The fortress remains impressive despite the slighting and rebuilding of some of the castle buildings after the seventeenth century Civil War.  It is of an unusual twin bailey plan and consists of a Norman gatehouse with a shell keep on a powerful motte, two baileys surrounded by masonry defences and Civil War earthworks.

The castle was founded by Roger Montgomery (d.1093) in the immediate aftermath of the Norman Conquest of England.  It was first mentioned in 1071, although Domesday Book hints it may have existed before 1066 when it states that in the time of King Edward (d.1066) Arundel castle used
to pay (Castrum Harundel reddebat) 40s from a mill and provide lodging for the lord on 3 occasions a year at a value of 20s and once similarly at a value of 20s. 

Roger's son, Robert Belleme, lost the castle to a 3 month siege by King Henry I in 1102.  The castle then remained in royal hands and was further fortified by the king, with its custodian, William Pont de l'Arche of Portchester, spending £22 7s 8d on the castle works in 1130 alone.  In 1135 the newly crowned King Stephen granted the castle to his predecessor's widow, Adeliza Louvain (d.1151).  She took the castle to her second husband, Earl William Aubigny of Arundel (d.1176).  The honour of Arundel during the reign of Henry II (1154-89) had lands in Sussex, Hampshire and Warwickshire and could call on the service of 88 knights' fees.

In 1139 the Empress Matilda (d.1167) landed in Arundel harbour and was entertained in the castle by her step mother, Adelize (d.1151).  Consequently King Stephen moved rapidly against the castle and to avert a siege of this powerful castle, as well as forcing the Aubigny's into rebellion, the king allowed Matilda to progress to Bristol and the safety of her half brother, Earl Robert of Gloucester (d.1147).  In 1156 the new King Henry II (1154-89) confirmed Earl William to the whole honour of Arundel with its castle and granted to him the third penny of all the pleas of the country of Sussex with all liberties just as King Henry I (d.1135) had held in his demesne.

Later, during the early part of the reign of King Henry II (1154-89), Adelize's brother, Jocelin Louvain (d.1179) was castellan.  On the death of Earl William Aubigny in 1176, King Henry II claimed the castle as escheat, William having only been holding the castle by the courtesy of England, ie. in right of his deceased wife, Adelize.  Work on the castle in the 1170s and 1180s included building a wall, flooring a tower and improving the king's chamber and chapel as well as the royal garden.  Henry stayed at the castle on several occasions, once around 1182, as appears to have Richard I in 1189.  The next year King Richard granted the castle back to the Aubignys to guarantee their support while he was away on Crusade.  In 1198 Earl William Arundel (d.1221) paid to have his castle back from the Crown, while in the 1210s it was recorded that the castle chaplain received 10s a year.  In the latter two thirds of the thirteenth century the castle was regularly used as a prison, it being recorded in the 1270s that those taken in the honour of Arundel had to be imprisoned in the castle and not Guildford.  Prisoners were also kept here during the Peasants' Revolt.

In 1243 the Fitz Alans of Clun and Oswestry inherited the castle and title.  The next year it was recorded that the castle porter received 2s a day, while the 2 watchmen got 3d.  They fought against Simon Montfort in the Barons' Wars and in 1265 the John Fitz Alan (d.1267) was ordered to surrender Arundel, although he appears not to have complied.  In 1275 a keeper had responsibility for the second bailey, indicating that both were operational at the time.  Later in 1279 there was a mention of Percy's Hall.  Presumably this was for the Percy lords of Petworth who owed the massive service of 22½ knights to the earldom, while in 1292 Earl Richard Fitz Alan (d.1302) was living in the castle.  In 1326 Earl Edmund Fitz Alan was executed and the castle seized by the Crown.  In 1330 the castle was under the control of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore (d.1330) who was acting for the Crown.  In 1336 it was still under royal control, but had been returned to Earl Richard Fitz Alan (d.1376) by the 1340s, when he was living there.  In 1384 the next Earl Richard (d.1397) had the royal family staying when his younger daughter Elizabeth was married there to Duke Thomas Mowbray of Norfolk (d.1399).  The Fitz Alans remained in residence and Earl William (d.1544) entertained Henry VIII (d.1547) there in 1526 and 1538.  The fortress was uninhabited early in the seventeenth century, but served in the Civil War, being saved from slighting Duke Thomas Howard of Norfolk (d.1732) then lived there occasionally after the war.  From 1832 to 1961 the castle was the main residence of the dukes, while Duke Charles of Norfolk (d.1815), who was responsible for the 1791 rebuilding, spent much of his time there.  The castle is currently the home of Lord Arundel, the son of Duke Miles.

At the centre of the site is a motte and bailey castle, with a lesser bailey to the north-east and the main ward to the south-east.  This makes it similar to the larger royal castle at Windsor, Arundel being nearly 1,000' long by 250' wide.  The first castle comprised of the motte, some 250' in basal diameter and 65' above the courtyards.  The  ditches
surrounding the motte are up to 30' deep, but those to the south-east were filled in during the 1791+ modifications.  Judging by the layout of the baileys they were designed as a single structure, even though the northern bailey is elliptical and the southern one more rectangular.  The much mutilated surrounding ditches on the west sides of the castle are up to 30' deep, while the river cliff on the east side negated the need for protection on that front.

The shell keep on top of the 100' high motte was some 60' in diameter and has walls 30' high.  Shell keeps are reasonably unusual in being defensive enceintes with buildings set against the wall, but the whole not roofed in like a tower.  Other examples exist
at Berkeley, Cardiff, Carisbrooke, Clare, Kilpeck, Launceston, Lincoln, Marlborough, Oxford, Restormal, Tamworth, Tonbridge, Totnes, Tremarton, Tretower, Warwick, Windsor, Wiston and in France at Chateau Sur Epte and Gisors.  There are also shell keeps in Ireland at Dungarvan and Shanid.  Arundel shell keep was modified in the reign of Henry II when works were undertaken here by Roger Remfry, a royal justiciar and grandson of Henry I.  This consisted of a tower built on older foundations over the well together with a new gatehouse to replace the old hole in the wall gate which was blocked.  Presumably this well tower was the ‘high tower' of 1376 which was used as a treasury.  Around 1300 this work was heightened with shoulder-headed fitments.  At some date a ribbed vault was added in the centre of the motte. 

To the north-east of the motte is an upper bailey some 1,150 feet across.  This originally had strong earthworks on all sides except the 
north-east where the steep slopes seem to have provided sufficient defence.  The lower levels of a stone gatehouse survive at the gap in this northern earthwork, while the rest of the enceinte is enclosed by a curtain wall with rectangular towers which mostly project more externally than internally.  As such they could well date to the twelfth century.  At the north-east corner of the ward, external to the current curtain, is a short length of curved foundation which seems to be the remains of a circular tower, built in the same style of the keep.  Possibly this is a remnant of a round tower about 30' in diameter.  The rest of the enceinte consists of regularly placed rectangular towers set in a thin curtain, which was later thickened to 10' thick.  The Bevis Tower, at the top of the motte ditch to the north-east seems to have been originally open backed, as were the other towers in the enceinte.  Originally a postern, it was rebuilt in probably the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.

To the south-east is the main bailey, which has been much rebuilt.  That this was the main ward is suggested by the great entrance with barbican into this bailey commanded by the keep, which was also entered from this side.  It is thought that the lower two floors of this gatehouse are the oldest masonry structures on the site, being constructed from Pulborough stone.  The gate has a Romanesque arch.  The middle stage of the gatehouse and cellars under the south-east range are claimed to date from the late twelfth century, but the windows are similar to those found in Goodrich keep, which appears to be considerably older.  Just possibly this section of the castle was the earlier structure hinted at in the Domesday Book.

The castle had 2 chapels.  One was presumably in the keep and was mentioned as early as 1183.  In 1275 the 2 chapels were dedicated to St Martin and St George.  As St Martin was the dedication of Sees abbey, which was patronised by the Montgomerys, it is to be presumed that this was founded as early as 1102 and possibly from the 1060s.  The other chapel probably lay in the south-east corner of the south-east bailey from where it was removed in the late eighteenth century.

For more detailed descriptions of the castle see the CSG and British History

Why not join me at Arundel and other British castles this October?  Please see the information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2016 Paul Martin Remfry