The chapel showed no ill-effects of its long neglect
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Castle Howard may have struck film and TV production companies as the perfect proxy for Brideshead, but in at least one respect they are very different.
St Andrews, Roker, the church that was at the heart of my childhood and adolescence, is often referred to as “The Cathedral of the Arts & Crafts Movement“. In a structure designed by Edward Schroeder Prior were tapestries and carpet by William Morris, painted ceilings designed by prior and complete by MacDonald Gill who elder brother Eric Gill carved the foundation stone. There is woodwork by Ernest Gimson and Mouseman Thompson and the artist Henry Payne designed the stained glass, yet for all of this artistry I always felt the church to have a plain, artisanal aspect, probably resulting from the grey reinforced concrete of its construction.
So if that is the cathedral, how to describe the small chapel within Castle Howard? How about dining room because that’s what the room was originally, but about 150 years ago the floor was lowered, presumably to create a more impressive space, and the decorators moved in. Featuring designs from both William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones it has quite an impact with its Pre-Raphaelite styling.
The windows are attention grabbers but there’s so much more. The coffered ceiling, the frieze work, the coloured pillars, decorated choir stalls, marble flooring. I was staggered by the attention to detail (and by the expenditure it must have taken) for what was designed as a place of private family worship (though public services are held there now)
If St Andrew’s is the Cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement then this must be the movement’s Sistine Chapel.