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Designs by John Carter for Lea Castle, Worcestershire

  • Timothy Mowl

There are thirteen designs for Lea Castle, Worcestershire, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They are executed in watercolour and consist of two elevations and eleven views of a building in the Norman style (Pls 21b-23d). The elevations are meticulously drawn and reveal the hand of an architectural draughtsman, whereas the interior views are closer to artists’ impressions, with details indistinctly suggested rather than defined. The rough state of these sketches indicates that they were merely suggestions for the rooms of the proposed castle. The designs have been attributed by Professor Alistair Rowan to the antiquarian and architect John Carter (1748-1817) on calligraphic evidence and from the existence of other drawings by Carter for Lea Castle in his papers at the British Museum. These pencil sketches include an elevation, a ‘Saxon design covering entrance to Ice House at Lea Castle [executed in September and October 1816] Worcestershire, seat of J. Knight Esq.’, views from the north gate tower, ‘Details. Lea Castle’, showing various Norman doorways, and views from towers.

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1 The watercolours are in the Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1956, MM A (56.601, 1–13). They are catalogued as follows:

Title Page: Plans, Elevations and Scenic Interiors of Lea Castle. This inscription is contained within the round-arched recess of the Ice House. The watercolour is entitled ‘View of new front to Ice House’.

  • 1 Inscription: North aspects of Lea Castle; West aspect, Wolverly, Cookly (254 × 635).

  • 2 Inscription: South aspects of Lea Castle, Great Court (241 × 455).

  • 3 Inscription: Drawing Room, (look west), (368 × 230).

  • 4 Inscription: Saloon, (look north), (292 × 254).

  • 5 Inscription: Picture Room, (look west), (292 × 254).

  • 6 Inscription: Anti Saloon, (look north), (292 × 254).

  • 7 Inscription: View in Dining Room, (looking south), (266 × 254).

  • 8 Inscription: View in Great Hall, (looking west), (266 × 254).

  • 9 Inscription: View in Bower, (looking north), (266 × 254).

  • 10 Inscription: Lea Castle, View in Library, (looking east), (266 × 254).

  • 11 Inscription: View in Anti Room, (looking north), (266 × 254).

  • 12 Inscription: Lea Castle, View in Tilt Court, (looking north), (266 × 254).

An illustration of the North and West elevations (56.601, 1) appears in John Harris, A Catalogue of British Drawings for Architecture, Decoration, Sculpture and Landscape Gardening 1550-1900 in American Collections (New Jersey, 1971), Plate 34. I wish to thank Mr Harris for his generous help in obtaining photographs of the Lea Castle watercolours for me from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

2 British Library, Add. MS 29942, foll. 136–88.

3 Knight’s, John considerable contribution to the reclamation of the moor for agricultural purposes is discussed in Orwin, C. S. and Sellich, R. J., The Reclamation of Exmoor Forest (second edition, Newton Abbot, 1970).

4 Gentleman’s Magazine (1798), p. 764.

5 The entry of Prince Frederick into the Castle of Otranto (1790, Lewis, W. S. collection, Farmington, Connecticut), illustrated in Strong, R., And when did you last see your father? (1978), p. 67 .

6 Neale, J. P., Views of Seats, first series, II, 1819.

7 Norris is illustrated in Brannon, G., Vectis Scenery (1831), plate 2, and in Dale, A., James Wyatt (Oxford, 1956), plate 58.

8 Henry, Lord Seymour’s estate, for which Wyatt built Norris, adjoined Nash’s own country house, East Cowes Castle. Nash had completed his castle in 1798, a year before Wyatt began Norris.

9 The Duke’s work at Arundel is discussed by Robinson, J. M. in ‘Gothic Revival at Arundel 1780–1870’, The Connoisseur, March 1978 .

10 Tulliechewan is illustrated in Macaulay, J., The Gothic Revival 1745–1845 (1975), plate 102.

11 Kelsall published his designs for a ‘Phantasm of an University’ in 1814. His idea for a university was based on Diderot’s plan, published the year before, 1813, for a Russian University for Catherine the Great. This conceived of a university organized in a series of faculties, but with these faculties interacting to produce young men educated in a fusion of disciplines. This scheme gave Kelsall the chance to apply didactic architecture on a scale to make the Arundel façades look slight. Kelsall’s vast façades were to educate the students who passed among them in the entire evolution of Western architecture from the Egyptian to the Renaissance. The elevations include two complete college courts in the ‘Saxon’ style with details taken from St Mary’s chapel at Glastonbury, Rochester keep, the nave of Durham cathedral and the Norman gateway to Bury St Edmund’s abbey. Further information on Kelsall can be found in Watkin, D., Thomas Hope and the Neo-Classical Idea (1968), pp. 6482.

12 Gentleman’s Magazine (1800) part 1, p. 426.

13 British Library, Add. MS 29942, foll. 103–05.

14 Brayley, E. W., A Topographical History of Surrey (1842), 2, p. 387.

15 Carter, John, The Ancient Architecture of England (1806), plate xxxv, fig. C2.

16 Ibid., plate xxvi, fig. C.

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Architectural History
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