Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 27 September 2013

A King Among Castles

Those of you who’ve been here for a while might remember three blogs I wrote ten months ago about the first Landmark Trust property the husband and I stayed in. It was last November and we got a deal under the late availability heading on the LMT website menu. You can find the blogs here, here and here, if you’d like to take another look.

Last night I was more than a little delighted to learn that Astley Castle, which we loved so much, won the Riba Stirling Prize for architecture.

The Royal Institute of British Architects offers an annual prize for architecture, named after James Stirling one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. It’s particularly interesting then that this year’s prize was awarded to a building that has been standing in some form or another for a thousand years.

views of the old castle from the new house
Witherford Watson Mann designed a house that fits snugly into the original millennium old castle while exploiting all the merits of the modern. The glass walls of the vast living space on the first floor offer wonderful views of the house’s original walls, windows and fireplaces, and the new walls constructed of mesmerisingly small bricks echo the original construction, which breaks through in any number of places exposing the weathered surfaces of stone and brick erected centuries ago. 

Everywhere you turn in the house there is something new to see, touch and marvel at, and yet everything is comfort, too. The new wood of the floors and central staircase look and feel like English oak that has been growing for hundreds of years; the colour is just right and the touch is warm and almost yielding. The space is grand enough to feel special and yet still intimate.

the first floor living space

I loved Astley Castle so much that I wrote it into the modern romance novel that I was working on while I was staying in the house. It hasn’t been published yet, but watch this space, and if it ever does find its way into print, you can be sure that a copy will find its way into the well stocked bookshelves in Astley Castle’s living room.

As soon as we returned home from our idyllic visit to Astley Castle I went straight back to the Landmark Trust website to book another visit, and we’re due to return in the spring next year. It’s a popular venue, so there’s a long waiting list. I suspect that list won’t get any shorter now that the house has won this very prestigious prize. On the other hand, the year since we visited Astley Castle has passed very quickly, and there’s something to be said for enjoying the anticipation of a second visit. No doubt when it’s over, I’ll be booking a third.

It’s worth remembering, of course, that I booked the first visit from the late availability menu. People do have to cancel trips and holidays from time to time, and you never know, you just might get lucky. We certainly did. In the meantime, we've enjoyed visits to other trust houses, and we've got more places on our growing 'to visit' list.

Congratulations to Witherford Watson Mann, to Astley Castle, and, of course, to the Landmark Trust on the Riba Stirling Prize, I for one think it was very well earned.

No comments:

Post a Comment