Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire

These substantial castle ruins typify the 'romantic relic', being preserved as a landscape feature in the grounds of the palladian mansion built by the Arundells in the 1770s. Old Wardour Castle remains today in this idyllic setting beside a lake, and surrounded by the gentle Wiltshire countryside.

Castles, traditionally thought of as powerful fortresses, were built primarily for protection until the 14th century, but from this time trends began to change. As more settled times were enjoyed, it was considered fashionable, rather than necessary, to build a castle along the lines of a comfortable residence with the means to provide lavish entertaining and accommodation for guests. Therefore, in 1393 Lord Lovel was granted a licence to crenellate his house and, with the help of a great medieval architect, began to create the unique design of Old Wardour Castle. As a veteran of the Hundred Years War, Lord Lovel may have been inspired by the chateaux in France, but certainly Old Wardour Castle was unparalleled in the whole of England. Based on a hexagonal plan, Old Wardour Castle has flanking towers to the entrance, and a small hexagonal courtyard in the centre of the building containing a well.

Despite its ruinous state today, it is apparent that no expense was spared in building this splendid castle. The high quality workmanship and excellent masonry, using locally quarried Tisbury greensand, are still very much in evidence. On the first floor, above the entrance (Keep), there was a particularly grand rectangular hall, with a doorway leading into the Lord's private apartments adjacent to the North Tower. Later modifications to the North Tower have made it difficult to identify the original use of the small chamber at first floor level, but some evidence suggests it may have been a chapel. At the eastern end of the hall was the grand staircase, and the ranges beyond contained the service quarters and the kitchen. Old Wardour Castle must have provided Lord Lovel with the comfort and security he was looking to enjoy in his retirement. But turbulent times, and changing fortunes, led to the eventual demise of the old Lord's dream home.

When Lovel's great grandson lost the family's estate in 1460, there followed a rapid succession of owners and tenants until it was eventually purchased by Sir Matthew Arundell in 1570. At this time Old Wardour Castle received an Elizabethan 'makeover', with much remodelling and modernisation being undertaken. Following many skirmishes between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians during the Civil War, and a four-month long bombardment, the old castle suffered severe damage. Despite additional fortifications being employed at Old Wardour Castle throughout these difficult times, it was virtually destroyed, and later abandoned.

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