The English Historical Fiction Authors blog hop are celebrating the new release of Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors. A book filled with fascinating historical facts which are a joy to read.
A compilation of essays from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book provides a wealth of historical information from Roman Britain to early twentieth century England. Over fifty different authors share hundreds of real life stories and tantalizing tidbits discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.
For the blog hop, authors are writing an article featuring a castle. I've chosen Highcliffe Castle.
Highcliffe Castle and it's fascinating owner, Charles Stuart, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, feature in the book, so I thought I'd write more about this house's sad history which mirrors so many of the wonderful English houses lost to us. Thankfully, at least the shell of Highcliffe Castle remains.
|Highcliffe Castle as it stands today|
Highcliffe was built on the cliff-top site overlooking Christchurch Bay, mainly between 1831 and 1836, by Charles Stuart, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, a distinguished diplomat and philanderer, who had a deep love of the area since he was a boy. He was also a keen collector, particularly during his years as British ambassador in Paris after the Napoleonic Wars and again in 1828-31. Paintings, furniture, tapestries and books were accumulated voraciously.
The Castle is one of the most important surviving houses of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture, which flourished at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Its significance is recognized nationally by its Grade 1 status on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural and Historical Interest. It was a romantic medley of Gothic fantasy: The great hall with its soaring staircase is like a set for a Gothic novel and ornate late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century French decoration.
|The Hall, with the grand stairs that led to only a few bedrooms.|
A large amount of medieval French masonry, shipped across the Channel, was used in its construction. The Norman and Renaissance carved stone, along with the Castle’s Gothic revival features and ancient stained glass, makes it appear older than it is.
On Lord Stuart’s death in 1846, Highcliffe Castle was left to his widow, who lived there till her death in 1867. It then passed to her daughter, Lady Waterford, who, determined to keep the house in the Stuart family, left it on her death in 1891 to a distant cousin, Edward Stuart-Wortley, whom she had met only twice when she made her decision. His widow, Violet, lived on until 1953, although her last three years were spent at nearby Chewton Mill.
The Castle’s survival into the second half of the twentieth century is remarkable as it was never a landed seat and had no estate to support it. In 1950 The Estates Gazette reported its sale with 75 acres by Mrs Stuart-Wortley’s son-in-law, the Earl of Abingdon, for thirty thousand pounds, to be used as a children’s home. However, the sale failed to go through.The furniture was subsequently auctioned off and the building disposed of privately to the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Heart.
After a fire in 1967 the Castle was sold to a businessman. There followed a fight between the owners, (who wanted to demolish it and build 150 beach huts in its place), and the authorities. Shortly after the application was rejected, fire broke out in the wood-panelled anteroom, badly damaging the library and hall. The east tower was demolished in 1974 early one morning by contractors hired by the owners, pre-empting council workmen. Afterwards, fireplaces and fittings began to disappear.
The structure has since been secured and re roofed, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, who are currently funding the restoration of the shell - although it is too late to save the sumptuous interiors.
The intriguing Lord Stuart de Rothesay was no ordinary diplomat, but part diplomat and part spy, using his powerful foreign postings to arrange dispatches of intelligence information to be sent back to England for the eyes of the likes of the Duke of Wellington. Headstrong, daring and never lacking personal courage or conviction, Charles Stuart's story is also the story of the British intelligence service coming of age. (Robert Franklin)
You can learn more about the fascinating life of Lord Stuart de Rothesay with the new release of:
Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors on Monday, September 23. This wonderful collection of historical essays will be available on Amazon and other on-line retailers.
For the occasion, I'm offering a giveaway. Comment to win an e-book copy of my historical romantic mystery, The Folly at Falconbridge Hall.
The author deserves high praise for her ability to capture the reader's attention and engage
one in both the mystery and the romance of this delightful story!
PRIVATE AND SECRET The Clandestine Activities of a Nineteenth Century Diplomat by Robert Franklin.
ENGLAND'S LOST HOUSES From the Archives of Country Life by Giles Worsley