The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Highclere Castle

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In addition to these objects, the house is seen, for the first time, when we are about three quarters of a mile distant from it; it is soon lost again, and we do not catch another glimpse of it till we are very near it. Its first appearance is exceedingly grand, standing on an elevated table land, backed by the two hills before mentioned, and commanding a most extensive range of distant country in front. All that we shall farther say of the approach is, that the wood on each side of it is disposed so admirably that there is not a tree that we could wish to alter. The prominences and recesses of the masses correspond with the elevations and declivities of the surface in some places, thus following up and increasing the variety indicated by nature; while in others they are found on declivities, so as to create variety and intricacy where none naturally existed. There is scarcely a point, along the whole of this approach, at which an artist might not stop and sketch a landscape that would be well-proportioned in its great component parts; and at least harmonious, if not striking, in its details. Arriving at the pleasure-ground, we discovered that the house, the road to it, and some of its accompaniments, are unfinished; and, therefore, we shall not consider them as subjects of criticism. The mansion-house, which was much altered within, and entirely cased with Bath stone without, by the late earl, who died in the spring of the year 1833, leaving it unfinished, is a square building, showing three facades, each about 110 ft. in extent of frontage. The style of architecture adopted is the Grecian Ionic, as used in the Erectheum at Athens. The casing with Bath stone, we think a needless expense, when it is known that walls of brick, covered with Roman cement, are much stronger and much more durable than any wall of brick conjointly with stone. The elevations of the three sides, nearly completed, are plain, and unobjectionable; with the exception of double pilasters at the angles, instead of returned ones, which does away with the idea of pilasters as representations of pillars of support. The chimney tops are also much too low, and very unarchitectural in their forms. The terrace basement is wanting; but this, with various other appendages, will no doubt, be added before the place is completed. In the interior are some good-sized rooms, particularly the library. Notwithstanding all this, we are of opinion, that, to produce a house suitable to the situation, the cheapest and best way would have been to pull the whole down and rebuild it.