A visit to the last great country-house work by Vanbrugh, Grimsthorpe Castle, is a revelation in the real playfulness of this great virtuoso of English architecture. The great hall is a space that feels part inside, part outside, the front court has an extraordinary sense of perspective or even false perspective, and the strong towers at either end of the main front impart such a feeling of strength. I have only really known this great house from photographs, and one walk around the outside in the rain.
Vanbrugh occupied my imagination throughout the weekend, notwithstanding that both days are spent at home, with the girls raking leaves and cooking endless meals and receiving text messages from my father on a great cruise down the Amazon with his wife. Miranda, aged 8, improvises a pudding for Sunday lunch which she has encountered in a story about life in ancient Rome, cut fruit, covered in oats and honey cooked in the oven; a great success. We make a jelly for supper, and I ask for an old fashioned jelly mould for Christmas – what would I give for one in the form of Grimsthorpe.