‘Curious Works and Stately Lodgings’: The Art of Thornbury Castle

Exhibition: Tue 23 May 2017 - Fri 22 Dec 2017
Venue: The Museum Admission: FREE

A Grand Design

One of the highest ranking and richest men in the country began, in around 1507, altering his manor house at Thornbury in order to create a fortified, palatial residence.

Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham, already owned eleven castles and thousands of acres of land spread out around England and Wales but decided to build Thornbury Castle as his power base. It was strategically placed to give him good access to most of his properties, while still allowing him to attend the King’s Court in London when required.

Although the defensive parts of the castle seemed to hark back to medieval times, the new residential accommodation incorporated many features of the latest style, taking inspiration from the recently erected Richmond Palace, built by Henry VII.

 

Downfall

Buckingham did not live to complete the works. Perceived by Henry VIII as a threat to the throne, the duke was tried for treason and beheaded in 1521 and everything he owned was taken by the Crown.

 

Aftermath

King Henry granted many of the estates to his own followers but he held on to Thornbury Castle, perhaps because of the quality of the impressive building, with its beautiful gardens and three nearby hunting parks. The king’s surveyors had reported that, ‘The south side is fully finished with curious works and stately lodgings’ – here the word ‘curious’ meant skilfully made or rare. We have chosen this phrase for the name of our exhibition.

 

Our new exhibition

The exhibition looks at some of the finer points of the building’s architecture and how this magnificent residence was adorned in Tudor times.  It asks the question: Did aspects of Buckingham’s lifestyle and the running of his great household contribute to his downfall?

The exhibition also comments on the mid-19th century restoration and shows how Thornbury Castle has been represented in art and photography over the centuries.

Copyright © Thornbury & District Heritage Trust.