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51.0365°N 2.0888°W

Old Wardour Castle, Coordinates

Looking across the lake to New Wardour Castle from an upper window of Old Wardour castle.

Looking to Old Wardour Castle from the Grotto

Wardour Castle is located at Wardour, about 15 miles (24 km) west of Salisbury. The original castle was partially destroyed during the Civil War. It is now managed by English Heritage who have designated it as a grade I listed building, and is open to the public.

The castle was built on land previously owned by the St Martin family. When Sir Lawrence de St Martin died in 1385 it was handed over to John, the fifth Baron Lovell for reasons unknown. After Baron Lovell had been granted permission by Richard II in 1392, the castle was built using locally quarried Tisbury greensand, William Wynford being the master mason. It was inspired by the hexagonal castles then in fashion in parts of the Continent, particularly in France; but its own six-sided design is unique in Britain, as is its inclusion of several self-contained guest suites.


In 1461, after the fall of the Lovell family following Francis Lovell's support of Richard III, the castle was confiscated and passed through several owners until, in 1544 was bought by Sir Thomas Arundell of Lanherne. The Arundells were of an ancient Cornish family, with wide estates in Wiltshire. The castle, again was confiscated when Sir Thomas — a staunch Roman Catholic — was executed for treason in 1552, but in 1570 was bought back by his son, Sir Matthew Arundell, later a Sheriff and Custos Rotulorum[1] of Dorset. The Arundells, led by Thomas Arundell, 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour, subsequently became known as some of the most active of the Catholic landowners in England at the time of the Reformation; thus they were naturally Royalists in the English Civil War. During that conflict, Thomas Arundell, 2nd Baron Arundell of Wardour, was away from home on the King’s business and had asked his wife, Lady Blanche Arundell, aged 61, to defend the castle with a garrison of 25 trained fighting men. On 2 May 1643 Sir Edward Hungerford, with 1,300 men of the Parliamentarian Army, demanded admittance to search for Royalists. He was refused and laid siege, setting about the walls with guns and mines. After five days the castle was threatened with complete destruction. Lady Arundell agreed to surrender, and the castle was placed under the command of Colonel Edmund Ludlow. Lord Arundell had died of his wounds after the Battle of Lansdowne, and his son, Henry 3rd Lord Arundell, next laid siege to his own castle, blew up much of it and obliged the Parliamentary garrison to surrender in March 1644.

The family slowly recovered power through the English Commonwealth and the Glorious Revolution, until the eighth Baron, Henry Arundell, borrowed sufficient funds to finance rebuilding. This was done by the prominent Palladian James Paine. Paine built Wardour New Castle, but left the Wardour Old Castle as an ornamental feature. In stylistic terms the New Castle is not a castle at all, but a symmetrical neoclassical country house with a main block built around a central staircase hall and two flanking wings. Paine integrated the ruins of the Old Castle into the surrounding parkland, intending it to be viewed as a romantic ruin.

The castle's ground level was dramatically altered around the 18th century. In the Middle Ages, it sloped away much more steeply so that the building stood on the end of a low ridge of land. The approach to the main front door is supposed to have

been protected by a wide ditch crossed by a drawbridge, with a portcullis, though there have been no surviving remains of these. Between the towers at the level of the battlements are the remains of a projecting gallery or barbican which would have been used to defend the front entrance. Above the portal over the front entrance is the Arundell coat-of-arms and a description of the Arundell's possession of Wardour, erected by Sir Matthew Arundell in 1578 to celebrate his recovery of the property after the family lost it when Sir Thomas Arundell was executed in 1552. Above the coat of arms is the head of Christ in a niche with the inscription: Sub nomine tuo stet genus et domus.


The Grotto

The Grotto of Old Wardour Castle was the last addition to the landscape. It was built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of Tisbury, who at the time was a well-known builder of garden ornaments and other grottos in the area. He was commissioned to build the artificial cave, complete with dripping water, fossils and ferns from brick, plaster and stone from the ruins of the castle. The grotto also incorporates three standing stones, removed from the stone circle at Tisbury.


[1] Custos rotulorum (plural: custodes rotulorum; Latin for "keeper of the rolls") is a civic post which is recognised in England and in Jamaica.


Extracted and partially rewritten from the Wikipedia, Old Wardour Castle article


The Grotto