In the summer of 2016 me and Chris (my husband), visited Arundel Castle which is situated in West Sussex. The castle overlooks the River Arun; set in beautiful grounds with a chapel and a variety of gardens. Arundel is open to the public from April 1st – October 29th (2017). We love going on long walks and visiting historic places so Arundel was evidently a must on our list. The castle has a nearly 1000-year-old history! It was established by Robert de Montgomery on Christmas day in 1068.
Another visitor attraction worth exploring whilst you are there is Arundel Museum, just outside the entrance of the Castle. It is run almost exclusively by volunteers and tells the history and story of the town by people who are passionate about the town. Arundel Museum has their own website separate from the Castle’s, which is well worth browsing. You can look at their collections, book events and talks, or even become a member or volunteer.
Another aspect that drew me to visiting Arundel Castle was the large collection of artworks on display there. From Van Dyck and Gainsborough to Canaletto; there are many artworks on display all over the castle, however, my favourite room was the Great Hall which was used for filming a scene in the Young Victoria. The Arundel Castle website states, “The Film charts Queen Victoria’s journey to the throne. Arundel’s picturesque medieval castle is the backdrop in several key scenes and its wonderful features play stand-in for some very famous locations such as the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace and St. Georges Hall at Windsor Castle.” The fact that the Castle stands in for these iconic locations shows how wonderful it really is.
There are so many great spaces to discover at Arundel Castle, but I am going to talk about a few of my favourite. First the gardens! Even though Arundel is a small town, and the Castle itself does not cover too much land, the gardens feel so large and spacious. There’s the Collector Earl’s Garden, the Rose Garden, the English Herbaceous Borders, the Stumpery, the Glass Houses, the Cut Flower Garden, the Organic Kitchen Garden and the White Garden. From the oak pagodas to the floating crown there is so much beauty in the Collector Earl’s Garden. A painting in the Drawing Room of the Countess of Arundel by Daniël Mijtens shows how the garden looked during her time there, which is how it has been re-created for today. The gateways and pavilions are based on Inigo Jones’s designs for Arundel House (preserved at the Royal Institute of British Art’s Drawings Collection). The walled kitchen garden used to be a tarmac and concrete carpark but the present Duke and Duchess re-created the area to what it is today. The Stumpery is a space that utilizes the stumps cut down from the surrounding Norfolk estate and are used to encourage insects, like bees, beetles and butterflies to flourish and grow.
Throughout the Castle, you can see how much history it is steeped in within the architecture and its features. From the medieval era to the Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian period there is so much to see. The stained glass windows are amazing, the craftsmanship can be appreciated up close. Heraldic imagery is compact and colourful in each window.
Chris’ favourite room was the library. The library itself dates from the 11th Duke of Norfolk, and work was carried out around 1800 which is made of carved Honduras mahogany by Jonathon Ritson, father and son. The beautiful carpet was rewoven to the original design and the red curtains (Norfolk plush) are re-hung in the central arches. Some of the furniture originally supplied by Morant for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1846 has also been preserved. John Martin Robinson wrote in December 1992, “Altogether the restoration and redecoration of Arundel mark it out as one of the most successful of country house revivals of recent years,” and the sheer amount of beauty in the Castle makes this no understatement. Dark mahogany spills over the balconies and covers the walls and ceiling. The artistry in the panelling and vaulting is exquisite. Sadly, no photos were allowed in the library, but we were too busy looking at everything to even think about taking photos. It is not just the interiors in the library that should grab your attention, the collection of historic and collectable books are worth seeing.
Part of the Arundel experience is visiting the Castle Bedrooms, which is part of the family home of the Duke of Norfolk. When walking around the drawing rooms, living rooms, and bedroom, you can spot signs of a lived-in home. Family photos, recent magazines, even half used loo rolls. One of the rooms of the families private apartments (you can look into the bedrooms and bathrooms, but they are roped off at the door) were used by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during their stay in 1846. The suite of bedroom furniture made for Victoria and Albert are on display, you can see the Queen’s bed, the guest book bearing her and her Consort’s signature, and her toilet.
The Gallery and the Armoury are some of the busiest parts of the Castle, and it is understandable why. The Gallery’s furniture, tapestries and collection of artworks are part of the most renowned collections in the UK. The painting collection reflects the centuries of acquiring through generations. The collection of historic weaponry at Arundel Castle is so immense in terms of volume and quality, thus the viewing experience is aided by the visitor booklets, as there is so much to see it is hard to keep up with the trail of crowds reading the gallery labels. But, if you take your time and get up close you can really appreciate the decorative nature of the armour and weaponry, which is just as beautiful as the paintings, tapestries and furniture in the Gallery.
I am going to visit Arundel Castle again at the height of the summer, which in my opinion is the best time to go. From my previous experience, I would advise everyone to make the most of the town as there are some amazing local shops and restaurants. Or you could bring a packed lunch as sit by the river and watch the boats go by, which is just as lovely. I would also advise you to arrive early and really take your time in the castle as there is so much to see. Let me know what you think of Arundel if you have visited before, and let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them!