Mad About . . .

The Househunter: An Actual Castle

1st October 2021
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I believe the expression for this week would be Go Big or Go Home. Believe it or not I started off looking for homes with beams as I featured a couple on Monday when we were discussing Autumn shades and I know that beams and low ceilings is something that many of you have to deal with. So I don’t quite know how we ended up here but here we have ended and while it may not have low ceilings it has got beams – and colour so here we shall stay. Also it’s a castle and I don’t know about you but I don’t get to wander round many of these so I thought it might be fun. Start the month as we mean to go on, or something.

First thing to point out is that you aren’t getting the whole thing. Rather a large portion of it – that is to say nine or 10 bedrooms, six bathrooms, six reception rooms all spread over just over 9,000 sq ft. I’m also tickled to note that if, on your hunt, you were wont to tick the “detached” box then this is also marked as a feature. I’d be quite interested to see a row of terraced castles! Anyway, that’s algorithms for you. This is Devizes Castle in Wiltshire and it’s  on with Knight Frank for £2,650,000.

Right then, coming in? As befits a castle, this is full of entrance halls the size of an entire flat, inner halls, drawing rooms, a long gallery and, wait for it, a fernery. Records state that the first castle on this site was built in 1080. It then burnt down and was re-built in stone during the reign of King Henry I (1068-1135) and it was from this point on that the Castle became a popular residence for the Monarchy.

Described as ‘the most gorgeous in Christendom’, says Knight Frank, the Castle played host to many important Royal and political figures. In the 12th Century, King John spent time here and it was he who built the extensive accommodation, remains of which can still be seen in the rear gardens. Owned by the Crown for many years, the Castle became the property of the Queens of England, including Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves.

It’s full of original features – just look at that doorway above. But whatever your doorway, never forget, when you are decorating your own castle, to take a moment to look at what you will see as you rush past on your way to catch the bus to work in the morning. Clearly you can’t centre a fireplace but you might be able to hang a big picture in the middle to be framed by the doorway or make sure that the view is enticing or interesting or both. In other words don’t just leave it as a blank space or show the back of half a sofa if you can possibly avoid it.

Hopefully, these two pictures show you that you don’t have to stick to white walls just because you have beams on show. You can paint walls in any colour you choose and, if they are visible on the walls as well, there’s no reason why you can’t paint between them. It’s fiddly but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with white.

A more common issue will be lighting as many beamed houses have low ceilings which means dramatic pendants are out. Although if you have any sort of height then grouping lights like this at different heights and in different colours can work really well. Otherwise there are two options; firstly you can hang a pendant light low in a corner (this will involve an electrician to move the cable). Hung this way it can be a feature in its own right as well as casting light round a large part of the room. And there’s nothing wrong with leaving some of the other corners dark – that can blur the edges and make the room look larger as parts of it fade into the darkness.

If that that won’t work for you then you are looking at wall lights and there are lots around these days so you can choose from traditional shapes but add a funky shade (try Pooky and Original BTC) or modern shapes (Houseof).

Or you can just add lots of table and floor lamps – to get the varying heights. Of course this may mean you have to turn them all on and off individually but given that most of use don’t live in castles that’s probably not an issue. Or you can put them on timers – which worked very well for us until the 20yo came home for lockdown and overrode most of them as he stays up so much later than us so then they come on at all the wrong times but if you are creatures of habit it works quite well and saves a job.

The other issue with low ceilinged cottages is window dressings. Either the windows are small or, like this castle, they are leaded and large – both things mean that a lot of natural light can be cut out and the last thing you want to do is have curtains and blinds cutting out even more of it. If you can hang your window dressings high above and on long poles so everything can be pulled well back from the sides that’s the first thing to do. I would also tend to stick to simple shapes – not to many frills, flounces and, yes, furbelows, as the leaded windows are decorative enough without adding to the fussiness.

Now what about this for a bathroom? I confess I did have to double check the floorplan to make sure it was a mirror reflection but no, it’s two baths. After last week when many of you (rightly) pointed out the issue of the open plan loo we’re back to double bathing. But there is no loo in this room at all – that’s in a funny little turret next to this room – so does that change your mind?

Below is the afore-mentioned Fernery – bit short on ferns if you ask me but perhaps you can look out on them rather than being surrounded by them. It IS a rather fabulous spot and while it’s of no practical use to any of you, I thought you might like to have a look anyway. This, by the way, leads back round to one of the drawing rooms and there’s a small kitchen behind it.

So who fancies a castle. I have to say I quite do. This feels manageable – well as manageable as nine bedrooms can be – perhaps I’ll take in paying guests on the top floor.


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  • Helena | Porch 20th October 2021 at 4:56 am

    The wood ceilings are stunning – I wonder what type of wood it is and how long ago those trees were growing?

  • fatima 11th October 2021 at 10:58 am

    The interior of the blueish living room is awesome. I like the net ball lights there and the way the objects have been placed give a peaceful look. I would love to spend my whole day there reading a novel with coffee.
    Again luvly.

  • Chrissy 2nd October 2021 at 2:00 pm

    I live 10 minutes away from this castle in Devizes. Do you know, what a shame it cannot escape it’s location! No wonder it’s back on the market yet again…

  • Ruth Butros 1st October 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Just when I felt like I had made significant progress on my new home and have a plan, your publish this! Now I want a fernery!

  • Bonnie Foster Abel 1st October 2021 at 1:59 pm

    Certainly there is the scale for a host of ideas and functions. The images are alluring; the reality more sobering.

  • Lenore Taylor 1st October 2021 at 12:20 pm

    I can see Winston Churchill in one of those baths, cigar and whisky in hand, conferring (with whom ?) in the other bath. Cheers from Canada!

  • Allison 1st October 2021 at 10:59 am

    I feel most of the really big spaces you post don’t look quite right – they can seems empty or awkward or the scale is off – but these rooms work.

  • Elaine Fraser 1st October 2021 at 9:45 am

    Oh No Thrice No! The Dust !

  • Lesley E 1st October 2021 at 8:49 am

    I rather like it! It looks very cosy and comfortable for a castle. I can see myself now with a gin and tonic, looking out at the view from the fernery. How about a MATH castle share? 😀

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