The Story of Lowther: a new exhibition for 2017
New Exhibition Charts the Rich and Varied History of Lowther Castle & Gardens
When visitors come to Lowther Castle and explore the resplendent romantic ruin, they are full of questions. What is Lowther Castle? Why is Lowther Castle a ruin? Who built it? Where did they come from?
To answer these questions, Jim Lowther – owner of the castle and member of the 850-year-old dynasty – decided to stage an exhibition. He would tell the story of his family, the castle and gardens. This week, The Story of Lowther opens to the public.
“The opening of this exhibition,” says Jim, “marks the culmination of a dynamic twenty year restoration project, in which we have been working to add new purpose to the castle and the gardens. Our aim is to make Lowther Castle one of the north’s most enticing visitor attractions. In words and objects, with colour and a great deal of chutzpah, The Story of Lowther brings Lowther Castle and its rich history vividly to life. ”
The exhibition is divided into the five seismic eras in Lowther history:
FROM VIKINGS TO VEGETARIANS 1150-1700
The exhibition opens with a room made out as the castle tower (represented by scaffold and news-covered hoardings), showing the castle’s perilous state in the 1950s.
Visitors are then taken back to the beginnings, when Dolfin, a man of Viking descent, settled in c.1150 by the river Lowther. Flags represent the age of chivalry and the story tells of the Lowthers’ constant battle with the Scots while they consolidated their lands and status. One of the jewels in this room is the original imparkment seal of 1283, granted to Hugh de Lowther by King Edward I. Another highlight is the ledger of Viscount Lonsdale in which he lays down his reasons for being a vegetarian (in the 17th century, a highly unusual move for a man of his station and one which had lasting impact on the gardens).
1700-1802 LAND, COAL & POLITICS
From the taming of the savage landscape, the exhibition looks at the vast wealth enjoyed by their 18th century ancestor Sir James Lowther of Lowther. The wealth derived from coal and land (including plantations in Barbados); the acquisition of power from politicking.
‘Wicked Jimmy’ was a demonic character and this room takes a look at the many facets of his personality, the walls painted dark grey and the windows kept closed to hint at his stormy nature. Lowther’s appalling treatment of his political agent, John Wordsworth, (father of William), is represented with some of the original legal papers from the Wordsworths’ lengthy suit against Lowther.
The room also features the stunning silver collection that remains in the family – the bulk of it bought in the 1750s by Wicked Jimmy and his mother, on a few spending sprees to Garrard & Co. Pictured right, the Pitt Salver, a gift to the Lonsdales from Pitt the younger’s family.
1802-1882 VICTORIAN HEYDAY
Lowther Hall – partly burnt down in a fire in 1718 – remained a semi-ruin until Wicked Jimmy’s heir inherited the estates. William Lowther of Swillington swept in in 1802 with a new broom and his first move was to commission the building of a castle. Robert Smirke was the architect. This room shows one of Smirke’s original drawings for the interior, blown up 1000 times to show the drawings’ extraordinary detail, alongside a portrait of William and one of his wife, Augusta.
1882-1936 THE YELLOW EARL
The showpiece of the Lowther exhibition is the Yellow Room – yellow floor, yellow walls, yellow ceiling – devoted to the history of Hugh Cecil Lowther. He was known as the Yellow Earl.
The flamboyant Earl was a boxer, horseman, compulsive show-off, enthusiastic ladies’ man and spendthrift. The room features the replication of a dinner at Lowther with Kaiser Wilhelm II, who came to stay at the castle on a number of occasions. Settings of extravagant Lowther silver and dinnerware and a bracelet gifted to the Earl’s wife Grace by Kaiser Wilhelm II dazzle the visitor.
1942-1945 CANAL DEFENCE LIGHT
During the war, Lowther Castle was requisitioned by the army. They spent 3 years experimenting with a secret weapon. In the exhibition, a photograph of a tank on night manoeuvres, blown up to room size.
Perhaps the most touching image in The Story of Lowther is a blown up aerial photograph of the castle taken in 1939. The house is abandoned, the gardens are immaculate but empty and all of Lowther’s past and present can be seen from above.
The story of Lowther itself is a story of endeavour, enterprise and energy – and this is reflected in The Story of Lowther exhibition, a show that brings history to life in ways to appeal to all generations. Another step in Lowther Castle’s journey to becoming one of the UK’s most impressive visitor destinations.
For more information contact:
Jennifer Middleton or Ellen Howells of Lemon Zest on
01757 268283 or 07708 155501
Lowther Castle, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2HH
Telephone: 01931 712192
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lowthercastle.org
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