Castles in Sussex

The South East Coast of England has always been a vulnerable to attack. It comes then as no surprise that the Sussex has some of the most impressive examples of our fortification. Throughout the ages as our Kings & Queens turned the area into the fortress of England, building some of the most spectacular castles in the country. Some are still in excellent condition so that when you walk through the halls you feel like you have travelled back in time, and others that have fallen to battles or disrepair and are now in ruins, yet still are fascinating pieces of history.

 

These Castles have had Lords & Ladies, Knights & dignitaries reside within their walls. They have been privy to historic battles, beheadings and home to murder. Uncover the history of this great land and find out some of the fascinating tales of these wonderful monuments. Climb the towers, stroll through the gardens and stop for a bite in the tearooms. They have been adapted for visitors to make the most of their time in the castles with informative guides and often re-enactment’s. We have plenty of delightful properties where you could stay on your holiday discovering the castles of Sussex. Find your own private holiday home from which to discover the history of this magnificent country here.

 

Below we have listed some of the best kept castles in the area. These Stunning attractions have lots to offer including historic tours and tales of a time gone by. Enjoy a trip to Sussex and uncover it's romantic yet deadly history.

Arundel Castle

A personal favourite of mine, stunning architecture great history and a name that sounds like it belongs in the Lord of the rings!

Home to the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for nearly 1000 years. Built at the end of the 11th Century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, one of William the Conqueror's most loyal barons. Set atop a hill offering stunning views out over the town, the south downs and the river Arun. The structure dominates the skyline with its magnificent gothic architecture and is widely considered to be one of the great works of Victorian England.

The oldest part of the castle is the Keep, constructed just after the Battle of Hastings in 1068, soon followed by the gatehouse. King Henry I settled the castle and lands in dower on his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain in his will; she then married William d’Albini II who was later made Earl of Arundel by King Henry II.

The castle has descended directly from 1138 to the present day, carried by both female and male heiresses, from the d'Albinis to the Fitzalans in the 13th century and then from the Fitzalans to the Howards in the 16th century.The castle has witnessed executions of its masters, including the 4th Duke who was beheaded for plotting to marry Mary Queen of Scots.

Many of the beautiful pieces of furniture and tapestries on show today came from 14th Earl known as the “collector” along with some personal possessions of Mary Queen of Scots. The castle was later badly damaged when besieged by Royalists during the civil war of 1642 – 1645 and then again by Cromwell’s Parliamentarian force led by William Waller and no repairs were started until 1718. Queen Victoria and prince albert visited the castle for 3 days in 1846 and specially commissioned furniture for their visit is still on show today.

Take a Stroll through the grounds where you will discover different themed gardens; the rose garden planted in contemporary style; the Chapel garden with white and cool coloured plants; the cutting garden with tender perennials and rare plants; the renovated Victorian peach house and vinery where exotic fruits & vegetables are cultivated.

 

Prices start at £11 per adult/concession and £10 per child which offers entry to the gardens and grounds, The Collector Earl’s Garden, the Fitzalan Chapel and the shop, café and restaurant. To visit the above and the castle, prices for adults are £20, concessions £17.50 and children £10. Guided tours are £20 per person.

Herstmonceux Castle

This magnificent moated castle set in 550 acres of stunning parkland & superb Elizabethan gardens. Built originally as a country home in the mid-15th Century, Herstmonceux Castle embodies the history of medieval England and the romance of renaissance Europe. Now home to the International Study Centre of Queen's University.

The story of the castle itself begins in 1441 when Sir Roger Fiennes, Treasurer of the Royal Household, obtained permission from Henry VI to fortify his existing manor house. Sir Roger was a veteran of the French wars and had fought with Henry V at Agincourt in 1415.

Fiennes built his castle in brick, a rare luxury during the 15th century and a statement of wealth and status. Herstmonceux was soon to become the largest private residence in England.

The Fiennes family prospered for over a century before Lord Thomas Dacre, made the fatal error of falling out with King Henry VIII. Lord Thomas was implicated in the murder of neighbouring gamekeeper and was executed at Tyburn in 1541. Henry seized the Herstmonceux estate for the crown, but when Elizabeth I came to the throne, she returned it to the Fiennes family.

The Fiennes eventually sold the castle in 1708 and by 1777 it was nearly falling apart and deemed not worth saving. The castle became an ivy-covered ruin. In 1910 Colonel Claude Lowther came to the rescue and started to restore this magnificent building to its former glory.

After the war it was purchased by the Admiralty and used as a new base for the Royal Greenwich Observatory and several new buildings were added to house telescopes. Then in 1994 the castle was transformed into its current role as an international study centre under the auspices of Queen's University (Canada).

There are seven formal themed gardens with 300 acres of woodland, including a walled garden dating from before 1570, a herb garden, the Shakespeare garden, woodland sculptures, the pyramid, the water lily filled moat and the Georgian style folly. On the woodland trails, you will find 300-year-old chestnut trees and the tearooms and visitors centre will give you a much-needed rest bite after completing the lake and moat walk.

 

Because the castle is now an international centre of study, it isn’t open freely to the public, so you would need to take a scheduled tour. Lasting one hour, there is a cost of £2.50 per adult/concession and £1.00 per child under 16. Tours are scheduled around timetables and events, it is best to check their website for details, but they are generally open between March and October. You can tour the gardens and grounds however at any time which is £6.00 per adult, £5.00 concessions and £3.00 children under 16. You can also visit the Science Centre for an additional charge.

Bodium Castle

A Beautiful, fairytale medieval castle set in the heart of a historic landscape. Complete with moat, drawbridge and original wooden portcullis. Climb the spiral staircases to the battlements where courageous knights once stood and take in the far-reaching views across the River Rother valley. you can really release your childhood memories and let your imagination go! Bodium is one of the most photographed castles in England and it is easy to see why.

 

Sir Edward Dalyngrigge a small landowner married Elizabeth Wardeux in 1377 and this union brought him the manor of Bodiam. Sir Edward had amassed considerable fortune himself serving under the Earls of Arundel during the hundred years war. He was made Commissioner of Array in 1377 and later appointed as a justice of the peace. He lobbied King Richard to fortify his manor to enhance the defences in Sussex against French invasion. This was granted on 20th October 1385.

The Castle built of sandstone had many defensive shortcomings. A shallow two meter deep moat which could have easily been drained by attackers. Large windows and thin walls would have been no match for an organised military siege along with a limited field of fire from artillery positions it seems like Bodium was turned into a castle more to confirm Sir Edwards status which he fought so hard to achieve.

 During the English Civil War, much of the interior was destroyed by Parliamentarians and Cromwell but the exterior walls survived and have lived to tell the tale. The castle went into disrepair during the 17th and 18th centuries like many at this time. Now owned by the National Trust, it is visited by over 150,000 people every year and has appeared in numerous films and videos.

The National Trust put on many activities for visitors in the grounds and special events during school holidays. Ye Olde arts and crafts are demonstrated in traditional fashion by costumed actors along with archery lessons and falconry walks (additional charges apply for both). Learn about medieval warfare and gruesome tales of the castles past through videos and informative guides. The National Trust have done a great job in making this a fun family day out!

There are extensive grounds to explore and take a stroll through The Wharf tea room serves home-cooked seasonal food and cakes and plenty of picnic areas to enjoy the beautiful surroundings from. There is also a great shop that sells gifts, cards and local produce.

 Entry to the castle and grounds is £10.30 per adult and £5.15 per child

OTHER CASTLES YOU MAY WISH TO VISIT IN SUSSEX

Hastings Castle – originally a motte and bailey castle and part of the 1066 story, this coastal castle is now in ruins but full of amazing history and intrigue.

Lewes Castle – an 11th century Norman castle that sits at the highest point of Lewes, you can also see Anne of Cleves house with a combined ticket.

Pevensey Castle – originating in the 4th century as a Roman ‘Saxon Shore’ fort, this was the landing place of William the Conqueror’s army in the 1066 Battle of Hastings.

Bramber Castle – a motte and bailey castle now in ruins, strategically placed to defend a gap in the South Downs.

Camber Castle – now just ruins of a 16th-century artillery fort, it was built by Henry VIII to guard the port of Rye against French attack.

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