Chirk Castle 2018
Our Day Castle Grounds 1 House 1 House 2 Grounds 2 Aqueduct Tunnel Cysyllte Evening Read Me

A Dose of Cultured Sightseeing: 15th July 2018

Melissa and Jan's suggestion to motor across to Chirk Castle (National Trust) seemed an opportunity too good to miss. Chirk Castle had been the destination of one of my planned walks, but, considering the hot weather, I did not anticipate many takers. So, going by car was an excellent idea. Chirk Castle dates back to 1295 and was the home of the Myddleton (no connection with Kate) family until 2004 (apart from WW1 to shortly after WW2). The Castle and its grounds thus provided for us a splendid and educative morning dip into British history.

Coming to and going from Chirk Castle, we could not fail but to notice these splendid gates.
The coat-of-arms of the Myddelton family crowns the "overthrough" of the gates.
Two wolves are on guard - one on each side.

There was also the attraction, in the afternoon, of visiting Telford's famous 18th century feats of civil engineering, namely the aqueducts in Chirk and in Trevor (Pont Cysyllte) and the canal tunnel in Chirk. So, for us who were interested in a good dose of history and culture, Sunday was to prove a very successful day, with time enjoyably and well spent! It was a case of a castle, two aqueducts and a tunnel! Our day was nicely rounded off by Adrian's "in-house" communal meal, skilfully prepared by Adrian himself and his capable assistants.

Chirk Castle - We Arrive

Coming by car from Llangollen was quick and easy - it took only about 20 minutes or so. We were greeted first by the white castle gates and then by the noble pile that is Chirk Castle. Chirk castle was built in 1295 by a certain Roger Mortimer de Chirk as part of King Edward I's chain of fortresses across the north of Wales. It guards the entrance to the Ceiriog Valley. The castle was bought by Sir Thomas Myddelton in 1593; he paid about 5,000 for it, which equates to around 11,000,000 in 2008. During the English Civil war, his son sided first with Cromwell, but in 1659 sided with the Royalists. Around 1800, as a result of marriage, the Myddelton family became the Myddelton-Biddulph family.

Chirk Castle sits impressively in its surrounding parkland - as it has done for centuries.

The castle looked impressive - as it was meant to - when we went up on foot from the car park.

The three wolves are a feature of the Myddelton Crest.

As we approach the castle entrance ...

... we meet this "mediaeval archer", who obligingly has his picture taken with Jan.

Here's the entrance again.
Because of opening times, we shall look around the gardens first - but not before noticing the crest.

In the recessed brickwork above the entrance we see the Myddelton family crest, with its wolves, the "hand" and a nice bit of Latin. The inscription reads,
"In Veritate Triumpho", which translates as, "I triumph in the Truth".
This sounds laudable, but how did this manifest itself
in the lives of past members of the Myddelton family?

Castle Grounds - 1

At Chirk, there are tours in the morning to see inside the castle, and it's DIY from midday onwards. So, we had about 20 minutes before the first tour and had a cursory look around the gardens. Jan and Melissa could not resist having a Pimm's on the garden lawn. I felt it was time for a few "piccies" ere we set foot in the castle on one of the morning tours.

Wrought iron gates, topiary and castle walls - the stuff of the British country house.
I must be careful, of course, to say British, and not English!

Another look at the garden gates from the other side.

In the garden, I now come to three of my many areas of unknowing.
(1) I am not a lepidopterist. So, what sort of "flutter-by" is this? It looks grand.
(2) I am not a botanist. So, are these two teazles? They look nice and spherical.
(3) Does the teazle (if that's what it is) give the "flutter-by" a prickly sensation?

Close to the teazles and "flutter-by" we see two of the castle towers rising above the roses. With the passage of time, castles - if they survived the destruction of war - gradually saw their military purpose being eclipsed by the requirements of refined living. Of course, be it understood, such requirements could usually only readily be met by the financially well endowed.

Tour of Castle Apartments

Why do some of us like to look around stately homes? Well, we enjoy that combination of the artistic expression of their occupants, past and/or present, and the appreciation of the historical context and relevance of what we see. Unwittingly, it appeared that the guide who showed us around, felt he had to trot out some well-known behaviour. This indeed added a demonstration of psychology to my own artistic and historical experiences! I'll explain shortly.

From the castle courtyard, ...

... we start our tour at the appointed hour.
First stop: "Cromwell Hall".
This Hall is regarded as the most complete surviving Pugin interior. The stone chimneypiece bears the coats of arms of Robert Myddelton Biddulph and his wife, Fanny Mostyn Owen, who came from another well-established family in the Welsh Marches. Spread around the room and on the walls are the armaments which bear witness to the family's involvement in
the English Civil War (Charles I and Cromwell and all that).

Here are the two coats of arms in more detail. The left hand one is "Myddelton Biddulph", which the guide knew. The guide was unable to tell me that the right-hand crest was of the family of Fanny Mostyn Owen. I had to find this out from the web. So what? Well, see below.

Cromwell Hall is full of interesting bits and pieces. Apart from the arms from the English Civil war, there is also, for example, this old carved court cupboard.

The neo-classical semi-circular Main Staircase was constructed in 1777-8, and was regarded as a considerable feat of engineering. One source of income for the Myddelton family was in supplying water to the City of London, and a wooden water pipe at the foot of the stairs points to this.
The stairs lead to the first floor, where we saw
the dining room, saloon, drawing room, long gallery and the King's Bedroom.

This is called a neo-classical state room.
In the 1770s it became the main dining room - State Dining Room - at Chirk Castle.

The Saloon used to be the castle's main dining room. In 1772 it was converted to the "Saloon" where the family entertained and showed their best furniture.

Next to the Saloon is the Drawing Room which is also in a neo-classical style.

The Long Gallery extends for most of the east side of the castle. Not much has changed since it was created in 1670-8. Furnishings and portraits date from that time. At Chirk, as in many other country houses, the long gallery is adorned by portraits of ancestors
of the former owning family - the Myddeltons in this case.

Off the Long Gallery is the "King's Bedroom" in which, in 1645 during the Civil War, Charles I is supposed to have slept for two nights (September 22 and 28).

View from Long Gallery

View from Long Gallery

The Bow Drawing Room on the ground floor was used to entertain the rich and famous.
Visitors were actually allowed to sit on the chairs!!

Bow Drawing Room again.

The Exhibition Room on the ground floor used to be the family dining room.

A bit further along on the ground floor is the library.

Lots of leather-bound books which look nice, almost like works of art.

Times have changed ...

... and web-based utilities such as Wikipedia® give easier access to knowledge.

Personal Viewing of Castle Buildings

After a tea break we went through the house again - this time without a guide! This was the opportunity to see things and parts of the castle we had missed or glossed over in the morning. A tour guide gives a quick overview of the salient aspects, which on a subsequent visit can be investigated in greater depth.

  Drawings by Lady Margaret Myddelton

Lady Margaret Myddelton, for thirty years the lady (or châtelaine) of Chirk Castle, was 93 when she died there on 4th March, 2003. Whether it was really appropriate to put her flower drawings on the wall of the passage leading to the visitors' rest rooms is another matter.

"Magnolia Soulangeana" by Lady Margaret Myddelton

Untitled Drawing by Lady Margaret Myddelton

  Adam's Tower, Guard Room & Dungeon

This is regarded as the least altered of all Chirk's medieval towers. This part of the castle may have been occupied by the constable of Chirk - an effective caretaker - who looked after the castle while its owner was absent. The guard room was on the ground floor and housed the militia and their weapons. From this area, a spiral stone staircase led to the dungeon quarried out of the solid rock.

Once in the dimly lit dungeon, the foot of the stone spiral staircase is a welcome sight.

In the complex making up Adam's Tower and the guard room,
there are a number of stone passages like this one.

As expected, from the Adam's Tower complex, there are good views ...

... over the immediate castle grounds ...

... and the more distant landscape.

Not all parts of the Adam's Tower complex were dark and stony.

  Another Visit to the "Main Rooms"

There is always something new to be seen, however often one visits an historical country house (or castle in this case). On a visit without a tour guide, one could of course tarry a bit longer at points of particular interest. As you will see, I gathered some more impressions the second time round.

Cromwell Room: Court Cupboard

Main Staircase

Bottom of Main Staircase: Court Cupboard

Top of Main Staircase: Lady of Elegance

First floor: State Dining Room

First floor: State Dining Room

First floor: State Dining Room

First floor: Saloon

Saloon: Adam-style ceiling

Saloon: Adam-style ceiling

First floor: Drawing Room

Drawing Room: Adam-style ceiling

Drawing Room: Adam-style ceiling

First Floor: Long Gallery

Long Gallery: Rococo chimneypiece from around 1750.

Long Gallery: Lady of Elegance

17th-century Dutch ebony cabinet, given in 1661
by Charles II to Sir Thomas Myddelton as a reward for being a loyal royalist.

Long Gallery: King's Bedroom

Long Gallery: King's Bedroom

View from end of Long Gallery into Chapel.

Long Gallery: Lady of Elegance

Long Gallery: Ceiling Crest - Family Unknown

Long Gallery: Ceiling Crest of the Myddelton Family

Long Gallery: Dutch-style Carved Oak Bench, circa 1690

Ground Floor: Bow Drawing Room: Chimney Piece

Bow Drawing Room: Chimney Piece Detail

Bow Drawing Room: Lady of Elegance

Bow Drawing Room: Lady of Elegance

Ground Floor: Exhibition Room

Exhibition Room: Sorry that this picture is heavily "selfied"!
However, it shows Wellington meeting Blücher after the Battle of Waterloo.
The significance of this event is greater than some would realize.

Exhibition Room: Lady of Elegance

  Servants' Hall - off the Courtyard

In 1529 this was the "new dining hall", but became the "Servant's Hall" in 1762. There are quite a few points of interest, including the saying above the fireplace. The saying encouraged the servants to exercise good behaviour!

Servant's Hall: This beer barrel is on wheels to make it easy to pass between meal-takers.
In the Middle Ages, water was not always fit to drink, so beer - usually with low alcohol - tended to be used instead. The word "beer" derives ultimately from the Latin "bibere" meaning to drink.

Servant's Hall: Pewter Jug. Nowadays, pewter, which was usually
an alloy of tin and lead, is no longer used for drinking vessels.

Servant's Hall: This looks like a large copper jug without the verdigris

Servant's Hall: Ye Olde Oak Court Cupboard.

  Chapel and Courtyard

The chapel goes back to around 1400, but was deconsecrated around 1900. For us it was accessible from the courtyard from which we could also reach the other rooms of the castle.

Chapel: Late 17th century tapestry. "Plato's Academy from the 'cycle' of the Life of Diogenes."

From the courtyard we could also reach the other rooms on view in the castle.

More of the Castle Grounds

In the afternoon we had more time to look at the grounds; we only had about 20 minutes in the morning because of the "guided tour". The Laundry, famous as it was - people even sent items from Scotland to be cleaned - was not really photogenic. However, the open-air draughts set, the flower gardens, statues, the hawk house and the "terrace" with the expansive view across the English plains towards Ellesmere and the Long Mynd, were all on our schedule.

The start of our visit to the gardens.

To the laundry and the draughts set.

The Game of Draughts

Statue guarding box hedge. She'll get cold.

The lawn with the area with serving canopies, perhaps serving canapés,
where Jan and Melissa had their "Pimm's" in the morning.

Part of the Dog Cemetery.

The Hawk House was closed because an army of wasps had taken a fancy to it.

The gardens are well tended ...

... with flowers ...

... and more flowers ...

... and yet more flowers ...

... and a lily pond.

With the castle behind us ...

... we go to the long terrace from which we have an expansive ("a" not "e"!) view of the English plains towards Ellesmere and the Long Mynd.

Here are two of our party on the terrace.

At one end of the terrace is this classic-style weather shelter.

In the Pleasure Ground Wood there are some things for the younger generation.
Behind little doors at the base of some trees they will find some creatures.
"R" is for Raven.

"M" is for Mouse.
And more discoveries await.

Here is sideways view of Chirk Castle.
Behind me is a larger than life stone statue of the nude Hercules.
It may be art, but did I really want to take a picture of a man in the nude?

On leaving the castle we pass again these splendid gates. The coat-of-arms of the Myddelton family crowns the "overthrough" of the gates. Two wolves are on guard - one on each side.
(Melissa, thanks for stopping the car to let me get this, and the next, picture!)

One side of the gates is graced by this fine gatehouse.
And so ends our visit to Chirk Castle.

Chirk Aqueduct

The ten-span 220-metre-long Chirk Aqueduct was constructed between 1796 and 1801 to take what is now the Llangollen Canal at a height of 21 metres across the Ceiriog Valley from Wales into England. The aqueduct was designed by one Thomas Telford with masonry piers and a cast iron water trough. Crossing the aqueduct on the towpath on foot is for those not too concerned about heights. When crossing the aqueduct by boat on the "single lane" waterway, one might get the impression that there is nothing between the boat and the 21 metre drop into the valley below. Anyway, undaunted, we walked across into England and back. There were good views all round, even though the railway viaduct on the west side had subsequently been built at a higher level than the aqueduct as if to emphasize the superiority of rail over canal.

We park near the aqueduct ...

... and walk down to it from a road above.

Here is the tunnel which we shall explore later on.

Originally, the canals were for transporting freight,
but now the leisure industry is what keeps the canals "in business".

We walk along the tow path - we are high above the Ceiriog Valley.

The railway came after the canal, and, as if to demonstrate the superiority of rail over canal,
the railway viaduct is higher than the aqueduct.

We stop for a "piccy" ...

... and watch the boats go by.

Ceiriog Valley, canal aqueduct, railway viaduct.

Chirk Canal Tunnel

The 421-metre-long Chirk Tunnel is just to the north of the Chirk Aqueduct. It was one of the first canal tunnels to have a towpath. In the days of horse power, in tunnels without towpaths, the boatman in charge of the boat had to use his feet - and perhaps also the feet of his companions - against the roof of the tunnel for forward propulsion, the horse not really being that useful in the circumstances! The single lane tunnel was constructed between 1794 and 1802. It was designed by William Jessop in conjunction with - you guessed it - our friend Thomas Telford. Boats going north have to work against the 2 mph south-flowing current, the canal waters being sourced in Berwyn. The tunnel is unlit so we had to use our torches, our path being occasionally illuminated by the lights of a passing boat.

Chirk canal tunnel is not for claustrophobes ...

... but Jan is suggesting we should visit the said tunnel.
Indeed, we can see light at the end of the tunnel, all 307 metres of it!

Using our torches, we finally reach the other end of the tunnel,
having survived the water incessantly dripping through the leaky roof.

Here are some instructions for boat users.

Yes, it's the other end of the tunnel ...

... and we can see the chink of light indicating where we entered the said tunnel.

Melissa has arrived ...

... and here she is again.

Trevor: Pont Cysyllte Aqueduct

The 307-metre-long 18-span Pont Cysyllte Aqueduct takes the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee. It is the highest aqueduct in the world, as well as being the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain. So, lots of superlatives! It took ten years (1795-1805) to build and was designed by - guess who - Thomas Telford and William Jessop. As in Chirk, stone piers and a cast iron water trough characterize this aqueduct. Also, as in Chirk, crossing the aqueduct on boat or on foot along the towpath requires a good head for heights. We were undaunted and crossed the aqueduct - on foot - there and back, with pictures to show!

We have duly motored round to the Pont Cysyllte Aqueduct in Trevor.
Here we look north to what might have been a "goods transfer" basin between canal and rail.
The Telford Inn is on the right.

The bridge by which we ross the canal is bedecked with colourful flowers.
Here we look south towards the viaduct itself.

Here is the viaduct with the towing path on one side.
On the other side there is a narrow separation between the canal and
the Valley of The Dee about 126 feet (over 38 metres) below.

Here are some facts and figures on an iron plaque.

Seen sideways-on, the aqueduct is indeed impressive.
Who is this walking on the aqueduct?

From the Trevor Aqueduct we can see the Chirk railway viaduct,
behind which hides the Chirk aqueduct.

On Pont Cysyllte we can see two water courses: the canal and the River Dee.

This is how you can learn some Welsh - in Rosetta Stone fashion.

View of Pont Cysyllte from the south side.

Another view of Pont Cysyllte from the south side.

View of Pont Cysyllte from the north side.

From the flower-bedecked bridge on the north side we look north towards the barge basin.

From the flower-bedecked bridge on the north side we look south towards the aqueduct entrance.

What better than to call the pub by the barge basin the "Telford Inn"?

Our Evening

We finished our day with an in-house DIY group meal. This was successfully masterminded by our resident chef, Adrian himself no less, aided and abetted by his capable assistants. Baked Potatoes and Salad - a healthy combination. Some dips and also Lasagne complemented the menu. There was also a "sweet" to follow. We had all enjoyed our day and our activities, and it was time to celebrate the fact. It was all well received! Adrian and company and all - Many Thanks!

Jacket potato and salad were important components of our evening repast ...

... and required a focussed approach to the task in hand.

Yes, but with some wine as well!

Then it was time to decamp ...

... to the colourful front garden.

It was a nice way to round off the day. Tomorrow there would be more things to do: another opportunity to be spoilt for choice in Llangollen Country.

Psychology & the Guide at Chirk Castle

So, what about the Guide? The Guide did not tell me to whom the right-hand crest on the chimneypiece in the (entrance) Cromwell Room belonged. One short verbal sentence would have sufficed. But no, he said that it was time to answer a question from someone else. In the afternoon, I met the Guide again on my DIY tour. He said he had a meeting to attend. However, he still could not answer the question of the second crest. He put me to the test about a cigar box. I am very happy to say that I was ignorant about the purpose of the box. Note that I don't say "admit" because that could - totally wrongly - imply guilt or inadequacy on my part for not knowing something! Of course, I came to Chirk Castle, in part, to learn and have new experiences. So, in the afternoon, the Guide still could not come up with the origin of the second crest above the chimneypiece in the Cromwell Room. Am I to infer that the Guide wanted to cover up his own ignorance by making me - a visitor - look ignorant? This would be a sad but interesting inference to make. Sadly, the situation where a person A attempts to hide his/her own ignorance by trying to make another person B look ignorant, comes up in life more often than, from the behavioural perspective, it should. Of course, such a situation makes for an interesting psychological observation of person A. So, it looks as if I may have experienced a bit more at Chirk than just - for me - new aspects of history and art. Of course, TripAdvisor provides a forum where the public can be informed about travel experiences.