D and I went along to the Open Day at Maxstoke Castle on the Sunday before last. It only opens to the public once a year and, although we have been twice before, it is a delightful place to visit and explore.
There were a few MG cars parked along the drive - how I would love one of these!
On arrival we made a beeline for the cake stall (they never last long!) - for me a
piece of Carrot Cake.
Maxstoke Castle (a fortified manor house) was originally constructed by William de Clinton, Earl of Huntingdon, around 650 years ago. De Clinton had already built the Augustinian Maxstoke Priory about two miles away. Sadly, the Priory is now in ruins but you can see a few remnants from the road. Maxstoke Castle came into the possession of Humphrey, Earl of Stafford in 1438 but the castle was later forfeited to the Crown. Richard III visited the house in 1485 as he travelled to Nottingham (and the subsquent Battle of Bosworth where he was killed). The new King Henry VII gave the estate to Edward, Duke of Buckingham until he was charged with treason and the estate was again forfeited to the Crown. Henry VIII gave the manor to Sir William Compton in return for military service and he later sold it to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord of the Great Seal of England.
In 1599 the castle, manor and park of Maxstoke were bought for £5,500 from Sir Thomas Egerton by Sir Thomas (later Sir) Dilke. The Dilke (and later Fetherston-Dilk) family has retained the estate and lived there (apart from a few short periods) ever since. The new owners restored the castle and carried out alterations.
A highlight of the 18th century was the marriage of William Dilke to Mary Fetherston-Leigh of Packwood House in 1759 thus uniting two Warwickshire families.
Towards the end of World War One the castle was used as a convalescent hospital for soldiers by the Red Cross. For a time in the 1930's the owner leased the house to a country club until they went into liquidation. In the Second World War the Castle was requisitioned by the War Office as accommodation and in 1940 it was taken over by the Ministry of Aircraft and used for storage.
In 1946 Beaumont Fetherston-Dilke returned to the castle and found it in a bad state of repair with the garden also having been totally neglected. Beaumont lived there until his death in 1968 when his son Charles inherited. At this time the moat was dredged for the first time in 150 years. In 1989 Charles and his wife moved into another house on the estate and his son Michael, wife and family moved in carrying out further restoration and alterations.
The Castle is a perfect square 60 yards by 60 yards and has four towers and a gatehouse. It was built from sandstone and the main wall is about 5.5 feet thick. The black and white Elizabethan wing was added by the first members of the Dilke family to live there.
The Gatehouse with its fluted ceiling
and then into the Courtyard which has herbaceous borders around the perimeter.
We didn't go inside the castle this time (no photos are allowed) but you can visit the Banqueting Hall, Oak Drawing Room and The Library.
Plants in Walls - I spotted Valerian, Ivy-leafed Toadflax, ferns and a plant with yellow flowers which I failed to identify.
After looking round the Courtyard we explored the Moat Walk - the roses were a delight.
I've never noticed the Gargoyles before - although they are very weathered!
This Gothic window reminded me of a church.
A bees nest! I think they were Honey Bees?
Timothy was enjoying himself.
There is a lovely walk through a wildflower meadow and woodland with scenic views of the moat and castle.
The Sunken Garden - this was created in a swimming pool that had been installed by the Country Club.
Anyone for tennis? Timothy wants to know why we haven't got one of these at home!
Finally, a few photos D took - I've included some because they were better than mine of the same subject and the leaf and cow parsley ones because I love them.
Speckled Wood - the only butterfly we saw.
*D - Photos taken by D with the Canon Bridge SX50
Remaining photos taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 camera
Welcome to my blog. I have been interested in natural history from an early age and we have tried to create a garden attractive to wildlife. I also enjoy reading, photography, collecting fossils, visiting historic buildings and gardens and supporting Aston Villa. Please feel free to leave a comment and, if you would like to email me, my email address is ciraggedrobinsATgmail.com - remember to replace AT with @. Thank you for visiting.