Minehead 2017 : Monday 28 August

Gardens Ground First Ground 2 Gardens 2 Goodbye Read Me

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle was a fine place to visit as part of our circular walk from Minehead. Indeed, the visit was a fitting finale to our active three-day away break. Apparently, there has been a Dunster Castle since at least 1080 - a possible case of the Normans and all that. The Luttrell family moved in in 1376 and made themselves at home here until 1976. All of six hundred years, so my school maths tell me. The Luttrell family have since moved to more modest accommodation in the Quantocks. The main building of the castle was rebuilt in Victorian times. The fledgling National Trust came to the rescue just as death duties were introduced after WWI. This shaped the future course of the Luttrell family and their ancestral home. As you can see, we, the general public, stand to benefit culturally from these changes.

This is the famous view of Dunster Castle, as enjoyed from the gardens above.

Now that the National Trust have relaxed their restrictions on photography within the house (or castle in this case), this makes life more interesting, because one can revisit these aspects at home without being encumbered by yet more printed material. Of course, if you prefer watching "footie" to reliving the cultural experience, that is your prerogative!

So here is what these pages have in store for you. Even if you were not able to join us, here's your chance to find out how we enjoyed this cultural experience which was a key component of our fine August bank holiday Monday CLOG walk.

Enjoy your browse!

Castle Gardens

We enter the castle gardens by the workman's entrance, as it were. Our first port of call is the cereal mill, used for producing flour for, amongst other things, that staple product of most societies - bread. After that, we experience the more aesthetic aspects of the castle, namely its extensive gardens.

The mill was driven by one of two overshot wheels. It had to be placed at the lower level of the castle grounds in order to get the appropriate head of water.

The mill building has a somewhat unassuming appearance,
but it was our entrance to Dunster Castle and its grounds.

The water babbles and gurgles beneath a hump-backed bridge of rustic appearance, placed there, no doubt, by the designer of the gardens.

Up on the terrace, we are greeted by this colonnade of palms ...

... and this ornamental swan forever spouting water.

The verdant view towards the east ...

... is made especially attractive by the purple flowers.

The Castle - Ground Floor

When visiting a stately home, I always try and see inside the house as soon as possible in order to avoid awkward opening times. Seeing the house is of course more important than wrestling with the administrative minutiae of the opening hours! So I make my way to the "Green Court" and the main entrance.

Visits to stately homes usually start on the ground floor, which at Dunster means the entrance hall, the dining room, the drawing room and the main staircase. Later on, the library and conservatory can also be seen.

I wend my way through the gardens to the "Green Court" ...

... and to the main entrance on the right.

Above the entrance is the Luttrell crest with the inscription we saw in Dunster Church, namely:
Apart from the detail of the translation,
I wonder how many visitors reflect on the possible origin of this motto.

In the entrance hall there are a pair of nice carved back chairs - nice to look at but probably uncomfortable to sit in. I wonder who sat in them.

Here's the drawing room.

Selina Thackeray
(Mrs S. Drewe)
B. 1773  D. 1806

This is one of many paintings gracing the said drawing room, but who Mrs Drewe actually was, not even the National Trust seems to know.
Was she connected in some way to William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)?

The Grand Staircase.

Before ascending it, we see the Luttrell Coat of Arms, dated 1589.
The story behind the "Burgundy Chapel", to whose remains on the shoreline some of us made a steep descent, suggests that the Luttrell family may have benefitted in mediaeval times
from their visits to this part of France.

Before going up stairs, a visit to the elegant dining room should be made.
The table is laid as if for a small and select number of guests.
The room was extended outwards to a new window in Victorian times,
so the ceiling had to follow suit.

Here's part of the intricate plaster work.

From a window, there is a view of the "folly" called the Conygar Tower. This was built in 1785 to enhance the view from the castle. Pastime of the rich, these follies!

The Castle - First Floor

The main bedrooms are - as time-honoured practice prescribes - on the first floor. More paintings meet the eye. There is also a room of tapestries and there are some prints, especially gracing the smaller staircase leading back to the ground floor.

Before ascending the main staircase, I espied this picture.
I don't know who this elegant lady is, but she was painted by M. Dahl, whoever he may have been!

Here's another picture of the main staircase, but this time, I forgot to include the arch.

This picture is in the corner of the main stair well.
Another elegant lady, whose name, alas, I cannot place.
I'm afraid, my "GIMP® treatment" has left her cheeks rather rosy!

Having reached the top of the main staircase ...

... I take in the elaborate ceiling, of which you see this detail.

Here's a nice "four poster", and further down the corridor there are some prints.

Dunster Castle and Conygar Tower

The "folly" called the Conygar Tower, was built in 1785 to enhance the view from the castle.
Pastime of the rich, these follies!
By the way, the frame and mount for this, and subsequent prints,
are my humble embellishments, courtesy of HTML5! For this web page,
it seemed easier to "dispense with" the frames as presented in the Castle.

This is the visitors' bedroom.

Further along, there is a room full of tapestries, each depicting part of the same classical story - I forget which one. The tapestries present the people from those distant classical times as if they were citizens of mediaeval Europe. That how they did things in the middle ages! I chose this one because, while the lighting was not perfect, it was easier to photograph than the other - perhaps five - tapestries in the same room.

Here is another four-poster, ...

... with those bulbous parts to the columns - so typical of Tudor furniture.
After this, another staircase, of lesser grandeur than the first one, leads back to the ground floor. Some interesting prints line this staircase.

Marriage à la Mode - Scene Two - the Tête à Tête

Between 1743 and 1745 William Hogarth painted six pictures making fun of the married life of the upper class of the time. Here the married couple have already grown tired of each other, but stay together for social reasons. The scene is - in true "Hogarthian" style - bursting with interpretations.

Marriage à la Mode - Scene Two - the Tête à Tête

When comparing the print with the original painting, the print at Dunster Castle is back to front, and should thus appear as immediately above. The reversal may have happened as part of the process of creating the print (copper engraving) of the painting. I imagine that the National Trust is aware of this, but I wonder how many of the visitors are!

London from the Thames

This is a scene of post-1666 London, as indicated by the rebuilt St Pauls Cathedral.
Note that the larger ships could not get further upstream than London Bridge.
Perhaps, the Luttrells had a fair bit of business in the fledgling financial sector in the "City of London" of the day. At the time, this business was conducted in coffee houses.

Lining this lesser staircase at Dunster Castle, there are at least two other prints of London,
suggesting the Luttrells had at least some connection with the Capital.

Coat of Arms

I rather like this colourful coat of arms, which may be that of Luttrell family in mediaeval times.

Dunster Castle

This scene appears to be pre-1785, because the Conygar Folly is nowhere to be seen.

The Castle - Ground Floor Again

We have come back to the ground floor. The staircase also descends further to the "downstairs" component of the traditional "upstairs-downstairs" divide. One can see how the other half lived. We can note the little "court room" for meeting out immediate "justice" in order to ensure that the servants did not stray from their correct station in life. However, on this page I focus on the "upstairs" aspects on the ground floor; these include the library, the conservatory, and finally, another look into the drawing room.

The Library is a splendid room ...

... as these two pictures show.

A fine plastered ceiling ...

... peering down at those avidly seeking more knowledge and enlightenment.

Even the Parakeets on the wallpaper ...

... seem to be doing their bit to encourage this quest for knowledge.

Here's a last look at the library.

Here are some of the leather-bound volumes ...

... one of which might be taken into the conservatory, ...

... or, if the reader so wishes, into the drawing room.

And here is one last look into the drawing room
before we venture out into the gardens.

Castle Gardens Again

We take a last look at the Castle Gardens, alive with the horticultural splendour of summer, and also with the throng of the bank holiday visitors! The throng is what helps to support the upkeep of this noble pile called Dunster Castle. The return to the main entrance is for the mundane purpose of collecting our rucksacks. However, on the way, we can savour again the horticultural delights at Dunster Castle.

A last look at the view towards the east and the Quantocks, ...

... a view which is punctuated by the bright purple flowers of summer.

The nearby swan fountain is still providing that hint of watery freshness ...

... and the palms seem to want to transport us to warmer climes.

Here's a colourful leafy display.
An idea for a Victorian wallpaper?

Higher up, from the Keep Garden, we get the famous view of Dunster Castle.

Here is a closer view ...

... and once more, the Conygar Tower, that folly of the rich, makes its presence felt.

Castle Goodbye

So we head for Green Court to see the archery practice. Next on our schedule is the castle entrance, proudly bearing on high the Luttrell Crest with its motto: "Quaesita Marte Tuenda Arte". Then, the time has come to seek out the imposing Gatehouse and the outside world - the village of Dunster in 2017. A memorable visit, courtesy of the National Trust!

Archery practice is in progress on the Green Court.

From the main castle entrance, the Luttrell crest looks down upon the proceedings.

Now we head for the Gatehouse, forgetting that it once housed the "Oubliette".

Passing through the imposing Gatehouse, ...

... we can look back at another group of Luttrell crests.

Here are the Luttrell stables.

A final look at the Gatehouse in all its architectural solidity.

Dunster Village and tea awaits.

What an Excellent Visit

This was a fascinating excursion into the affluence and cultured living of days past. The wealth of memories will stay with us for many a year. Thank you to all who came on my walk and to those who met up with us in Dunster to see this wonderful castle. Thank you, National Trust, for your sterling endeavours to keep this splendour for posterity!