History

 

Waldour Castle was built by Lord John Lovell who purchased the land in 1386. Although only a minor baron in his own right, his marriage to Maud de Holand, brought him increased influence. His wife's uncle had married the grand-daughter of Edward III and this led to Lovell's increasing prominence at court. In 1377 he was appointed Master of the King's Hounds, in 1378 he was a 'Knight of the King's House' and later he became Governor of Devizes Castle. At this time Devizes was one of the major regional strongholds and this appointment made Lovell the senior Royal representative in the South West. Although he owned properties in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, his assignment to the West Country prompted a re-focusing of his interests towards Wiltshire. On 27 February 1393 Richard II granted a "licence for John, Lord Lovell to crenellate his manor of Werdour...and make a castle of it".

 

Work started on the castle in 1393 and continued through to 1400. As with other late fourteenth century castles, Wardour was intended to serve as a statement of Lovell's wealth and status rather than as a defensive fortification. Its design was influenced by the geometric configuration of Queensborough Castle in Kent where three lines of circular defences were set within each other. Wardour adopted the same concept but with hexagons; the outer wall, the Keep and the courtyard within were all so shaped. The Keep was constructed from limestone ashlar and was a two storey hexagonal structure with a projecting gatehouse flanked by two rectangular towers. The internal ranges incorporated all the domestic apartments and service functions including two kitchens. The central courtyard served as a light well for the surrounding ranges. The Keep was set within a vast Outer Ward which would have hosted the ancillary buildings such as stables and storerooms. However, these would not have occupied the whole area and it is likely a significant portion of the Outer Ward was landscaped as a garden.

 

Richard II was deposed by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) in 1399 but, despite having risen to prominence under the former King, Lovell's political career survived. He and his descendants continued in the service of the Lancastrian Kings until the decisive Yorkist victory at the Battle of Towton (1461). At this time the then owner of Wardour Castle was Francis Lovell and, as a consequence of his support to the Lancastrians, his estates were seized by Edward IV. Nevertheless, Francis switched his allegiance to the Yorkist cause and later became a loyal supporter of Richard III. Tudor propaganda noted that "the cat [William Catesby], the rat [Richard Ratcliffe] and [Francis] Lovell our dog...ruled all England under a hog [Richard III]". However, the defeat and death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485) ruined Lovell. With little hope of reconciliation with the new Tudor regime, Lovell remained a committed supporter of the Yorkist cause. He was present at the last battle in the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Stoke Field (1487), which saw the Yorkists defeated. Thereafter Francis fled to Scotland and his fate thereafter is unknown.

 

Henry VII sold Wardour Castle to Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormonde and by 1547 it was in the hands of Sir Thomas Arundell. He had risen in the service of Cardinal Wolsey to become a Privy Councillor and had benefited from the marriage to Margaret Howard, sister of Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine. He survived her downfall but not the turbulent reign of Edward VI where the young King's Protector - Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset - was overthrown. Thomas fell with him and was executed for treason and Wardour seized. Nevertheless Thomas Arundell recovered the site in 1570 and upgrades were made at this time to modernise the castle.

 

During the Civil War the then owner - Thomas Arundell - supported King Charles against Parliament and in Spring 1643 departed Wardour to join the Royalist army amassing at Oxford. The local Parliamentarian commander, Sir Edward Hungerford, saw an opportunity and deployed from his base at Farleigh-Hungerford Castle to attack Wardour with a force of up to 1,300 men. He assaulted the castle on 2 May 1643 but, despite only being defended by a small garrison of 25 men led by Lady Blache Arundell, he was initially repulsed. Only after a six day siege, with the attackers using gunpowder explosions to unnerve the garrison, did Lady Blanche surrender.

 

Thomas Arundell was killed at the Battle of Stratton (1643) but his son, Henry, sought to recover Wardour Castle from the Parliamentarians. He besieged it in December 1643 but the well stocked garrison refused to surrender. Attempts to dislodge them failed so a mine was dug under the fortification and blown up with gunpowder. A large chunk of the South wall collapsed and on 18 March 1644, after being threatened with further explosions, the Parliamentarians surrendered.

 

Despite the recovery of the (now ruined) castle, the property of the Arundells was confiscated following the Parliamentary victory and, although restored by Charles II, no effort was made to repair the damaged castle. In 1769 Henry Arundell commenced construction of New Wardour Castle - a manor house - and shortly after Lancelot Brown (Capability Brown), a landscape architect, was commissioned to landscape the grounds. The ruins of (Old) Wardour Castle became a prominent feature in this scheme. The castle was placed into State care in 1936.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Allen, R (1976). English Castles. Batsford, London.

Baldwin, D (2013). Richard III. Amberley Publishing, Stroud.

Davidson, B.K (2006). Wardour Castle. English Heritage, London.

Douglas, D.C and Myers, A.R (ed) (1975). English Historical Documents Vol 4 (1327-1485). Routledge, London.

Emery, A (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gardiner, S.R (1889). History of the Great Civil War. London.

Johnson, P (2006). Castles from the Air: An Aerial Portrait of Britain’s Finest Castles. Bloomsbury, London.

King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands.  Kraus International Publications.

Morris, M (2003). Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain. Windmill Books, London.

Royle, T (2004). Civil War: The Wars of Three Kingdoms 1638-1660. Abacus, London.

Seward, D (1995). A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses. Robinson, London.

Thompson, M.W (1987). The Decline of the Castle. London.

What's There?

Visit Official Website

Wardour Castle consists of the ruined remains of a fourteenth century castle built in a hexagonal configuration. The grounds around the castle has been extensively landscaped. The site is in the care of English Heritage and is marketed as 'Old Wardour Castle' to distinguish it from the later manor house.

Wardour Castle Layout. The castle consisted of a hexagonal courtyard within a hexagonal Keep itself enclosed by a hexagonal shaped perimeter curtain wall. It was influenced by Edward III’s Queensborough Castle (regrettably now demolished) but, unlike that fortification, the curtain wall had no turrets - a clear indication that Wardour was built for comfort not defence.

Keep. The hexagonal Keep stood two storeys tall and was originally surrounded by a ditch. The structure incorporated all the domestic buildings associated with such a site. Although its ruins now stand alone, it was originally within an Outer Ward which would have been occupied by ancillary buildings including stables, storerooms and workshops.

Inner Courtyard. The central courtyard, which like the Keep itself was hexagonal, was primarily a light well for the rooms which surrounded it.

Great Hall. The Great Hall was located above the main entrance.

OLD WARDOUR CASTLE

Old Wardour Castle was a stylish statement of the wealth and status of its builder, Lord John Lovell, who was a loyal supporter of Richard II. Later it came into the possession of the Arundell family but, during the Civil War, it was seized by Parliamentary forces. Henry Arundell responded by besieging his former home and ultimately destroying it.

Getting There

(Old) Wardour Castle is found off a single track road accessed from Hazeldon Lane. The site is well sign-posted and there is a dedicated car park.

Car Parking Option

SP3 6RR

51.037304N 2.089559W

(Old) Wardour Castle

SP3 6RR

51.036332N 2.088851W