• Lucy

Old Wardour Castle (Wiltshire, England)

Beautifully distinctive, Old Wardour Castle is a stunning ruin that, in only one visit, has made it's way into being one my top ten castles!

Old Wardour Castle was built in the 1390s by John, the 5th Baron Lovell, using locally quarried Tisbury greensand stone by master mason William Wynford. Construction commenced in 1392 after permission to build was received from Richard II. A six-sided design that is totally unique in Britain, it was inspired by the Hexagonal castles of France and the continent. Like many later castles, Old Wardour was built as to serve as a statement of wealth and power, with defensive capabilities as a secondary priority.

Consisting of a hexagonal outer wall, keep, and gatehouse, there was a projecting gatehouse flanked by two towers. Domestic apartments and service ranges were within the main castle, and the large courtyard served as a light well.

After the Lovell family sided with the losing Lancastrians during the Civil War, the castle was confiscated in 1461 and then passed through several families until it came into the possession of Sir Thomas Arundell in 1544. The castle was once again confiscated in 1552 when Sir Thomas was executed for treason (his religion as a staunch Catholic and alleged complicity in a south-west rebellion being the cause), but was bought back by his son Sir Matthew Arundell in 1570.

Matthew Arundell transformed the castle into an Elizabethan manor, remodelling that included enlarging the windows and creating a grand entrance. At this point the castle was set within an enclosed deer park, including a lawn, an avenue, and a series of ponds.

As Catholics and high-profile landowners, the Arundells were Royalists during the Civil War. Whilst her husband Sir Thomas Arundell (the grandson of Sir Matthew Arundell in the above paragraph) was away on behalf of the King, his wife Lady Blanche Arundell (61) was left to guard the castle with a garrison of 25 men. In May 1643 the castle was laid siege to by a parliamentarian force of 1300 men led by Sir Edward Hungerford after the inhabitants refused admittance for them to search for Royalists. After 5 days of mines and guns that threaten to destroy the castle Lady Arundel surrendered and the castle was handed to the command of Sir Edmund Ludlow.

Her husband Lord Thomas Arundell had died after being mortally wounded at the Battle of Stratton, and on 19th May 1643 his son Sir Henry Arundell succeeded to his titles and lands. He subsequently laid siege to his own castle of Old Wardour and successfully retook it from Royalist control in March 1644, albeit with much destruction to his own property. Gunpowder set in a drain tunnel beneath the castle was set alight during the siege, collapsing two towers and drastically weakening the castle’s structural integrity.

The castle was never rebuilt, instead the Arundells built a small house out of the ruins of the stables. The family slowly recovered in wealth and status, and the 8th Baron Henry Arundell (born 1740) borrowed sufficient funds to rebuild. The result was Wardour New Castle, an extravagant Palladian style country house completed in 1776 roughly 1.5 miles from Old Wardour Castle, the remains of which were left standing as a feature within the parkland of the estate.

When the last Lord Arundell died in 1944 the castle passed into the care of English Heritage.

Pictures taken October 2018

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