Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Heady Days at Ravensworth Castle (NZ233591)

© Copyright johntollitt and licensed for reuse under this Creative CommonsLicence.

There isn’t much left of Ravensworth Castle. This once grand mansion near to Gateshead’s Team Valley was demolished / deteriorated during the mid-twentieth century, leaving only a few outbuildings and odd pieces of masonry intact. For centuries it was the home of the multi-titled Liddell family, eventually falling victim to mining subsidence. 

It had known great days, however. Most notable of these were two great events which took place in the first half of the nineteenth century. Firstly, in October 1827, it was visitied by the Duke of Wellington during a high profile national tour. Fine enough, one might think, but at the behest of host Lord Ravensworth the equally famous Sir Walter Scott was also invited to Ravensworth – the two great men staying at the castle for a few short days.

The Duke’s opinion of the stately pile do not seem to have been recorded, but Scott’s diary reveals a few pointed thoughts. After returning to Ravensworth from a banquet at Durham Castle in the early hours of 4th October, he records:

Slept till nigh ten; fatigued by our toils of yesterday, and the unwonted late hours. Still too early for this Castle of Indolence, for I found few of last night’s party yet appearing.

The next day he describes a quiet day, followed by an evening with…

… plenty of fine music with heart as well as voice and instrument…. The Miss Liddells and Miss Barrington sang “The Campbells are coming’ in a tone that might have waked the dead.

Lord Ravensworth’s reputation as a host was further cemented by an even grander gathering in October 1842 on the occasion of his grandson’s 21st birthday. Around 500 distinguished guests from home and abroad were invited, including the Archduke of Austria, together with dozens of lords, ladies, earls and barons. Most of the aristocracy from the northern counties were there, it seems. It must have been a sumptuous occasion.

All a far, far cry from the sad sight of today.

Why not come along to...

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