Old Wardour Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameOld Wardour Castle
Alternative NamesWerdour
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishTisbury

Old Wardour Castle was built under licence granted in 1393 for the fifth Lord Lovel and is argued by some to have been designed by William Wynford, one of England's finest architects. It was clearly influenced by French designs and was built more with luxury and display in mind than defence. It was remodelled between 1570 and 1678 by Robert Smythson for Sir Matthew Arundell, including renovations to many of the private rooms. The castle consists of a two-floored hexagonal keep, open in the centre, with projecting gatehouse flanked by two towers, which contained the great hall on the first floor. This was set within a curtain wall which enclosed a spacious bailey. The approach to the main keep entrance was guarded by a ditch crossed by a drawbridge, although no remains survive due to 18th century landscaping. The keep contained all of the associated function rooms of the Lord's retinue, and included a private chapel. Following two sieges in the Civil War, during the second of which in March 1644 the south-west side of the keep was largely destroyed, the castle was abandoned. A new house was built immediately to the south of the castle in 1686, which was surrounded by formal gardens using the ruin of Old Wardour as a picturesque centrepiece. In 1754, the Baron Arundel (1717-56) consulted Lancelot Brown (1716-83), who produced a plan for alterations to the estate. Richard Woods (1716-93) was later employed to improve the gardens and park which included plans for a new mansion. This became known as (New) Wardour Castle and was built between 1770 and 1776 to the north-west of Old Wardour Castle. The curtain wall of the outer bailey survives at Old Wardour together with the remains of 17th century stables, an elaborate grotto, a miniature stone circle and a summerhouse (see associated records). In 1934, the sixteenth Baron Arundell started a new planting scheme and repairs to the Castle

In 1936, Old Wardour Castle was placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works. (PastScape)

Old Wardour Castle is a fine example of a tower keep castle, constructed in the 14th century less for defence than for luxury and ostentation. Its form, unique in England, clearly takes inspiration from France. It is argued by some to have been designed by William Wynford, one of England's finest architects. Despite the damage sustained during the Civil War, sufficient of the structure of the keep survives for the internal arrangements to be fully understood. The survival of a substantial enclosure wall defining the extensive bailey, ensures that the integrity of the overall castle layout can clearly be established. The bailey was subsequently landscaped in the picturesque manner, the ruined keep forming the focus of a scheme which includes a grotto and other ornamental features. The enclosure wall also forms the focus for stable buildings of 17th century date and a Gothick pavilion and privy of the 18th century. Sample excavations have shown the present curtain wall, which dates to the 16th century, to lie on the line of the original. Excavations within the bailey have provided evidence for the raising of soil levels in the 16th and later 17th centuries, providing effective protection for underlying medieval deposits.

The monument, which lies 4.8km from the village of Tisbury, includes a 14th century castle keep, altered in the 16th century and ruined in the Civil War, an associated bailey, later buildings, which abut the bailey on its southern side, and 18th century garden features to the north. The hexagonal shape of the keep is broadly reflected by that of the bailey within which it stands. The buildings, constructed after the Civil War, include late 17th century stables, Listed Grade II, now ruined, built against the curtain wall to the south of the bailey and an 18th century Gothick style pavilion and 'necessary house' on its south west wall. To the north east of the keep, on a low terrace, lie a grotto, a stone circle and other structures which form part of the late 18th century landscaping of the bailey. The keep, or tower house, is a hexagonal structure, approximately 40m in overall diameter. The symmetry of the overall plan is broken by the two towers, surviving almost to full height, which flank the entrance on the north east side. Within the keep is a central hexagonal courtyard, which is little more than a light well for the rooms which surround it. Despite the extensive damage caused to the south west side of the keep during the Civil War, the layout of rooms at both ground and first floor level can be appreciated, including focal elements such as the hall and possibly the chapel. Originally built by John, fifth Lord Lovel, who obtained license to build a castle in 1393, the keep was altered after 1570 by Sir Mathew Arundell. The refurbishment, which provided classically inspired fronts to the main entrance and also involved the replacement of many of the windows, may be attributed to Robert Smythson. After the Civil War damage, in 1643 and 1644, no attempts were made to put the castle back into a fit state for occupation and the ruined keep has consequently remained as a focus for a series of landscape schemes. The bailey, or outer courtyard, is very large, a maximum of 152m by 175m. The shape, in which the symmetry of the hexagon is broken by walls extending in a north east direction, reflects that of the keep and its towers. The thin enclosing curtain wall survives for most of the circuit, and retains the ground levels which have built up within the bailey. Soil levels within the bailey are known from part excavation to have been raised in the 16th and 17th centuries, thereby effectively sealing earlier medieval deposits beneath them. The wall belongs to the 16th century alterations but is known from partial excavation to be on the line of the original curtain wall. Two vaulted cellars, with a fine rusticated entrance and openings looking towards the castle, were also built in the 16th century within the curtain wall, on the south side of the bailey. The present entrance into the bailey is through an 18th century gateway, the ragged piers of which are probably the work of Josiah Lane, the builder of the grotto. South of the bailey, outside the curtain wall, lies the ruined shell of the stables built in 1686. The building has two gable walls, each standing to first floor ceiling height, linked on the southern side by a wall which incorporates a series of wide arched openings. The northern side of the building is formed by the curtain wall. On the west side of the bailey lies a late 18th century Gothick pavilion, rectangular in plan with canted ends. The pavilion may have been built on the remains of a gatehouse. On the south east angle of the curtain wall, close to the pavilion and sharing detail with it, is a privy, or 'necessary house'. In the early 18th century the castle ruins were surrounded by formal gardens. After the construction of New Wardour Castle between 1769 and 1776, the bailey was laid out in the 'picturesque' manner and the grounds about it were landscaped and planted. The most prominent feature of the landscaping within the bailey is a series of terraces, facing the entrance to the keep and running the full width of the bailey. The centrepiece of the lower terrace is an elaborate stone, brick and plaster grotto built in 1792 by Josiah Lane of Tisbury. To the north of the grotto, close to the most northerly point of the curtain wall, is a miniature 'Avebury' stone circle incorporating two rustic alcoves which reuse decorative details from the castle. (Scheduling Report)

Castle, now ruin. 1390s for John, fifth Lord Lovel, remodelled 1570s for Sir Matthew Arundell by Robert Smythson. Limestone ashlar. Hexagonal plan with projecting towers flanking north entrance, enclosed hexagonal courtyard. Two storeys, 6 windows to entrance. Central 1570s round-arched doorway with block rustication to pilasters, shell-headed niches either side, Latin inscription over records rebuilding date, hall above lit by two large C14 pointed windows with missing tracery, corbels for machicolation over, flanking towers have four symmetrically placed 2-light Tudor-arched windows and moulded string course with rosettes to former parapet. Other sides have groups of three Tudor-arched lights some being blind to complete the symmetry. The south west wall has been completely destroyed, together with parts of west and south walls. Interior of courtyard has fine classical doorway of 1570s to foot of stairs; round arch with fluted pilasters to Doric entablature, spandrels and plinths decorated with lions' heads. Main feature of interior is first floor hall over entrance with screens passage and services to south east end, vaulted undercrofts and entrance passage below, other apartments including the lord's chambers were in 3-storey ranges to west and south of the hall. Castle partly destroyed during Civil War sieges of 1643 and 1644, replaced by James Paine's Wardour Castle in 1776 when bailey laid out as pleasure gardens. (Listed Building Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST938263
Latitude51.0363502502441
Longitude-2.08884000778198
Eastings393860
Northings126320
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Margaret Anne Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 321-2, 451-3
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 658-65
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 101-3
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 277-8 (plan)
  • Furtado, Peter et al (eds), 1988, Ordnance Survey guide to castles in Britain (London) p. 86
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 501
  • Girouard, M., 1983, Robert Smythson and the Elizabethan Country House (Yale University Press)
  • Morley, B.M., 1981, 'Aspects of fourteenth-century castle design' in A. Detsicas (ed), Collectanea Historica: Essays in Memory of Stuart Rigold (Kent Archaeological Society) p. 104-13
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 272
  • Pevsner, N. (Revised by Cherry, Bridget), 1975, Buildings of England: Wiltshire (London, Penguin) p. 548-51
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 235-8 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 3-4 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 331-2, 420 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 317

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Guy, Neil, 2011-12, 'The Rise of the Anti-clockwise Newel Stair' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 113-174 online copy
  • Guy, N. et al., 2010-11, 'Castle Studies Group Conference 'Castles of West Wessex'' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 4-146 esp 21-33
  • Goodall, J., 28 April 2005, 'Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire' Country Life Vol. 199.17
  • Coulson, Charles, 1993 Aug, 'Specimens of Freedom to Crenellate by Licence' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 18 p. 3-15
  • Girouard, M., Feb 1991, Country Life
  • 1991, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 35 p. 196 download copy
  • Smith, G., 1986, 'Excavation at Old Wardour Castle, 1983' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 80 p. 223–4 online copy
  • Saunders, A., 1983, 'Old Wardour Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 140 p. 70–1
  • Keen, L. and Hurst, J.G., 1967, 'Excavations at Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 62 p. 67-78 online copy
  • Chettle, G.H., 1947, 'Wardour Castle; the Old Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 104 p. 167 online copy
  • Chettle, H.F., 1944, 'Wardour Castle' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 50 p. 452-8 online copy
  • Hussey, 1930, Country Life Vol. 68 p. 442-8
  • Perkins, T., 1894, 'Sketch of the History of Old Wardour Castle' Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol. 15 p. 26-35 online copy
  • W.D., 1873, The Antiquary Vol. 4 p. 259-62 (history)

Guide Books

  • Girouard, M., 2012, Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire (London: English Heritage) (see Guy, Neil, 2012-13, Old Wardour Castle - Review' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 304-5 for a review of this book)
  • Davison, Brian K., 1999, Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire (London: English Heritage)
  • Pugh, R.B. and Saunders, A.D., 1968, Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1392-96) Vol. 5 p. 261 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 471

Other

  • Linford, N., 1997, Old Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, Report on geophysical survey, 1997. (Ancient Monuments Laboratory report 5/98) online copy