Video: A Harewood no-one knows opens to the public at last

TUCKED quietly away and obscured by trees there is a good chance many visitors to one of Yorkshire’s best-known historic homes do not realise there is a castle in its grounds.

The 14th century castle, once painted by the artist JMW Turner, has recently undergone £700,0000 of conservation work that will result in it being revealed to the public for the first time.

A pathway will take visitors past the castle and although the ruin is usually closed off to the public, people will have the option to have a look inside the castle walls if they take a guided tour.

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Trevor Mitchell, English Heritage planning director for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “I think that very few people know that this is here.

“If you asked people to go to Harewood Castle, ninety nine out of a hundred would go to the house.

“For me its about local history as well, its the missing story.”

Mr Mitchell said everyone knew about Harewood House, near Leeds, but few realised the estate had actually been a significant place from the early 1300s.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage added: “Harewood Castle is an incredibly rare type of castle; a compact tower with halls on two levels, it has turrets and battlements but when it was built in the 14th century it was one of the first country houses, rather than a defensive fortress.

“In the 18th century the castle ruins were appreciated for their picturesque qualities and were painted by Turner.”

Harewood Castle has been in ruins since the 17th century and it has been a long-held dream to allow people to discover more about it.

The conservation project has been paid for by English Heritage, ITV Yorkshire, which films Emmerdale on the estate and the Harewood estate.

The castle was built around 1366 by Sir William Aldeburgh, on the site of an earlier residence thought to have been built by Lord Lisle during the 12th century. The castle stands on a steep slope at the north-east edge of Harewood village, close to the main road.

It is in a spot that many motorists will have passed time and time again without realising major architectural heritage is hidden behind the tree cover.

The castle formed part of a larger manorial complex and evidence suggests that there were a series of terraces used as gardens to the west and a large pond or canal. There was also a bowling green area.

Inside the castle is a double-height great hall above which is the private chambers. The high towers were used for individual chambers which had fireplaces and latrines. The chapel formed a private space for religious devotion.

Giles Proctor, a historic building architect with English Heritage said: “Although it looks like a castle it was actually one of the earliest examples of a grand country house built to look like a castle rather than something built to keep off marauders.

“It was all to do with status so if you were very high status and important you wanted a house that had this sort of castle-like air.”

He said it was significant because, although it has stood in ruin for centuries, it still remains remarkable intact and it was an early example of castle-like house.

Mr Proctor said the castle stopped being used because the castle became unfashionable and the family built a new home on the estate.

He said it was very much a case of keeping up with the neighbours – by this time the castle was no longer the height of fashion so the family decided to create a new home.

Mike Schafer, chief executive of Harewood said of the castle: “I think its a wonderful icon.”

Jennifer Auty, head of learning at Harewood House Trust said: “It has always been a dream that people should be able to visit.

“The estate have been trying to make it accessible for a long time.

“As an educational charitable trust our aim is not just to maintain, conserve and provide access to what we have but also to ensure that we offer an insight into how Harewood evolved and became what it is today.

She added: “The Harewood Castle Walk is a great addition to our visitor offer, an opportunity to walk round a romantic ruin or to learn more about what life would have been like inside it.”

The guided castle walk is open to the public from March 31 until November 2. Places on the walk must be pre-booked by calling 0113 218 1043 or emailing: [email protected]