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Wednesday 12 September 2012

Lulworth Castle – a Georgian visitor attraction

Lulworth Castle  
from The Beauties of England and Wales
by J Britton and EW Brayley (1803)
A noble pile

The 1785 Weymouth Guide describes Lulworth Castle as “a noble pile of building, a little North of the church, upon the edge of the park, on a rising ground, commanding a fine prospect of the sea, from an opening between the hills and from the top of the castle is a most extensive view over the country, especially on the North and East. It is an exact cube of 80 feet in diameter, rising 16 feet above the walls, which, as well as the towers, are embattled. The offices are under ground, and arched with stone, the principal front is to the East. Over the doors at the entrance are the statues of two ancient Romans in their gowns; and on each side of the door which is supported by four pillars of the Doric order, is a large niche, and over them two shields, on which were the arms of Weld, now worn out.”

“The large gardens adjoining, and the groves of trees that almost surround the edifice, add greatly to the beauty and grandeur of the place; and it is perhaps one of the best furnished private houses in the kingdom.”

Lulworth Castle today
A Georgian art gallery

The 1785 guide gave a long list of pictures which were on show. These included a number of family portraits by Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller, a portrait by Angelica Kauffman, two family pictures by Holbein, a view of the Castle by De Bruyne and some pencil likenesses by Giles Hussey Esq of Marnhull in Dorset.

The rooms open to the public

Of particular note was the drawing room which was “fifty feet by twenty-five, and eighteen feet high. The ceiling, from a design of Mr John Tasker’s, is the performance also of Mr Hague. The chairs and settees are worked in silk, with elegant carved and gilt frames. The noble glasses were manufactured near Prescot in Lancashire. The carpet, which is woven to answer the compartments in the ceiling, was made by Moore, of Chiswell Street, London, and is not only the largest, but supposed to be the most elegant he ever made.”

The Library was described as “neatly fitted up, and contains about 2000 volumes of the best authors.”

The King’s Bed Chamber was “twenty-four feet by twenty-one, and eighteen feet high. The State Bed and hangings are of blue Damask, as are the chairs and window curtains.”

Lulworth Cove

The arched rock, Lulworth
from The Beauties of England and Wales
by J Britton and EW Brayley (1803)
“But to return to Lulworth – The Castle is two miles Eastwards of West Lulworth, where is a house of entertainment; and on the foot path between this place and Lulworth Cove is a most delightful view of St Alban’s Head, over the rocks on the South East of Warbarrow Bay, and also over West Lulworth, almost the whole length of Portland Island.

Lulworth Cove is a natural basin, surrounded with very high cliffs, in the shape of a horse-shoe, of which the opening forms the entrance. It is 1380 feet in diameter, twenty-one feet deep at low water; admits vessels of eighty tons burthen, and is a great natural curiosity; as are also the lands hereabouts, which form the most romantic and pleasing variety of prospects.”

A warning to strangers

The 1785 guide ends with a word of caution that made me smile:
“Lulworth Cove … is about ten miles distant from Weymouth, from which it is an easy and pleasant sail; yet it may be proper to hint to strangers, that the gale which carries them pleasantly thither may so far retard their return as to leave them the whole night upon the water. It has therefore been found most convenient to be met by carriages or horses at Lulworth.”

An 1815 guide to Lulworth

View from the roof of Lulworth Castle
The entry for Lulworth Castle in A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1815) is much shorter:

“About sixteen miles from Weymouth stands Lulworth Castle, which, notwithstanding its distance from Weymouth, is a constant object of attraction to strangers. It is the seat of Thomas Weld, Esq, and is not only admired for its situation, but in itself forms a most superb pile, adorned with statuary, painting, fine gardens, and other elegant and beautiful accompaniments, The environs are extremely well wooded, and happily intersected by hill and dale. From the south front of the house is seen a beautiful expanse of water, and a moving scene of ships.

Lulworth probably retains the name of Castle, from its being built on the site of an ancient fortress. The present edifice was erected about 1600. The possessor being of the Roman Catholic persuasion, has fitted up a beautiful chapel, and made many other improvements in his mansion and domain.

The magnificent manner in which Mr Weld received their Majesties and the royal family, when they did him the honour of a visit some years ago, would reflect a lustre on the taste, opulence, and loyalty, of the first subject in the kingdom.

The pictures and other works of art are too numerous to particularize, but they may be seen every Wednesday, from ten to two.”

Sources used include:
Britton, John & Brayley, Edward Wedlake, The Beauties of England and Wales (Vernor & Hood et al, 1803, London)
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth (The Dovecote Press, 2003, Wimborne)
Delamotte, Peter, The Weymouth Guide (1785, Weymouth)
Feltham, John, Editor of the Picture of London, A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1815)
Groves, E, The Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide (E Groves, 1835, Weymouth)
Weld, Wilfrid, The Weld Family & Lulworth (Guidebook to Lulworth Castle purchased Aug 2012)

Photographs by Andrew Knowles -

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to see Lulworth Castle in the sunshine. It was pouring with rain on the day I went.