Arundel's key attraction is it's castle which stands above the town like a medieval guardian, looking every bit like a medieval castle should look. However, much of it is not actually medieval at all! Certainly some of it dates back to early Noman times in the 11th century, but much of what seems most impressive is actually Victorian and was built or refurbished by the 15th Duke of Norfolk, with work only being finished in 1900. But don't let this spoil your enjoyment of what is a great place to visit. Just get carried along with the idea of a medieval fortified stately home (and in places there are remnants of one).
A visit to the Keep (which is part of the very old bit of the castle) is worthwhile, but involves a lot of steps (not all at once fortunately, there are long corridors in between). There are fantastic views from up here and along the battlements, both over the more modern parts of the castle and the town and surrounding countryside.
My favourite part of the castle was actually the library, but I would also highly recommend seeing the Castle Bedrooms (which are still used for guests of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk), the vast Baron's Hall with it's oak, hammerbeam roof and collection of heraldic symbols, and the chapel which is built in the gothic 13th century style (but actually built in the 1890s).
The building is full of treasures and paintings of the Dukes of Norfolk and their relatives and many may wonder why this castle in West Sussex would be home to the Dukes of Norfolk as it's not exactly close! This is just due to the merger of two aristocratic families back in the 16th century, when the daughter of the Earl of Arundel married the Duke of Norfolk (who then had his head chopped of by Elizabeth I) thus merging the two lines and bringing the dukes to Sussex.
Admission charges are not cheap. Depending on how much of the castle you want to see there are different tickets available. The Gold Plus ticket lets you visit everything and costs £17.00 for adults.
This charming little church beside Arundel Castle and opposite Arundel Cathedral is the local Church of England parish church and dates back to 1380.
The church contains a carved stone pulpit which dates back to this time and is one of only 6 pre-reformation stone pulpits left in England.
On the walls are the remains of some now very faded wall paintings which probably date back to the 14th or 15th centuries.
There is also a coat of arms of George III on display in a frame which dates back considerably further to Elizabethan times. Whilst not of great quality the arms are interesting as they were only fairly recently discovered behind the organ. It is presumed they were taken down and hidden away when changed to the new arms of the next monarch (George IV) and forgotten about.
A peculiarity of the church is that part of the building is the Fitzalan Chapel which is a Catholic chapel in Arundel Castle's grounds where the Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel are buried. This catholic chapel is separated from the protestant parish church by just a glass screen and it is possible to peer from one to the other.
Out in the churchyard amongst all the tombstones is an interesting piece of religious art. This is a sculpture portraying Jesus on the cross with two female figures.
Arundel's cathedral is a catholic one and is dedicated to 'Our Lady' and St Philip Howard, the 13th Earl of Arundel who died a prisoner in the Tower of London in 1595.
The building is built in the gothic style and despite appearances is actually only Victorian and was completed in 1873. The cathedral has some fine stained glass windows and the interior is a pleasant honey colour stone.
Every year the cathedral celebrates the festival of 'Corpus Christi' with a carpet of flowers down the central aisle.
A great place to come and get up close to birds in their natural habitat.
Open daily 9.30 - to 5pm (4-30pm in winter) Closed Christmas Day.
Senior Citizen £4.50, Child £3.50
Family Ticket £14.50
There are different admission prices based on how much you want to see, the chapel, gardens and grounds are included in all admissions, add in the castle keep for the next price, the castle rooms for the next and the castle bedrooms for the most expensive. Since we had come all the way out there, we opted for the all inclusive gold plus ticket (£16 adult), I wasn't able to find any discount deals at any of my usual sources so we paid full price.
The weather was nice when we got there so we opted to visit the grounds first taking in the gardens and the Fitzalan Chapel before heading to the Castle to see the rooms and bedrooms.
Arundel Castle was built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, and was passed along through the d'Albini family to the Fitzalans in the 13th century and then from the Fitzalans to the Howards in the 16th century, it's been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk for over 850 years.
The castle rooms and castle bedrooms are extremely well decorated and maintained, the current Duke and his family use some of the formal rooms that are open to the public when they are hosting guests. There are no pictures allowed in the interior, you tour the rooms by yourself and not on a tour.
If you opt to see all of the castle including the interior, expect to spend at least 2-3 hours at Arundel.
From what I can gather from Arundel Castle's website, the current garden here is relatively new and about 1/3 of the size of the original walled garden which supplied vegetables and flowers to the castle up until WWII. By the 1970s the garden was derelict, the present Duke undertook the task of redesigning the gardens which were formally reopened in 2008. Part of it is an organic kitchen garden, they do not use any pesticides on this garden. Part of it is a Jacobean formal garden, a recreation of what the 14th Earl of Arundel's garden at Arundel House in London might have looked like. Another part is a rockmountatin, a version of Oberon's Palace designed by Inigo Jones for Prince Henry’s Masque on New Year’s Day 1611, the interior of which you can see in picture 3.
There are special garden tours for an additional fee, check the website below for details. Admission to the garden is included on all of the tickets to the castle.
The Keep would have been built sometime around 1190, one of the oldest parts of the castle. It was the main building of the castle then and housed the nobility who lived there along soldiers and the servants who lived down below in the south bailey.
You can walk up to the top of the keep for a look around the surrounding area and while they probably don't want you to, you can peek around the blocked off windows to see where the current duke lives.
The Fitzalan Chapel is on the grounds of Arundel Castle, it was founded in 1390 by the 4th Earl of Arundel and is still the burial place of the Dukes of Norfolk, the current one of which still lives at Arundel Castle.
The most unusual tomb in the chapel is that of the 7th Earl of Arundel, John Fitzalan. The top part of the tomb features the Earl in full armor, the bottom is a rather gruesome cadaver, a reminder of death. He was mortally wounded in battle in 1435, his leg having been blown off. His remains were thought to be in France but when a will was found specifying that he was to be brought back to England they excavated the grave and found his remains, with one leg missing. You can see the tomb in picture #2
Small and compact, Arundel is a delightful little market town with 4 or 5 streets of particular interest to casual visitors - namely High, Tarrant and Maltravers along with connecting streets. Following the original medieval footprint, many of the buildings date from the 15th century onwards, although some are hidden behind facades of more recent renovation.
Antique shops, galleries, gift shops, tea rooms, cafes, restaurants, pubs, specialist food shops all line these streets and which will keep you occupied for several hours if so interested. Or, as we did, you can just potter, looking for a place for lunch after the visit to the castle.
Everything changed for St Nicholas Church in 1544 with Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. As a church and Priory, the college aspect of the Priory was sold to Henry Fitzalan, 12th Earl of Arundel. Thus, everything to the north of the altar (ie Chancel) became part of the castle and whilst the church as part of the town became, over a short time, part of the Church of England, so the Chancel remained a private chapel for the catholic earls.
The view from St Nicholas' through the iron grille affords an extra opportunity to see the beautiful tombs and extraordinary wood carvings of pews and vaulted ceiling.
This 14th century church is unique in England, with its original interior divided in two. The town-accessed half is protestant: an iron-grille separates if from the catholic Fitzalan Chapel, what was the original Chancel and is now part of Arundel Castle.
The oldest relic in the church is the octagonal font, but the most impressive is the carved stone pulpit, believed to be the work of Henry Yvele, architect of the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. It is one of only six pre-reformation stone pulpits in the country.
The church and furnishings are a mix of ages - in addition to the font and pulpit, the remains of 14/15th century wall paintings can be seen. The organ is early 1800s, whilst the High Altar was commissioned and consecrated as recently as 2002.
The cemeteryof the church and many ancient headstones is on the 'town side' and runs down the side of the church and the West porch. The path leads to a wall, the other side of which is the castle grounds and entrance to the Fitzalan Chapel.
The iron grille behind the High Altar affords views into the Fitzalan Chapel and the opportunity (if desired) to take the photos denied when in the castle property itself (see separate tip).
Arundel Cathedral was commissioned by the 15th Duke of Norfolk forty years after the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 in which Roman Catholic parishes became legal again in England. French Gothic in style, it is reflective of the ecclesiastic architecture of the 14th century, the period when the Howard family rose to prominence.
Originally dedicated to Our Lady and St Philip Neri (16th century Italian priest), this was changed in 1971 to the Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard.
Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel (and who would have become the 5th Duke of Norfolk), cousin of Queen Elizabeth I, died in the Tower of London in 1595, accused of treason against the protestant queen. Refusing to renounce his faith, he died alone in the Tower and was immediately proclaimed a Catholic Martyr. He was canonised in 1970, his relics buried in the cathedral.
Standing proudly overlooking the town, it is the seat of the Bishop of Brighton and Arundel.
Founded in the 13th century, dissolved in 1538 by Henry VIII, the ruins of the Dominican Blackfriars Abbey sit on the banks of the River Arun immediately below the castle and adjacent to the main Gatehouse entrance. At the time, its location – close to the castle, market and river port – would have been prime.
Nothing much remains – a few walls of local flint – as many original buildings were demolished (and probably used to build other buildings). The whole was formerly part of the estate of the Duke of Norfolk. They were presented to the town in 1935.
Whilst hardly a major attraction, the ruins are part and parcel of a day in Arundel.
Following the footprint of the original castle, the 15th Duke of Norfolk overhauled the South and East wings of the castle to make it a livable space. It's therefore 19th century living inside a 12-15th century shell. It's, quite simply, spectacular - from the extraordinary Chapel based on 13th century cathedrals (one of the first 'rooms' you enter) through to the splendour of the enormous Baron's Hall.
From here you move into the Picture Gallery and the various, more 'homely' (as far as castles can be) rooms – billiards rooms, dining room, Canaletto drawing room and sumptuous main drawing room. All still used on occasions - even the bedrooms upstairs (although not the Victoria Rooms - a suite of rooms refurbished for the state visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846). But in spite of all this, my personal favourite room was the extraordinary library, created by the 11th Duke in 1800. Entirely fitted out in carved mahogany and red velvet.
All in all a quite extraordinary place, with the east wing closed off to the public as it the private residence of the current Duke of Norfolk and his family.