Lord Howard de Walden, patron of Wales
In 1910 the castle was leased to Thomas, 8th Lord Howard de Walden. He has been described as a shy man, a polymath (a man of many interests) and an eccentric millionaire.
Before taking up residence of Chirk Castle in 1911 Lord Howard de Walden (1880-1946) undertook extensive repairs to the fabric of the castle building, and installed more electrics and bathroom facilities.
He renamed the Chapel to the Music Room, and put a gallery walkway through it to join the Long Gallery to the South Wing so that guest could access their quarters without having to go outside. These new guest apartments were aptly named the Ritz Suite.
Thomas’s wife Marguerita, daughter of Charles van Raalte, was a fabulous party organiser, and soprano singer, and Chirk Castle became a regular haunt for royalty, statesmen and the glitterarti.
A man of many talents
Tommy's enormous range of interests included: documenting heraldry as a medieval historian, editing Burke's Peerage, competing in the 1908 Olympics at speed boat racing (the only time this has ever been an Olympic event), horse racing, sailing, hawking, golfing, flying, model-boating, writing libretti for operas (with music by his friend Joseph Holbrooke) and writing both pageants and pantomimes for his six children and their friends - he did the lot!
He was an active patron of the arts assisting and supporting in the formation of the Welsh National Theatre Company and the Eisteddford, and during that time also became a fluent Welsh speaker.
First World War service
Lord Howard de Walden fought in the First World War in Africa, at Gallipoli, and in France. Many of the servants on the estate, who came from the village, also enlisted to serve, and in return Lord Howard de Walden subsidised their army wages from his own pocket. He was truly appalled by the atrocities he witnessed and the loss of so many, he never really recovered and became even more withdrawn from society. Following the end of WWI Sir Thomas commissioned Eric Gill to sculpt the War memorial in Chirk Village.
" I think I can understand now the wandering spirit coming back often to follow the paths it loved in life. I am sitting now in my room in Adams Tower looking up the valley and the wind is driving the wet leaves against the panes and the fierce wind all warm and misty is booming up through those wonderful tall oaks straight from the Berwyns"
During WWII Colonel Robert Edward ‘Poss’ Myddelton returned to Chirk Castle. In her autobiography Lady Howard de Walden gives an amusing picture of ‘the two old colonels of Chirk', her husband as Lieutenant Colonel of the Home Guard and Poss his second –in – command, ‘each with his own man-servant and separate port decanters and in perfect accord.’ At the end of the lease in 1946 Lord Howard de Walden retired to his Scottish estates and died later that year.
Patron of the arts
Lord Howard de Walden commissioned works by many leading 20th-century artists, some of which can be seen together at Chirk for the first time since 1946. These include portraits by Augustus John and John Lavery, landscapes by Wilson Steers, a bronze bust by Rodin and even a complete suit of ‘medieval’ armour by Joubert. This collection gives you a fascinating insight into the man some call ‘the last great patron of Wales’.
We celebrate the time of the Howards de Walden tenancy in the Bow Drawing Room, at the time this was the guest bedroom of Lady Margueritas sister known as ‘Poots’. Today it is a comfortable 1930’s interior with Victorian background inspired by a painting by John Lavery, of his muses the Howard de Walden family relaxing in the Saloon.
Despite the fact that the Lord Howard de Walden lived in Chirk Castle for a very short period of time in its history, there are echos of him everywhere, and he is remembered as a generous custodian who played his part in preserving Chirk Castle for future generations.
Read all about Lord Howard de Walden by downloading this free fascinating biography written by his grandson Thomas Seymour.