by Enza Ferreri
Arundel and Arundel Castle
Arundel is about one and a half hours' train journey from London Victoria.
Arundel is a small town of around 3,500 inhabitants in West Sussex, on the River Arun. It's a market town with a long history in a steep vale of the South Downs, 50 miles south-west of London, 18 miles north-west of the city of Brighton on the English Channel, and 10 miles east of the cathedral city of Chichester, West Sussex county town and its only city.
Arundel is a historic market town with quaint streets around the town square, filled with antique shops, artist studios, galleries, boutiques, excellent shopping, top-class pre-West-End theatre productions, cosy tea rooms, old traditional pubs, and restaurants.
The town is dominated by the magnificent, vast Catholic Arundel Cathedral, the cathedral church for the Catholic diocese of Arundel and Brighton. From its prominent position in London Road, it overlooks the ancient town on the west bank of the river Arun, where the valley opens out into the coastal plain.
The town of Arundel is also dominated by its enchanting castle. A visit to Arundel Castle is highly recommended. Most people need between two and a half and three hours for a visit. There are varous categories of tickets, starting at £9 for an adult (with discounts for children, families, students and seniors) and ending with the "gold" entrance to Arundel Castle, which includes access to the gardens and all parts of the castle except the bedrooms and costs £18 for an adult.
Arundel Castle is one of England's longest-inhabited country houses and is a Grade I listed building; only ancient monuments and historical buildings of exceptional interest are classified as such in England.
Many of Arundel Castle's original features, like the crenellated Norman keep, gatehouse and barbican, as well as the lower part of Bevis Tower, survive.
Arundel Castle's original structure was a motte and double bailey castle, built by Roger de Montgomery, the first earl of Arundel, in 1067-68, just after the Norman invasion of Britain of 1066. It was built during the reign of William the Conqueror as a fortification for the mouth of the River Arun and a defensive position for the surrounding land against invasion from France.
Arundel Town Centre
A motte-and-bailey castle is a type of fortification introduced to England by the Normans from France, who built around 1,000 of them in England. The most important part of the motte-and-bailey castle was the wooden or stone keep, situated on a huge raised mound called a "motte", 25 feet (8 metres) to 80 feet (24 metres) in height. The sides of the motte were so steep that to run up them required several attempts.
At the bottom of the motte was the bailey, an enclosed courtyard from one to three acres, inside which the followers of the Lord who ran the castle lived. In the bailey were many buildings: storehouses, stables, bakeries, houses, kitchens, quarters for soldiers.
For added protection, the bailey was surrounded by a deep ditch, called a "fosse", and a strong wooden fence ("palisade") enclosed the buildings.
In the case of Arundel Castle, the motte, or artificial mound, is over 100 feet high.
This great, well-preserved Norman castle, located in magnificent grounds overlooking the river Arun, can be seen from a long distance. Following the meandering river Arun you'll get both distant and ever nearing views of the superb castle.
During the English Civil War, in the 17th century, the castle was badly damaged when it was twice besieged, first by Royalists then by Cromwell's Parliamentarian force. It has since been restored, remodeled and expanded to provide the grand stately home it is today.
Between the 1870s and 1890s the house was almost completely rebuilt, and its magnificent architecture in Gothic style is considered one of the great works of Victorian England. Arundel Castle has been the seat and family home of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.
The castle has a finely-preserved interior, exuding grandeur, with exquisite furniture, tapestries and rare collection of paintings by great artists of the likes of Canaletto, Van Dyck and Gainsborough.
Surrounding the castle are its grounds and extensive gardens. The grounds, along with the keep and the gatehouse, have been open to visitors since 1800, and the gardens since 1854. You can visit individually the gardens at your own pace.
Today the latter house exotic fruit and vegetables, include internationally renowned gardens and supply the castle with fresh fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. The gardens' sheltered location makes it possible for many of the tender perennials to remain in the ground throughout the winter.
There are often special events in the castle grounds, such as historical re-enactments, re-creations of the campaigns of the 15th-century Wars of the Roses for which the household of the Earls of Arundel gathers to prepare, display of archery and of military tactics by the Raven Tor Living History Group.
Near Arundel Castle is Arundel Park, full of woods and hills, where you can see the striking and extravagant Hiorne Tower. This is a triangular-shaped, rather intriguing folly, built in 1787 for the Duke of Norfolk, and has a commanding position high on the hills.
The Arundel Festival takes place every year in August. There are talks, drama events like Shakespeare in the Arundel Castle grounds, performances by the Hanover Band, an Entertainment program in the Jubilee Gardens, street entertainers around the town, Theatre Trail, comedy, Bathtub Race, the Duck Race, the Arundel Scouts 10K run and the King's Arms Abba on the Hill.
The Festival's Gallery Trail involves galleries in the town displaying paintings or sculptures, while numerous Community Events includie more music, art, food and drink, kids, youth and family events, sports and activities, culture and charity events.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian web author living in London, and former journalist.
Email: ehg89 at britaingallery dot com