Old Wardour Castle

Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire

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Tisbury, Salisbury


Nightingale Lane,  Off A30



Old Wardour Castle is a stunning ruin set in a gorgeous location, framed with trees, lake and gardens. It is of an unusual design which retains many exquisit features that are well worth exploring.

A lovely castle with an intersting history well worth a visit.

~ History ~

1086 ~ The manor of Wardour is held for the King by the nuns of Wilton Abbey.

1386 - Thomas Calston, heir to the Wardour manor which has been in his family's hands for over a hundred years, sells it to John, the 5th Lord Lovell.

Lord Lovell had previously married Maud de Holand some fourteen years earlier, and it is through this marriage into the influential Holand family, who have themsleves married into the Royal family, initially through King Edward I's youngest son, later King Edward III's beloved son, the Black Prince. The Black Prince's son Richard, is King Richard II at the time when Wardour Castle is built.

1387 ~ King Richard II's dependance on a small number of courtiers, including the Lovells, causes discontent. This leads to control of his Government being taken over by a group of aristrocrats knwon as the Lords Appellant.

1389 ~ King Richard regains control of his realm.

1397 ~ Following years of relative peace, the vengeful King's plans against the Lords Appellant are revealed, which see's many of them executed or exiled.            With these powerful men out of the way his is able to weald his power unopposed and sets out on a period of tyranny.

1399 ~ The exiled and disinherited Henry Bolinbroke, son of the powerful John of Gaunt, who had recently died, returns to England with a small force to claim his father's estates and titles. His forces quickly grow in numbers with other disinherited nobles and common folk fed up with the King's tyranical rule. With little resistance Bolinbroke deposes Richard and has himself crowned King Henry IV. Richard is captured and starved to death in Pontefract Castle.

These dramatic events also see the fall from power and influence of his courtiers, including the Lovells.

1461 ~ John, the 8th Lord Lovell, supports the Lancastrian King Henry VI against the Yorkist King Edward IV. His estates are declared forfeit following the Yorkist victory in the Wars of the Roses.

1465 ~ John manages to make peace with the new King and regain much of his estates, with the exception of Wardour, before his death and with his the colapse of his family's fortunes. His son and heir Francis Lovell is placed under the guardianship of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and famed 'Kingmaker'. It is at Middleham Castle that Francis meets the King's youngest brother, Richard who is also under the Earl's care and protection. 

1483 ~ Francis Lovell's companion and close friend Richard, is crowned King Richard III. Francis is later made Viscount Lovell by the King and is lavished with grants and honours.

1485 ~ Following King Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, fighting the forces of the Lancastrian Henry Tudor, Francis fortunes evaperate upon the crowning of King Henry VII. The subsequent forfeitures do not include Wardour which had remained in Crown ownership since 1461.

1547 ~ Following years lawsuits and changes of ownership, Wardour is sold to Sir Thomas Arundell, Privy Councillor to King Henry VIII and husband ti Margaret Howard, niece to the Duke of Norfolk and sister to the King's previous wife Catherine Howard.

1552 ~ During King Edward VI minority Sir Thomas, along with the Duke of Somerset, deposed Protector of England, is tried for treason and executed. Thomas's estates are declared forfeit and confiscated.

Wardour is already Crown property.

1554 ~ The Catholic Queen Mary I returns the Arundell estates to her Catholic supporter Sir Matthew Arundell.

1558 ~ Following the Protestant Queen Elzabeth's succession to the throne, Sir Matthew Arundell becomes a staunch Protestant and later marries one of her ladies in waiting.

1570 ~ Sir Matthew Arundell purchases back Wardour Castle from the Earl of Pembroke. He embarks on modernising and improving the castle into a lavish country home.

1574 ~ Sir Matthew is knighted and holds the profitable position of Collector of Customs at Poole, and influential position as Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset. 

1595 ~ Three years prior to Sir Matthew's death, his son Thomas fights against the Turks in Hungary with the full support and encouragement of Queen Elizabeth against the Turkish threat to Christian Europe.

Thomas's outstanding bravery is rewarded by Emperor Rudolf II of Austria who creates him a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. He accepts this honour without consulting Queen Elizabeth, who is furious at a Catholic honour being given to one of her subjects without her consent by a Catholic monarch.

1605 ~ Thomas is created Baron Arundell of Wardour by King James I.

In the same year he is suspected as being involved in the Gunpowder Plot of Guy Fawkes, later marries for the second time at the age of forty and gets caught up in religious argument with the Bishop of Durham.

1637 ~ Thomas attempts to sell Wardour Castle back to teh King. He dies two years later leaving his son Thomas to inherit his estates and titles.

1642 ~ Civil War breaks out between King Charles I and Parliament. 

1643 ~ Thomas, 2nd Lord Arundell, leaves Wardour for the King's headquarters at Oxford, leaving his sixty year old wife, Blanche, at Wardour with only members of the household to protect her and his castle.

The local Parliamentary commander Sir Edward Hungerford, on seeing this and suspecting great unprotected wealth at nearby Wardour Castle, marches his forces to take the castle. However, upon their arrival and demands for its surrender, the aged Blanche refuses to do so, saying that "She had command fro her Lord to keep it', and so the first siege of Wardour begins.

Twenty-five men in the castle, armed with muskets, face a force of 1,300 men.

The besiegers having only two small cannon have little impact against its might walls. They therefore decide to explode barrels of gunpowder, first in a tunnel leading to the castle, and then in one of the main drains. The first explosion has no effect and the second nothing other than shake the castle walls.

The besiegers decide to then insert further barrels of gunpowder with threat of further and bigger explosions. Experience of the previous smaller explosions 'so terrified the ladies therin, whereof there was a great number, that they agreed to surrender it". The castle is pillaged with much damage caused.

Blanche is taken prisioner and allowed to take refuge in Salisbury, where she soon learns that her husband has been killed from wounds received three days earlier at the Battle of Stratton, near Oxford. Edmund Ludlow moves his parliamntary forces to garrision Wardour Castle.

By the end of the year Blanche's son, Henry, now the 3rd Lord Arundell, comes to Wardour to retake his castle back for the King.

1644 ~ The large Parliamentary garrison resist the besieging Royalist forces, who with much larger cannons, pound the walls of their commanders castle.

However, once again the stoud castle walls hold out. The Royalists decided to employ miners taken from the Mendip lead mines to dig a shaft under the castle walls for gunpowder to bring down its walls.

Henry Arundell, unwilling to destry his own castle, hopes that the besieged Ludlow will surrender without this being necessary. However, one of the defenders in the castle accidently lights the mine fuse from a musket shot, resulting in an enormous explosion. Ludlow is in bed at the time and sees a large chunk of his bedroom wall has disappeared in the collapse of the castle wall. For three days storming the gap in the castle wall, the besiegers dig a second mine. It is this second mine and threat of further explosions that finally seals surrunder.

1648 ~ After blowing up his own castle in order to recover it, Henry Arundell is not allowed to keep it following Parliament's victory and the execution of King Charles I. The following year the Arundell estates are confiscated.

1660 ~ Following the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II, Henry finally recovers his estates but makes no attempt to repair his shattered castle.

Later under King James II at the age of eighty, he is made Lord of the Privy Seal and has moved his seat to a luxury Elizabethan masion in Hampshire.