Arundel Castle, West Sussex. The ancient residence of the duke and duchess of Norfolk.

arundel castle

Arundel castle, like its renowned neighbour Bodiam castle, is yet another charming pearl, having been lost in the abundant expanses of West Sussex, which many of the local and foreign travellers persistently don’t notice, chasing the more well known sights of Southern England.

The town of Arundel, home of the castle, can be reached in about 90 minutes drive from London. This miniature cosy spot has a wealth of history, delightful sceneries and even its own duke, who is the possessor of Arundel castle and the direct descendant of the ancient clans of d’Albani, Fitzalan and Howard (also known as the duke and duchess of Norfolk), holding the castle since the 12th century.

In the distant 1068, when Arundel castle was built, its appearance was strikingly different from how it looks like nowadays. Roger de Montgomery, close to William the Conqueror, erected a wooden construction à la “motte and bailey” for protecting the southern borders of England from a potential invasion from the Continent. In the course of time the wooden walls were replaced by the stone ones, the castle has been built up and undergone other changes until in the 17th century the Civil War descended on, and Arundel castle was thoroughly demolished by Oliver Cromwell’s troops – the fate of many architectural buildings of that time. The castle had been left uninhabited before the 18th century, when Thomas Howard, the 8th duke of Norfolk, took the first steps in restoration of the past grandeur of the family residence. His successors brilliantly carried on that what was started, and by the 1900 the new life was breathed into Arundel castle. It was mainly reconstructed during Victorian époque, and almost from scratch, but can be easily mistaken for a very real medieval castle.

arundel castle
They say that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, if you compare Arundel castle with a book, its content doesn’t give up to the sumptuous and intriguing cover. An impressive amount of rooms, opened to the public, strikes the imagination by its opulent furnishings and decoration. The refined furniture, the exquisite articles of the interior, the armours of the 15th-18th centuries, the paintings of the infamous artistes (such as Anthony Van Dyck, Thomas Geinsborough, Rubens etc) – which had been collected by the earls of Arundel by hundreds of years. It's fair to say though, that the special contribution to it, as in addition to the development of the British art in general, was indisputably made by Thomas Howard, 14th earl of Arundel, for his passion to the antiques dubbed «The Collector».

10 things to do in and around Arundel castle.

1. To get lost in the labirinth of the halls and rooms of Arundel castle. In fact it's quite easy to wander round the castle more than an hour. When it seems that the most interesting had already been seen, then something more breathtaking emerges.
Lancaster Bedroom with the ceiling unexpectedly emblazoned with an intricate pattern of leaves looks like a boudoir of a fairy.
The Drawing Room surprises by its impressive heraldic chimney piece, and the Baron Hall dazzles by its majestic dimensions and beautifully grim oak hammerbeam roof.
A grandiose two-storey library, supported by 16 colomnes, is the house not only for 10000 books but also for an extreemly well-read ghost that by rumours has been occasionly noticed loitering among the bookshelves. Well, not bad way of alleviating a centuries-old boredom after all.

In 1846 for three days Arundel castle was visited by one of the most romantic royal couples in British history.
arundel castle owls displayMolly the eagle owl in the Keep of Arundel castle
On this occasion for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was built the suit of six rooms, and the portrait of the Queen, intentionnaly commissioned for the guests arrival, still can be seen in one of the rooms.

2. To climb 131 steps into the Keep of Arundel castle with inspiring views of West Sussex crossed by the river Arun, snaking its way past. When Arundel castle was lying in ruins ands looked far from its present splendour, the owles used to settle in the Keep. Nowadays, as if for carrying on this tradition, every now and then there are held the displays of owls.

3. To have a look round the Fitzalan Chapel, built in the 14th century. The alebastrian efigies of human height, resting above the tombs of the castle's owners, look so probable that even cause an involuntary tremour in this even so ice-cold chapel.
fitzalan chapel and arundel cathedral
The view over the Fitzalan Chapel and Arundel Cathedral in the background
The building itself represents so rare example of the church partition by religion: behind the ancient grid of Catholique Fitzalan chapel is an amply distinct Anglican Church of Saint Nicholas.

4. To plunge into the flora of the Arundel castle gardens. The Collector Earl's Garden outstands by its phantasmagoric oak constructions and exotic trees and plants. Highlighted by 9 metre high Oberon palace, the garden looks like a magic paradise nook.

5. To visit yet another one local sight – Arundel cathedral. It looks deceptively old, but was built only in the end of the 19th century by Joseph Hansom that also invented the hansom's cab, the very cab in which Sherlock Holmes was traveling about London.
There is a Catholic martyr Saint Philip Howard buried, which is also often refered to those people who died for their belifs. Young Philip was a courtier of Queen Elizabeth I and in the days of his youth he was far from any religions, leading wild life and being unfaithful to his wife. He seemed to settle down with time and even converted himself into a zealous Catholic, a thing which in those years of the Reformation could cause some really nasty consequences. Besides Philip Howard attempted to leave England not only without royal permission but having intentions of seeking asylum in Spain. At that time Philip II, the king of Spain, just was equipping his «Invincible Armada».
arundel cathedral
Arundel Cathedral overlooking the Collector Earl's Garden
On top of that Howard was the descendant of Edward I of England thus having the rights for the crown. That fact could turn him to a quite convinient ally for the Spanish king. So no wonder why the future saint found himself in the Tower where he spent the last 10 years of his life in fasting, praying and doing penance.

6. To rise adrenalin in the blood by so-called «Ghost experience» - an organized excursion to Victorian dungeon, located under The Arundel Town Hall. The tour is held in the light of candles, accompanied by the spooky local stories and screaming of too nervous tourists.

arundel west sussex
The view from the bridge across the river Arun
7. To meander along the narrow streets of Arundel built mostly with snug Georgian and Victorian houses. To take a short rest in one of many local pubs or cafés. In such small town ,with the populatin no more than 4000, there are about 20 pubs! Last week of August Arundel holds the annual festival, going along with concerts, playings and fairs. During the festive time the local painters, sculptors, photographs and other artists turn their homes into the galleries where any having been liked pieces of art can be purchased.

8.To have a boat trip along the river Arun from Arundel till seaside resort town Littlehampton or lovely hamlet Amberley. Amberley has an interesting museum with the expositions quite visually showing the development of technology fo the last 150 years. In Amberley working museum the different craftmen, such as potters and smiths, do their casual tasks in front of the curious public. There are also the exhibitions telling about printing skill and the process of making beer, the displays dedicated to the history of phones and electricity. On top of everyting else there is an amazing collection of vintage buses and steam locomotives, which are accessible for having a drive in it.

9. To have a retrospective look at the life in the Middle Ages. By the walls of Arundel castle are fairly often organized the medieval joustings, as well as the tournament of fencing and archery. For those who might be interested in more peaceful things there is the imitation of a medieval encampment just close at hand, where attired in the appropriate costumes of that epoque, the men clean their weapons and the women cook an unpretentious meal.
john constable arundel castle
John Constable. Arundel Mill and Castle

10.To go for a row around Swanbourne lake which is in Arundel park, in few minutes walk from Arundel castle. It's better to have a substantial hoard of bread in advance because some of the local donald ducks and their girlfriends can get really determined regarding their refreshments. And don't forget to bring camera – great shots for those who are in wildlife photography are guaranteed.

Arundel with its chivalrous looking castle and vibrant sceneries, painted by John Constable, is like a favorite book – after having read it once you want to return to the favourite passages again and again.

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