Sure, America has purple mountains majesty, but if we’re royally lacking in anything, it’s castles.
Don’t get us wrong, we have plenty of awe-inspiring structures, including a broken-down bus that got flipped into a cozy home on wheels. But we don’t have any big, fancy stone structures built in medieval times with moats, drawbridges, and dungeons filled with dragons.
The U.K., however, has plenty of of them — seemingly an abundance, at that. So, much like us Americans who get our jollies converting old banks into homes, the British are taking old crumbling castles and converting them into something that looks like it”s straight out of a modern-day fairytale.
Take, for instance, the Astley Castle. It is located in North Warwickshire, England and was built in the 12th century. It has a fascinating history that spans 900 years, including entanglements with the English crown and mysterious fires. Yet its current state, along with its most recent history, is the most thrilling aspect of it.
The historic Astley Castle may look like the ruins of a once posh palace, but once you step inside, your eyes will pop — much like seeing an actual dragon!
The Astley Castle was built in the 12th century, but it didn’t receive fortification and a moat until 1266. By 1343 it was converted into a college for priests.
By 1420, the castle took a turn for the interesting when the Grey family acquired it through marriage.
Its most famous resident was Lady Jane Grey. Jane’s father, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, rebelled and placed his daughter on the throne after the death of Edward VI in July 1553.
Lady Jane was queen for only nine days. Mary I quickly took the throne from her, and both Jane and her father were beheaded for treason. Interestingly, when Lord Grey was seized, he was captured in a hollow oak tree at Astley.
After World War II, the castle became a hotel, but it was gutted by a mysterious fire in 1978, which some believed was started by the owner.
The castle was then vandalized and stripped of its resources for the next few decades.
Astley Castle became a ruin. It was such a large and complicated complex, that for years no solution could be found to give it new life.
In 2005, Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity, proposed a radical solution to the problem. They would hold an architectural competition to restore the dilapidated building.
The wining design, by architects Witherford Watson Mann, restored it into something stunning .
They built a house that vacationers could rent.
They wanted to respect the castle’s history, so they wanted to keep the ruins.
They asked questions like, “How could we make a new house in the ruins and what could the ruins do for the house?”
They also wanted to explore what the experience of being in a landscape like this would feel like.
So they married modern and medieval design and came up with something completely original.
The architects said they walked around the structure while they were designing and were inspired by its natural lighting and landscapes.
The design is smart and metaphysical, taking you back to an ancient time.
This process also heralds a new approach to saving crumbling historic buildings.
What do you think of the restoration? Tell us in the comments.
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