Blandings Castle

Blandings Castle

Blandings Castle is a recurring fictional location in the stories of British comic writer P. G. Wodehouse, being the seat of Lord Emsworth (Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth), home to many of his family, and setting for numerous tales and adventures, written between 1915 and 1975.

The series of stories which take place at the castle, in its environs and involving its denizens have come to be known as the "Blandings books", or indeed, in a phrase used by Wodehouse in his preface to the 1969 reprint of the first book, "the Blandings Castle Saga".Cite book
author = Wodehouse, P. G.
year = 1969
chapter = Preface [new since the 1969 edition]
title = Something Fresh
quote = "Something Fresh" was the first of what I might call – in fact, I will call – the Blandings Castle Saga.

"The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled," said Evelyn Waugh. "All those who know them long to return."Cite web
author = Sexton, David
date = 2000-08-21
title = "Review of "Sunset at Blandings" (revised Penguin edition)"
work = The Evening Standard (at
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-10
– Quoting Evelyn Waugh.

The Castle

Blandings Castle, lying in the picturesque Vale of Blandings, Shropshire, England, is two miles from the town of Market Blandings, home to at least nine pubs, most notably the Emsworth Arms.

The tiny hamlet of Blandings Parva lies directly outside the castle gates and the town of Much Matchingham, home to Matchingham Hall, the residence of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, is also nearby.

The castle is a noble pile, of Early Tudor building ("its history is recorded in England's history books and Viollet-le-Duc has written of its architecture", according to "Something Fresh"). One of England's largest stately homes, it dominates the surrounding country, standing on a knoll of rising ground at the southern end of the celebrated Vale of Blandings; the Severn gleams in the distance. From its noble battlements, the Wrekin can be seen.

The famous moss-carpeted Yew Alley (subject to the devious gravelling schemes of Angus McAllister) leads to a small wood with a rough gamekeeper's cottage, which Psmith made use of, not to write poetry as he at first claimed, but to stash stolen jewellery. Another gamekeeper's cottage, in the West Wood, makes a pleasant home for the Empress of Blandings for a spell. The rose garden is another famous beauty spot, ideal for courting lovers. There is a lake, where Lord Emsworth often takes a brisk swim in the mornings.

The house has numerous guest rooms, many of which haven't been used since Queen Elizabeth roamed the country. Of those still in use, the Garden Room is the finest, usually given to the most prestigious guest; it has a balcony outside its French windows, which can be easily accessed via a handy drainpipe.

The main library has a smaller library leading off it, and windows overlooking some flowerbeds; it is here that Lord Emsworth is often to be found on wet days, his nose deep in an improving tome of country lore, his favourite being Whiffle on "The Care of the Pig".

Possible locations

There have been a number of attempts to locate and identify the possible locations of Blandings:

* In 1977, Richard Usborne in his appendix to the unfinished "Sunset at Blandings" regarded the issue from the point of view of train journeys and travel times.

* In 1987, Norman Murphy in his "In Search of Blandings" looked at a whole range of criteria based around architecture and landscape features. His main suggestions were Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire for the castle itself, and Weston Park, Staffordshire for the gardens.

* In 1999, Norman Murphy again suggested Hunstanton Hall in Norfolk, the home of the LeStrange family from 1137 to 1954, where Wodehouse visited in the 1920s, as inspiration for Blandings, its master, and "The Real Empress of Blandings"Murphy 1999, op. cit..

* In 2003, Dr Daryl Lloyd and Mr Ian Greatbatch (two researchers in the Department of Geography and Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London) made use of a Geographic Information System to analyse a set of geographical criteria, such as a viewshed analysis of The Wrekin and drive time from Shrewsbury. Their final conclusion was that Apley Park House in Hifnal, south-east of Telford, Shropshire (Apley Hall of the Whitmore Baronets) was the best suited location for fulfilling the geographical criteriaKirby 2003, op. cit.Tibbetts 2003, op. cit..

Residents and guests

The family

The master of Blandings is, nominally at least, Lord Emsworth. Clarence, the ninth Earl, is an amiably absent-minded old chap, who loves his home and gardens dearly and is never happier than when pottering about the grounds on a fine sunny day, poking at flower beds or inspecting his champion pig, Empress of Blandings.

Lord Emsworth's nine sisters (all of whom look like the "daughter of a hundred earls", except for Hermione, who looks like a cook), his brother Galahad ("Gally"), his daughter Mildred, his sons Freddie and George, and his numerous nieces, nephews, and in-laws inhabit the castle from time to time. For the Threepwood family, and their friends, the castle is forever available for indefinite residence, and is occasionally used as a temporary prison—known as "Devil's Island" or "The Bastille"—for love-struck young men and ladies to calm down.

Emsworth's sister Ann plays the role of châtelaine when we first visit the Castle, in "Something Fresh". Following her reign, Lady Constance Keeble acts as châtelaine until she marries American millionaire James Schoonmaker.

Lady Julia Fish is "The iron hand beneath the leather glove", whose son Ronald Fish ("Ronnie") marries a chorus girl named Sue Brown, who is the daughter of the only woman whom Gally ever loved—Dolly Henderson, though Gally insists Sue is not Ronnie's cousin.

The staff

Blandings's ever-present butler is Sebastian Beach, with eighteen years service at the castle under his ample belt, and its other domestic servants have at various times included Mrs Twemlow the housekeeper, an under-butler named Merridew, and a number of footmen, such as Charles, Thomas, Stokes, James and Alfred. The chauffeurs Slingsby and Alfred Voules drive the castle's stately Hispano-Suiza, or, in an emergency, the Albatross.

Outside of the house, Scottish head gardeners Thorne and Angus McAllister have tended the grounds, while George Cyril Wellbeloved, James Pirbright and the Amazonian Monica Simmons have each in turn taken care of Lord Emsworth's beloved prize pig, Empress of Blandings.

Emsworth has employed a series of secretaries, most notable among them Rupert Baxter, the highly efficient young man who never seems to be able to keep away from Blandings, despite Lord Emsworth's increasingly low opinion of his sanity. He was succeeded in the post by Ronald Psmith, and later by the likes of Hugo Carmody and Monty Bodkin. The castle's splendid library was catalogued, for the first time since 1885, by Eve Halliday.

Notable visitors

Many people pass through the doors of Blandings, guests and friends of the family, prospective additions to the family, temporary staff, pig-lovers, day-trippers, detectives, crooks and of course impostors galore. Among the most distinguished are the grumpy Duke of Dunstable, leading brain-specialist Sir Roderick Glossop, publishing magnate Lord Tilbury, the Fifth Earl of Ickenham, known to all as Uncle Fred, and Percy Pilbeam, head of the Argus Enquiry Agency employed to locate the lost pig and recover Gally's manuscript of his memoirs.


Blandings Castle serves as the setting for eleven novels and nine short stories.

* "Something Fresh" (1915)
* "Leave it to Psmith" (1923)
* "Blandings Castle" (1935) – Six short stories of twelve, written from 1926 to 1931, occurring before the events of "Summer Lightning":
** "The Custody of the Pumpkin"
** "Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best"
** "Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey"
** "Company for Gertrude"
** "The Go-getter"
** "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend"
* "Summer Lightning" (1929)
* "Heavy Weather" (1933)
* "Lord Emsworth and Others" (1937) – One short story of nine:
** "The Crime Wave at Blandings"
* "Uncle Fred in the Springtime" (1939)
* "Full Moon" (1947)
* "Nothing Serious" (1950) – One short story of ten:
** "Birth of a Salesman"
* "Pigs Have Wings" (1952)
* "Service With a Smile" (1961)
* "Galahad at Blandings" (1965)
* "Plum Pie" (1966) – One short story of nine (probably to be read before "Service With a Smile"):
** "Sticky Wicket at Blandings"
* "A Pelican at Blandings" (1969)
* "Sunset at Blandings" (1977)
* "Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best" (1992) – Nine short stories of nine, collecting all nine Blandings stories from the above collections

Wodehouse worked on "Sunset at Blandings" until his death, writing even in his hospital bed. It was unfinished and untitled when he died, and was subsequently edited (by Richard Usborne) and released in its incomplete form with extensive notes on the content.

Film, television and radio

Horace Hodges played Lord Emsworth in a 1933 silent film adaptation of "Summer Lightning"

The Castle and its inhabitants were the subject of six half-hour adaptations under the title "Blandings Castle", made by the BBC as part of their "The World Of Wodehouse" series. Adapted from some of the shorts in "Blandings Castle" and the classic "The Crime Wave at Blandings", they were broadcast in 1967 and starred Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth, Meriel Forbes as Lady Constance, Stanley Holloway as Beach and Derek Nimmo as Freddie. Sadly, the master tapes of all but one episode ("Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend") were erased from the BBC archive, and no known copies exist.

Between 1985 and 1992, BBC Radio 4 broadcast several adaptations, starring Richard Vernon as Emsworth and Ian Carmichael as Galahad.

In 1995, the BBC, with partners including WGBH Boston, adapted "Heavy Weather" into a 95-minute TV movie. It was first screened on Christmas Eve 1995 in the UK, and shown in the US by PBS on February 18, 1996. It starred Peter O'Toole as Lord Emsworth, Richard Briers as Gally, Roy Hudd as Beach, Samuel West as Monty Bodkin and Judy Parfitt as Lady Constance. It was directed by Jack Gold with a screenplay by Douglas Livingstone, and was generally well-received by fans.

Many of the stories and novels are available as audio books, including a series narrated by Martin Jarvis.

ee also

* A categorized list of characters appearing in the Blandings stories
* An alphabetical guide to the minor characters involved with the Castle and the Threepwoods


; Sources consulted (main article)

* Cite web
author = Kuzmenko, Michel (The Russian Wodehouse Society)
date = 2007-03-22 update
title = "Wodehouse books"
work = Bibliography
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-24

* Cite book
author = Usborne, Richard
year = 1991
title = After hours with P. G. Wodehouse
location = London
publisher = Hutchinson
id = ISBN 0-09-174712-0

* Cite book
author = Usborne, Richard
year = 2003
title = Plum Sauce: A P. G. Wodehouse Companion
location = New York
publisher = The Overlook Press
pages = page 37–45, 96–127
id = ISBN 1-58567-441-9

; Sources consulted (locations)

* Cite web
author = Kirby, Alex
date = 2003-09-04
title = "Zeroing in on Blandings"
work = BBC News Online
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-10

* Cite book
author = Murphy, Norman
year = 1987
title = In Search of Blandings
location = London
publisher = Penguin
id = ISBN 0-14-010299-X

* Cite web
author = Murphy, Norman
date = 1999
title = "Wodehouse and The Real Empress of Blandings"
work = Wodehouse Among the Animals (Wodehouse Convention talk)
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-10

* Cite web
author = Tibbetts, Graham
date = 2003-09-05
title = "Mystery of Wodehouse castle 'solved' at last"
work = The Daily Telegraph (at
url =
accessdate = 2007-08-10

; Endnotes

External links

; Adaptations

* " [ "Blandings Castle" (1967)] " at the BBC Comedy Guide

; Locations

* Cite web
title = "Apley Hall (Pre 1962)"
work =
url =
– Many photographs (on a copy of the Tibbetts 2003 article)
* [ Apley Park entry from The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses]

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