Castles were first built in England during the Norman Conquest in the 11th century as fortifications. There are many hundreds of castles throughout England some in good repair whilst others have all but completely disappeared other than a few stones to mark the spot.
The palatial castle at Arundel has grown from its modest origins as a motte and bailey castle built by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, around 1068. A shell keep was added to the top of the motte in about 1140, and curtain walls, a chapel and a garden, possibly the first Royal garden in England, were added by King Henry II.
Arundel Castle has belonged to the Earl’s of Arundel and the Dukes of Norfolk for many centuries. Passing from the d’Albinis to the Fitzalans in the 13th century and to the Howards in the 16th century, it has been home to many prominent figures in English History. During the Civil War (1642-51) the castle was badly damaged after being besieged twice, first by Royalist forces who took control and later by Parliamentary forces. Restoration began in the 18th century, and many of the original Norman features were repaired. But the most extensive period of building work occurred at the end of the 19th century when Henry, the 15th Duke of Norfolk, rebuilt most of the castle in a grand Gothic style. The castle is still family home to the Duke of Norfolk, and visitors can tour the main castle building and view the rich interiors of a stately home, as well as explore the earlier medieval parts of the castle, the keep and barbican gate.
Arundel, West Sussex, BN18 9AB
Official Website : https://arundelcastle.org/
The small isle of St. Michael’s Mount, accessible by foot when the tide is out, has been home to a priory, castle and stately home. Bernard of Le Bec, Abbot of Mont St. Michel in Normandy, built the Benedictine Priory of St. Michael’s Mount in 1135. There is a similarity between the two islands, although St. Michael’s Mount could never match the scale and grandeur of Mont St. Michel, and was only ever a dependency of the Norman Abbey. When King Henry V declared war on France in the early 15th century, he seized St. Michael’s Mount for the crown as an alien priory, and by 1424 all links between the two priories had been broken.
The conflicts with France and Spain and the threat of attack necessitated the need to garrison the Mount, although the only forces it came up against were domestic rather than foreign. The last major period of military activity was during the Civil Wars (1642-51) when the Mount was held for the Royalist cause. After the war the castle lost its military function and instead became the family home of the last military governor of the Mount, Colonel John St. Aubyn. It is important to check local tide times if you wish to walk across the causeway to the castle. During the summer, a ferry service is available to and from the Mount at high tide. There is a steep climb to the castle at the top of the Mount. Unsuitable for prams and pushchairs. Passages in the castle are narrow, so some delays may occur at the height of the season.
Marazion, Cornwall, TR17 OHS
Official Website : www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk
Castell Coch, meaning Red Castle in Welsh, is a perfect fairy-tale castle. This romantic creation of the Victorian age was designed by William Burges for the 3rd Marquis of Bute. However the castle isn’t entirely fanciful, it was rebuilt from the ruins of a medieval castle and, with a few exceptions, is a fairly authentic reconstruction, at least externally. Little is known about the history of the original castle. It started out as an earth and timber motte castle, probably built at the end of the 11th century or early in the 12th century. The castle may have belonged to the Welsh rulers of Senghennydd as both Ifor Bach and Gruffud ap Rhys are mentioned in connection with it. During the 13th century the Norman lords of Glamorgan, the de Clare family, made significant gains against the Welsh in the upland regions of their disputed territory. It was possibly at this time that the stone castle comprising a small oval courtyard with three circular towers was built at Castle Coch. The design of the building and in particular the spur buttresses at the base of the round towers suggest that it was built by the Normans. The castle appears to have been abandoned early in the 14th century.
In the late 19th century the ruined castle belonged to the 3rd Marquis of Bute, one of the richest men in the world, who owed much of his wealth to the mineral resources of his Glamorgan estates. Lord Bute had already enlisted the services of Willliam Burges to remodel Cardiff Castle in his own unique style of Gothic fantasy. In 1872 he asked Burges to present a report on the possible restoration of Castle Coch. In 1875 work commenced on the complete restoration of the castle which was made into a comfortable home despite intentions to only use it occasionally in the summer. Burges died in 1881 and the castle was not completed until ten years later, however he left detailed drawings of the interiors which were completed by his team of craftsmen. The castle may have an authentic medieval look to the exterior but the interiors are pure Victorian fantasy, richly decorated and highly imaginative. After a visit to Castell Coch it is worth visiting nearby Cardiff Castle to see the ultimate example of the collaboration between Lord Bute and William Burges.
Castle Hill, Tongwynlais, Cardiff, CF15 7JS
Official Website : https://cadw.gov.wales
Dunster Castle dominates a steep hill overlooking the picturesque village of Dunster. The hill has been fortified since Saxon times, although nothing now remains of these early defences. During the early medieval period the sea reached the base of the hill offering a natural defence, and strong walls, towers, ramparts and outworks protected the other sides. In the late 14th century the castle came into the possession of the Luttrell family, and remained in their ownership for the next six hundred years.
By the 15th century the sea had receded and the Luttrells created the deer park. When Sir George Luttrell inherited in 1571, the castle was dilapidated and the family were living elsewhere. In 1617, Sir George employed the architect, William Arnold, to erect a new house in the lower ward of the castle. During the Civil War, Dunster was a Royalist stronghold under the command of Colonel Wyndham. In November 1645 Parliamentary forces started a siege which lasted until an honourable surrender of the castle in April 1646. Dunster shared the fate of many other Royalist castles and had its defences demolished to prevent any further use against Parliament. All that now remains of the medieval fortifications are the impressive gatehouse and the stumps of two towers. The house was modified and developed over the following centuries, and much of the current appearance dates from the 18th century when the park was landscaped and the Green Court, terraced grounds and follies were created. Much of the furniture in the house also dates from this period.
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