Sunday, October 26, 2014

Vanbrugh Castle

click photo to enlarge
Walking over Blackheath and in Greenwich Park, London, the other day it occurred to me that, as far as the UK goes, castles can be grouped into three categories. There are those castles that were designed, built and functioned solely as fortified strongholds and that is pretty much all they have ever been: for example, Castle Rising, Norfolk. Then there are those castles that were built as fortifications but, down the centuries, were transformed into grand residences: for example, Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. And finally there are those castles that are castles in name only, buildings that were never intended to be military structures, but which borrowed architectural elements such as turrets and battlements to give an imposing appearance to a residence. It was an example of one of these - Vanbrugh Castle - by the edge of the park, that prompted this reflection.

Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) was an English dramatist and architect. His best known buildings are Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard. One of his last works was the Baroque north elevation at the above-mentioned Grimsthorpe Castle. Vanbrugh Castle was built by the architect as a home for his family. He chose a medieval Gothic style for the house which was completed in 1719. Though the architectural details that he employed could not be mistaken for the originals on which they were based, it is noteworthy that his "castle" pre-dates what is regarded as the first Gothic Revival building, Horace Walpole's villa, Strawberry Hill (also in London), by thirty years.

My photograph shows a view of the upper parts of the building rising above the trees at the edge of the park. It suggests how the building might have been seen when it was first built, but misrepresents the surroundings today - the site is actually in a residential street and the surrounding buildings are decidedly domestic in character.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On