Drawing 400: Wray Castle

Direction of view: E

Notes: The birch tree is no longer there, and there is modern paraphernalia in the form of traffic signs etc.  This shot needs to be taken in the afternoon, late enough to get light on both sides of the building, but early enough so that the sun hasn’t dipped behind trees, which then cast shadows onto the building.

This sketch also appears on page 179 of Wainwright in Lakeland.  It is also sketch 9 in A Furness Sketchbook.  Although the Furness sketches are generally new drawings, it is hard to be sure in this case; the drawings appear identical, even through a magnifying glass. 

Comments: As young lads, Peter Messenger and I “doorstepped” Wainwright at his home in Kendal Green.  He answered the door and spoke to us civilly for a while.  Just inside his front door, on the wall of the entrance hall, was the original of this sketch.  My other memory is of the number of cats around!

I took this picture on slide film some time in late August or early September 1978.  This was an outing with Peter Messenger, when we also took The Old Grammar School at Hawkshead (142) and Hawkshead Church (176).  The birch tree in the sketch had already gone by this time.

Wray Castle was built between 1840-47 and is owned by the National Trust, though they have been uncertain what to do with the building over the years.  After a plan to convert it to a luxury hotel fell through, the Trust opened the castle for a weekend (as part of a larger heritage open day scheme), consulting visitors for their views on its future.  I visited with Sheelagh Hughes Hallett on Saturday 8th September 2012, and we took a guided tour of the castle.  After a dull and misty start to the day, the sun finally broke through mid-afternoon, so the sketch was in good condition.

In this sketch, Wainwright demonstrates his absolute mastery: a convincing drawing of a complex building, overlaid by the beautiful tracery of a birch tree.  A fitting conclusion to his Lakeland Sketchbook project!