Bodelwyddan Castle - Room by room
Over the fireplace hangs a portrait of Queen Victoria in old age by Bertha Müller after Heinrich von Angeli. This was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in 1899 and was executed under von Angeli's supervision in his Vienna studio.
Watts Hall of Fame
Watts believed passionately in the historical importance of his age and nation and in the necessity of recording the likenesses of its most eminent figures. He conceived his idea of a contemporary 'Hall of Fame' around 1850, continued to add to his collection throughout his long life and gave, or bequeathed, the paintings to the National Portrait Gallery.
Watts selected subjects noted for their achievements, and for their intellectual power and vision, drawn from a great variety of vocations. Thus there are statesmen and military heroes like Lord Salisbury and Lord Roberts, poets such as Tennyson and Browning, philanthropists and reformers like John Passmore Edwards and Samuel Augustus Barnett, and also Watts's fellow artists - John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Walter Crane. The portraits are consistent in focusing on the head and face of the sitters, rather than dress or accessories, fulfilling Watts's desire to convey a profundity of characterization.
The portraits in this room continue the sporting theme and illustrate the craze for sports - especially racing - in the Victorian period. Two watercolours show Fred Archer, five times winner of the Derby and one of the star jockeys of the period. Also of note are the original watercolour caricatures made for reproduction in the fashionable Victorian magazine, Vanity Fair. Hanging above the original drawings are framed collages cut from the magazine which originally belonged to a London club.
Capturing the spirit of the room, hangs a double portrait of Sir Walter Beasant and James Rice who collaborated on several novels between 1871 and 1881. The majority of portraits, however, are of figures prominent in Victorian political and public life, including keen advocates of social reform. Of especial importance are two portraits by artists associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement. An 1862 portrait by William Holman Hunt shows the judge and ardent reformer, Stephen Lushington, while to the right of the fireplace hangs Ford Madox Brown's sensitive portrayal of the blind political economist and Liberal statesman, Henry Fawcett and his wife Millicent Garrett, a leading feminist. Other portraits include Sir Hubert von Herkomer's Lady Dilke, a writer on art who was also active in the cause of women's suffrage; John Singer Sargent's superb Joseph Chamberlain of 1896 and, somewhat less formal in manners, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's portrait of the future Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour.
In accordance with the setting, the other portraits displayed in the room show some of the greatest writers and thinkers of the Victorian period. Facing the windows, portraits of Thomas Arnold of Rugby School and the philosopher, Herbert Spencer, flank Millais's unfinished painting of the great historian and essayist, Thomas Carlyle. Scientists are represented by busts of Michael Faraday and the astronomer Sir John Herschel, and an oil of the Scottish polymath - and inventor of the kaleidoscope - Sir David Brewster. Other portraits include Watts's early 'Hall of Fame' portrait of the great librarian, Sir Anthony Panizzi, a charming small portrait of the antiquarian John Britton, and John Partridge's study of Thomas Babington Macaulay, the historian, poet and statesman who so influenced Victorian attitudes.
Ladies drawing room
The portraits in the room are principally of women. Above the fireplace is Clara Novello, a noted soprano and the daughter of Vincent and, opposite, a full-length of the Lindsay sisters. The men are such as would have been happily accommodated into such genteel company. The fashionable dandy and artist, Count D'Orsay, is shown in Sir George Hayter's portrait of 1839 while a portrait of the composer and flautist, Charles Nicholson, continues the musical theme. Two alcoves, protected from the light by curtains, allow for the display of delicate watercolours. They include portraits of women who made their mark on the wider world: the writer and novelist, Frances Trollope; the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Angela Burdett-Coutts, who put her enormous wealth and energy to the service of social and philanthropic causes, and an early portrait of Florence Nightingale, the great reformer of hospital nursing, seated beside her sister Frances.
Drawing room and sculpture gallery
John Gibson - no relation to the architect of the 'Marble Church' - was born near Conway in 1790, moved with his family to Liverpool at the age of nine and, in 1817, travelled to Rome. There he studied with Canova and lived for the rest of his life, rarely revisiting England. Gibson sought to recreate the spirit of classical Greek sculpture. His portrait busts, such as those of the writer Anna Jameson and the artist and Director of the National Gallery, Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, are idealized and timeless, avoiding as far as possible modern dress and hair fashions which Gibson felt to be 'not a fit subject for sculpture'. Also on display is a group of Gibson's more ambitious sculptures, their subjects taken from classical mythology. These are on loan from the Royal Academy of Arts, to whom Gibson left the contents of his studio and a generous portion of his estate. An oil portrait of Gibson by the woman portraitist, Margaret Carpenter, hangs above the room's original fireplace while the two full-length portraits of Sir Francis and Lady Burdett are by the greatest portrait painter of the Regency period, Sir Thomas Lawrence.
Staircase hall and staircase
Above the fireplace hangs Sir David Wilkie's sketch of William IV, but the portraits here are mostly on the theme of exploration. They include such great Victorian heroes as David Livingstone and John Hanning Speke and also two fascinating group portraits. Stephen Pearce's The Arctic Council of 1851 represents the sailors and explorers who conducted successive searches for the missing Arctic expedition of 1845 led by Sir John Franklin. A Consultation Prior to the Aerial Voyage to Weilburgh by John Hollins, on the other hand, records the successful journey in a balloon of November 1836 from London to the Netherlands.
Staircase: Mezzanine Landing
Staircase: First Floor Landing
This is one of the earlier rooms in the house. The pattern of the wallpaper, of mid-Victorian design, has been carried through in the stencilling on the doors and ceiling while the carpet, with its embroidered effect, was originally designed in about 1800. Furniture includes a fine plain dressing table by Owen Jones of around 1873, lent by the Victoria & Albert Museum, and a mid-Victorian mahogany bed on loan from the Burghley House Preservation Trust. The prints displayed are of members of Queen Victoria's family
Staircase: Second Floor Landing