The Long Gallery and its Original Appearance

at Castle Howard

Digital Research Project Sponsored by:

The Castle Howard Digital Research Project aims to bring two MA students together, one from the United Kingdom and another from the United States, to uncover new information about The Long Gallery. The hope is that what is found will contribute to the return The Long Gallery to the original design conceived by Charles Heathcote Tatham (1772-1842).

Collaborators Ben Elliott and Heath Ballowe were provided with original printed elevations by C.H. Tatham, period documentation of private accounts, written descriptions and historical images of The Long Gallery. By comparing the sources provided by Castle Howard staff to other visual and literary sources from the period they intend to offer an enlightened view of The Long Gallery.

During the project, this website will be updated with the progress of the researcher’s findings in the Digital Research Project Blog. As they take a close look at individual pieces of furniture, paintings and decorative art in the space, they hope to understand Tatham’s original concept and how the space has evolved over time. By referring to historical evidence to understand what went into designing The Long Gallery they hope to reveal how the space reflects on the larger landscape of Castle Howard and early nineteenth century interior design.


The 3rd Earl of Carlisle enlisted the help of his friend,  dramatist John Vanbrugh. Vanbrugh, having never built anything before, recruited Nicholas Hawksmoor to assist him in the practical side of design and construction and between 1699 and 1702 the design evolved.

Built from east to west, the house took shape in just under ten years. By 1725, when an engraving of the house appeared in Vitruvius Britannicus (The British Architect), most of the exterior structure was complete and its interiors opulently finished.

However, at the time of Vanbrugh’s death in 1726 the house was incomplete; it lacked a west wing as attention had turned to landscaping the gardens. It was still incomplete when the 3rd Earl died in 1738. Little could both men have guessed that, when the house came to be completed by Carlisle’s son-in-law Sir Thomas Robinson, Vanbrugh’s flamboyant baroque design would be brought back down to earth by the 4th Earl’s conservative Palladian wing.

From the outside, the unbalanced appearance of the house provoked a mixed response, and many visitors noticed the disjointedness.

The construction of Castle Howard was finally completed in 1801-11 with the decoration of the Long Gallery by Tatham. Further alterations were to be made when the attic pavilions at either end of the West Wing were removed during the refurbishment of the Chapel between 1870-1875, as part of a plan to bring both wings into greater harmony.

Thus today the final appearance of the House bears only a partial resemblance to the idealised view in Vitruvius Britannicus  instead of two identical wings the House boasts two wings that do not match: it has a spectacularly asymmetrical appearance as Vanbrugh’s Baroque vision is challenged by Palladian afterthought.