Do-it-yourself castle

Stainborough Castle, South Yorkshire

Stainborough Castle, South Yorkshire

Thomas Wentworth, Lord Raby, was furious when he failed to inherit the estate of Wentworth Woodhouse.

He bought the nearby Stainborough estate and had the family earldom revived in his favour.

Even after he’d tacked on to the existing house a grand baroque wing gazing east towards Wentworth Woodhouse he felt a need to impress his superiority over his Watson neighbours, so he built himself a ruined castle, Stainborough Castle, which its inscription describes as “rebuilt” in 1730.

Mining subsidence has made it even more of a ruin than Lord Strafford had intended, and it has in recent years been tidied up.

It’s the literal high spot of the longest walk round Wentworth Castle Gardens [], which takes in a sample of the other garden buildings that Lord Strafford and his son scattered about the estate – the Corinthian Temple, Archer’s Hill Gate and Lady Mary’s Obelisk which commemorates the bluestocking Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and her encouragement of inoculation against smallpox.

The restored garden has outstanding interpretation boards at regular intervals, so that it’s possible to understand the significance of near and distant features at leisure, strolling through a succession of small gardens, informal wildernesses and formal linear walks.

At a greater distance – up to four miles – there are walks around the park, taking in a greater series of monuments, including the Queen Anne Monument (1734), the Rotunda (1742-6) and the Duke of Argyle Monument.

Wentworth Castle Gardens has a superb visitor centre with a café and a programme of events throughout the year:  Christmas is particularly attractive:  Santa feeds the deer, answers letters and hands out presents in his grotto, while parents are kept occupied with mulled wine.

There’s something for everybody, almost every day of the year.

The 56-page, A4 handbook for the 2014 tour Country Houses of South Yorkshire, with text, photographs, maps, a chronology and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £7.50 including postage and packing.  It includes chapters on Aston Hall, Brodsworth Hall, Cannon Hall, Cusworth Hall, Hickleton Hall, Renishaw Hall, Wentworth Castle, Wentworth Woodhouse and Wortley Hall.  To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals:  past views of English architecture, please click here.

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