OLD WARDOUR CASTLE, SP3 6RR
Postcode: SP3 6RR
Lat/Long: 51.037304N 2.089559W
Notes: The castle is found on a single track road off Hazeldon Lane with sufficient signage to point the way. A dedicated car park is in the vicinity.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The compact ruined remains of a fourteenth century castle built in a hexagonal configuration. Extensive remains of highly ornate stonework gives an indication of the magnificence of this fortification in its prime.
1. Francis Lovell, William Catesby and Richard Ratcliffe were close supporters of Richard III. This led to Tudor propaganda dubbing them the "the cat, the rat and Lovell our dog" who "ruled all England under a hog". The hog was the emblem as Richard III. Lovell fought at and survived the Battle of Bosworth Field and remained loyal to the Yorkist cause even after the death of Richard III. He was present at the last battle in the Wars of the Roses, the Battle of Stoke Field (1487), and after that fled to Scotland. His fate thereafter is unknown.
2. Lady Blache Arundell was the daughter of Edward Somerset, Earl of Worcester of Raglan Castle - a fortification also besieged by the Parliamentarians.
3. Sir Edward Hungerford, who besieged and took Wardour Castle in May 1643, was based at Farleigh-Hungerford Castle.
Castle Layout. The castle consisted of a hexagonal courtyard within a hexagonal central structure set within a hexagonal shaped parameter curtain wall. It clearly took its inspiration from Edward III’s now demolished castle at Queensborough but, unlike that fortification, the curtain wall had no turrets; clear indication that Wardour was built for comfort not defence.
A stylish statement of his wealth and influence, Wardour Castle was built by John, Lord Lovell in the late fourteenth century. Later it came into the possession of the Arundell family but during the Civil War was seized by the Parliamentarians. Henry Arundel responded by besieging his former home and ultimately destroying it.
HISTORY OF (OLD) WARDOUR CASTLE
Waldour Castle was built by John, Lord Lovell who purchased the land in 1386. Although only a minor baron in his own right, his marriage to Maud de Holand, brought him into Royal circles. 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 had been appointed Master of the King's Hounds, in 1378 he was a 'Knight of the King's House' and later became Governor of Devizes Castle. At this time Devizes was one of the major castles in the South West and his appointment there made Lovell the key Royal representative in the South West. Although he owned properties in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, this assignment to the West Country prompted a re-focusing of his interests towards Wiltshire. Richard II granted him a licence to crenellate in 1393 clearing him to build Waldour Castle.
As with other late fourteenth century castles, Wardour was focused on style over defence - it was designed as a statement of Lovell's wealth and status rather than a defensive fortification. Influenced by the geometric design of Queensborough Castle in Kent - where three sets of circular defences were set within each other - Wardour adopted the same configuration with hexagons. The outer wall, castle structure itself and the courtyard within the main building were all so shaped.
Richard II was deposed by 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 overthrow of Henry VI after the Battle of Towton (1461). With the succession of Edward IV following that battle, Wardour was seized by the Crown. Whilst Francis, Lord Lovell later became a committed Yorkist and saw the return of some of his families lost properties (not Wardour), he was however ruined by the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485).
The new ruler, Henry VII, sold Wardour 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 was tried for treason, executed and Wardour was seized. The Arundell family re-acquired Wardour in 1570 and upgrades were made at this time to modernise the castle.
During the Civil War the then owner - Thomas, Lord Arundell - supported King Charles against Parliament and in Spring 1643 departed Wardour for the Royalists capital at Oxford. The Parliamentarians seized the opportunity to take the castle with Sir Edward Hungerford moving his forces against the small garrison. He was in place by 2 May 1643 but a spirited defence was made by Lady Blache Arundell in lieu of her absent husband with 25 defenders holding off a force of perhaps as many as 1,300 for six days. Eventually though the defenders were compelled to surrender due to gunpowder explosions.
Thomas, Lord Arundell was killed at the Battle of Stratton (1643) but his son, Henry, sought to recover Wardour from the Parliamentarians. He besieged the castle in December 1643 but the well stocked garrison refused to surrender. Attempts to dislodge them failed so a mine was ultimately dug and blown up with gunpowder. A large chunk of the South wall collapsed and on 18 March 1644, when threatened with further explosions, the castle was 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 1770 Henry, Lord Arundell commenced the construction of New Wardour Castle - a manor house - with the ruined medieval castle becoming a feature in the gardens of that property.