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Old Wardour Castle, Tisbury

Old Wardour Castle, Tisbury Date Photo Taken 2003
Uploaded 25/10/2007 08:29:35
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham

The original Wardour Castle was built by Lord Lovell, who was granted permission for this by Richard II in 1392. It was modelled on a French design as an embattled dwelling and was not intended for defence. The name Wardour comes from Old English ‘weard’ and ‘ora’, meaning watch and slope, and could indicate that a Saxon look out post was constructed during King Alfred’s defensive works. The castle was confiscated from the Lovells in 1461 and passed through several owners until being bought by Sir Thomas Arundell of Lanherne in 1544. Pictured here is the bust of Christ, the Arundell coat-of-arms and a description of the Arundell's possession of Wardour, erected by Sir Matthew Arundell in 1578 to celebrate his recovery of the property after the family lost in when Sir Thomas Arundell was executed in 1552.

During the Civil War the 2nd Lord Arundell was away from home on the King’s business and had asked his wife, Lady Blanche Arundell, to defend the castle to the last extremity. She was aged 61 and had a garrison of only 25 trained fighting men plus servants when on 2nd May 1643 Sir Edward Hungerford, with 1,300 men of the Parliamentary Army, demanded admittance to search for Royalists. He was refused and sending for Col. Strode and more troops, he laid siege to the castle and turned his guns on the walls. The castle was not built for defence and had only 50 men in total, although the female servants loaded guns for them. As the men were not offered quarter, Hungerford’s terms of surrender were refused.

He then attempted to undermine the walls by mines, fired fireballs in at the windows and set off explosives at the doors. After five days the castle was threatened with complete destruction and Lady Blanche agreed to surrender on condition of obtaining quarter for all and safe conduct for the ladies of the family. Hungerford, typically, did not honour all of the agreement, the castle was plundered, the whole park, lodge, and outbuildings, etc. were laid waste and the ladies made prisoners. The castle was placed under the command of Col. Edmund Ludlow. Lord Arundell had died of his wounds after the battle of Lansdowne, and his son, Henry 3rd Lord Arundell, laid siege to his own castle, blew up much of it and caused the Parliamentary garrison to surrender in March 1644. Lady Blanche had retired to a life of seclusion at Winchester. Wardour Castle was never reoccupied and in the late 17th century the Arundells built Wardour House near the castle and by the early 18th century they had landscaped the grounds around the castle. New Wardour Castle, with its superb Roman Catholic chapel was built in the 1770s.

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