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Digitising the Long Gallery at Castle Howard

Published by on 11 December 2021

The Castle Howard Digital Research Project brought two MA students together to uncover new information about Castle Howard’s Long Gallery, one from the United Kingdom and the other from the United States. Sponsored by the BIFMO Research and Education programme and funded by a generous grant from the Foyle Foundation, this project is one of three undertaken by MA students at the Universities of Leeds and York in the Britain and Winterthur Program in American Material Culture and the Bard Center in the United States. What they found will contribute to the return of the Long Gallery to the original design conceived by Charles Heathcote Tatham (1772-1842). 

Long gallery
Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
© Castle Howard

John Jackson, Conversation piece in the sunlit Long Gallery, where the ageing Lord Carlisle contemplates, in the company of his youngest son, Henry Howard, an unidentified painting on an easel, c. 1810. Oil on canvas. Photo: courtesy of Castle Howard.

Collaborators Ben Elliott (University of York) and Heath Ballowe (Bard Graduate Center) were provided with original printed elevations by C.H. Tatham, period documentation of private accounts, written descriptions and historical images of The Long Gallery. By comparing the sources provided by Castle Howard staff to other visual and literary sources from the period they offered an enlightened view of The Long Gallery in order to make sense of this most ambiguous of spaces.

How we developed our project

There were many compelling directions for this research project to go; but we began by familiarising ourselves with C. H. Tatham’s printed elevations, artworks that documented the space and historic records of furniture and decorative art known to be housed in the space over time. Paint analysis undertaken in 2012 by conservator, Jane Davies, allowed us to visualise various eras of the of The Long Gallery providing a deeply insightful lens in which to comprehend Tatham’s design and its archaeological accuracy.

The questions we asked included:

  • What were Tatham’s intentions and purpose for the Long Gallery?
  • What is a ‘long gallery’?
  • Why did Tatham design this space around certain paintings?
  • Why incorporate faux stone?
  • What of the Grand Tour influences?
  • What of Tatham’s links to the furniture trades?
  • Did Tatham design the Long Gallery’s furniture; if so, why and how?
  • How far did the Long Gallery’s evolving appearances sway from Tatham’s original vision?

We also had to ask, does the Long Gallery nowadays pay homage to Tatham’s original design, and if so, why and when did this occur? What décor did it overturn? Tracking the Long Gallery’s appearances over time, we could finally understand one of Castle Howard’s most ambiguous of spaces.

To research the Long Gallery, we had to analyse:

  • The inventories of the 4th (1759) and 5th (1825) Earls’ probates of their antique collections, as well as the 6th (1849) and 7th (1865) Earls’ probates.
  • 18th-and-19th-century visitor accounts of the Long Gallery and Castle Howard more generally. The 5th Duke of Rutland’s 1813 account of the Long Gallery was particularly useful.
  • Paintings of the house, the Long Gallery and the Earls. My favourite painting being, Conversation piece in the sunlit Long Gallery, where the ageing Lord Carlisle contemplates, in the company of his youngest son, Henry Howard, an unidentified painting on an easel (1810) by John Jackson (1778-1831). It is a unique glimpse into one of the appearances of the Long Gallery.
  • The Long Gallery collections, be this its furniture, its portraits (and histories of various hanging pictures), Tatham’s vases and urns, and Tatham’s connections with furniture makers.
  • 2012 paint analysis of the Long Gallery.
  • Photographs of the Long Gallery.

Plan and section of the Gallery at Castle Howard', 'The Chimney side of the Gallery as finished', 'The ends of the Gallery as finished', 'The window side of the Gallery as finished' and 'Two sides of the Museum as finished', 1811.

Considering this, we concluded that there is no certainty that Tatham’s design was ever completed to reflect Tatham’s 1811 printed elevations. From this we considered how the Long Gallery could honour this notion. To curate the entire Long Gallery as a replication of Tatham’s prints would thus be to disregard the many costumes this space has worn. Based on the collection of art, furniture and antiquities that remain at Castle Howard, we believe that the east wall of the south end of The Long Gallery could easily be reconstructed to reflect Tatham’s design and offer insight to his point of view as a designer. This would additionally allow visitors to comprehend the design tradition that emerged around the Grand Tour.

Our vision for the north end of The Long Gallery would reflect the continually evolving nature of the gallery and Castle Howard at large. This space would allow The Long Gallery to restore its reputation as a sanctuary encouraging historical learning. To do this it could serve as a space to exhibit art objects alongside the printed elevations of the gallery and historical photographs of the room in its different iterations.

The north end of the gallery could also serve as a central location to communicate the continuing process of preserving the entirety of Castle Howard, such as those areas affected by fire damage, water damage and time. The ever-evolving atmosphere of The Long Gallery provides a brilliant backdrop for such an approach. Historic preservation is an important part of North Yorkshire’s cultural heritage, and this space would be used to communicate that to Castle Howard’s visitors and emerging scholars.

Copyright (Attribution/Credit)
© Castle Howard

The present tables in the Long Gallery, Castle Howard. 

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About the authors

Ben Elliott


Ben Elliott is an MA History of Art student at the University of York. Previously, he read for a bachelors in English Literature and History of Art also at York. His master’s was funded by The Worshipful Company of Art Scholars, (a City of London livery company) where he was their MA Art Scholar. He has volunteer and intern experience with York Art Gallery, Yorkshire Museum, Leeds Art Gallery and Tennants Auctioneers, the latter seeing him chiefly working with the furniture and pictures departments. Specialising in 18th and 19th century British painting in conjunction with military & maritime history his research has seen him develop interests extending to the English country house, collecting culture and design history. He is now undertaking a year-long traineeship in the library of Pembroke College, University of Oxford where he will also undertake research into Pembroke’s special collections and rare books; as well as learning transferable skills in cataloguing, collections management and learning & engagement. It is at Pembroke where Ben hopes to further his love for working with objects, collections and curating information in innovative forms for researchers, academics and students alike; skills this research studentship honed. 

Heath Ballowe


Heath Ballowe is an MA student at the Bard Graduate Center, in New York City, studying Decorative Art, Design History and Material Culture. He received a Masters in Fine Art (MFA) with a focus in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2010, a collegiate teaching certification from Brown University in 2009 and Bachelors in Fine Art (BFA) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech.) in 2006. He has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island and Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Additionally, he has managed multiple private and public art collections including The Clay Studio cataloging project in Philadelphia, supported by The Luce Foundation for American Art. His current research is focused on 18th and 19th century, decorative art and furniture. His primary interest centers on Printmaking and Ceramics and how they have influenced the fields of Decorative Art and Design History