelling, friezes and cornices.

It is proposed that much of the early furniture from Castle Howard’s collection be placed in the restored room, including a set of Queen Anne chairs and two pietra dura cabinets on either side of the fireplace.

None of the Castle Howard architect and playwright Vanbrugh’s fireplaces survive in the State Rooms, so the Manor’s managers are planning to introduce a fireplace based on one of Vanburgh’s fireplaces in the Prince of Wales’s apartments at Hampton Court.

The papers say they hope to recreate architectural features “in a way that avoids the error of being slavishly archaeological or moronic”.

In response to the proposals, a spokesman for Historic England said the proposals were “a welcome step forward in the process of progressively restoring lost interiors of this outstanding building”.

He added: “The interventions are well supported by detailed and specialized research and build on the work undertaken and principles established in previous restoration work at the Garden Hall and New Library and the Lake Sitting Room.

“The redesigned interior will give this room an appearance similar to what it originally was up to around 1759, restoring the original decoration and detailing and returning the four Vanderbank tapestries to the room for which they were originally intended by Vanbrugh.

“We believe that the proposed changes will have an overall positive impact on the particular architectural and historical interest of the listed building.”

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