Going for Gold at Castle Howard – glistening crowning glory for famous dome

When complete, it will glisten in the sun to be seen from miles around.  That’s the promise from the Hon. Nicholas Howard to mark the start of the gilding process on the lantern which sits atop Castle Howard’s famous dome.

Visitors to Castle Howard over the last couple of weeks will have seen scaffolding covering the lantern – the decorative feature which sits on top of the dome – as the wooden finial, cornice and windows of the lantern were prepared for the work, which will see sheets of 23.5 carat gold leaf applied to the woodwork to give an unrivalled shine.  The work can only be done in good weather to ensure that the gold leaf forms an effective shield against moisture – preserving the longevity of the cupola’s crown.

“The lantern is the crowning glory which sits on top of Castle Howard’s dome, and when finished, the highly-reflective gold leaf will be visible from miles around,” explains Nicholas Howard, who has commissioned the work.  “In the past, different materials and techniques have been used to give the lantern its golden hue, but experience shows that only high quality gold leaf provides the glistening finish that can be seen in 18th century paintings of the building.”

The gilding work will focus upon three sections – an apex finial which is just less than three metres high, the cornice and, below that, the lantern which has windows enabling the top of the dome to be a beacon by night as well as by day.  Although it may appear much smaller when viewed from ground level, the area to be gilded is approximately 32 square metres.  The sheets of gold leaf are painstakingly applied in sheets of 20cm square – up to 1000 will be used to complete the task – and fixed using a special oil-based adhesive.

 “Approximately 1,000 sheets will be used, but the gold leaf is so thin that the entire weight of the gold used comes to a mere 16 grams.  This would be roughly equivalent to the weight of a medium-sized bracelet; or if it was rolled into a ball it would be a similar size to a marble.  The purity of the gold ensures that it will not tarnish, so there is no need to use a dulling sealant over the top – it will retain its shine and lustre for many years, whilst protecting the wood underneath from the elements,” adds Mr Howard.

The dome is Castle Howard’s defining architectural element. The enormous lead-lined cupola rises up from the stone drum which is surrounded by a ring of gigantic busts. The apex to the building is the small wooden lantern above the cupola, which in turn has its own little cap topped by a large carved finial. The lantern and finial together stand five metres high.  The last time the dome was covered in gold leaf was in 1997, and before that in 1961 when the dome has been rebuilt after the fire of 1940.

Subject to favourable weather conditions, the scaffolding should be removed in mid-to-late September, when the golden crown on the majestic building will be revealed once again.

For more information, please visit www.castlehoward.co.uk


Notes to editors:

The gilding process is expected to take between a week and 10 days, and started on Thursday 18 August.  Prior to that, timber repairs and surface preparation – including painting the surface with a custard-yellow protective paint and filler – have taken place.

The gilding is being undertaken by Hull-based Lightowler, which has two specialist gilders as part of its team.

Issued by: Jay Commins, Pyper York
Date: 23 August 2016
Telephone: 01904 500 698
Email: jay@pyperyork.co.uk

About Us

Castle Howard is one of Britain's finest houses & gardens. Castle Howard is a magnificent 18th century residence set within 1,000 acres of breathtaking landscape in the Howardian Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the heart of North Yorkshire. Visit and enjoy world-renowned collections, stunning architecture and inspiring family stories. Relax amid idyllic gardens, enjoy woodland and lakeside walks, and let off steam on the adventure playground. Castle Howard's changing programme of events and exhibitions offers something for all the family, as well as an excuse to visit time and time again. Many people contribute to the upkeep of Castle Howard and with this comes the challenge of securing it for future generations. Restoration and conservation work to the house and across the 10,000 acre estate, including nearly 200 listed buildings and monuments, is ongoing.