Arundel Castle, West Sussex


Arundel Castle, West Sussex

Arundel Castle has been a home for the British aristocracy for almost 1,000 years. Its history is closely linked with the fate of the crown.

The original dwelling was a wooden keep built on the motte, or hill, in 1138. The sturdy fort was expanded by successive generations of the d'Albini family to become the second largest castle in the UK. The castle towers 100 feet above its 40-acre grounds, overlooking the River Arun and the town of Arundel.

Dee French, marketing manager, said: "Henry I bequeathed the land to his second wife Adeliza of Louvain. Three years after Henry's death, Adeliza married William d'Albini and he began building work on the motte. Henry II gave their son, William d'Albini II, the title Earl of Arundel. The castle has descended through the female line to the present day without major interruption and has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for more than 850 years."


By the Fourteenth Century the castle was a thriving hub of activity. Dee said: "Two baileys were built around the fort and the whole castle was surrounded by a protective curtain wall. A bailey is an encampment designed to house all the workers living within the castle. While the knights and earls lived in the main building, the bailey was home to animal handlers, kitchen staff and the like. Arundel is unusual in having two encampments and it is a reflection of the success of the Dukes of Norfolk."

The Howard family owned the castle by the reign of Henry VIII (1509 to 1547) and the then Duke of Norfolk was influential at the Royal Court. Dee said: "The Duke was uncle to Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. He was instrumental in bringing his nieces to the king's attention."

Henry VIII made Anne Boleyn his second wife in 1533 and took Katherine Howard as his fifth bride in 1540. Dee said: "Both women fell from favour and were beheaded. The Duke made no move to save them and only avoided his own execution because Henry died on the morning it was due to take place. The Duke died of old age many years later."

The following century the castle became a major target in the English Civil War. Dee said: "The family's prominent royalist beliefs put them in the spotlight during the dispute and the castle was twice besieged. The fabric of the building was badly damaged."

Pictures courtesy of Arundel Castle
The castle is open from April to October


Many rooms of the castle were left in a state of disrepair until the succession of the Eleventh Duke of Norfolk in 1786.

Dee said: "Charles Howard took it upon himself to restore his family home and his influence is still very evident in the rooms we open to the public. Charles was a larger-than-life extrovert and a mass of contradictions. He was a great literary man and supporter of charities as well as one of the first to speak out against slavery. However he was also known as the Drunken Duke because of his love for good food and drink. It was said his meals often started at 3pm and he carried on eating until midnight. He converted the castle chapel into a luxurious dining room as a setting for his feasts."

The Drunken Duke was a close friend of the Prince Regent who is believed to have been a visitor.

Dee said: "Charles added some unusual features, such as the mahogany-clad library stocking 10,000 books and the owlery. He brought a family of owls to live in the old keep and named the birds after cabinet ministers. Sadly, renovation work later in the century made the owlery uninhabitable."

Today the castle is home to the 18th Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, their five children and two dogs. Dee said: "The Duke also holds the hereditary title of Earl Marshal of England. It places the Duke in charge of state ceremonial such as the coronation and funeral of the sovereign."

Visitors to the castle can view more than 20 rooms, including the dining room, the library, the armoury and the Baron's Hall. Dee said: "The castle has a fascinating collection of fine furniture dating from the Sixteenth century, tapestries, clocks, and portraits by famous artists. In the grounds people can see the traditional kitchen gardens as well the Fitzalan Chapel with its ancient tombs of the Norfolk family."
Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 9AB
Telephone: 01903 883136

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