Thursday, 23 April 2015

Lindisfarne Castle - Fighting the Elements

Lindisfarne Castle is one of the North East's most iconic landmarks. The castle, once a former garrison and coast guard station, was converted into a holiday home by the founder of Country Life magazine, Edward Hudson, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Having acquired the property, Hudson, in collaboration with his friends, architect Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, set out on an ambitious journey to turn a cold, drafty castle into Hudson's Northumberland summer retreat. As the castle welcomes visitors today, so too did Hudson, inviting friends, artists, writers and colleagues to share the beauty of Holy Island in high summer. JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, and WW1 poet Siegfried Sassoon are just two of the guests known to have enjoyed Hudson's hospitality.

The castle's setting on the headland of Holy Island is second to none, but the setting, high on a whinstone outcrop, has brought its problems over time. The elements have bombarded the castle and today it suffers from extensive water ingress though roofs, windows and walls. To prevent future ongoing deterioration, the National Trust is about to undertake a major project over the next few years to understand the buildings problems more fully, and take actions to try and reduce the sustained water damage experienced in past years, in the future. In the last eighteen months we have been undertaking the necessary surveys and information gathering required to find effective solutions to the problems and ensure the long-term sustainability of this important place. 

One member of the project team is National Trust conservator, John Wynn-Griffiths. 

“As you walk around the Castle areas of peeling paint and damp staining are noticeable.” says John. “These are very long established problems at the Castle; the Country Life photos taken soon after Lutyens’ work was completed, show damp stains to the plaster work. So we’re not dealing with new problems. But certainly over the years lots of attempts to treat them have made things worse. Added to this many of the windows, with their wide Lutyens designed lead work, leak in bad weather. To deal with these issues and find a way of improving things in the Castle we’re investigating how we can stop the windows leaking and allow the walls to breathe and dry out.

"To help us find the solutions we're calling on some of the Trust's specialist conservation advisors. They will come together at the castle and spend a couple of days looking at the challenges and discussing possible ways ahead. With their help we'll devise trials to test what will work and survive the rigours of a Northumbrian winter, especially in this exposed and storm lashed location.

“In lots of ways the Castle offers us many unique challenges, and because of this, off the shelf solutions simply don’t work. This includes the heating and, as the Trust’s adviser on environmental control said, “We need to come up with a bespoke system that suits the building”. We’ll also, as part of the project, be investigating the historic heating system, although as this only seems to have been put into a few rooms when installed, it won’t be the solution.

Regular updates on the castle project will be posted in future articles and on our website.

To find out more about Edward Hudson and the castle’s story, visit

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