Half an hour from Worthing is the quintessential English castle (château fort), Arundel Castle. Parts of it date from just two years after the 1066 Battle of Hastings. Much of the rest of it has been added to or repaired, with major work having been completed during the second half of the 19th century. It has remained occupied for nearly 1,000 years and has been the family home of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors (ancêtres).

Arundel Castle from the air

The Gatehouse and the Keep

Work on two earth mottes (une motte castrale) started in 1068. The bigger of these was made nearly 30 metres high. Wooden palisades originally enclosed these and were progressively replaced with stone. All the curtain walls were completed by 1170 using a mixture of local stone and flint. The square Keep (le donjon) that was built on the larger motte was replaced with ashlar stone brought from Caen in Normandy.

The 12th century Keep remains intact and is one of the best parts of the castle that is open to the public. It is also where the Royalists mounted their defence of the the castle against the Parliamentarians who were besieging (assiégeaient) it in 1644 during the English Civil War. Several of the rooms in the Keep have been set up as a display of castle defences and of uniforms of the period.

Arundel Castle Keep

The Keep was any castle’s ultimate defence. It is where access to the well (le puits) was - for drinking water. It is also where there was a dungeon or prison. It is also one of the highest points of the castle and there are splendid views of the surrounding Sussex countryside, all the way to the coast just four miles away.

On your way up to the Keep you pass through the 1070 Gatehouse (le corps de garde). Both here at at the Keep itself there are two well-preserved oak portcullises (la herse). As you descend back from the Keep to the Gatehouse, there are sweeping views of the more modern castle quadrangle, as you can see here:

Arundel Castle - inside the keep

The Victorian additions

Inside the castle’s original curtain walls major work was undertaken by the 15th Duke of Norfolk between 1875 and 1900. Much of this was repair work, but the creation of a family home in the Gothic style was the principle objective. The results, much of which are open to the public, include the Armoury, the Baron’s Hall, the Fitzalan Chapel, the picture Gallery and the Library. Beyond these, there are bedrooms and drawing rooms, some of whose open doorways you are free to stroll past.

The detail and richness of much that is on view is impossible to do justice to in a single visit. Partly because the Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the English peerage, the premier earl and the Earl Marshal of England, and partly because the castle holds such astonishing collections of art, of furniture, of medieval arms and weapons and of heraldic paraphernalia (attirail héraldiques), the impression of an unbroken lineage (lignée ininterrompue) going back nearly 1,000 years is almost overwhelming. This brief page of information is designed to do nothing more than whet your appetite to visit the castle.

The Fitzalan Chapel

This chapel was commissioned back in the 13th century, but what you see today is the fruit of a rebuild by Victorian craftsmen in the 13th century Gothic style that started in 1894. The chapel is a catholic chapel and it is, unusually, separated from the protestant parish church by just a glass screen.

Arundel Castle Chapel

The Library

The 9th and 11th Dukes were book collectors and the library contains around 10,000 volumes, the lot shelved on two floors on carved mahogany (acajou sculpté), resembling a church. Until recently, the library contained a Shakespeare First Folio of 1623. It is thought that 750 copies of this were first printed, of which there may be 234 still surviving. The collection includes important volumes on catholic history. A full list of the library’s content is available on the Arundel Castle website (see links below).

Arundel Castle Library


The castle has a spectacular Portrait Gallery which consists of a series of portraits of the Dukes and Duchesses of Norfolk in chronological order, a small glimpse (aperçu) of which you can see here:

Part of Arundel Castle Picture Gallery

In reality the whole castle is adorned with portraits, many by celebrated painters such as Van Dyck (1599 - 1641) and Gainsborough (1727 - 1788). The small drawing room contains three large Canalleto (1697 - 1768) landscapes (paysage dans l’art) commissioned by the 9th Duke and Duchess in around 1750.

If you are at all passionate about art, your progress round the castle will be slow!

Here is Van Dyck’s portrait of Charles I (from Wikipedia) which hangs in the castle’s Baron’s Hall.

Van Dyck's portrait of Charles I


Arundel Castle’s website.
Arundel Castle on Wikipedia.
The College of Arms.
The Duke of Norfolk on Wikipedia.
Portrait of Charles I on Wikipedia.
Shakespeare First Folio on Wikipedia.

Photo credits

Some of the photographs on this page have been kindly provided by Midnight Communications of Brighton.