Changing fashions in the Myddelton family home
All is not as it seems at Chirk Castle. Many of the impressive interiors are recreations of previous schemes, a nostalgic tribute to days gone by and a nod to previous incumbents.
As a result, rooms of different periods rub up against each other rather than a suite of rooms that flow seamlessly. As you walk through the State Rooms you will pass historic interiors that are examples of the latest fashions of their time, and a collection that has grown through the centuries.
Below is just a small sample of the interiors on offer following the evolution of the castle from military stronghold into family home.
In 1595 Sir Thomas Myddelton bought Chirk from John, 2nd Earl of Bletso, for £5,000, using money made with various sound investments, including the East India Trading Company of which he was a founder.
Using the Adam Tower in the west wing as his study (now called Sir Thomas' Room) he slowly developed this mighty fortress into a family home. His interior alterations, and the fascinating items picked up during his travels, provide a canvas to highlight the sumptuous interiors attributed to later family members.
In 1671 his grandson Sir Thomas Myddelton, 2nd Baronet, returned from the ‘Grand Tour’, and inspired by the archtecture of Europe's great cities, he added a new drawing room and long gallery, under the keen eye of his mother-in-law Lady Wilbraham of Weston.
In the 1770’s Richard Myddelton, enlightened by the Arts and Sciences, embarked with his new bride Elizabeth Rushout on an ambitious plan to create lavish, elegant interiors far exceeding the scope and expense of those added by previous generations.
As a member of Parliament he was in close contact with the latest neo-classical fashions in 1760's London. He employed Joseph Turner of Chester to redesign the State Rooms and staircase into neo-classical style with no expense spared.
" Very magnificent, and strikingly singular, not so gaudy grand and fine as Alnwick Castle, but more simple."
Today we can still see the fantastic panelling and ceilings in the state Dining Room. In the Saloon the Dado panel mouldings and the door cases took four carvers a whole year to complete, the attention to detail is truly astounding. The coffered ceiling with Adam-style plasterwork is a masterpiece of work from a man only known as Kilmister. The canvas cameos of greek and roman mythology painted by Mr Mullins, an Irish landscape painter, add to the grandeur of this room.
In the 1840's Colonel Robert Myddelton Biddulph and his wife Fanny Mostyn Owen, with true Victorian romanticism, commissioned A.W. Pugin, partnered by J.G. Crace as his interior decorator, to superimpose neo-gothic decoration throughout the State Rooms. This was an ambitious plan to create a ‘medieval’ atmosphere and to steer the castle aesthetically back to its roots.
This work has been largely erased by later generations and is now mostly evident in the fireplaces and beautiful stained glass windows. Pugin took his inspiration from the heraldic symbols on the early 17th century Myddelton Pedigree, now on display in the Lower Dining Room in the East Wing.
The Cromwell Hall is the most complete surviving Pugin interior. In the panelling are carved the mottoes of the Myddelton and Biddulph family – In veritate triumpho, (‘I triumph in the truth’) and Sublimiora petamus (‘Let us seek higher things’). This is also the place to see the collection of English Civil War armour and 17th century muskets, originally purchased in 1680 to commemorate the family’s exploits during the conflict.
Look out for the Jacobean furniture that Pugin ‘restored’, including the unique longcase clock.
" I have now had a fair trial of one of the grates you made me. I feel it gives little heat to the fuel it consumes... nor do I see how it can be otherwise, from its shape and construction."
Since 1946 the underlying classical scheme was restored by Captain Ririd and Lady Margaret Myddelton. Following a serious problem with dry rot in 1963 the Pugin scheme of grained panelling was removed and the oak panels were repainted to echo the 1770’s neo-classical decoration.
In the mid 20th century the State Rooms were first open for public viewing, and some of the furniture was re-arranged to suit.