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Visiting Chirk Castle

View of the Cromwell Hall at Chirk Castle, showing the fireplace, table and chair
Cromwell Hall at Chirk Castle, Wrexham | © National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

With over 700 years of history, and as the last castle from this period still lived in today, Chirk Castle has lavish interiors and a beautiful and eclectic collection. The interior includes a 17th century Long Gallery, grand parade of three 18th century State Rooms with rich furniture, paintings and tapestries, the unique Servants' Hall and the Chapel music room.

Cromwell Hall

‘Cromwell Hall’ (or the ‘Cromwellian Hall’) is named because of the display of English Civil War 17th century arms and armour on the walls; however Oliver Cromwell did not visit Chirk Castle.

It was originally a dining room for household staff, until the mid-18th century, when it became the new entrance hall.

Look out for the rare 17th century leather hat, one of four noted in the castle accounts in 1668.

Visitors in the Saloon at Chirk Castle, Wrexham
Visitors in the Saloon at Chirk Castle | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

The State Rooms

Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase is designed in the ‘Neo-Classical’ style. The medieval tower in which it is situated gives this space its unusal semi-circular shape.

The present airy ascent is the work of Joseph Turner from Chester, a local architect who significantly refurbished the castle in the 1770s. Turner was faced with a major engineering problem in this tower, as he had to excavate the first-floor landing out of the solid 15ft thickness of the walls.

Turner is also responsible for the four striking painted wooden columns which support the beams which in turn hold up the ceiling. Look out for the early 18th century landscape paintings and the incredible views from the windows.

The Dining Room

In 1631, this room was ‘the chamber over the buttery’, which developed into a modest ‘draweinge roome’ in the 1650s. When a new drawing room was built in the 1670s, this room became the parlour, where the Myddelton family would take their meals when not entertaining distinguished guests.

It was turned into the main dining room in the 1770s, when the room next door became the saloon.

This room currently houses the Myddelton family portraits including an exquisite portrait of Lady Margaret Myddelton and a portrait of Robert Myddelton-Biddulph which are now on public display for the first time. The portraits were gifted by the late Lady Aird, daughter of Lady Margaret Myddelton. You can read more about the portraits here.

The Saloon

Built as part of the construction of the North range in the early 17th century, early records refer to this as the ‘greate dyninge roome’

In 1772 it was transformed into a neoclassical saloon, a room for displaying the family’s best furniture and for entertaining.

The furnishings in this room are some of the finest in the castle. They include the seated furniture, which was commissioned by Richard and Elizabeth Myddelton for this room.

For example, the Giltwood pier table and mirror form a pair by 18th century cabinetmakers and upholsterers Ince & Mayhew. The harpsichord dated 1742, made by Burkat Shudi one of the greatest London harpsichord makers, is the one of the earliest dated examples of his work known to survive in a playable condition.

The Long Gallery

After the end of the Civil Wars, when the Myddelton family switched their allegiance to the Royalist cause, the castle came under Parliamentary attack, and in 1659 considerable damage was done to the East Wing.

When it was rebuilt, its most striking feature was a terrace walk fronted by a colonnade with seven arches (now hidden within the architecture of the ground floor). Above this was the new ‘Long Gallery’.

The original purpose of the room was to provide space for gentle exercise or recreation, particularly on inclement days when it was not possible to stroll in the Pleasure Ground or the rest of the garden.

In the 1920s, tenant Lord Howard de Walden lined it with part of his extensive collection of suits of armour. In more recent years, Guy Myddelton learned to ride his bike in here.

Look out for the Y Beibl Bach and 1588 Bible. Expect to see some significant collections here too, including the Shagreen Chest and The Kings Cabinet, a 17th century Flemish cabinet given as a gift to the second Thomas Myddelton by Charles II as a thank you for his support.

King’s Bedroom

During the Civil War, on the nights of 22 and 28 September, 1645, King Charles I slept at Chirk Castle, and although we are not sure which chamber he occupied, this room is traditionally called ‘The King’s Bedroom’.

The room and its adjoining dressing room have undergone many changes in the following three-and-a-half centuries, but the decoration visitors see today has been reinstated on the evidence of late 19th century records of its appearance and contents.

The bed in this room was not slept in by King Charles I, but commemorates the fact he stayed here.

The Servants' Hall containing a table which is made from one continuous piece of oak, at Chirk Castle, Wrexham
The Servants' Hall at Chirk Castle, Wrexham | © National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The Servants' Hall

This room was constructed in 1529 as the dining hall (which stood where the public toilets are now situated), but after Sir Thomas Myddelton purchased the castle in 1595, his plans included a new dining hall as part of the North Wing.

At this point this room became redundant as a dining hall and became a plumber’s workshop, but in 1762, its use changed again when it became the servants’ hall that we see today.

The extremely rare 17th century table here is made from one continuous 17-foot-long piece of oak. The room would have seated up to 40 servants at any one time.

The Chapel

When Chirk Castle was first built, it is assumed that the Chapel would have been in one of the corner towers of the East Wing, but after the apparent collapse of the southernmost part of the castle, which may have happened around 1305, it was most likely moved to this position.

The present site used to be fitted with rich wooden decoration, an altar, a grand organ, a pulpitpulpit, and pews, but these features largely disappeared in the 18th century, from which time onwards the Chapel was neglected until it saw fresh alterations in the 19th century. Lady Howard de Walden, a tenant in the early 20th century, was a trained singer of some reputation. She changed its use to a music room and gave concerts here in the inter-war years, to which the servants were invited.

Some of Howard de Walden’s collection can be seen here. Visitors can look at the facsimile guest book and copies of letters that were sent to the Howard de Walden family by artists and high society folk of the day.

Adam Tower

We recommend your visit starts at the Adam Tower, where signs of the castle's medieval past can be seen. Go on the hunt for the medieval garderobes (toilets to you and me) and murder holes, and venture down into the two-level dungeons... if you're brave enough!

Kitchens

This area of the castle has been associated with cooking for hundreds of years.

The ‘Distil Tower’ (the circular, rear additional seating area of the restaurant) was where preserves were carefully prepared and stored for future use.

Thomas Myddelton’s plans for the new North Wing, commenced in 1595 and included a very modern domestic kitchen, carefully-positioned to serve the State Dining Room, above, with everything a cook would need to feed the family and their servants.

During the Second World War, most of the castle staff left - many to work in the Munitions Factory at Marchwiel. The kitchens closed, and the family created a small kitchen in the East Wing.

When the Myddelton Family opened the castle to the public in 1951, the kitchen areas were used as the visitor Tea Rooms. They still serve this purpose, thus continuing a tradition of preparing and serving food in this area for over 500 years!

Read more about eating at Chirk Castle here

Inside Chirk Castle

Chirk Castle has lavish interiors and a beautiful and eclectic collection.

The Long Gallery at Chirk Castle with portraits on the walls and cabinets next to the walls
The Long Gallery at Chirk Castle | © National Trust Images/Paul Highnam

The Long Gallery at Chirk Castle

The Long Gallery at Chirk Castle with its portraits and cabinets.

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