The Magic of Alnwick Castle

by Vanessa Mingo ( 2011 78044 )

 

Alnwick Castle. The name itself may be unfamiliar to some, or maybe even many people. You certainly don’t hear it being tossed around as much as other buildings like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, or even the White House. But say Alnwick Castle to the fans and followers of the famed Harry Potter series, and you will definitely get people who will remember that castle being the main outdoor set for the first two Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Madam Hooch's flying lesson. Boy, wish I could have a broom like that! (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 2001)

Remember this scene? This was Harry’s flying lesson, when Harry first experiences the joys of flight, and his raw talent lands him a spot on the Griffindor Quidditch team as the Seeker. It was shot at the Outer Bailey, between the castle, and the outer walls and courtyard. Another rather famous scene that features Alnwick is in the second movie, right after Harry and Ron crash the Weasley’s Ford Angela into the inner bailey, and escapes to the Forbidden Forest. Many other scenes that feature the castle are also within the movies, but these two scenes are the ones that really stay in your mind.

I can never forget this scene – it was the scene that truly sucked me in the movie version of the books. (Although, forever in my heart, the book series definitely is better than the movies.)

Beautiful, isn't it?

Built in the 11th century, Alnwick Castle still stands strong after 700 long years, now brimming with history, both modern and old. The castle is located in Nortumberland, by a small town known as Alnwick, overlooking the Aln river. It was originally built as a castle of defence, built by Yves de Vescy, the Baron of Alnwick. During the 1300s, when ownership of the castle was changed to the Percy Family, Alnwick became a well protected fortress, barring entrance from any unwanted guests. Traces of these improvements are still present in the current castle, found in areas like the Abbot’s Tower, Middle Gateway, and the Constable’s Tower.

Over the history of Alnwick Castle, it has gone through restorations, renovations and improvements. During the 18th century, Alnwick went through a Gothic restoration under the first Duke and Duchess of Nortumberland. This restoration featured some carved statue figures on the tops of the towers, keeping a vigil watch on the people entering in the gateways.

Stand tall, soldiers, stand tall.

The fourth Duke brought in a different style to the medieval fortress of Alnwick. Algernon gave the castle another restoration, and renovated the castle in Italian Renaissance, by bringing an Italian wood carver to supervise the whole restoration, and train local workers in the art of carving wood. The Drawing Room showcases the many wooden carvings done by these Florentine trained English carvers, proving that it wasn’t only the Italians who could produce equally as skillful products.

But, the Alnwick Castle isn’t just a place to view these bits of history, and neither it is only a perfect setting for a fantastical movie such as the Harry Potter series. Alnwick Castle is still the home of the Percy Family, and the current improvements done on the castle surely prove that. In addition to all the restorations done by previous dukes and duchesses, now, Alnwick Castle is also fully modified for today’s family. Electricity was first added to the castle in 1889 – one of the first homes in the area to do so, in fact – and now the castle is fully powered and comfortable for living in. Within a corner of the grand library of the castle lies a flat screen TV, and family photographs hang upon the walls of the castle, in places where the public may see. The Percy family even displays their personal collection of artworks and china to the touring guests.

All in all, Alnwick Castle is absolutely full of charm – the well-kept grounds, the beautiful scenery, and the fact that it’s also a family’s well loved home. Maybe that is what made this setting so perfect for Harry Potter; even without Harry Potter in mind, I can see the whole castle coming from a fairy tale, filled with some sort of magic around each corner. Maybe one day, a die hard Harry Potter fan, will be able to visit Alnwick for myself, complete in a wizard’s robe and wand. Alnwick Castle is the closest anyone could be to reaching Hogwarts!

And now, I leave you with the trailer of the first Harry Potter movie…

Time for me to find myself a Nimbus 2000 and fly over to England!

SOURCES

the Harry Potter Lexicon
the Harry Potter Wiki
Going Beyond Harry Potter” Inside the Still-Inhabited Alnwick Castle
12 Real Life Locations Behind Out of this World Films
British Castle
Time Travel Britain
Mind the Gap: One with Wizards and Duchess
Alnwick Castle
The North East of England

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