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 café and took a break with drinks and desert before we headed out.


*all information is from the castle guidebook


  1. Oh, very cool. I am jealous, but thanks for sharing anyway :)

  2. Amazing place and you got some great pictures. This has not really been on my radar but I'm now planning a day trip to see it!

  3. Miss Moppet - it really would make a nice day trip. I had never heard of this one either - it was actually Chip who put it on the list after seeing it in a book I have about English Castles. Since it's not that well known, there wasn't that many people there either!





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