Sunday, April 17, 2011
Across the fields and through the trees
To walk across green fields up to the beautiful Elizabethan front of Broughton Castle on a sunny morning is a real pleasure. Even if the sun is lighting up the other side of the house, the building still looks well, ringed by its moat and surrounded beyond by pastures full of baaing sheep and lambs. The place seems the essence of continuity of landscape, settlement, and building. And so it proves. The core of the house dates from the 14th century, but there was a major remodelling in the 16th century, since when not a great deal has changed – even the ownership: Broughton came into the Fiennes family in 1451, and it remains with them today.
The north front, shown in the picture above, is from the 16th-century, and it’s typically Elizabethan. The large mullioned windows, tall ornate chimney stacks, prominent gables, big bays, and central oriel are all typical of Elizabethan architecture, as is the general overall near-symmetry of the layout. If this had been a completely new build, there would most likely have been perfect symmetry and a central door. But because the original medieval room layout was preserved, with a great hall with an entrance passage at one end, things don’t match up perfectly, and the door is set to one side, cunningly concealed in the side of one of the window bays.
At the left-hand end, a battlemented wing protrudes. This is part of the earlier fabric, as the Gothic window suggests. There are more Gothic details on the east front, visible through trees from the main road and seen in my second photograph. In spite of the battlements, though, this was never a true castle. It was a fortified manor house protected by a gatehouse, moat, and minimal military features, and a very fine one too.