Meet the chatelaine of Essex's historic Hedingham Castle

hedingham Castle in Essex

Hedingham Castle boasts more than 900 years of Essex history - Credit: Broad House Media

It has often been said that a person’s home is their castle, and for the chatelaine of Hedingham Castle, Demetra Lindsay, there could be no truer statement, as Mica Bale finds out. 

Demetra Lindsay chateliane of Hedingam Castle

Demetra Lindsay - Credit: Demetra Lindsay

Demetra Lindsay is the proud chatelaine of Hedingham Castle, a delightful slice of Essex’s heritage.

The latest chatelaine in a long line of history dating back 900 years, she is a celebrated architect and the wife of Jason Lindsay, whose family are descendants of the original owners of Hedingham Castle.

Demetra comments, ‘I am the luckiest architect aren’t I? Living in such a historic place and looking after the most fascinating and architecturally pure Norman building in Essex and even Western Europe.   

‘Ironically I was trained and worked in London in the modernist and modern style before we came here, so I have had a lot of learning new vocabulary and ancient building techniques to do.

'Our brief for the house is that the result must look like we have never been here but to make sure it is very much a home. It has been wonderfully challenging to – making sure we find the best craftsmen and use all the right materials.' 

So was Demetra a stranger to the county before relocating to one of Essex’s greatest strongholds? She says, ‘One of my best memories of my childhood was learning to sail on Osea Island, which was magical and exciting. Essex is a great place to live and such an ancient county with a fabulous history. I also find it beautiful.’ 

Interior of Hedingham Castle Essex

Hedingham Castle is brimming with original features - Credit: Jane Donaghy

Most Read

Demetra goes on to explain a typical day for her, saying, ‘If possible, I like to start the day with a walk, swim in the lake or a bit of yoga – but needless to say, that doesn’t always happen.

'The grounds at Hedingham are so beautiful; it is really important to enjoy them at least once a day and in the early morning one gets to see all the wildlife, which I adore. 

‘The most defining thing about a day at Hedingham is that no two are alike. Some days I am sitting at my drawing board with an architectural challenge while others I’m showing a film crew around for a recce.

'We are always busy during the day, and if there is a wedding, all evening too. On a quiet day or evening it is wonderful to have the place for the family. My favourite part of life here is the variety and all the people I meet along the way.' 

Of course, not many people could say that they are the chatelaine of an English castle. Demetra describes the feeling: ‘It is such a privilege to be in this role and unwittingly I was very prepared for it with my passion for architecture. This makes many of the maintenance challenges really interesting.   

'As with any business or responsibility, there are always times when one rolls one's eyes and wants to go and live in a small flat, but with the downs comes real ups and we are so lucky to be living in such a stunning and unique place.' 

In line with that, does Demetra have a favourite part of the castle? She comments, ‘There is an arch from the Minstrel’s gallery to the staircase, which is exquisitely carved. Every time I go past it I am in awe of the stonemason who carved it 900 years ago; it is accurate, well-proportioned and beautiful. 

'What I love about the keep is that every single time I go there I notice something different. I have also measured it for many of the projects that we are doing and it is so well built, so accurate, so precise; I admire the workmanship so much. I know that when we have finished the Royal Chamber that it will be a place I will go and think. It will be such an extraordinary room, 900 years old, and it will allow me to put things into perspective.’ 

Although many know Demetra as the chatelaine of Hedingham Castle, would it be fair to say that, at heart, she is a mother and architect first? Demetra says, ‘In a nutshell, yes, that is my motivation and my passion. I am foremost a mother, and my skills are very useful to keep the whole place going for future generations.

'I feel very strongly about education too and want to ensure people of all ages can engage in all the elements of the 900 years of history here.' 

hedingham Castle wedding

Hedingham Castle offers events steeped in history - Credit: Hedingham Castle

So what would Demetra say is her proudest achievement? She says, 'The first renovation of the keep, which we finished in 2015, felt like such an achievement as we made it useful for the next 50 years – re-electrifying it and creating an accessible room on the ground floor.

'This enabled us to not only have the weddings in the banqueting floor but also to have receptions in the keep too. We even created the coolest and oldest nightclub in the world, quite possibly, and that is where the wedding parties dance.’ 

Demetra explains, ‘Life at Hedingham is a huge team effort. The team have inspired us and kept us looking great and working efficiently over our time here, from the housekeeping team to the office to the grounds and events teams.

'It is a wonderful extended family and without them this place would be a hollow shell. We are very grateful for their support and thoughtfulness.’ 

Like what you read? Why not subscribe to Essex Life.