Sunday, 27 January 2013

In search of the real Blandings Castle ... Tonight the third episode / BBC One

 Home linked to P G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle up for sale

A Grade II listed stately home believed to be the inspiration behind P G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle is up for sale for £1.75m.

By Alastair Jamieson Nov 2010 in The Telegraph /

Apley Hall, overlooking the River Severn in Shropshire, was visited by the creator of Jeeves and Wooster in his teenage years and was even rumoured to be Hitler's intended home if Germany had defeated Britain in the Second World War.

"For fans of Wodehouse wanting to imitate the life of an aristocrat, this house would do very well indeed," said Colonel Norman Murphy, former president the UK P G Wodehouse Society.

Despite its association with the antics of turn-of-the-century blue bloods, the six-bedroomed property now has modern facilities including a cinema room and a shared swimming pool.

Wodehouse, who died in 1975 aged 93, never revealed the identity of the home of absent-minded Lord Emsworth, his siblings and a pig called the Empress of Blandings. The search for the true Blandings Castle has preoccupied the author's followers ever since.

In 1896, when Wodehouse was a teenager, his parents moved from Surrey to Shropshire and lived a few miles away from Apley Hall, where they were regular visitors. The author once wrote that his "happiest days as a boy were spent near Bridgnorth."

Clues from the books include references to a boating lake, the River Severn running nearby, a 45-minute drive to Shrewsbury at 1920s speeds and a view of The Wrekin, the highest point in Shropshire.

In 2003, two geographers at University College London claimed computer mapping technology pinpointed Apley Hall as the real Blandings Castle using these clues.

However, Col Murphy, who wrote a 1981 book 'In Search of Blandings', believes the real inspiration was a fusion of two locations: the grounds of nearby Weston Park, on the border of Shropshire and Staffordshire, and the building at Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.

Built in 1811, it was used as a prep school between 1962 and 1987 then lay empty for so long that it became vandalised and was placed on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register.

In 1997 it was bought and renovated and the main building was split into five separate three-storey residences, of which the one for sale is by far the largest.

Its current owner, property company director Paul Stroud, 40, said many Wodehouse fans had turned up at the gates asking for a look around the 10 acre communal grounds.

"It has been a real privilege to live there," he said. "I haven't read the books but my PA is a big fan," he said.

In Search of Blandings: Tom Sharpe on PG Wodehouse

By Tom Sharpe 13 Jan 2013in The Telegraph/

On the eve of a new six-part adaptation of the Blandings stories by BBC One, author Tom Sharpe tells of his love for the stories of PG Wodehouse.

PG Wodehouse began writing stories about the fictional Blandings Castle, country seat of Lord Emsworth and his family, in 1915, and was still writing them at the time of his death in 1975. Here, on the eve of a new six-part adaptation of the Blandings stories by BBC One, the comic novelist Tom Sharpe – a patron of the Wodehouse Society – whose works include ‘Porterhouse Blue’ and ‘Wilt’, describes his search for the real-life model for Blandings Castle.

I met PG Wodehouse once, in 1973. He immediately struck me as a shy, private and thoroughly decent man. In spite of the social whirl so acutely depicted in his stories, he loathed any sort of social life and would always disappear from parties to go and work at the kitchen table.

There is a mystery, then, with Wodehouse; a gulf that seems to separate the novelist from the world he wrote about. Where did he find his unique, wonderful characters? Did he simply create them from his imagination? Perhaps this absence of any reference to real life is the reason that the world of Wodehouse is often regarded as artificial and his characters as creatures of pure fancy. Indeed, he told me when I met him that his writing was musical comedy without the music, that he ignored real life altogether.

Yet despite this unreality, Wodehouse always liked to use real places as the settings for his books, and anyone who invited him to stay was likely to find their home appearing in print. When he became a regular visitor to Hunstanton Hall in Norfolk in the Twenties, the moated ancestral home of the eccentric Le Strange family, it appeared in a Jeeves and Wooster short story within 18 months.

Rather less obvious is the setting for the Blandings books. This is of particular interest to me as I’ve always felt very close to the world of Lord Emsworth, Lady Constance, Beach the butler and of course, the Empress, Lord Emsworth’s prized pig.

But pinning down this miniature world is hard as Wodehouse always maintained that Blandings was a mixture of places he remembered. Many years ago, I travelled around England with Norman Murphy, looking for the sites that might have inspired Blandings. Murphy would later go on to write A Wodehouse Handbook and we spent many happy hours learning about the world the Blandings books evoked: how to run a large estate, the importance of looking after your timber, and the bitter rivalry among landowners showing their animals at the county show.

One place to inspire Wodehouse was Corsham Court in Wiltshire where, as a boy, he took tea with his aunts in the servants’ hall and skated on the lake in the park. This aside, however, there is little else at Corsham to remind us of Blandings.

A more likely candidate is Weston Park in Shropshire. Wodehouse and his elder brother, Armine, would often accompany their parents to the estate. It was home to the Countess of Bradford whose oldest friend married Wodehouse’s uncle, the Reverend Frederick Wodehouse. Another uncle was rector of the parish in which Weston Park stands. Those familiar with Blandings will recognise many elements there, from the picturesque cottage in the wood that was ideal for concealing stolen necklaces or purloined pigs, to the magnificent cedar tree with its hammock, assiduously claimed by Lord Emsworth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Gally.

As for the actual castle, there is much to suggest that Wodehouse was inspired by Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, now, famously, home of the Dent-Brocklehursts. In 1902, Wodehouse’s parents moved from Stableford in Shropshire to Cheltenham and some time afterwards P G walked up Cleeve Hill and looked down on Sudeley. He would never forget that first sight of the great building – Cleeve Hill is, I believe, one of the few places in England where you can look down on a castle.

The research that Murphy undertook for A Wodehouse Handbook provided material that reached far beyond the range of any biography. I feel that the genius of Wodehouse is best left a mystery; that way his idyllic world created in Blandings and other works remains intact.

I first read Wodehouse 42 years ago. The book was Performing Flea, a collection of letters to William Townend, his friend from his school days at Dulwich College. But I have regularly gone back to Wodehouse and remain a great admirer. Some critics have been kind enough to call my writing Wodehousean, but I think that my work is unlike his.

Certainly I write faster than Plum ever did. Shortly before he died in 1975, he wrote me a very flattering letter, wondering how I could write 6,000 words a day when he managed far less in that time. But unlike for me, writing consumed him; at the time of his death he was writing a new Blandings book, the 11th in the series, from his hospital bed. It remained unfinished and was published two years later as Sunset at Blandings. When he wasn’t writing, he was thinking about writing and liked nothing better than to talk of plots and sub plots. He was the master of his craft

 Sudeley Castle

1 comment: said...

Seems very cheap for a massive castle???