White Queen’s castle-turned-holiday home wins architecture award

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Astley Castle near Nuneaton restored by Landmark Trust

A castle in which the first Yorkist queen Elizabeth Woodville is believed to have lived in the mid-15th century has won this year’s Riba Stirling Prize, a prestigious UK architecture award.

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Astley Castle, a 13th-century fortified manor house in Nuneaton, Warwickshire scooped the prize in recognition of the imaginative contemporary holiday home that has been set within its ruins.

Large glass walls frame views of medieval stonework and the adjacent church and surrounding countryside. The building boasts underfloor heating and an open fire in the courtyard, as well as a woodburning stove.

The unfenced moat which surrounds the castle can fill with water during heavy rainfall.

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Up to eight people can sleep in the manor house, which is set across two floors, with two double bedrooms and two twin rooms.

Astley Castle was last year rescued from dereliction by the Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity, which worked with architects Witherford Watson Mann (WWM) to save and protect the structure.

It was chosen as the Riba prize-winner from a shortlist of six buildings.

The site has been in continuous occupation since the Saxon period.

By 1420 it had passed, through marriage, to the Grey family, and became entangled with the succession to the throne of England. In doing so it earned its association with three queens.

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Elizabeth Woodville probably lived at Astley as Sir John Grey’s wife. Grey died fighting for the Lancastrians at the battle of St Albans in 1461 during the Wars of the Roses.

As a young widow, Elizabeth caught the eye of Edward IV, the Yorkist claimant to the throne. She became his queen and bore him the ill-fated young princes who later died in the Tower.

The second Astley queen was the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, known as Elizabeth of York, who became wife of Henry VII and matriarch of the Tudor dynasty.

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Dr Anna Keay, director of the Landmark Trust, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Astley Castle has been awarded this most prestigious prize, and hope it will encourage others to consider imaginative solutions for important historic buildings.

“We are tremendously proud of a scheme which represents an original way of reviving a ruined building.

“Neither a traditional restoration, nor a brutal modernist juxtaposition, WWM’s approach is utterly contemporary and yet in real harmony with the medieval castle.”

Astley Castle beat off competition from the University of Limerick, the Park Hill development in Sheffield, the Newhall Be housing estate in Essex, Giant’s Causeway visitor centre and Bishop Edward King Chapel in Oxfordshire.

To listen to our podcast about the history of the White Queen, click here

To find out more about the castle, click here

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For more information about the Riba Stirling Prize, click here