Victorian Castles

Eighteenth-century men of taste had begun to build themselves mock-medieval houses. Tudor Edwards writes how their descendants carried on the vogue by constructing a series of impressive castles.

By the early years of the nineteenth century the Gothic novel, with its literary view of architecture, had brought the amateur antiquarian to the fore, and the dilettantism of Strawberry Hill persisted. Bishop Percy had resuscitated the medieval romance and Scott was producing his historical novels; while, across the Channel, Chateaubriand heightened the cult of medievalism in France, where Michelet’s l'Histoire de France with its brilliant evocation of the Middle Ages was about to appear. Indeed, the Middle Ages had superseded classical times as the cultural ideal, and this was the age of Fonthill and Ashridge, of Abbotsford and mock Plantagenet castles.

In the latter years of the eighteenth century castellated houses had come straight out of a Batty Langley pattern book. In 1798 the Reverend William Gilpin visited Lord Egmont’s new castle at Enmore in Somerset, and he expressed himself strongly at this example of what he obviously regarded as aristocratic folly.

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