Pick of the Month

Here is our recommendation for the best place to visit this month.

Arundel Castle, West Sussex

Arundel Castle is every small child’s dream of a castle, standing proud on a hill above the town surveying all the land around. It was an important Norman castle, part of a network of strongholds across the South East that reinforced the power of the new Norman barons of the 11th century, in this case William the Conqueror’s cousin, Roger de Montgomery. It also has a history typical of so many castles in England. If you had come here in the early 18th century, you’d have found the castle in a sorry state after its partial destruction in the English Civil War. Its great days were not over and the castle was partially restored by Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk around 1787 – the gothick library and folly at Hiorne Tower date from his time. More important was the visit of Queen Victoria in 1846 which inspired Henry, 13th Duke of Norfolk to undertake extensive remodelling of the castle, building an entirely new wing for the Queen and Prince Albert. He enjoyed the process so much that he continued to restore and redecorate the castle right up to his death when it was finished off by his successor so that by 1900 it was one of the first English country houses to be fitted with electric light, integral fire fighting equipment, service lifts and central heating while the gravity fed water supply also supplied the town.
Arundel Castle has always been at the centre of national life. Two queens stayed here and you can still see the apartments that were created to host each of them. Queen Matilda came in 1139 and 700 years later, in 1846, Queen Victoria was impressed with everything on her visit. You’ll be impressed by her bedroom today.
The Barons' Hall
Queen Victoria's Bed
Only 2 families have lived here making it one of the houses in longest continuous habitation in the country. The Montgomery’s tenure was pretty brief and the castle was passed by the King to William d’Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel, then through the female line to the Fitzalans. When Mary Fitzalan, daughter of the 19th Earl of Arundel married Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk in 1555, the castle became just one of the powerful Howard family’s many properties. Despite Thomas Howard’s execution for treason for scheming to marry Mary Queen of Scots, the castle remains in the Howard family to this day. The Howards have been Earls Marshal of Britain since 1672 so today are in charge of all our great State occasions.
The Collector Earl's Garden
Now the main residence of the Duke of Norfolk, Arundel’s grand Victorian interiors are filled with portraits, furnishings and treasures collected by the family over many centuries. Some of the finest pieces were brought from Europe by Thomas, 14th Earl of Arundel, known as the Collector Earl (1585-1646). He was one of a group of art connoisseurs that surrounded Charles I and introduced a fashion for Italian Old Masters to Britain. In his lifetime he owned at least 700 paintings and some are still at Arundel, as well as sculptures and tapestries. He also began a tradition of commissioning portraits by leading artists of the day so that the collection includes works by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Mytens, Lawrence, Reynolds and Canaletto.
The Drawing Room
Tudor portraits
The shell keep survives from the Norman castle as does the FitzAlan Chapel, built in 1390 by the 4th Earl of Arundel as the burial vault for his family. It remains a Catholic chapel even though their adherence to the Catholic faith nearly brought disaster to the family. Howards have been military commanders, winning for the Crown at Flodden and against the Spanish Armada; politicians, promoting Anne Boleyn and then Catherine Howard to the throne and then risking all to plot with Mary, Queen of Scots. Some of Mary’s possessions found their way to Arundel including the prayer book and rosary she carried with her to the scaffold in 1587. Catholicism also brought the family two cardinals and a saint, St Philip Howard who was martyred by Elizabeth I and canonised in 1970.
Gatehouse and Barbican
International Jousting & Medieval Tournament
The gardens have been extensively replanted and the Rose Garden and herbaceous borders are at their best in mid-summer. The Collector Earl’s Garden is a new Jacobean style formal garden within the old Victorian walled gardens. Its full of surprises, tufa cascade, canal pond, shell lined fountain pool and Oberon’s Palace. There is a White Garden, a Stumpery, an organic kitchen garden and a cut flower garden. A date for your diary is the 2018 Tulip Festival next April and May when you will see over 32,000 tulips blooming. Or book in for the International Jousting Competition held in July/August.
Arundel Castle