Castle Howard before and after the 5th Earl of Carlisle: The Evidence of the 1759 and 1825 Inventories

Essay by James Legard

This study serves to introduce the first full transcriptions of the two earliest extant inventories for Castle Howard; the probate inventories of the 4th Earl of Carlisle, from 1759, and of the 5th Earl of Carlisle, from 1825, which are appended as PDF files, with transcriptions, to the present essay. These inventories are the most comprehensive sources we have for the historic contents of Castle Howard, describing the furnishings of almost every room, from grand saloons to garrets, from drawing rooms to domestic offices and from formal bedchambers to humble servants’ rooms. But they are also frustratingly elusive. Rooms are sometimes challenging to locate and even where securely identifiable, the descriptions of their contents are laconic in the extreme. For the most part they consist of little more than a bare listing of furniture, soft furnishings and other major items.

The challenges are particularly acute with works of art, the main focus here. The 1759 inventory frequently includes only the number of works in a particular space and their manner of framing, almost invariably omitting such fundamental data as the artist and, in many cases, the subject matter. Whereas the dimensions of mirrors are scrupulously noted, the sizes of painting are recorded, if at all, only by generic terms such as ‘half length’. The 1825 inventory is, fortunately, more informative: the paintings and sculpture are listed separately and an attribution and subject are provided for almost all the works included. Even here, though, works on paper were only likely to be included if they were actually hung on walls. Prints and drawings stored in portfolios or mounted in bound volumes, as they certainly often would have been, were regarded as part of the library and not separately noticed. Thus, the relative importance of prints, drawings and watercolours may be systematically understated.

Provided these limitations are borne in mind and the inventories’ apparent precision and comprehensiveness are treated with a degree of caution, they can nevertheless be used to develop an especially clear and – at least in the context of conventional humanistic scholarship – unusually fully quantified picture of the development of the house and its collections over the lifetime of the 5th Earl of Carlisle.

My purpose here, then, is to exploit this potential to set out some of the most important changes associated with 5th Earl’s tenure of Castle Howard. I do so by first considering the structure of the inventories themselves and what this can tell us about the changing conceptualisation of Castle Howard’s structure as an inhabited space. I then go on to consider patterns of change in the naming and furnishing of the rooms; in the collecting and display of paintings; and in the collecting and display of sculpture and antiquities. These initial findings are then drawn together to provide the foundation for some tentative broader conclusions about the 5th Earl’s cultural interests and about the changing values and mentalities that they reflect.

The 1759 and 1825 inventories cover Castle Howard and a number of dependent properties in the park and gardens. Although the inventories have been transcribed in full, this discussion will focus on the great house itself, taking in other buildings only to the extent that they contain works that should clearly be considered as part of the main Castle Howard collection.

For the main house, the inventories consist of detailed accounts of the items in individual rooms and spaces, followed by separate specialist lists of specific types of items. These more specialist sections are not, unfortunately, consistent across the two inventories. In 1759 there is – unusually – no separate inventory of silver plate but there are inventories of ceramics and household linen, as well as an itemised list of the contents of the stables. An additional inventory list was added the following year describing items transported to Castle Howard from the 4th Earl of Carlisle’s London residence. This is itself divided into four distinct sections: ornamental china and antiquities, tapestries furniture and pictures. In 1825, there were again lists of china and linen but this time there were also carefully itemised inventories of the silver, pictures and sculpture.

In both inventories, the sequences of rooms are highly structured and exhibit many similarities. They begin on the top (mezzanine) floor of the taller, central block of the house and then work their way down the main house, floor by floor, extending into the south-facing wings on either side of the garden front as they do so. The wings on the north (entrance) front come next. The north-east wing only was inventoried in 1759, as the west wing was yet to be completed. Here the sequence again runs from the top floor down. By 1825, however, the massive west wing begun for the 4th Earl by Sir Thomas Robinson had recently been completed by Charles Heathcote Tatham. Since the south end of the new wing connects directly with the west end of the south front, the 1825 inventory moves directly on to the principal floor of the new wing, again working through its rooms in a roughly clockwise sequence. It then covers the old east wing, working from top to bottom as in 1759. In both 1759 and 1825, the offices and service rooms come at the end of the inventory, starting with the basement storey before covering the rooms around the service courts to the east. Other buildings in the garden and park follow. After these come, where present, the specialist inventories of linen, silver, china, paintings and sculpture.

The detailed approaches, however, differ significantly between the two inventories. In 1759, the inventory takers divided the house into coherent groups of rooms. On the first floor, for example, they covered, one after another, all four bedroom and dressing room suites and only then described the main room, the ‘Grand Painted Anti-Chamber’ or upper Saloon. On the principal floor, they went from the Great Hall into the Saloon (today the Garden Hall). They proceeded thence into the Tapestry Drawing Room to its west before working through the state apartment (taking its formal sequence of state drawing room, state bedchamber and then state dressing room). After this, they must have returned to the Saloon in order to enter the Dining Room on its west side, before going through the second state apartment, starting with its drawing room, then moving onto the second state bedroom and its suite of two dressing rooms and finishing with the Gallery at the east end of the garden facade. They then completed the principal floors of the main house by working through the two smaller apartments on either side of the Entrance Hall.

In 1825, by contrast, the inventory takers as far as possible went from one room to its neighbour, generally working in a clockwise direction. Thus on the first floor, they started with the rooms on the east side, then moved along the south front from east to west, before finishing with the rooms on the west side. On the main floor, they began with the bedroom and dressing room suite to the west of the Great Hall, then went through the Great Hall, before dealing with the dressing room and bedroom to the east of the hall. After thus completing the south side of the central block of the house, they went to the far end of the eastern flank of the long central passageway. After passing through the room at the east end of the passageway, they reached the Little Gallery, the easternmost room in the main house. From there they worked their way westwards through all the rooms behind the south facade. They then continued through all the rooms behind the west facade, then the north facade of the north-west wing and then the rooms behind the east facade of the north-west wing.

It therefore seems clear that in 1759 the inventory takers conceptualised the house as a collection of apartments symmetrically disposed around certain key central spaces. At the very least, they felt it was necessary to organise the inventory in these terms, even though physically following that route would have entailed considerable retracing of steps. By 1825, however, the inventory takers seem to have treated the house as a collection of individual rooms that could simply be itemised one after another in whatever order seemed most logical and convenient.

The nomenclature and contents of the rooms cohere closely with this pattern. In 1759 there remained two fully furnished state apartments. Each has drawing rooms – the State Drawing Room and the Blue Coffoy Drawing Room – leading to state bedrooms with four-poster state beds hung with prestigious fabrics. The bedrooms in their turn led to dressing rooms with dressing tables and dressing mirrors, the former draped in silk covers. Suites of upholstered ‘French chairs’ enabled the comfortable reception of particularly favoured visitors. The dressing table in the second state bedroom, the India Paper Dressing Room, still bore its suite of ‘India’ (probably Chinese lacquered) dressing boxes with a matching comb tray.

By 1825, in contrast, both the drawing rooms in the state apartments had been given new names, functions and furnishings. The State Drawing Room was now a billiard room, while the Blue Coffoy Drawing Room had become the Little Breakfast Room. The Second State Bed Chamber was still referred to as the Silver Bed Chamber but no longer contained a bed. Its dressing room had lost most of its furniture apart from four upholstered chairs and was now known simply as the Blue Room. The former State Dressing Room had undergone even more dramatic transformation, having been enlarged for use as a new reception room, the Green Drawing Room. The State Bedroom alone retained both an appropriate name – the Gold Bed Chamber – and a state bed to justify it. Beyond this, it seems, the only substantive vestige of the traditional apartment was the continued tendency for the larger inhabited bedrooms – now almost all concentrated on the upper floors or in the wings – to be neighboured by a smaller dressing room.

Changes in décor seem to have been no less significant. The most striking aspect of this is the virtual disappearance of tapestries from the later inventory. In 1759, all but one of the four bedchambers on the first floor were hung with tapestry. Similarly, on the principal floor tapestries are found in the Tapestry Drawing Room (‘4 Pieces of Tapestry Hangings representing a Roman Triumph’), State Bedchamber (‘5 Pieces of Brussels Tapestry Hangings’), the State Dressing Room (‘4 Pieces of Tapestry hangings, a Roman Story’), the Second State Bedroom (‘4 Pieces of fine Tapestry Hangings Tartary & Chinese Figures’) and the Chintz Bedroom on the west side of the Great Hall, as well as in two of the bedrooms in the north-east wing.

By 1825, it seems that tapestry had been replaced by other finishes in most of these rooms. In some cases, admittedly, the contrast may be overstated, in that tapestry may have come to be regarded as a fixture and therefore omitted; but there can still be little doubt that the central role of tapestry as a prestigious wall-hanging had been almost entirely lost. The one notable exception was the display of tapestry ‘after a design by de Troy’ in the Long Gallery and, in the form a single panel only, in the ‘Present Lord Morpeth’s [that is, the future 7th Earl of Carlisle’s] Dressing Room’. Since de Troy’s first tapestries were produced only in 1737 and most of the sets in circulation were re-weaves dating from later in the eighteenth century, they must have been relatively recent, and in some ways rather anomalous, acquisitions. They were tapestries that remained important because of the fame of their artist designer rather than because of the intrinsic preciousness of their fine materials and craftsmanship.

The patterns of change visible in room use and décor are parallelled in the composition and display of the picture collection. Although, as already noted, the 1759 inventory is conspicuously lacking in detailed description of the works of art, a comparison with the account of the house given in Russell and Price’s England Displayed of 1769 enables some additional detail to be inferred about the contents of the state rooms.1 Together, these sources suffice to establish the approximate situation in the early part of the 5th Earl’s lifetime, which can be then be placed against the more detailed descriptions of 1825. On this basis, it is possible to establish a reasonably clear picture of the broad pattern of development.

Let us begin, in spite of the potentially misleading precision of a simple enumeration of inventory entries, with some brute statistics. In the earlier inventory, there are specific mentions of 289 paintings, 8 drawings and 76 prints, whereas the 1825 inventory lists 356 paintings, 99 drawings and 166 prints. If taken at face value, this suggests that the 5th Earl of Carlisle added some 67 paintings, 91 drawings and 90 prints to the Castle Howard collections. This statistic, however, disregards the additional 150 paintings brought to Castle Howard in 1759 from the 4th Earl’s London house. Even allowing that some works are likely to have been returned to London at a later date, this suggests that the overall total of paintings at Castle Howard at the very most grew only rather modestly and may even have declined between the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For a man of his wealth, extravagance and famously strong artistic interests, this seems, if anything, to be a symptom of unwonted self-restraint. Closer scrutiny of the evidence, though, suggests a more complex reality.

Enriching the 1759 inventory with details of artists and subjects in England Displayed from 1769 suggests that the collections around the time of the 5th Earl’s succession to the title can be roughly divided into four constituent groups. The first is a considerable number of portraits of diverse dates, usually of members of the royal house, of the Howard family or of other major aristocratic dynasties, especially northern magnates with connections to the Howards. A second group consists of the kinds of fairly run-of-the-mill old master paintings routinely bought and sold at British art auction sales of the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: battles by Borgognone, horsemen by Wouvermans, landscapes and pastorals by Zuccarelli (born 1702) and Rosa da Tivoli, genre paintings by Teniers, the odd early German painting (invariably attributed to Dürer). Within this second group there is distinct subset of works by continental artists who spent time in Britain, such as Heemskerk, Griffier, van de Velde and Bogdani. A third group consists of works – though not necessarily especially distinguished ones – by or after artists whose work stood towards the top of early modern critical hierarchies, such as Raphael, Rubens, Maratta, Correggio and Veronese. A fourth group consists of Grand Tour paintings of architectural subjects, notably major works by Panini and a large collection of Venetian vedute by Canaletto, Belotto and Marieschi, all of which were acquired by the 4th Earl.

At first sight the selection of artists and subjects in 1825 bears much resemblance to 1759. Family portraits remain a ground bass; there are still standard-issue battle pieces by Borgognone, landscapes by Zuccarelli and pastoral scenes by Rosa da Tivoli; there is still a number of works by celebrated names; and the large group of Venetian and Roman vedute remains intact. One conspicuous development, however, is the acquisition of a number of highly important ‘star’ works. The two most celebrated were the Adoration by Jan Gossaert and the Three Maries by Annibale Carracci, both now in the National Gallery, London. There were, moreover, a further six works by the Carracci, a remarkably extensive group given their exceptionally high repute, and correspondingly high prices, at this time. None of these works appear to have been in the collection in 1769. Of nearly comparable, though ultimately somewhat misplaced, repute was the alleged Velázquez of Juan de Pareja, now acknowledged to be a studio copy of the prime version now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Another famed work, also now believed to be a studio replica, was the Rubens of Herodias with the Head of Saint John the Baptist.2

In addition, there was a significant increase in the number of works by contemporary British artists. Although many are portraits, some of these, such as Reynolds’s portraits of the 5th Earl in his Thistle robes and Omai, are exceptionally artistically ambitious. There are, moreover, a number of subject, landscape and genre paintings by artists including Westall, Stubbs and Northcote. Contemporary British painting had clearly become acceptable to even the most prestigious collectors, as Martin Postle explains in his related contribution to the present case study. Finally, the works by continental artists active in – or heavily imported into – late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Britain were much less apparent in 1825. Paintings by Neefs, Bogdani and Wouvermans, for example, that were still present in multiples in 1769 had all but disappeared, at least from the main rooms.

Even more dramatic, however, than the change in the composition of the collection, was the transformation in approaches to display. In 1759 the paintings were highly spatially concentrated. The Little Gallery, the Saloon, the Blue Coffoy Drawing Room and the North Dressing Room in the north-west wing,contained 88, 14, 32 and 18 paintings respectively. These four rooms alone consequently represented more than half (53%) of all the paintings in the house. Almost all the other rooms contained only two or three paintings and these usually consisted of fixed over-doors and the almost inevitable ‘Painting over the Chimney Piece’. In 1825, by contrast, the largest number of paintings on display in any one room was 20, in the purpose-built Long Gallery. But there were a further five rooms hung with 15 to 19 works, among which were most of the major rooms of reception on the south front (the Little Breakfast Room, Dining Room, Saloon and Green Drawing Room) and a further nine rooms with 7 to 14 works. There is a clear sense of paintings seeping out from specialised display areas into the house’s living rooms.

Equally striking is the change in the number of paintings that were not on display. In 1759, there were only 29 paintings in store, in a dedicated ‘picture room’ in the offices. In 1825, by contrast, about 100 works are listed in the entry for the ‘Picture and Lumber Room’, to which must be added a further 15 in the ‘Work Room’ and another 11 in the ‘China Clozet’. In spite of the increased descriptive detail in the later inventory, most of these stored works are described by no more than a generic subject or size or the qualification ‘old’. Thus at the time of the 5th Earl’s death, some 130 paintings, mostly unattributed or minor works, were not on display – four times as many in the 4th Earl’s time and representing more than a third (35%), as opposed to a tenth, of the collection.

Another intriguing area of change was the service rooms. In 1759 there were nine paintings in the servants’ rooms and offices, including two in the housekeeper’s room and ‘A large old picture (a hunting scene)’ in the Kitchen. Given the general spareness of the hang in the main house, the contrast in contents between state, family and service rooms would in this respect have not been as strong as one might have imagined, though there would certainly have been differences in quality between the works hung in the main rooms of reception and those in rooms inhabited by the household servants.

In 1825, by contrast, and in spite of many more secondary works having been relegated to store-rooms, the only original art work of any kind in the service rooms was John Jackson’s ‘portrait of the Castle Howard Postman – The artists [sic] first Portrait’. Otherwise, reproductive works only were to be found behind the green baize door. There were two ‘prints framed and glazed’ in the housekeeper’s room, while in the office there were forty prints after Kneller’s Kit-Cat Club, presumably among the ‘49 Prints all framed and glazed’ recorded in the steward’s room in 1759. The implication seems to be that original works of art had been deliberately and systematically removed from the service areas of the house. This may offer tangible evidence of a growing social and cultural divide between the owners and domestic servants of great houses.

The sculpture collections tell a similarly complex story. Again, some brute statistics can provide an initial overview. The 1759 inventory lists 100 sculptures. Of these, 58 appear to have been substantial marbles, another 22 are specifically qualified as ‘small’ or, in some cases, ‘lesser’ marbles, and the remaining 20 are small-scale works in bronze or other cast metal. In addition, there are 26 ‘urns’ (in most cases, though not invariably, ancient Roman cinerary urns); 5 ‘vases’ (which in most cases are likely to correspond to the ‘Campana’-shaped vases we think of as urns); 48 ‘tables’, that is to say slabs of marble, porphyry or other decorative stone, mostly supported on carved wood or wrought-iron ‘frames’; and a small group of non-sculptural antiquities. To these may be added a substantial number of items from the 4th Earl’s London house. In the field of sculpture, there was only one marble (a small bust), two plaster casts and ‘the Head of an Egyptian Deity with Hieroglyphics’; but there were large groups of 52 cast-metal sculptures and 61 assorted other antiquities, which included ceramics, weapons and lamps.

By 1825, there had been a moderate increase in the number of sculptures to 129, which can be broken down into 80 substantial marbles (including a few full-size casts) and 17 smaller marbles. Thus there appear to have been considerably more larger marbles and about the same number, or slightly fewer, smaller marbles than in 1759. The impression this gives of the 5th Earl as an active purchaser of significant marble sculptures is confirmed by the presence of contemporary portrait busts that can only have been acquired in his lifetime, with subjects including the Earl himself, Charles James Fox and the Duke of Wellington.

The position with cast-metal sculptures is more complex, as much hinges on the inclusion or exclusion of the works brought from London in 1759. If excluded, there is a substantial expansion from 20 to 51 items, though the absolute numbers remain relatively low. If the London objects are included, there is a notable decline, from a combined total of some 71 items in 1759. Only more detailed investigation, beyond the scope of this study, could resolve the exact pattern of development with sufficient precision for us to draw meaningful conclusions.

It is non-sculptural antiquities, though, that exhibit the most emphatic increase in numbers. Even if we include the objects from London when calculating the figures for 1759, and exclude various objects in the 1825 inventory that can reasonably be regarded as mere curiosities, the number of antiquities increased from about 100 to nearly 310. Much of this change is the result of the acquisition of a single type of object: the large group of 195 ‘antique Tuscan vases of various shapes and sizes’ that was displayed in the Upper Saloon. These almost certainly consisted of Etruscan or ancient Greek red- and black-figure terracotta wares, which were enjoying their first great vogue in the Earl’s lifetime under the influence of connoisseur collectors like Sir William Hamilton.

The display of sculpture also underwent considerable change, but in rather more complex ways than the relatively straightforward pattern of diffusion seen with the paintings. In 1759, as Anthony Geraghty shows in his work in the present case study, the Great Hall was adorned with a set-piece display of major classical marbles, with seventeen full-size busts or statues and, over the staircase, two urns, all disposed in a highly formal, symmetrical array. Further major displays were found in the Saloon, State Drawing Room and the Little Gallery. In the Saloon there were 7 busts, 2 celebrated groups of lions attacking buffaloes, and 2 statues. There were also 2 pairs of marble slabs, one of ‘foreign’ and the other of ‘Derbyshire’ marble. The State Drawing Room contained a total of six marble busts: 2 full-size on wooden pedestals, 2 on the chimneypiece and 2 smaller ones each on one of a pair of ‘Foreign Marble Tables’ – slabs of verd antique, according to the account in England Displayed. These were complemented by two bronze figure groups – presumably a Hercules and Antaeus and a Centaur and Dejaneira, as these were still present in 1769. There was also a small alabaster statue of Pallas and an alabaster urn and cover on ‘A large Foreign Marble Sideboard Table on a carv’d & Gilt Frame’. Richest of all, however, was the display in the Little Gallery. This contained 4 large busts, 2 small busts, 2 sculptures of goats, a substantial group of 32 urns and other antiquities, and as many as 8 marble tables. These last were described in 1769 as being ‘of all the most rare and curious antique marbles’ and including 2 slabs with pietra dura inlays, described in the inventory as ‘mosaic’.3 The Little Gallery was therefore the location for the display of the finest smaller marbles and antiquities as it was for the smaller ‘cabinet’ paintings.

The tendency towards such concentrated displays is, however, mitigated by the presence of lesser, but still significant, groups of sculpture in several other rooms. These include the Dining Room and Tapestry Drawing Room, the two principal rooms of reception on either side of the Saloon. They contained pairs of full-size busts, cast-metal figure groups, one or more urns or vases and, in the case of the Drawing Room, ‘2 smaller Bustos of black red & other Colour’d Marble on 2 Marble Collums all antique’. The state apartment also contained significant quantities of sculpture, especially in the State Drawing Room. Finally, the Library in the north-east wing also had a considerable number of marbles and bronzes.

By 1825, there had been a complex pattern of continuity and change. The arrangement of the Hall remained almost wholly intact, as indeed it does to the present day. The Saloon too retained the large groups of lions and buffaloes – which were perhaps too massive to be easily moved – the four marble tables and a statue of Cupid. It also retained a group of busts, though the specific busts displayed appear to have been changed. A statue of Apollo present in 1769, and presumably also in 1759, had been replaced by one of Minerva. At the opposite extreme, the Little Gallery was almost entirely emptied of significant objects, retaining only two marble tables from the vast panoply of antique objects recorded in 1759 and 1769. In the other state rooms there was only one marble on display by 1825 – a statue of a nymph by Westmacott in the Silver Bed Chamber, which was, it may be remembered, no longer actually serving as a bedroom.

In part this must be a consequence of the completion of the new wing to the west, with its Long Gallery purpose-built for the display of paintings and sculpture. This housed 10 busts, 4 small statues, 2 bronzes (a group of Castor and Pollux and a copy of the Apollo Belvedere), 4 urns and 9 marble tables. But this was, perhaps surprisingly, not the main venue for the display of sculpture and antiquities. Instead, this role fell to the adjacent room, the Museum, in the house’s south-west corner. Here, there were more than 200 marbles, bronzes and antiquities, including 24 busts; 3 marble figures or groups; 34 bronze or cast-metal statuettes; 8 marble tables; 5 vases; 10 sarcophagi; 5 cinerary urns ‘which have contained the ashes of ancient heros’ and 1 further urn from Herculaneum. These were supplemented by such oddities as an Egyptian mummy, an ‘old German belt’, ‘a pair of antique gloves’ and a 60ft-long Chinese scroll. The spirit of the seventeenth-century dilettanto was evidently not quite dead.

One final new development deserves attention: the use of Castle Howard’s lengthy passageways to display sculpture. While the full-blown Antique Passage that has a striking effect today was still some years away, already by 1825 some thirteen busts had been moved to the ‘White Passage in the Main House’. A further two busts and ‘a colossal head of Jupiter Pluvius’ had been placed in the ‘New Passage’.

Such a complex pattern makes it difficult to identify a clear rationale for the changes. On the whole, though, it is difficult to resist the sense that the prestige of classical sculpture was on the wane. However memorable an effect they may make in Castle Howard’s vaulted passageways, the large number of busts displayed in them is difficult to reconcile with the pride with which they were displayed in the main state rooms in the 4th Earl’s time. The display of such a large proportion of the antique works in the new Museum can also plausibly be seen as a marker of their declining aesthetic power and cultural resonance, even though their historical interest no doubt remained compelling. It seems that it was the major paintings, not antiquities, which were increasingly seen as the prime repositories of cultural value. They were also increasingly the preferred background to daily life, while sculpture was sent to spaces that were walked through, looked at and showed off – but not lived in.

Skeletal though they are, the two inventories of 1759 and 1825 provide sufficient material to demonstrate that the 5th Earl of Carlisle’s lifetime was a period of fundamental transition in the functioning and furnishing of Castle Howard and of the role of collecting and display within it.

In 1759 the house still functioned as a composite structure consisting of a small number of a major quasi-public spaces – the Great Hall, the staircases and passageways and two Saloons – around which were laid out multiple independent suites of rooms of varying extent and grandeur. The largest and most prestigious, of course, were the two quasi-royal state apartments with their full sequences of drawings rooms, bedrooms and dressing rooms. But they were only the foremost in a succession of other apartments that exhibited remarkable parallels in décor, furnishing and function. This extended even to the servants’ quarters, where the steward and housekeeper lived and worked in rooms that exhibited some of the same prestige objects – including framed pictures and ‘marble tables’ – to be found in grander and more glamorous forms, in the principal rooms of the house. Tapestry remained the dominant wallcovering for high-status rooms, especially bedrooms, while furnishings were classified primarily in terms of the fabrics that covered them. Alongside tapestries and fabrics, the highest prestige objects were sculpture, marbles and antiquities, which are omnipresent in all the high-status areas of the house. Paintings, too, were displayed in high-status areas but only in certain specific spaces, notably the Dining Room, drawing rooms and cabinets. In the latter, especially, we find dense accumulations of smaller, more finely worked or especially precious items.

By 1825, this had all changed almost beyond recognition. The second state apartment had been wholly dismantled. Of the principal state apartment only the bedchamber survived in anything like a functional form, with its state bed serving as an increasingly isolated symbol of a vanished way of life. The complex psychological gradations and spatial hierarchies of the old state apartment had been replaced by an extended run of rooms for living, dining and display. Sculpture, marbles and antiquities were apparently losing some of their traditional prestige and being concentrated in the Museum, the Long Gallery and increasingly, the passageways. Paintings, by contrast, had spread throughout the main rooms, increasingly viewed as indispensable components of interior decorative schemes, rather than as curiosities to be viewed in specialised spaces. As this was happening, quality was increasingly triumphing over quantity, and the possession of unique masterpieces taking precedence over accumulations of well-known ‘types’.

In sum, the house recognisably retained well into the second half of the eighteenth century a mode of spatial organisation and a corresponding aesthetic of ‘magnificence’ that was in direct continuity with Baroque state apartments of the seventeenth century and, through them, to their ancestors of the late medieval period. Yet, in the course of a single lifetime, these patterns of living and valuing with roots extending over centuries had been decisively and irreversibly disrupted. By 1825, the ‘power house’, to use Mark Girouard’s still valuable schema, had been replaced by a ‘social house’, where the ‘distinction’ of the noble owner was established less by overt displays of marble, stone and silk than through possession of the discernment and sensitivity, emotional as well as aesthetic, needed to respond to great paintings.4 Although this transition is in general terms well appreciated, the Castle Howard inventories throw it into particularly sharp focus. In doing so they remind us of the continuing need to push beyond the schema itself and to explore, with renewed attention and intensity, the deeper reasons for such astonishingly deep and rapid social and cultural change.


  • Head and shoulders portrait of James Legard

    Dr James Legard read history at Oxford at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. After working in educational consultancy for some years he returned to academia, completing a PhD at the University of York on the design of Blenheim Palace, the great baroque mansion designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh for the 1st Duke of Marlborough. While at York he won the Nuttgens Prize for the best York PhD project on an eighteenth-century topic, and first prize in the doctoral fellowship competition run by the university’s Humanities Research Centre. He was subsequently awarded a postdoctoral fellowship by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art to carry out further research on Blenheim, which he is now preparing for publication.

    After completing his PhD, James worked as a curatorial assistant and researcher at the National Gallery in London, where he developed a research project that used inventory evidence to trace the relationships between art and architecture in British country houses. He is now an architectural historian and heritage at Simpson & Brown, Scotland’s leading conservation architecture practice.


  1. P. Russell and Owen Price, England Displayed. Being a New, Complete, and Accurate Survey and Description of the Kingdom of England, and Principality of Wales, 2 vols, London: Adlard and Browne, 1769.

  2. Rubens’s original composition, known only from an engraving, is untraced, although there are several workshop replicas, including those at Castle Howard; the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden; Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam; and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

  3. Russell and Price 1769, vol. 2, p. 145.

  4. Mark Girouard, Life in the English Country House, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978.



by James Legard
20 November 2020
House Essay
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Cite as
James Legard, "Castle Howard before and after the 5th Earl of Carlisle: The Evidence of the 1759 and 1825 Inventories", Art and the Country House,