Castell Coch in Country Life – Part 1

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Castell Coch was featured in Country Life magazine 60 years ago this month. Architectural writer Mark Girouard took readers on a tour of the famous Welsh landmark over two issues beginning on 10th May 1962.

The magazine was founded in 1897 and celebrated its 125th anniversary earlier this month.

Girouard went on to become an authority on the country house, biographer and architectural historian. He turns 91 this year.

Front cover of Country Life magazine from May 10 1962. Contains photo of a decorative ceiling in Castell Coch.

The 5th Marquess of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart, inherited the castle in 1947. He placed it in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1950 and the first guidebook was produced in 1954.

In 1962 the admission charge was 1 shilling (12p) for adults and 6d (6p) for children under 15.

“The whole building exudes a pride in the weight and power of stone.”

Mark Girouard – Country Life, May 1962

Castell Coch, Glamorgan – I

The article begins by covering the history of the castle and Lord Bute’s partnership with William Burges. Girouard mentions the 1540 report by John Leland, the 1840 account by Robert Drane and the report Burges produced in 1872.

He continues to describe the geography of the site and the decision to construct conical roofs.

The first part concludes with some details of the courtyard, gallery and hall. Girouard describes the drawing room as, “a rich world of gold and blue, of carved butterflies and painted animals and birds, of hollyhocks and sunflowers.”

“The resulting combination of archaeology and make-believe is one of the most impressive achievements of Victorian architecture.”

Inside of Country Life magazine from May 10 1962. Contains three black and white photos of Castell Coch.
Inside of Country Life magazine from May 10 1962. Contains three black and white photos of Castell Coch and a drawing of the castle's interior.

At Castell Coch the starting-off point was little more than a heap of rubble, and the final result was never intended to be seriously lived in. Lord Bute and Burges could let themselves go, unchecked by practical considerations; and let themselves go they did.

Mark Girouard

Architectural historian and country house expert, Mark Girouard, was born in 1931 and worked for Country Life between 1958 and 1967.

He wrote the award winning book, “Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History” in 1978. His writing showed that architectural history cannot be separated from social history.

He was a co-founder of the Victorian Society.

The British Library have a five-part interview with Mark in their National Life Story Collection.

Front cover of Country Life magazine from May 10 1962. Contains photo of a decorative ceiling in Castell Coch.

What had stood there in the 14th century probably looked very different from what Burges put back in the 19th; that indeed is why Castell Coch is an original work of art.

Mark Girouard – Country Life, May 1962

Part 2

Country Life magazine cover

The second part of the article was published the following week and I’ll cover that in the future.

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About the author

Jack is the editor of CastellCoch.com and Tongwynlais.com.

1 thought on “Castell Coch in Country Life – Part 1”

  1. A great summary of the article and the mix of text and images really makes for an interesting read. Thanks Jack for yet more insight into the Castle and how it has been seen over the road.

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