As the dawn comes up and rays of light enter the room through heavy curtains allowing me to slowly pick out details in this wonderful castle bedchamber, for some reason my mind starts to wander. I think about the creativity within the room, the beautiful décor, the soft luxurious furnishings and this absolutely huge elaborate four poster bed. I start to pick up some amazing detail in the woodwork, I wonder where the creativity comes from, how the bed was made, was it carved from one piece of wood, the simple logistics of how they got it into the room and how many people were involved? As the soft furnishings that surround this wonderful masterpiece turn from dark into textured colour and the detailed carvings on the roof of my 4 poster become defined, my mind wanders even more… it’s not a team of people who create these remarkable pieces of furniture…. perhaps you knew that anyway.
A masterpiece like this comes from the heart and passion of one man, Steve Edgar, a master craftsman next to none. Steve views these rooms as his very own stage and he wants to add theatre to the experience that he creates. When you come to a castle hotel, you do not want to feel as if you are at home; you want something that is different and memorable.You may expect someone with Steve’s talent to have studied and have been taught by another master craftsman, but you would be wrong. He is self-taught; where he is unique is that he researches every piece he carves in detail.This all started with an interest in woodwork at school and, needless to say, he was not encouraged to follow this interest. But instead he was steered down an engineering route. However, 25 years ago he was asked to make a bed for Thornbury Castle, near Bristol in the beautiful village of Thornbury and, as they say, the rest is history.
Then room by room, Steve has transformed the Duke of Buckingham’s former stomping ground, allowing him to release the most amazing creative talent that has been stored up and hidden for decades. “I was told I’d never make any money with woodwork. It’s true. I’m not ever going to be a millionaire, but I love what I do and the satisfaction I get from building pieces of beautiful furniture is priceless. I would not want to do anything else.” he says. “All my time is taken up with this job. I’ve tried other interests in my spare time, but my mind just drifts back to it.” Would I call Steve a perfectionist? Definitely, and this is what makes the difference with his furniture. He uses the techniques that would have been used in the period he is working on. He does use modern machinery, however, it looks too perfect, so he then finishes everything by hand; it is important for Steve that the piece he is making looks like it’s been there for 200 or 300 years.
Steve works very fast in line with his passion for the furniture he makes - four weeks from start to finish for an ostentatious four poster bed. The 70 elaborate wooden chairs he built for the castle were carved at a rate of more than one a day. Steve’s skills are in high demand and he has been headhunted to work on the private dwellings of the rich and famous. Another one of his favourite projects was the Tudor makeover of the Ladies Cloakroom at Thornbury - in fact if you stay at the castle, you will see this man’s exceptional talent everywhere. He basically camped out at the hotel for over eight years and, as well as designing, making and fitting all the panelling, a fantastic staircase and landing in the main part of the castle and the reception area, his also likes to leave his mark in others ways. Thornbury Castle’s secret panelling is a little bit of fun. Fans of children’s adventure stories should search the panelling for a knot, press it and an entire panel opens to reveal a small hideyhole containing a safe and a jar of sweets to sample as a reward. For children this is absolute magic!
I am very lucky to sleep in lots of amazing bedchambers and to have met this master craftsman has been a delight. Now I appreciate the research, the passion and the detail that Steve Edgar puts into his furniture, the true sign of a master craftsman.
You can see more of Stephen’s work at: www.edgarfurniture.co.uk
Bedrooms shown in this article can booked at Thornbury Castle: www.celticcastles.com/castles/thornbury