Sunday, 15 March 2009

Old Wardour Castle

Old Wardour Castle is situated near Antsy Tisbury, on the A30 southwest of Salisbury.

Now just a ruin, this dazzling white stone hexagonal castle stands majestically amidst the Wiltshire countryside as a reminder of 14th century French inspired architecture. Built by John - 5th Lord Lovel in 1393, primarily as a fortification but later to become a lavish and slightly decadent country home. In 1547 Sir Thomas Arundell of Cornwall purchased the castle and it remained the property of the Arundells’ till its ruin during the Civil Wars.

The castle was badly damaged in the 17th century during a 25 day siege by Cromwell’s Army. Lady Blanche Arundell (her husband away at the time) is said to have fought valiantly with just a handful of men and close family to keep Cromwell’s men from the castle door. Ultimately, realizing they faced defeat from the superior weaponry of the Roundheads and with food and supplies running low, Lady Arundell surrendered. There are two outcomes to this story; one is that although Lady Arundell surrendered in 1643, the terms of their surrender were not honoured and she and her party were firstly imprisoned then later put to death. Having said that, there is strong evidence that the terms of her surrender were indeed honoured and she left Wardour with her head held high. There is evidence she died at Winchester on October 28, 1649 and was buried alongside her husband at Tisbury.

The ghost of Lady Blanche Arundell still haunts the ruins and the grounds to this day, and is often seen walking from the castle to the nearby lake at dusk, mainly alone, but sometimes accompanied by others, supposedly those who fought with her. The castle has been host to many paranormal vigils, some parties reporting an overwhelming feeling of calm when inside the ruin, surprising when one considers its violent history. English Heritage staff, who I spoke to at great length during my visit, told me of several accounts where staff and visitors have experienced a feeling of being watched whilst in the castle and grounds, some even claiming to have seen the ghostly apparition of Lady Arundell.

The castle stands in the grounds of the New Wardour House, which was built in the 18th century by the Arundell family who decided the castle should be left as a folly. They hired the famous architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown to landscape the gardens and lakes which are preserved to this day. The castle remains a beautiful and romantic vista, and should you venture into the woodland at the rear of the ticket booth, you will more than likely discover a modern stone circle and grotto, just two of many little diversions along the way.

For the film and music buffs amongst you, you may like to know the castle was the backdrop during the filming of certain scenes for the movie “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” back in the 1990‘s, and a photograph taken inside the castle was used for the cover of Sting’s album, “Ten Summoner’s Tales”.

Following the death of the last Lord Arundell in 1944, the castle passed to the state. It is now owned by English Heritage, the new house remains a private residence.

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