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George Howard, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe: A Life in Yorkshire and Beyond

George Howard, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe: A Life in Yorkshire and Beyond



George Howard, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe: A Life in Yorkshire and Beyond

Christopher Ridgway

ISBN: 978-1-904497-68-4

Borthwick Paper 130


Detailed Description

George Howard, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe: A Life in Yorkshire and Beyond by Christopher Ridgway   A new Borthwick Paper by Christopher Ridgway examines the life of George Howard, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, perhaps best known today as a former Chairman of the Governors of the BBC and the custodian of Castle Howard, the house and estate in Yorkshire made famous in ITV’s Brideshead Revisited and most recently in Netflix’s Bridgerton.     Howard’s central role in Castle Howard’s restoration and survival as a major tourist attraction is a key theme in Ridgway’s book, which reproduces the text of his 2016 Sheldon Memorial Lecture.  As a second son, Howard had no expectation of inheriting the estate, but the Second World War derailed not only his degree at Oxford but also left him sole heir following the tragic death of his two brothers.  Instead of returning to Oxford after the war he took up accountancy at Leeds and dedicated himself to the restoration of Castle Howard - at a time when many grand estates were being sold off or broken up.   Ridgway’s book takes as its central theme the ‘dual perspectives’ of George Howard, as a saviour of the past at Castle Howard and indeed in York and elsewhere, but also as an ‘energetic mover for change’ who would not preserve the past at any cost and who championed progress and advancement.  The book looks in detail at Howard’s work with the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and the York Georgian Society.  The latter’s tireless efforts to monitor and preserve endangered historic buildings, including York’s Fairfax House, had a significant impact on the development of York in the second half of the twentieth century.  It also frequently brought them into direct conflict with the City Council and its plans to ‘modernise’ York, an area in which Ridgway argues Howard’s skills in negotiation and his willingness to meet politicians halfway was highly successful.  As well as safeguarding the past, Howard was also committed to the city’s future.  He played a significant role in the foundation of a University of York, calling on both the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and York Georgian Society to support the new enterprise as crucial to the city’s broader intellectual and cultural life.     This balance of continuity and change was also evident at Castle Howard, where his sensitive restoration of the house and gardens sat alongside more commercial ventures needed to make the estate economically sustainable.  He opened the house to the public in 1952 and over the following decades added various public attractions including a costume gallery, steam rallies and a caravan park, and made the house and grounds available as a filming location.   As he was increasingly drawn from local to national concerns, Ridgway demonstrates how those skills honed at Castle Howard and in York stood him in good stead at the BBC, the Historic Houses Association, and eventually at the House of Lords.  He was, throughout his life, ‘interested in breaching entrenched positions; in looking beyond narrow specialisms and limited perspectives’, preferring to seek common ground with opponents.  At the BBC he worked to persuade Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the need for a good relationship with the corporation and in the House of Lords he sat as a cross bencher, although he had long been a Conservative supporter.   Ridgway’s original lecture has been expanded with detailed footnotes and illustrations to provide an entertaining and informative account of a man whose life and work has left an indelible mark upon the City of York, Yorkshire and beyond.