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Arundel Castle, West Sussex

Castle Keep

At Christmas 1067 Roger de Montgomery was made Earl of Arundel and given a large part of Sussex. This was a reward for his loyalty in looking after Normandy while William the Conqueror was busy conquering England. Roger had a typical Norman fortification built on his new property at Arundel, consisting of a high mound called a motte, with a timber fortification on top. By 1135 the castle had passed to Adeliza, widow of the Conqueror's younger son, Henry I. Adeliza and her new husband William d'Albini built a stone keep on top of the motte. They lived here during the early reign of Henry I's successor, his nephew Stephen. In 1139 Henry I's daughter and nominated successor, Matilda arrived in England in 1139 to stake a claim to her inheritance. After coming ashore on the south coast, she stayed at Arundel, before beginning her long struggle against Stephen.

In 1232 John Fitzalan inherited the castle. In the sixteenth century Mary Fitzalan married Thomas Howard, and Arundel then passed down through generations of Fitzalan-Howards to the present day duke. Fitzalans and Howards played highly visible roles in English history. It's worth taking a little time to detail the family's adventures since they touched so many famous historical figures and events.




The Quadrangle

Richard Fitzalan, who became Earl of Arundel in 1290, fought for Edward I at the siege of Caerlaverock. His son Edmund was caught up in the vicious disputes of Edward II's reign. Edmund was beheaded at Hereford in 1326. Later earls fought with Henry V in France. By 1483 the Arundel earls were known as the Dukes of Norfolk. The first Duke of Norfolk, John Howard, was a loyal supporter of Richard III. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Thomas, the second duke commanded the English army against the Scots at Flodden in 1513. Thomas's son, the third duke, another Thomas, played ruthless political games in the court of Henry VIII. He schemed to bring two attractive nieces to the attention of the King. The first of these girls, Anne Boleyn, became Henry's second wife, and mother of Elizabeth I. The second, Katherine Howard became Henry's fifth wife. Both Anne and Katherine were executed, and their ruthless uncle did nothing to help them. Thomas was a Catholic, and yet when Henry moved to change England's religion to Protestantism, Thomas played a leading role in the brutal suppression of the Catholic rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Thomas, by playing the political system, managed to survive as a leading Catholic in Protestant England. His grandson Thomas, the fourth duke was not so lucky. After he tried to marry Mary Queen of Scots, he was beheaded on the order of Elizabeth I in 1572 on Tower Hill. After this the family lost its claim to the title of Duke of Norfolk. Thomas's son, a mere Earl of Arundel, tried to leave England without official permission. For this he spent ten years in the Tower of London before dying of dysentery.

The family then went into something of a decline. This situation was partially reversed by the fourteenth earl who was an ambassador for Charles I. This earl, known as the Collector Earl, used his wealth to support art and learning, acting as patron of Van Dyke, Inigo Jones and Rubens. He left England at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, and died abroad. Meanwhile Arundel Castle, was besieged by Parliamentary forces in 1643 - 1644. This battle which is vividly illustrated by displays at Arundel, left the castle in ruins. Subsequent earls, as Catholics, found their public roles limited. Nevertheless Charles II restored the title of Duke of Norfolk to the family in 1660. By 1829 Bernard the twelfth duke was allowed to take his seat in the House of Lords. Henry the thirteenth duke was Earl Marshall of England. He entertained Queen Victoria at Arundel in 1846. With the situation of Catholics becoming more secure, a huge rebuilding programme began at Arundel. Henry Granville the fourteenth duke, and his son Henry the fifteenth duke carried this work forward. The fifteenth duke and his architect C.A Buckler restored and reconstructed the whole castle between 1875 and 1900.


Arundel Cathedral

In many ways the castle became a fairytale castle, like Castle Drogo on Dartmoor. It was a symbolic castle, built long after castles had lost their practical use. The symbolism of castles has long been as important a part of their make up as their physical strength. They provide symbolic security to set alongside physical protection. This is reflected in the way castles and churches always go together. Early castles consisted of circular earth banks and ditches around hilltops, topped with wooden palisades: early churches consisted of circular earth banks and ditches, with palisades represented by wooden or stone uprights. Sometimes religious sites consisted of the same sort of hills as those on which castles stood: Silbury Hill or Glastonbury Tor would be examples. Later in history churches continued to look like castles, with representative battlements and towers. As well as sharing similar architecture, castles and churches tend to share the same sites. This is demonstrated at Arundel where the earls were as keen on church building as they were on castle building. There is the Fitzalan Chapel built in 1380 by Richard, fourth Earl of Arundel. In 1868 Henry the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk commissioned Joseph Hansom to design a spectacular new Catholic church to act as a suitable counterpart to Arundel Castle. Arundel Cathedral was the result. In the castle itself a lavish chapel was built in the 1870s.



Sentinels by Philip Jackson

The deeply rooted symbolism of castles makes it an affecting site for the placement of art works. The castle walls make a fitting backdrop for moody sculpture by Philip Jackson, pieces with names such as "The Sentinels". There is much art to see at Arundel, collected by the earls. In many ways Arundel is similar to the Rothschilds' grand house at Waddesdon where art is displayed in a symbolic fairytale landscape.

Some people seek spiritual solace in churches, some in art, some in learning. It is interesting that traditional college architecture is once again similar to military or church architecture. Oxford and Cambridge colleges are little castles, fortresses of learning. At Arundel these parallels are reflected in the beautiful library. This room was built around 1800 by the eleventh Duke. It is 122 feet long, and treated as if it were a church, with slender clustered columns supporting a vaulted roof, and long book lined balconies.

People have been seeking security at Arundel since 1067. For me the real interest of Arundel Castle is the way it reflects the various different ways people have gone about it.


Arundel Castle is a popular film location and can be seen in The Madness of King George, and The Young Victoria.



Opening Times: Please use contact details below.

Address: Arundel Castle, Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9AB

Directions: Arundel Castle is in the town of Arundel just off the A27 in West Sussex. Click here for an interactive map centred on Arundel Castle. There is ample car parking close to the castle entrance.

Access: Ground floor is accessible via ramps, first floor via lift. Some areas will remain difficult, however. About two thirds of the castle is accessible to wheelchair users. Grounds are partially accessible. There are some steep slopes, including the initial walk up from the car park. A passenger buggy is available. Enquire at the ticket office. Adapted toilet facilities are provided.


telephone: 01903 882173

fax: 01903 884581


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