Wardour Castle. The ruins of a fine 14th, Century Castle, which was beseiged by the Parliamentarians, but destroyed by its owner, Lord Arundell, in the Royalist cause.
Published: R. Wilkinson & Co, Towbridge
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Waldour Castle was built by Lord John Lovell who purchased the land in 1386. Although only a minor baron in his own right, his marriage to Maud de Holand, brought him increased influence. . . . On 27 February 1393 Richard II granted a “licence for John, Lord Lovell to crenellate his manor of Werdour…and make a castle of it”. Work started on the castle in 1393 and continued through to 1400. As with other late fourteenth century castles, Wardour was intended to serve as a statement of Lovell’s wealth and status rather than as a defensive fortification. Its design was influenced by the geometric configuration of Queensborough Castle in Kent where three lines of circular defences were set within each other. Wardour adopted the same concept but with hexagons; the outer wall, the Keep and the courtyard within were all so shaped. The Keep was constructed from limestone ashlar and was a two storey hexagonal structure with a projecting gatehouse flanked by two rectangular towers. The internal ranges incorporated all the domestic apartments and service functions including two kitchens. The central courtyard served as a light well for the surrounding ranges. The Keep was set within a vast Outer Ward which would have hosted the ancillary buildings such as stables and storerooms. However, these would not have occupied the whole area and it is likely a significant portion of the Outer Ward was landscaped as a garden.
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Wardour was siezed by the crown, and later granted to the Earl of Pembroke. But the Arundell heir was not willing to let Wardour slip. Matthew Arundell married a lady in waiting to Elizabeth I, and in 1570 he obtained Wardour from the Earl in return for another estate. Rather than demolish the old castle, Arundell transformed it into an Elizabethan mansion, possibly with the aid of Robert Smythson, who was working at Longleat House around that time. Arundell’s renovations enlarged the windows and created a grand entrance. The rooms, particularly those on the upper floors, were transformed with rich furnishings and ornate decoration.
[During the Civil War] Thomas, 2nd Lord Arundell (c.1586–1643), joined the king in Oxford in spring 1643, leaving his wife, Lady Blanche Arundell (1583/4–1649), in charge of the castle. On 2 May, the local Parliamentary commander Sir Edward Hungerford arrived at Wardour Castle intending to occupy it. But Blanche refused to surrender. For six days she and her small force of about 25 men resisted the siege, only surrendering after Hungerford threatened to blow up the castle. Her heroism was widely reported in Royalist broadside news-sheets, along with that of the maidservants who reloaded the defenders’ guns. Soon afterwards, on 19 May, Lady Blanche’s husband was killed in battle near Oxford. In December their son Henry, 3rd Lord Arundell (1608–94), arrived at Wardour, intending to retake the castle from the Parliamentarian garrison, led by Edmund Ludlow. A three-month siege ensued, which finally ended in March 1644 when Henry Arundell blew up one side of his own castle with a mine and Ludlow surrendered.
Arundell took control of the house once more, but when the war ended in triumph for Parliament the castle was once more siezed. After the Restoration of the monarchy the Arundells regained Wardour, but never rebuilt the damaged castle. Instead, they built a small house out of the ruins of the stables. Finally, changing tastes and family fortunes enabled the Arundells to start again. The 8th Lord Arundell married well, and in 1769 he had James Paine build a new, contemporary house at New Wardour. The old castle became the centrepiece of the grounds surrounding the new mansion. The grounds were designed by Capability Brown, and include a series of ponds linked together to create water features.
1732 engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck of Old Wardour Castle, UK from (Wikimedia Commons)
The remains are those of a fortified mansion of the commencement of the fifteenth century. A low outer wall enclosed a large outer ward, or bailey, of which the gatehouse has been rebuilt. The inner court is small and hexagonal, having unusually fine and lofty buildings surrounding it, the inner walls next this court being nearly perfect. A state staircase, with groined roof, leads from the court to the great hall on the first floor, where the windows and the vaulted basement below it remain. The arrangements at the lower end of the hall, with doorways to a garderobe chamber, and the dais at the upper end, can be seen ; on the same floor, beyond the screens, is the kitchen, with very good windows. Beneath the hall runs a vaulted passage, connected with the postern-gate, having a portcullis at each end of it. There are extensive remains also of the moat, which was of unusual width. The plan of the structure was a singular one, being a hexagon with one of its sides projected in the form of two square fronted towers, between which is the king vaulted passage leading into the central court.
“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol 1”, James Mackenzie, 1896
The path to the Castle takes a serpentine direction up the ascent to the terrace, a walk carried along the side of the hill already mentioned, shaded by the fine hanging woods covering its sides ; through which are discovered many beautiful views to the distant country. A path leading through parterres ornamented with artificial rock-work, thence conducts to the grand entrance of the Castle, over which are the family arms and some other sculptures, surmounting eight Latin verses, dated 1578, relating to the forfeiture and recovery of the Castle. Little remains of the building itself but an octagonal court, a well of immense depth, and about half the original walls, the summits of which are enveloped in a gloomy mantle of ivy.
“The ancient castles of England and Wales”, William Woolnoth & E.W. Brayley, jun, 1825