Welcome to the vale...

Moelbryn is the ancient celtic name for the Malvern Hills, a dramatic ridge of volcanic rock that spans the counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire and dominates the surrounding countryside. Towards the south of the Malverns lies the Eastnor Vale, a picturesque valley amongst the woods and ridges of which lies the village of Eastnor.

This weblog focuses on the stories, folklore and history of the area - the hills, buildings, woods and ruins, tales of faerie folk, witches, druids and giants.

Please leave a comment if you have found this blog useful or have enjoyed reading.

Peace x

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Eastnor Castle

Moving further west from the southern peaks of the Malvern range and Bronsil Castle, Eastnor castle and its Deer Park dominate the village. This fairytale castle remains hidden from most roadways behind its lush arboretum, but if one is to stroll up onto the hills or toward the obelisk in the Deer Park it can be seen gloriously nestled betwixt trees and lake. Though it may appear at first site to be of medieval age it was in fact built between 1810 and 1824 by the 2nd Baron Somers (later 1st Earl) in a Norman Revival style as proposed by his architect Robert Smirke. The castle is truly massive and a statement and assertion of power and family wealth rather than a military fortification. The family’s original house, Castleditch, now lies submerged beneath the current castles lake, with part of the old structure forming a small island on its surface.

Eastnor Castle across the lake

I was fortunate enough to have spent much of my early childhood exploring and adventuring in the castles extensive grounds, dark winding stairways, forgotten attics and grand halls, or playing toccata and fugue very poorly on the chapels harmonium. The castles main rooms much of which are now open to the public have been redecorated many times through the castles life. In 1849 the 2nd Earl commissioned AWN Pugin to decorate the Gothic Drawing Room which he did after completing work at the House of Lords. The 3rd Earl Somers, Charles, undertook many of the embellishments of the castle during the 1860’s and 70’s and was at the forefront of contemporary taste. Charles also collected many classical antiques and art including the extensive collection of medieval armour and was also responsible for the planting of the beautiful arboretum.

The arboretum summer house

During the agricultural depression of the 1930’s the estate began to struggle financially and in September 1939 traditional aristocratic life at the castle came to an end and it was offered to the Australian High Commission in case they needed to leave London during the Blitz. The family moved first to a cottage in the grounds before returning to smaller private rooms of the castle where they lived quietly, directing their energies into agriculture and modernizing estate properties. The castle began to fall into disrepair and life proceeded in relative discomfort, trekking 50 yards from the bedrooms to the nearest bathroom, patrolling for roof leeks with buckets when it rained, collecting wood and clearing the roofs of snow.

Eastnor Castle from Ragged Stone Hill

When Hon. Elizabeth Somers Cocks died in 1986 her eldest son James wanted to live there and his then wife Sarah put unimaginable effort and thought into restoring the castle to its former glory, much of which is exactly as found today. With its intriguing history, expansive grounds and lake, great halls, dining room, drawing room, libraries, saloon, chapel and plethora of grand bedrooms Eastnor castle is a fascinating and beautiful stately home to visit and enjoyable for all the family, young and old alike.

As well as being open to the public Eastnor Castle is now also home to a number of high profile events, many of which take place in the Deer Park. The grounds and castle have also been used extensively in the filming of The Box of Delights (A BBC film by John Masefield), The Canterville Ghost, Rumpole of the Bailey and more recently the period drama Little Lord Fauntleroy.

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