Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Tale of Two 17th century Houses

A couple of weeks ago, on the way back from the fabulous RNA conference in Telford, I visited Stokesay Castle. Stokesay was built in the 13th century but I was particularly interested in its 17th century history as my current book is set in the Civil War period. During this time, Stokesay belonged to the Craven family so there is also a connection to the work I do at the former Craven hunting lodge at Ashdown House; I couldn’t wait to visit.

Stokesay is small as castles go, more of a fortified manor house, but with everything you could want from a
real castle – towers, a moat, a gatehouse. It was the timber-framed gatehouse that particularly fascinated me since it looked medieval to my untrained eye. I was astonished to read that it had been built for William Craven in 1640 – 41 at the not inconsiderable cost of £530. Built by local craftsmen, the style was based on that of townhouses in nearby Ludlow.

Craven also made alterations to the interior of the castle, including adding this splendid chimney piece in the medieval solar.

As a Royalist, Craven garrisoned Stokesay on behalf of King Charles I during the Civil War, the only time in its history that the castle was put to military use. However the parliamentarians took Stokesay in 1645 and demolished the curtain wall, but happily they left the gatehouse standing.

Almost twenty years to the day after he had built Stokesay, William Craven constructed Ashdown House in
a very different style. Clearly fashions in architecture and perhaps his taste in building had changed during that period.  Ashdown is a typical Restoration building with Dutch and French influences. The two buildings could hardly look more different!


Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Two beautiful and very different houses, Nicola. Fascinating stuff!

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks, Melinda! They are both gorgeous in their own way and I think it's very interesting how quickly tastes can change.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I love Stokesay Castle. It's one of my favourite castles ever! I love its quirkiness.

It was once owned by William, Lord Craven, who had a romantic and adventurous life, which included being imprisoned with Rupert of the Rhine while trying to get back the throne of Bohemia for the Elector of Palatine, Rupert's father.

Now there's a hero for you!

Nicola Cornick said...

I couldn't agree more, Elizabeth. Stokesay is full of charm and eccentricity.

William Craven is one of the heroes of my new timeslip book. I'm loving writing his story!

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Fantastic, Nicola! I can't wait to read it. I've seen a portrait of him and he was very good-looking/