A Victorian library at Dunster Castle

The Library at Dunster Castle. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

Mark Purcell, the National Trust’s Libraries Curator, runs a thriving open Facebook group called National Trust Libraries. There he shares fascinating facts, discoveries and images to do with the books and library rooms in the care of the National Trust.

Wallpaper imitating Spanish leather hangings, installed in the Library as part of the Salvin remodeling of Dunster. ©NTPL/Bill Batten

He just posted the above image of the Library at Dunster Castle, Somerset, which he says is not a particularly important with regard to its books, but is definitely an evocative example of a Victorian library sitting room.

George Fownes Luttrell, by Cyrus Johnson. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The room was created in 1870-1 by the architect Anthony Salvin for the owner of Dunster, George Fownes Luttrell and his wife Anne Elizabeth.

Anne Elizabeth Hood, wife of George Fownes Luttrell, by Cyrus Johnson. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Salvin was known for his work remodelling ancient castles such as Alnwick in Northumberland. The Luttrells similarly wanted to bring their own castle into line with Victorian levels of comfort and efficiency, but at the same time to preserve and enhance the medieval and Jacobean elements of the building.

Dunster Castle seen from the Lawns. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

Although the £25,000 budget at Dunster was only about a tenth of that at Alnwick, Salvin made various changes both inside and out which were meant to look as if they had been gradually added over the centuries. At the same time that did not prevent him from installing gas lighting, central heating, running hot water and the latest kitchen equipment.

Dunster Castle in its landscape. ©NTPL/Magnus Rew

Another example of Salvin’s picturesque work can be found at Scotney Castle in Kent. And Mark Purcell, as many of you will know, has recently published a book about historic Irish libraries.

8 Responses to “A Victorian library at Dunster Castle”

  1. graham daw Says:

    Salvin was an dab hand at grimness,but in this room all the elements that enrich it provoke me to whisking it off to my desert island collection of favourite rooms.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Graham, that is high praise indeed, coming from someone so equivocal about Salvin :)

  3. Parnassus Says:

    This room give a good idea of the Victorian ideal of a home library. The books add an important element to this masculine lair, but they do not overwhelm it either. One is reminded of Mr. Keeling’s study in E.F. Benson’s An Autumn Sowing. –Road to Parnassus

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    What an interesting literary allusion. Jolie Beaumont recently asked if the National Trust ever has (mystery) writers in residence – Dunster might be one of those places that could inspire a writer, with its layers of history and its setting.

  5. Jolie Beaumont (@JolieBeaumont) Says:

    Thanks for another interesting post … and for an interesting coincidence. An important clue for the next novel in my mystery series revolves around a painting hanging in a library – but I need a Regency-era library. Any suggestions for where I can find images of such a library, to give me inspiration for the setting? (Loved the detail of the wallpaper.)

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    That’s an interesting question – I think the libraries at Ickworth in Suffolk and Castle Coole in Co Fermanagh are probably good Regency examples. I will try to do a post about them next week.

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Craig, you are right, of course – it is even described as ‘one of the finest surviving regency libraries.’

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