|Broughton Castle, June 2012|
I think Celia would approve of the way the castle has been restored, for even she described it as being "much left to decay and ruine" when her brother inherited. It was first built in 1306 by Sir John de Broughton and sold to William of Wyckham, Bishop of Winchester in 1377. It was a descendant of his, Margaret, who married Sir William Fiennes, second Lord Saye and Sele, and the castle has been in the Fiennes family ever since. The castle has undergone subsequent additions, remodels and renovations, alternately falling into a state of decay then being rescued by following generations. During the Civil War the castle was even occupied by Royalist forces (William Fiennes, Celia's grandfather, was one of the leading activists against the Crown).
Today it is still very much a family home, lived in, cared for, and appreciated by the many visitors who are often greeted by Lord and Lady Saye themselves. And may I say, they are absolutely delightful and were most generous in letting me see the diary on such short notice. Holding the diary, written by Celia herself over 300 years ago, and seeing her handwriting - so tiny and close - is a thrill I will never forget. Books bring an author's personality to life but seeing the original manuscript in her own hand just makes the writer more 'real'. It's awe-inspiring and very humbling to be able to actually touch a piece of history like this.
|Me and Celia at the Broughton Gatehouse|
I returned in June at Lady Saye's suggestion to see the garden at its peak. The walled Ladies' Garden, which is just over one hundred years old, is as romantic as the castle with roses spilling over archways, double clematis tumbling through borders, the heads of allium nodding in the breeze, and waves of lavender within box fleur-de-lis, all within the honeyed glow of an ancient brick wall.
|The Ladies' Garden seen through the south gateway|
|Long border on the west parapet wall|
|The Ladies' Garden in summer|
As I toured the rooms, marveling at the 15th century armor, portraits of ancestors and Civil War artifacts, what really struck me was the modern furniture in some of the rooms. This is no museum house sealed in aspic. It and its inhabitants have embraced both past and present and I'm reminded that when it comes to well crafted antique furniture in antique houses, there was a time when it, too, was modern.
|Hand crafted oak bed and side table in the King's Room by Robin Furlong c.1992|
|Part of the upstairs gallery with portraits of the family|
Broughton Castle is located about 3 miles from the village of Banbury in Oxfordshire, on the Shipston-on-Stour road from Oxford. If taking public transport from Oxford in the south, you can try the local bus (timetable here) but I'm told these can be unreliable. Trains run regularly from Oxford and a taxi from the station will run about £8 each way. From North Newington public footpaths will take you through the park.
The house and gardens are only open a few days a week in spring and summer, so check the Broughton Castle website for visitor information.