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Program 103

Eastnor House


In the hamlet of Eastnor, just below the Malvern Hills, sits a fairy-tale castle. But although its look is imposing, Eastnor Castle was erected in the early 19th century not as a fortification, but as a grand private home for a prominent local family. At that time, the size and splendor of a country house were the most obvious indications of the standing and fortune of any family. The impressive mass and scale of Eastnor was intended to reflect the personality and stature of its creator as well as elevate the family into the ruling classes for future generations.

Begun in 1810 by the 1st Earl Somers, Eastnor Castle was finished in 1820 at a cost of just under £86,000—nearly $12.5 million in today's terms. A workforce of 250 men laboring day and night were employed over the first six years of construction. During the first 18 months alone, 4,000 tons of stone, 16,000 tons of mortar, and 600 tons of wood were used. The stone came to Ledbury by canal from sandstone quarries in the Forest of Dean, and from there by mule to the building site. Timber from the estate was used as much as possible, but the major roof trusses and beams are cast iron—a material that helped save timber, which was in great demand for shipbuilding in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars.

When the family moved into the west wing after 1813, many parts of the castle were probably little more than a shell—the cost of construction having been so great that interior decorating had to be made a lower priority. Over the course of the 19th century, the castle's vast interior was gradually finished, predominantly in the Gothic Revival style.

But end of the 19th century saw an ebb in the family fortunes and by 1920, much of the estate's 13,000 acres had been sold and the family art collection had been divided between relatives. The castle continued to languish—even going unoccupied for a period in the 30s—until 1949, when the parents of the present owner moved back into Eastnor and began the arduous process of restoration. Over the last 20 years, grants from English Heritage and the estate's diversification into tourism, weddings, conferences, and entertaining have enabled the restoration of Eastnor to continue energetically.

To learn more about Eastnor Castle and Herefordshire, visit:



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