by Amicia de Moubray
The unforgettable silhouette of Eilean Donan Castle at the confluence of three sea lochs in the Highlands, seen against the majestic backdrop of the mountains of Kintail, is an iconic image of Scotland and of Scottish history that adorns calendars, shortbread tins and whisky bottles worldwide. Not many people realise that the castle was only finished in 1932. Along with Lutyens's slightly better known Lindisfarne of 1906, and Castle Drogo of 1930, it represents the astonishing survival of a nostalgia for the middle ages well into our own lifetimes. This book is the first to investigate and illustrate the phenomenon.
These 20th century castles are not only (relatively) modest country houses in remote and rugged areas, but some are also colossal and fabulously expensive recreations of complete medieval complexes like Herstmonceux, Leeds, Hever, Saltwood and Allington in Kent and Sussex, specifically chosen for their proximity and easy access to London. And beyond the conventional extravagance of the millionaire (often spending the money of his American wife) there were the demented fantasies of the likes of William Randolph Hearst whose St Donat's in Wales boasted thirty bathrooms and a swimming pool with underwater lighting, and Gordon Selfridge's Hengistbury with its proposed 300 bedroom suites and a tower as high as St Paul's.
Amid all these extraordinary fantasies, and the almost equally extraordinary stories associated with them, however, is a more serious narrative about the conservation and restoration of Britain's historic castles and monuments. How is it that at the end of the twentieth century, as conservation battles rage, there is an almost incredible resurgence of neo-medievalism with brand-new castles being built in England, Scotland and Wales? This book tells their story.
Author Amicia De Moubray is a journalist and editor specialising in architecture, heritage and interiors. She has written for Country Life, Vogue (USA), World of Interiors, House & Garden, and the Architects' Journal. She lives in Sittingbourne, Kent.
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