While William Burges was unhurriedly transforming Cardiff Castle for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, the question arose of what to do about the crumbling Castell Coch (the Red Castle), an outlying Bute property in Tongwynlais, north of the city centre.
Presenting William Burges with a medieval ruin inevitably led to a plan to rebuild it. Presenting the Marquess of Bute with a project to rebuild a castle could have only one outcome. He opened his cheque-book.
The result is a beguiling Victorian fantasy of medieval life and art, a wealthy magnate’s weekend retreat into a Gothic dream world.
Though the project was compromised by being brought to a conclusion after Burges’ death, it contains some of the finest examples of his design genius, such as Thomas Nicholls’ figures of the three Fates, Clotho spinning the thread of life, Lachesis measuring its length and Atropos with her shears.
Lord Bute’s bedroom is fairly spartan, but a spiral stair leads from it to Lady Bute’s bedroom, a huge vaulted space decorated with symbols of love.
And to ensure privacy, this High Victorian castle was fitted with a fully functioning drawbridge.
Castell Coch is administered by Cadw: http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/castell-coch/?lang=en.
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Survivals & Revivals: past views of English architecture, please click here.