Astley Castle renovation
by Witherford Watson Mann


A contemporary house inserted behind the crumbling walls of a ruined twelfth-century castle in Warwickshire, England, by Witherford Watson Mann is one of the six projects nominated for the 2013 Stirling Prize (+ slideshow).

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by Philip Vile

The mediaeval Astley Castle was once the home of an aristocratic English family, but has stood as a ruin since the 1970s, when a devastating fire wiped out the hotel that occupied the building at that time.

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by Hélène Binet

Without a budget to restore the building, architectural charity The Landmark Trust launched a competition for the design of a holiday house that could be created within the decaying structure and announced London studio Witherford Watson Mann as the winner in 2007.

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by Hélène Binet

The architects designed a two-storey residence that would squat within the building's chunky sandstone walls. Clay brickwork was used to infill gaps in the structure, creating a visible contrast between the new and old structures.

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by Hélène Binet

Laminated wooden beams form a new system of floors and ceilings, creating living areas and bedrooms in the oldest part of the castle.

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by J Miller

The wooden roof also stretches over extensions added in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, but instead of blanketing these spaces it simply forms a hollow canopy, creating entrance courtyards that are exposed to the rain.

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by Hélène Binet

Four bedrooms, with space to sleep eight people, occupy the lower level of the house. An oak staircase leads up to the first-floor living room, where the architects have increased natural light by adding two new windows.

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by Hélène Binet

Astley Castle is one of six projects shortlisted for the Stirling Prize, which is awarded to the building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year. Other projects nominated include an elliptical chapel and a museum that mimics volcanic formations.

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann
Photograph by Hélène Binet

Other castle renovations on Dezeen include one converted into a mountain museum and one used as an art gallery. See more castles on Dezeen »

  • Cornballer


  • anton

    I guess the ghosts can’t complain about a new couch to chill out on.

  • Stephen


  • Juan Galicia

    What a beautiful project. I have no words. Love the living room.

  • Great Job! It is a beautiful project of art. Excellent idea, giving life back to a old ruin. Imagination has no limits!

  • Theo

    Beautifully executed, a mini-Kolumba!

  • Scott

    Agreed. A beautiful, thoughtful project. Best of luck WWM.

  • Although it is something quite different than a standard housing project it gives me the feeling of looking at the next generation of architects. An emotional as well as rational approach, craftsmanship and no super modernistic attitudes. Congratulations to the architects and thanks a lot for the inspiration! Good luck with Stirling!

  • Chris

    Staggeringly beautiful. I envy the occupants.

  • co van der hoek

    Simply speechless…

  • Looks wonderful. We are hoping to stay in the next few years. Check out <a href="” target=”_blank”> for booking details. We’ve had some great holidays in their properties. Declaration: no link to the charity, just a happy customer.

  • Wow! This is absolutely stunning. It’s just the perfect blend of old and new architecture. Whoever did this should be very proud.

  • Naomi Cleaver

    Brilliant! I remember having to comment on a Grand Designs project for Grand Designs: Trade Secrets once, a conversion of a scheduled monument of a castle that was just lumpen and pompous in the way it tried to recreate the castle it had once been.

    This project on the other hand is so intelligent and romantic. Best of luck with Stirling.

  • k_r

    Great project but I wish we could see some plans/elevations to understand where exactly the old meets the new.

  • Jānis D.

    The idea reminds me of the House in the Ruins (Drupu Māja) by NRJA in Latvia circa 2002. While not new, this certainly is an interesting trend in architecture and a case against demolition.

  • Angie

    This is just lovely :)

  • christabel

    Amazing! So stately, so organic. It wasn’t an imposition at all.

  • SCAQTony

    Spectacular – it was worth the 600-year wait!

  • Oyster

    I absolutely love this house and everything about it. I’m gonna quit my job, cancel all my future plans, find ruins of an old castle, build a house like this and live happily ever after.