Friday, October 29, 2010

The One With the Girl Who Would be Queen

After leaving Arundel we headed north to Hever Castle. Turns out this was easier said than done. It seems Hever is a teeny, tiny little village kind of in the middle of nowhere and since we were not coming from the highway to the north, but rather from the south, there were very few signs to help point the way and supplement my directions from mapquest. So it ended up taking us a little longer to get there than expected (this will become a common theme...).

By the time we arrived at mid-afternoon, the sun had decided to disappear and there was a bit of a chill in the air. I’m sure the house and gardens would have looked much better with a pretty blue sky, but at least it wasn’t raining! Pictures of the inside of the house were not allowed so I’ve scanned some from the guidebook (all pictures of the outside and the gardens are ones we took).

Hever owes its status as a place to visit largely due to it being the home of Anne Boleyn before her marriage to Henry VIII. While a pretty enough house from the outside, in the grand scheme of things, it is neither grand nor much of a castle but appears to be a modest sized country house. However, much of what exists today is due to the American William Waldorf Astor who restored the property in the early 1900s and furnished it with many antiques from the 17th and 18th centuries as well as a number of paintings and tapestries.

The original defensive castle was built on the site in 1270 by William de Hever. In 1505 it passed into the possession of Thomas Bullen who had married Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter of the Duke of Norfolk (who owned Arundel from our visit that morning) and a section in the Tudor architectural style was added (above). In 1540 the house was given to Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves as part of their divorce settlement. In the years following her death in 1557, Hever passed through a number of different owners and gradually fell into disrepair. In 1903, Astor invested a great deal of money and time to restore the castle as well as adding the “Astor” wing and creating a magnificent garden.

The Gatehouse is the oldest part of the castle and the front portcullis is reputed to be one of the oldest working ones in the country. The drawbridge was restored by Astor and can still be raised.

The Inner Hall was originally the house’s kitchen and included a large fireplace and well. Today, it is largely covered in Italian walnut and on the walls are portraits of Henry VII, Henry VIII and Edward VI as well as ones of Anne and her sister Mary. The mantle includes a replica of a clock that was Henry VIII’s wedding gift to Anne Boleyn.

During the designing and construction of the rooms, Astor insisted that his workmen use, to the extent possible, the same materials and tools that Tudor craftsmen would have used in the 1500s. They were not even allowed to use straight edges and so the work, including the very elaborate ceilings, was done by eye. Truly impressive!!

The Dining Hall is still used today for private and corporate events. At the top edge of the fireplace is the Bullen coat of arms and along the back wall are paintings of Henry V and the Black Prince (both from the early 19th century). The room also contains a large tapestry (not in the picture) that dates from 1540. When you leave the room there is a marker on the door that shows the level of floodwater from a huge storm in 1968. Much of the ground floor was either severely damaged or destroyed  when 5 inches of rain fell in 16 hours and the nearby river flooded causing water to rise to more than 4 feet in the house and village. It took four years for the walls and floors to dry out enough for renovations work to begin! 

The Entrance Hall was added by Thomas Bullen and some of the original timbers remain over the doorway. The hall includes a 15th century suit of amour and a large walnut choir stall from 1480s Italy.

On the upper floor, the first room is a small bedroom that is thought to be that of Anne as a child. I did manage to snap this shot through the open window of the room. The room includes a portrait of Anne.

In an adjacent room is a number of tapestries (including one depicting the marriage of Henry’s sister Mary Rose to Louis XII of France in 1514 (along the left wall) and two illuminated prayer books that belonged to Anne (which include her signature and are kept in the wooden display cases).

(detail of prayer books)

(detail of tapestry - many of the tapestries we saw during our trip are very large and must have taken hundreds of hours to make if not more!)

The largest bedchamber in the house was restored by the Astor family to be fit for a king (and is called King Henry VIII’s Bedchamber although it's not known for sure if he slept there are not). The beautiful bed is from 1540. The ceiling is the oldest in the castle (1462) and the paneling is from 1565 with the exception of a piece over the fireplace (below) which commemorates Henry’s two wives who lived at Hever.

Also upstairs is the Long Gallery which is more than 93 feet long. The gallery contains an impressive collection of Tudor portraits.

During the restoration of the castle, Astor also had built a 100 room wing in the style of a Tudor village and added elaborate gardens and a lake. Today the wing can be rented for corporate events, conferences, weddings etc and includes 21 bedrooms. The work was carried out by a force of over 1500 people!


By the time we came out of the castle it was really starting to cool off and we almost decided to skip the gardens – we were glad we didn’t! Laid out between 1904 and 1908, the gardens comprise 125 acres  (with more than 4,000 plants) along with a 38 acre lake. The garden includes classical and natural landscapes and a number of ponds and waterfalls.   Additional pictures of the gardens are below:

Loggia and Piazza that front the lake

fountain on the back side of the piazza inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome

view of the lake from inside Piazza

By the time we finished up in the gardens it was almost closing time and we headed back to our hotel for a nice long soak in the hot tub!  After all the walking and climbing up and down at Arundel, my legs were killing me!!

*All information is from the Guidebook

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The One With the "Old" and the "New"

After a decent night’s sleep, the next morning we headed out for Arundel Castle. After a pretty drive through the country of about an hour we saw the castle perched up on a hill above a small town. Long the home of the Dukes of Norfolk, Arundel is still an “inhabited” castle and the home of the current Duke and Duchess and their children.

The current structure is a Norman Castle (with a Keep, Gatehouse, Barbican and wall - picture below) combined with a large Victorian country house (in the 19th century Gothic Revival style).

After William the Conqueror won the English throne in 1066, he rewarded his supporters with land provided they built defensive castles on them. A large part of Sussex was given to his relative, Roger de Montgomery who had looked after William’s Norman interests. Built four miles from the coast, Arundel formed part of a line of fortresses designed to prevent future invasions across the channel.   Looked pretty impressive to me!

In 1068, de Montgomery started construction on an earth and wood fortification that would later be replaced with masonry, starting with the gatehouse in 1070. Over the next 100 years, the walls would rebuilt using Sussex flintwork which you can still see on the walls.

this is a closeup of how several of the walls look

Although the battlements and turrets were restored in the 19th century, most of the walls are original. When de Montgomery’s son Robert rebelled against King Henry I, his lands (including Arundel) were confiscated and in 1138 the castle was granted as her dower to Queen Adelize of Louvain (Henry I’s widow). She later married William d’Aubigny (d’Albini) who became the Earl of Sussex and who replaced the original wood tower with ashlar stone brought over from Normandy.

Following the deaths of Adeliza and William, the castle reverted to the Crown under Henry II but was later returned to Williams’ son and the castle passed through the female line, the Fitzalan Earls of Arundel. In the late 14th century, the Barbican was added to the outside of the gatehouse and is currently the best preserved part of the medieval building along with the Beaumont/Bevis Tower. 

The Barbican

Beaumont/Bevis Tower

When the 12th Fitzalan earl died without an heir in 1580, (his son having pre-deceased him) the castle passed to his grandson Philip Howard (his mother Mary Fitzalan had married the 4th Duke of Norfolk). The Dukes of Norfolk have owned the castle ever since.

During the English Civil War in 1644, the castle was partially demolished on the south and southwest sides. In 1708, the 8th Duke of Norfolk repaired the south end and added a plain red brick Georgian front. During these years, the castle was used only occasionally. Starting in the late 18th century until about 1900, various renovations and additions were made to the castle and it was one of the first houses in England with an electric light. The Victorian Gothic house played a part in the WWII when it was occupied by British, American and Commonwealth troops.

In 1975, the 17th Duke, Miles, began a massive restoration project of the entire castle and although the castle had not been used as a residence in many years, in 1987 the 18th (and present Duke) decided to move his family into the castle and make it their home. Since then, the interior of the house has been restored and decorated in the Victorian style and an impressive garden has been added. The estate includes a large park which is open every day (free of charge) and the farmland surrounding the castle is very picturesque.

The Gatehouse Tower is the oldest part of the castle and dates from around 1070. The entrance archway is original and inside is an accurate Victorian re-creation of the portcullis mechanism. 

The first floor apartments have been known as “Queen Matilda’s Room” since the 18th century after the daughter of Henry I who may have stayed her with her step-mother Adeliza. The two arched Norman windows are original.

Up 131 steps, the Keep is 59 feet by 67 feet and is 30 feet high and was built in 1138 by William d’Albini.

Some of the late 14th century fireplaces can still be seen.

Up a narrow staircase is a wall walk with some gorgeous views of the town and surrounding countryside.

Also in this area are the castle’s well (which is over 100 feet deep and goes down to the water table below) and and a small chapel - St. Martin’s Chapel. The two arched windows are also originals.

The “house” portion of the castle contains a number of “state rooms” that are open to the public. Since pictures are not permitted, I’ve scanned some of the pictures from the guide book.

These rooms display many of the family’s collection of antiques, including furniture, armor and weapons (a few pieces are from the 15th century), artwork and tapestries.

The collection also includes some pieces that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots (the 4th Duke of Norfolk was beheaded by Elizabeth I in 1572 when his betrothal to Mary was seen as a threat to the throne) and includes the gold and enamel rosary beads carried by Mary at her execution (above - bequeathed to the Countess of Arundel, wife of Philip Howard), a gold cross, pearl necklace and Mary’s prayer book.

The family Chapel was built in the late 19th century and is very impressive with beautiful Victorian carved moldings and stained glass windows.   This picture really does not do it justice - I thought it was simply breathtaking.

Also impressive is the Baron’s Hall. At 133 feet in length and 50 feet in height, it was built during the late Victorian era.

The Dining Room is in what was the medieval chapel – the conversion was done around 1795.   What a great place to have dinner!

The castle includes a large number of guest bedrooms which include a small dressing room/bathroom many with original Victorian fixtures. On the main floor is a suite of rooms added in the 1790s and were refurbished in 1846 for a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  I would be afraid to sleep in one of theses rooms for fear I would break something or spill something on the carpet!

No country house would be complete without a library and Arundel’s is 122 feet long and of carved Honduran mahogany. The furniture dates from the 1846 visit by Queen Victoria. The library contains over ten thousand books, collected by the 9th and 11th Dukes and contains numerous volumes and materials relating to Catholic history.

The Fitzalan Chapel

(This is the entrance to the chapel).  Founded in 1380 as a collegiate chapel served by secular priests, it was returned to the family during the reign of Henry VIII when the college was dissolved. In an unusual case in the late 1800’s, a court determined that the chapel did not form part of the parish church but was instead an independent structure. It has therefore remained Catholic. Damaged during the English Civil War in 1643-44 and sadly neglected after that, the original timber roof collapsed in the late 1700’s and the chapel was gradually restored over the next 100 years. The chapel still serves as the burial place of the Dukes of Norfolk and many of their tombs are elaborate pieces of art, as is the beautiful stained glass window.

the chapel ceiling

The Gardens

Comprising over 30 acres, the grounds at Arundel have undergone extensive renovations over the last 20 years under the current duchess.

Chip has always enjoyed landscaping so he is fine with looking around at gardens (and taking lots of pictures!)

One of the more unusual aspects is a rockwork “mountain” planted with palms and ferns with a version of “Oberon’s Palace” sitting on top (it is to the left of the cathedral in this picture).

 Inside the palace is a crown fountain which I thought was a lot of fun!!

The day started off kind of cloudy and humid, but by late morning, the sun came out and the temperature was in the low 60’s. After exploring the inside of the castle, we walked around much of the outside through what must have been the moat.

It provided some great views of the castle from slightly different angles and I was surprised that we were the only ones out there!

Here are some additional pictures:

I just love this one with the fall colors

from underneath the old bridge

another entrance from across another bridge; flanked by the Howard lion and the Fitzalan horse

turrets – what’s not to love?!!

I love shots like this!

Having eaten a large English breakfast, we weren’t really that hungry at lunchtime so we went to the castle’s cafĂ© and took a break with drinks and desert before we headed out.


*all information is from the castle guidebook


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