Behind Warwick Castle’s mighty walls, lies the real heart of the Castle with the beautiful grand interiors. Marvel at the magnificent Great Hall, explore the lavish state rooms whilst also experiencing the tranquillity inside the Earl’s private Chapel.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall is the largest room in the Castle and continues to be the one visitors enjoy spending the most time exploring. In the early middle ages, straw and dirt covered the floor of the Great Hall. Burning in the centre of the room would have been a large fire, its smoke turning the air acrid. The only natural light filtered through narrow lancet windows. It was in here that the nobility ate, drank and slept.
The Great Hall as it stands today was first constructed in the 14th century. It was rebuilt in the 17th century and then restored in 1871 after it had been badly damaged by a fire which swept through part of the Castle.
Set against the wall is the magnificent Kenilworth buffet, made in oak by local craftsmen for the Great Exhibition of 1851. In the Great Hall is a huge cauldron known as ‘Guy’s Porridge Pot’, named after the legendary Saxon hero, Guy of Warwick. About 500 years old, it was used to cook stew for the castle’s garrison of soldiers.
Other exciting artefacts include various suits of armour and two pristine pieces of equestrian armour. There is a miniature suit of armour which is believed to have been made for the four year old son of Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. He died at the age of six.
Did you know: It is thought that originally, in the early middle ages, the Great Hall was where the Cedar Drawing Room is now.
The State Rooms
The State Rooms have been extended, altered and embellished during virtually every century, to provide the best possible environment to entertain the noblest of guests and to display the family’s most prestigious possessions.
The State Dining Room
Off from the Great Hall is the State Dining Room, originally commissioned by Francis Greville in 1763. George IV, Edward VII, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert all dined here and this room continues to be used for impressive dinner parties.
Did you know: At the far end of the State Dining Room hangs a famous portrait of Charles I on horseback by Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s studio. For fans of Downton Abbey, a replica of this painting can also be seen in the Crawley family home.
The Red Drawing Room
Getting its name from the bright red lacquered panelling across all four walls, this room was extensively refurbished in the 17th century. In this room, there are famous paintings of Ambrosio Spinola and Sir Phillip Sidney, however the main painting in this room is of Jeanne d’Aragon, the granddaughter of King Ferdinand IV of Naples. Often regarded as the most beautiful women in 16th century Europe, she was considered clever, witty and powerful.
Did you know: The Red Drawing Room was the first room visitors to the Castle were traditionally allowed to enter. The more familiar a guest was with the Earl, the deeper into the State Rooms they were permitted.
The Cedar Drawing Room
Even though the room is Italian in style, the intricate cedar panelling was completed in the 1670s by two local craftsmen, William and Roger Hurlbult. Another impressive feature of the room is the 19th century French carpet. Amazingly, it was woven in one piece at Aubusson in France and if you look closely, you can see in each corner the Bear and Ragged Staff emblem of the Earls of Warwick which is still the county’s main emblem today.
Did you know: With a single exception, all the delicately fashioned 18th century chandeliers are English. The one in the centre is Irish crystal from Waterford.
The Green Drawing Room
Apart from its vivid green walls (unsurprisingly how the room got its name), the most eye-catching elements of the Drawing Room are the numerous paintings hanging from the walls. The key theme across the paintings is a snapshot of life during the English Civil War. Either side of the fireplace are pictures of King Charles I and his wife, Henrietta Maria as well as portraits of Charles I nephew, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Sadly, most of the men and women pictured here perished in the conflict so these paintings serve as a poignant reminder of a whole generation of people.
Did you know: Take a look up at the ceiling when you enter the Green Drawing Room. The ceiling is 18th century ‘coffered’ which means it is made up of octagonal sunken panels, each with its own central motif.
The Queen Anne Bedroom
What many guests to the Castle don’t realise is that the room gets its name not from Queen Anne herself, but from her bed which is the central feature of the room.
According to tradition, Queen Anne was to have visited Warwick Castle in 1704 and, by way of preparation, her state bed was sent on in advance from Windsor where she predominantly resided. Although the planned visit was cancelled, the magnificent royal bed stayed on and in 1773, King George III made a permanent gift of it to Francis, the then Earl of Warwick.
The bed hangings are of crimson velvet with sea-green panels. Standing near the bed is one of the Queen’s leather-covered travelling chests, a perfect size to fit in some of her beautiful dresses. Hanging on the walls, make sure to check out the beautiful Delft tapestries, dating from 1604, depicting palace gardens.
Did you know: Urine was added to tapestries to stop the natural colours from running. Men were even paid to drink large quantities of beer so that an adequate supply was available.
The Blue Boudoir
Formally a dressing room, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the walls were redecorated in the 19th century with silk from Lyon.
The most dominant aspect of the room is a portrait of King Henry VIII, from the studio of Hans Holbein, which shows the King in his early forties.
Did you know: The table in the Blue Boudoir was made in Florence in the 17th century. It is made from marble and lapis lazuli and if you look very carefully, you can see the coats of arms in the four corners of the Grimani family of Venice.
If you fancy a moment of tranquillity during your trip to the Castle, make sure to visit the chapel. Sir Fulke Greville, the first Lord Brooke, authorised the building of the small chapel in the early 1600s. It may be on the site of another chapel founded as long ago as 1119.
Until the start of the 20th century, the families of the Earls of Warwick would have come here to worship. The servants also used this as their church, however they would have to stand behind the screen, in the sight of God, but out of the sight of their masters and mistresses.
Did you know: The organ was made in Leamington Spa in 1860 by William Downes White.