Driving inland from the seaside resort of Littlehampton in West Sussex, the flat coastal plains are dominated by the town of Arundel. It doesn’t look real, rather like the scenery from a Hollywood film as it rises very unexpectedly from the flat ground, a magnificent castle perched on top of a hill against the backdrop of the South Downs.
Arundel Castle, England’s second largest castle, is situated in magnificent grounds overlooking the River Arun and was built at the end of the 11th Century by the Norman noble Roger de Montgomery. It has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk for over 700 years. The Duke of Norfolk is England’s Premier Duke, the title having been conferred on Sir John Howard in 1483 by his friend King Richard III. The Dukedom also carries with it the hereditary office of Earl Marshal of England.
From the 15th to the 17th centuries the Howards were at the forefront of English history, from the Wars of the Roses, through the Tudor period to the Civil War. Perhaps the most famous of the Dukes of Norfolk was the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, uncle of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom married Henry VIII. The Tudor period was a politically dangerous time for the Dukes of Norfolk: the 3rd Duke only escaped the death penalty because King Henry VIII died the night before the execution was due! The 4th Duke was beheaded for plotting to marry Mary Queen of Scots and Philip Howard, 13th Earl of Arundel (1557-95) died in the Tower of London for his catholic faith.
The castle has undergone much restoration and change over the centuries. In 1643 during the Civil War, the original castle was badly damaged and it was later restored in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Arundel’s steep main street is flanked on both sides by hotels, antique shops, craft shops, tea rooms and restaurants, and leads to the top of the hill where you will find the imposing Catholic Cathedral. Commissioned by Henry, 15th Duke of Norfolk in December 1868, the architect was Joseph Aloysius Hansom, who also designed Birmingham Town Hall and numerous Catholic churches, but is perhaps better known as the inventor of the Hansom Cab! The cathedral is built of brick clad with Bath stone, in the French Gothic style and was completed in 1873.
Why not take a trip along the Arun River from Littlehampton to Arundel and try to imagine the smugglers of old making the same trip at night, unloading their contraband cargoes of tea, tobacco and brandy in the town. Arundel is also home to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, where you can see thousands of ducks, geese and swans as well as rare and migratory birds.
Situated between Chichester and Brighton in West Sussex, Arundel is easily accessible by both road and rail, please try our UK Travel Guide for further information.
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Arundel Cathedral: Tel: 01903 882297
Arundel Museum and Heritage Centre: Exhibitions of life in Arundel over the ages. Tel: 01903 885708
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust: Tel: 01903 883355