Then & Now

Hollar Print of the Castle – Then & Now

Hollar Print of Kenilworth Castle
Hollar Print of Kenilworth Castle

This then and now pair of images shows part of an etching by Wenceslas Hollar of Kenilworth Castle, matched with a modern view from 2017. Hollar, properly known as Vaclav Hollar in his native tongue, was born in Prague in 1607 and died in London in 1677, having first travelled over with Lord Arundel to work as a draftsman.

During his time in England he produced etchings for William Dugdale for his work The Antiquities of Warwickshire, which was first published in 1656. Hollar’s etching of Kenilworth Castle appears in Dugdale as a triptych, comprising three views of the castle, from echo meadow in the south-east, from the east from somewhere near Forrest Road and from the north-east somewhere near Castle Hill. The view shown here is the first of the three.

Hollar named the castle features in his etching in a numbered key. From left to right, these include the old Pleasaunce buildings that Henry VII reassembled inside the castle next to Swan Tower, the Strong Tower, Gaunt’s Buildings, the top of Caesar’s Tower (The Keep), Leycester’s Buildings, the gatehouse, the stables, Lunn’s Tower, Mortimer’s Tower, the tiltyard, the spire of St Nicholas’ Church and finally the Gallery Tower on the extreme right.

Hollar also produced a plan of the Castle for Dugdale’s Antiquities, which is a handy, if somewhat approximated, guide to the layout of the castle in its final days. Both the etchings and the plan are some of the best contemporary sources during its later period prior to its destruction, which commenced following an edict by the Parliamentarian regime in 1649 to put the castle’s defences beyond use. So, it seems Mr Hollar’s work captured the castle just in time before it was irrevocably destroyed.

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