Wiltshire Castles. Ruins Steeped with Legend and Heritage.

Wardour Castle in Wiltshire was built in the 1390s and partially destroyed in 1643 and 1644 during the English Civil War.

A Grade I listed building, managed by English Heritage and open to the public.

Built in 1392 during the reign of Richard 11 by Baron Lovell, locally quarried Tisbury greensand was used, with William Wynford as the master mason. It was inspired by the hexagonal castles fashionable in France; but its own six-sided design is unique in Britain, as are the inclusion of several self-contained guest suites.

After the fall of the Lovell family the castle was confiscated in 1461. Thomas Arundell, 2nd Baron Arundell of Wardour and Royalist, was away from home on the King's business and had asked his wife, Lady Blanche Arundell, aged 61, to defend the castle with a garrison of 25 trained fighting men. On 2 May 1643 Sir Edward Hungerford, with 1,300 men of the Parliamentarian Army, demanded admittance to search for Royalists. He was refused and laid siege, after five days the castle was threatened with complete destruction. Lady Arundell agreed to surrender, and the castle was placed under the command of Colonel Edmund Ludlow. Lord Arundell had died of his wounds after the Battle of Stratton, and his son, Henry 3rd Lord Arundell, next laid siege to his own castle, blew up much of it and obliged the Parliamentary garrison to surrender in March 1644.

The 8th Baron, Henry Arundell, borrowed sufficient funds to finance rebuilding. This was done by the prominent Palladian James Paine. Paine built New Wardour Castle not as a castle but a symmetrical neoclassical country house with a main block built around a central staircase hall and two flanking wings, Paine integrated the ruins of the Old Castle into the surrounding parkland, intending it to be viewed as a romantic ruin.

The castles, old and new, have been featured in several films. The Old Castle in the 1991 Kevin Costner feature Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and was used as a film location for The Journey to Aresmore. The New Castle served as the dance school in Billy Elliot. The cover of Sting's album Ten Summoner's Tales was photographed inside Old Wardour Castle.

Farleigh Hungerford CastleOr just plain Farleigh Castle, is a medieval castle in Farleigh Hungerford.

Straggling the Wiltshire/Somerset border. Built in two phases: The castle was built in a quadrangular design on the site of an existing manor house overlooking the River Frome, the inner court was constructed between 1377 and 1383 by Sir Thomas Hungerford, later Sir Thomas’s son, Sir Walter Hungerford, extended the castle with an additional, outer court. By Walter's death in 1449, the substantial castle was richly appointed, and its chapel decorated with murals.

The castle largely remained in the hands of the Hungerford family over the next two centuries, At the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, the castle, modernized to the latest Tudor and Stuart fashions, was held by Sir Edward Hungerford who declared his support for Parliament. Farleigh Hungerford was seized by Royalist forces in 1643, but recaptured by Parliament without a fight near the end of the conflict in 1645. As a result, it escaped slighting following the war, unlike many other castles in the south-west.

The last member of the Hungerford family to own the castle, Sir Edward Hungerford, inherited it in 1657, but his gambling forced him to sell the property in 1686. In 1730 it was bought by the Houlton family, Trowbridge clothiers, when much of it was broken up for salvage. The castle chapel was repaired in 1779 and became a museum of curiosities, complete with the murals rediscovered on its walls in 1844 and a number of rare lead anthropomorphic coffins from the mid-17th century. It is now owned by English Heritage and open to the public. The castle is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Nunney Castle near Frome in SomersetA medieval castle built in the late 14th century by Sir John Delamare

on the site of his unfortified manor house in 1373 from the profits of his involvement in the Hundred Years War, the moated castle's architectural style, possibly influenced by the design of French castles, has provoked considerable academic debate. Remodelled during the late 16th century, Nunney Castle was damaged during the English Civil War and is now ruined. "Aesthetically the most impressive castle in Somerset." Now English Heritage maintains the site as a tourist attraction.

The resulting castle centred on a stone tower-keep, measuring 60 feet by 24 feet internally and 54 feet tall, with four round corner-towers. The tower-keep had eight-foot thick walls made from Lias Oolite Ashlar stone and was designed around three floors. The ground floor included the kitchen and other service areas. The third floor was used as living accommodation for the owning family. The tower-keep had a modest entrance, which was reached by a draw-bridge that lay across the surrounding moat. A simple, 12-foot high bailey wall surrounded the moat, which was in contrast wide, 10-foot deep, and would have been difficult for any attacker to drain. Nunney Brook was used as a line of defence rather than a bailey wall on the east side.

Nunney is regarded as a bold, striking design, similar in many ways to those at Herstmonceux or Saltwood Castle, designed "to allow very rich men to live in luxury and splendour."

I have borrowed Nunney Castle for Wiltshire as it is so close to Steeple Ashton!


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