Friday, December 6, 2019

York's Castles and great houses beckon -- with a visit to York Minster

Castle Howard's grand entrance and courtyards hosted the wedding reception of a famed British singer Ellie Goulding
to a Sotheby's  art dealer.  Part of the stage assembly and sound system are visible at the right.
 A staged pre-ceremony photo of the Goulding-Jopling
wedding reception at Castle Howard was shared
with the press. -- photo courtesy London Times  

TWO OF YORKSHIRE'S most historic and magnificent structures became even more famous recently when they hosted the wedding of a famous English couple. Singer and composer Ellie Goulding and Sotheby's art dealer Caspar Jopling had just married on the grounds of the famous Castle Howard the weekend before we visited.
Their elaborate wedding ceremony was held in nearby York Minster.
History, gardens in California, click here
The home's magnificent art collection includes ancient sculptures and Roman busts, paintings by old masters and works by Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. 
Castle Howard, like many British castles, is known for its magnificent art
collection:  paintings, sculpture, furniture, tapestries and historic mementos.
Castle Howard is northernmost of the ten castles and houses considered "Treasure Houses of England." 
Owned by Castle Howard Estates Ltd, Simon is chairman and managing director; his elder brother Nicholas, is 63, and each are 50 per cent shareholders. There's family scandal at the castle, made famous by the TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's iconic novel "Brideshead Revisited." In 2015, it came to a head as the oldest heir evicted his younger brother and family.  The stately home, 15 miles north of York, is still a private residence for the older brother, but litigation continues. The home has been in the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for more than 300 years and was once served by its own railway station. (What do the simple folk do?)
Anthony Andrews and Jeremy
Irons were on set at Castle
Howard for the filming
of "Brideshead Revisited,"
a 1981 BBC masterpiece.
--photo courtesy BBC Films
NEVER MIND the gossip.  For me, our visit was a nostalgic journey.  I am a devoted fan of "Brideshead...," that masterful 1981 British television serial starring Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian.  The bittersweet story revolves around a young painter who becomes involved with an eccentric aristocratic family. Castle Howard became Brideshead and much of the footage was actually shot there. So I remembered with affection particular scenes in the magnificent gardens, by the imposing fountain and sculpture hall.
The grounds are grand and imposing with classical
sculpture and an imposing design. 
OUR YORKSHIRE friends John and Sue, toured us around the 18th Century castle, voted by England's Telegraph as "one of the top 10 buildings you must see in your lifetime."
Bruce Keller, aka Keller and Christene Cookie Meyers
pose in front of York Minster, during a recent visit to the UK. 
We spent a leisurely afternoon prowling the magnificent grounds with expansive woodlands, meticulous gardens and the sweeping courtyard which hosted the wedding.
Positioned grandly on the saddle of a natural ridge, the classical landscape was conceived on a Roman scale by Charles Howard, Third Earl of Carlisle. He was a devoted student of classical art and poetry and wished to recreate an ideal world, a "Versailles of Yorkshire" if you will.
He might not have approved of the stage and sound equipment which were being dismantled after the expensive reception following the lavish York Minster ceremony (flowers and vegan cuisine cost 60,000 pounds. Wags put a million pound price tag on the entire affair.)
But since construction took over 100 years to complete, it didn't seem unusual that striking the wedding set should take a few days. 
THE NEXT DAY we were offered another historic treat, a double-header. Our hosts John and Sue planned a visit to York's National Railway Museum, one of the world's finest.
Riding the Brit rails, click here
Sue and John Spaight and Cookie stroll "the Minster,"
as York Minster is affectionately known.
Conveniently, it offers transportation via a charming small road train to York Minster, the second-largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe. (Cologne's is only slightly larger.)
We took the quick open-air trip then strolled the streets of York a bit -- the Minster is in a lovely neighborhood so we walked around the building, enjoying its splendid architecture.
INSIDE, THE minster was filled with hundreds of blooms from dozens of wedding bouquets. That added to the charm as we admired the elaborate detail of the building. The Minster charts English Gothic architecture's development from Early English to the Perpendicular Period. Amazingly, the building took more than 11 centuries to complete -- begun in 230 and completed in 1472.
TO US YANKS, whose culture was founded in the 1600s, the century span is staggering.  But like many historic places in England, the site's history stretches back near 2,000 years. It was first used in 627, when a wooden church was erected for the baptism of Edwin, King of Northumbria.
Fountains Abbey is an imposing ruin in North Yorkshire. 
UP NEXT: While we're in the neighborhood visiting splendid palace houses and castles, let's not miss Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.  The beautiful abbey ruins in North Yorkshire remind of a hard life, when Cistercian monks raised crops and raised sheep.  It is one of the largest and best preserved monasteries in England, three  miles southwest of Ripon in North Yorkshire, near the village of Aldfield. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for fresh looks at travel, arts, nature, family and more.


  1. Beautiful photos and aren't you lucky to have friends right there in York, our favorite corner of England, too.

  2. Enjoying your travels and commentaries so much. Ideas for our trips.

  3. Beautiful commentary, lovely photos. Eager for your Abbey piece.

  4. Cincinnati TravelersDecember 8, 2019 at 2:57 PM

    Enjoy your global outlook on life.

  5. Manhattan Culture MavensDecember 9, 2019 at 4:12 PM

    Loved "Brideshead..." too. Thanks for this wonderful visit.

  6. What wonderful times you have, and lovely how you have cultivated friends all over the world.