You are here: Home > Life @ Castle Howard > Howard Family Holidays: An Intrepid Earl
Translate Website:
Howard Family Holidays: An Intrepid Earl
By Curator Blogger // Wed 23rd August 2023
curator, grand tour, 7th Earl
Across the month of August, when many of you may be on your own holidays, we are exploring some of the travels enjoyed by previous generations of the Howard family. This week it is the turn of George Howard, 7th Earl of Carlisle (1802-64), an intrepid traveler who logged his adventures in a series of journals.
The 7th Earl's Grand Tour

George Howard, 7th Earl of Carlisle, was born in 1802, and spent much of his life on the move, travelling either as a government official, a statesman, or a tourist. By the time of his death in 1864 he was the most-travelled member of the Howard family, visiting Europe, Russia, Greece, Ireland, and North America.

In the early 1820s he visited Italy on his Grand Tour assiduously noting down the pictures he saw in galleries and palaces. 

Figure 1: A page from the 7th Earl’s journal of his Grand Tour, recording pictures he saw in Italy, along with his grading system, a series exclamation marks. 

Figure 2: A 19th-century view of St Petersburg
In 1826 he accompanied his uncle the Duke of Devonshire to St Petersburg to attend the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I, when he would have known he was re-tracing the steps of his ancestor, the 1st Earl, who had been ambassador to Moscow in 1663.
Figure 3: A view of a paddle steamer along the Mississippi; the Earl spent several weeks making the journey from New Orleans to the Great Lakes
On losing his parliamentary seat in the general election of 1840 the Earl spent the next twelve months travelling through North America, compiling and illustrating a journal of where had visited, who he had met, as well as noting down American customs. Their eating habits fascinated him, and he was amazed at the abundance of food on the table at meal-times, he even set down a specimen dinner: ‘Macaroni soup, roast lamb, boiled chicken, patties, rissoles, potatoes, beetroot, apples, and squash, which I tasted and liked. The one table-cloth is taken off and a second course comes on, apple pie, raspberry pudding, ice-cream, preserved ginger, preserved pears; then the dessert comes, apples, pears and grapes’.

In New York he encountered a new dish, ‘I tasted terrapins for the first time and thought them excellent’; and he had a particular penchant for native American oysters which he declared ‘large and luscious’, albeit not as tasty as English ones, and he would regularly visit the Oyster Cellars in the city.

He visited the great cities along the Eastern Seaboard, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. He travelled into Virginia where he was horrified to witness a slave auction, and he argued with plantation owners over the iniquity of slavery. He visited remoter areas including Cuba before sailing into New Orleans and then taking a steamboat all the way up the Mississippi, eventually reaching the Great Lakes where he made a canoeing expedition, and met with indigenous Indians.  
Figure 4: An engraving of Niagara Falls seen from the ferry on the water below
But he was repeatedly drawn back to Niagara Falls, which he found breathtaking and proof of God’s grandeur. He also made the hazardous excursion along the ledge behind the falls for which he had to wear a cork buoyancy suit. 
Figure 5: A watercolour view of Constantinople in 1853 by Count Amadeo Preziosi]
In the 1850s he made a sailing tour of the Eastern Mediterranean, first travelling down the Danube before taking a ship to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. Once more he was intrigued by foreign cuisine, he sampled yoghurt for the first time, likening it to ‘sour Devonshire cream’; and in Constantinople he visited a kebab shop, and noted how ‘Kebabs are small pieces of mutton grilled on a set of skewers, which are served on pieces of thick baked bread with a little salad’. On this occasion he narrowly avoided a social blunder, ‘I was about to sit down on a low stool when my companion remonstrated, “Do not sit on the table!”.
Figure 7: A watercolour portrait of the 7th Earl in a stylish outfit with Athens in the background, dated 1854]

Whilst in Athens he had his portrait painted by the German artist Ernst Rietschel with the Parthenon in the background. 

Although he was born in the era of horse-drawn transport and sail-powered shipping, when he died he had crossed the Atlantic on Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s steam ship The Great Western, had sent and received rapid communications by telegraph, and criss-crossed Britain by steam train. Like his contemporaries he was amazed at how journey times shrank as speeds became faster. In the early 1840s the journey between Castle Howard and London by rail took ten hours; by 1855 it had been cut to six.

In January 1846, while travelling by train at Stafford he was especially struck ‘by a gentleman in the carriage…at 5 minutes before 8 giving me that evening’s London Standard’. And in 1855 he noted on leaving Naworth Castle in Cumbria: ‘I railed to Carlisle, dined on the good mutton at the station there and drank tea in London, which certainly bears witness to a fast moving age’.

A few months later, in Ireland, he was equally impressed at how quickly important intelligence travelled along the wires from Epsom in England, ‘It was rather striking at 4 o’clock, at the entrance to Cork Harbour to hear who had won the Derby less than an hour before’, he remarked. He also evinced a boyish enthusiasm for steam trains, and once on arriving at the Castle Howard station he discovered the York train had departed early; ever resourceful, he hopped onto a locomotive pulling coal carts and reached York station before his scheduled train, exhilarated at the experience of riding in the open. 

The Earl straddled the old world and the new, he was the seventh generation of a long-established aristocratic family, but he relished modern travel, communications, and technologies, but he was also the best of travellers because he left such a copious record of his voyages.