UK Travel Guide

Castles

Arundel Castle

Description: Arundel castle is situated in magnificent grounds overlooking the River Arun in West Sussex. There is nearly 1,000 years of history at this great castle. It was built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel. His ghost is reputed to haunt the keep. The oldest feature is the motte, an artificial mound, over 100 feet high from the ditch, and constructed in 1068: followed by the gatehouse in 1070. It is not clear what the origins of Arundel castle are and a lot of what is seen by visitors today, is the reconstruction which took place in the 18th and 19th century. King Alfred is thought by locals to have had fortifications here, but there is no archeogical evidence of this site. On the opposite side of the river at Warningcamp, there are ancient remains of defensive earthworks, but very little is known about them. The original castle built by Roger de Montgomery was a classic motte and bailey castle of timber. The original timbers were gradually replaced with stone, starting first with the curtain wall and gatehouse, which still survive with its original retangular portcullis groove. After his death in 1094, he was succeeded by his son, Robert de Belleme who was a cruel man with many enemies. He was keen to strengthen the fortifications and carried out some building plans. However, he rebelled against Henry I in 1102 and the castle was besieged for 3 months. Robert was banished for life and his property confiscated by the Crown. After Henry I died, the castle was given to his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain, and in 1138 she married William D'Albini II and took up residence at Arundel. Her husband was a great builder and became Earl of Sussex upon his marriage. He constructed the marvellous keep at Arundel which still survives today. It was built of Caen stone which was brought over from Normandy, and Quarr Abbey stone from the Isle of Wight. By the standards of the time, the interior of the keep would have been luxurious and richly decorated, seen as fitting for a Queen dowager. In 1139 they invited the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I to stay, as she intended to press her claim to the throne from Stephen. Stephen threatened to besiege Arundel and Matilda went to Bristol. Matilda was unsuccessful with her claim, but Stephen did agree that her eldest son Henry would inherit the Crown on his death. D'Albini continued to own Arundel until his death in 1176 when it again came under the Crown, this time owned by Henry II, Matilda's son. Henry II stayed at the Castle in 1182. He made many costly improvements, mainly to the domestic facilities of the castle, and added a new domestic range by the south bailey. The Castle returned to the D'Albini family under Richard Coeur de Lion and several 'fines' were paid to the Crown for the family to retain possession. Hugh de Albini was the last of his line when he died young in 1243. John Fitzalan of Clun, who had married Hugh de Albini's daughter Isobel, acquired Arundel. The Fitzalan's held the castle in an almost uninterrupted line until 1555 when Mary Fitzalan, last of the family, married Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk, this carried Arundel into the Howard family where it remains. John Fitzalan died in 1272 and Arundel passed to his five year old son, Richard. In 1285 King Edward I granted the right to hold two fairs a year at Arundel and to tax the goods there. This provided the money to renovate the castle which had been neglected through lack of money. In 1289 Richard was created Earl of Arundel by 'Longshanks' and the two became good friends. He carried out much building work at Arundel which included the reconstruction of the entrance to the keep, the Well Tower and the barbican with two square towers in front of the Norman gateway. Richard, the 1st Fitzalan Earl died at the age of 35 in 1302. The next hundred years saw good and bad times for the Fitzalan's. Richard's son , Edmund 2nd Earl was beheaded after his involvement in the rebellion against Edward II. He was caught by Queen Isabella's lover, Mortimer and executed without trial in Hereford. Arundel passed to the Earl of Kent, 6th son of Edward I, but he was also beheaded when the castle was returned to the Fitzalans 4 years later. Richard Fitzalan, 3rd Earl took part in the Battle of Crecy with Edward III and the young Black Prince of Wales. He returned home from Calais a hero. He carried out much rebuilding at Arundel and was also responsible for the beautiful Fitzalan Chapel which was built according to the terms of his will. His son, Richard, became the 4th Earl and is noted for his treachery to Richard II. He began by actively supporting the King but later changed sides. The King later had him executed and awarded Arundel to his friend John Holland, Duke of Exeter. Arundel was returned to the Fitzalan's when Henry IV had Holland beheaded and gave Arundel to the great Thomas Fitzalan, 5th Earl of Arundel. He became the first member of the family to be buried in the Chapel. He also played an important role in the Hundred Years War and at home. He was later with Henry V at Harfleur where he caught dysentery and died leaving no heir. The marriage of Thomas the 4th Duke of Norfolk and Lady Mary Fitzalan in 1555 brought together the Fitzalan and Howard families. He was executed in 1572 by Elizabeth I for falling in love with Mary Queen of Scots. When the Civil War started, Thomas Howard 14th Earl of Arundel, was out of the country. Arundel castle was claimed by the Royalists and between 20th December 1643 and 6th January 1644, it was beseiged by General Sir William Waller. It was a devastating onslaught which left the castle in ruins. It remined in this state until 1716 when the 8th Duke intended to build a new house on the site but instead rebuilt some of the south range. More repairs were done to the house but nothing to the castle. In 1787 the 11th Duke, Charles Howard who was an amateur architect decided to completely reconstruct the castle to his own designs. The works were completed in 1815 at a cost of 600,000. Henry Granville, 14th Duke started work on castle reconstruction but he died before it was completed. His son Henry, 15th Earl completed his work with the help of C.A.Bucker, a leading Architect in Antiquary Designs. Their work was completed between 1875-1900 and many of the interior features of previous reconstructions were retained. Before the keep was restored, having been left in ruin for its picturesque beauty, the Dukes kept a colony of owls. A tradition exists at the castle where, when a family member is about to die, a white owl is seen fluttering at one of the windows.
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Notes: The castle is open to the public and contains a fine collection of English and continental furniture, magnificent family portraits including 6 by Van Dyck and an important 18th century library. It is open 1st April to the last Friday in October, every day except Saturday and Good Friday from 12.00 noon to 5.00pm.