Nick Lewis, Collections House Officer, National Trust Lindisfarne
For the July meeting of the Civic Society we heard the story of how Edward Hudson, Founder of Country Life Magazine, took on the castle of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in 1901 and in 1903 commissioned the architect Edward ‘Ned’ Lutyens to redesign the building as a holiday home. Many of us were familiar with this fact but the evening revealed the implications of what work this request involved lasting in two phases until 1912 and overcoming flooding in 1909 and constant battles with the elements.
Lindisfarne castle was originally a fort garrisoned by the government from the 1550s until 1893.
Perched on the highest point of the island the castle suffered many years of erosion from wind and water and general wear and tear.
Lutyens was a 38 year old in 1903 who was known for his interest in the Arts and Craft Movement.. The extensive archive material Nick had researched and presented allowed us to see photographs and plans of the original building and the changes made over the years of refurbishment both internally and externally.. We noted many features loved by Lutyens and used in much of his work for example the vaulted arches, ceilings and windows; the placement of staircases or cupboards and his use of stone and brick.
Hudson and Lutyens developed a friendship which lasted for the rest of Hudson’s life. Archive material of correspondence between Lutyens, his wife and others alongside photographs of Lutyens’ children at Lindisfarne, and workmen on site during the renovations gave us an insight into not only the life of the building but the lives of the people living and working there. Lutyens is well-known for his partnership with the garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and Nick explained how Jekyll’s flower garden came to be chosen and sited in its current position.
Of course the problems of this beautiful but windswept ‘holiday home’ have continued to the present day needing constant repair and renewal from The National Trust who aim to ensure it remains intact for the foreseeable future. The storms we have had in recent years have meant that once again much drying out has been needed. A photograph illustrated just some of the many miles of scaffolding erected whilst refurbishing the walls and 108 windows.
Nick’s love of his subject and interest in researching the smallest details enabled us to enjoy a stimulating presentation. However he is not beyond cleaning the brickwork or using a mop and bucket himself when the occasional demands.
Lutyens’ family had several connections to Berwick-upon-Tweed and a final postscript reminded us that the 19 year old Ned Lutyens designed and crafted the reredos in the Church of the Holy Trinity – our own Parish Church, having been recommended as someone young but clever with his hands!
Sandra Gann 13th July 2023