Old Wardour Castle

An isolated romantic ruin, a perfect place for a picnic lunch.

Old Wardour Castle

Your driver-guide will whisk you into the heart of the West Country, and you will find a secret castle, forgotten in time. The romantic ruin of 14th Old Wardour Castle is delightfully enchanting. Explore its passages, spiralling staircases and chambers is one for the curious minded and great fun for children. 

The hexagonal design is unusual and sits in grounds landscaped by the famous Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. We are making this spot ideal for a game of hide-and-seek and a picnic. 

Did you know that it was a lady who heroically defended the castle from her foes in the English Civil War? Find out more by continuing to read.

A brief history of Old Wardour Castle
The residence was lived in for 250 years by two noble families. Like most castles, it symbolises wealth and status, an estate hub, a secure place to retreat in troubles times. Now Old Wardour is a serene place, a romantic relic of the past with fine lawns and landscaped grounds. 

In the 1390s, John 5th Lord Lovel proved that marrying the right heiress could be of great advantage. In this case, Maud Holand, whose cousins were the half-brothers of Richard II. Lord Lovel had several homes, which was normal for a minor lord. Still, Wardour Castle was going to be different, with cutting-edge architecture, to be secure yet easy on the eye. We know that Richard II was rather fond of elaborate architecture. Therefore this could well be the reason for the indulgence; Lord Lovel wanted to impress the monarch.  

Europe was going through tough times; the black death had wiped out large portions of the labouring classes. Those that survived demanded, but, were often refused higher wages. England’s King, Richard II was more interested in ceremony and the arts. He financed a lavish court to entertain foreign dignitaries. The government heavily taxed farmers and traders paid for the war against France, although the King had made efforts to end the conflict. The country was on the brink a revolt. As diplomats travelled back and forth to secure peace, the entertainment became more exotic and sophisticated. Art, food, design and architecture became more important to those of high rank.

John, the fifth Lord Lovel, wanted to show he belonged to the new world and started work on Wardour Castle, a French-style fortified home in the middle of Wiltshire. Richard II court was full of artist and masons, giving John access to the best craftsmen in the country. Once complete (around 1400), Wardour was one of the most attractive homes in the country. 

Sir Thomas Arundell (1502-1552) made his fortune by clinging to powerful courtiers. As each character fell from grace during the turbulent Tudor period, Sir Thomas could attach to the next rising star skilfully. He grew the family fortunes and purchased Wardour Castle. Sir Thomas transferred his allegiance to the influential Duke of Somerset. The Crown accused the Duke of treason, and both executed. 

Another Arundell family member, Sir Matthew Arundell, managed to regain the losses of Sir Thomas. It was the now the 1570s’ and Wardour Castle is becoming out of date and out of fashion. But, Sir Matthew must have recognised something special about the place and instead of complete demolition, decided to remodel relatively sympathetically by adding a few renaissance features here and there.  

The English Civil War broke out in 1642. The great landowning classes would need to choose a side. The Arundell's chose the losing side, and this brought Wardour Castle under attack from modern weaponry. Thomas, the second Lord Arundell, was away when Parliamentarian troops attacked Wardour. Lady Blanche organised the defence of the castle which included twenty-five men and female servants. 

The siege (May 1643) must have been terrifying; the occupants were surely fighting for their lives. The attackers underestimated the thickness of the walls and brought modern, but, inadequate cannon to bear. Remarkably, Wardour Castle held out for six days. The Parliamentarian commander, Sir Edward Hungerford, exploded gunpowder mines in the service tunnels. The building remained intact but must have shuddered and groaned, and as a result, Lady Blanche surrendered. 

Round Head troops ransacked Wardour, and Lady Blanche was taken prisoner and separated from her children. Lady Blanche, also learnt that her husband, Sir Thomas second Lord Arundell, was killed in battle. In December 1643, the counter siege began, by the NEW Lord Arundell, Henry, the son of Sir Thomas the second Lord. The siege dragged on until March 1644 until an explosion of huge magnitude destroyed an entire third of the castle. Fighting continued for four days until the surrender of the Round Heads.  

Although the Arundell's were ultimately on the losing side of the civil war, the Crown returned Wardour estate to the family with the monarch's restoration in 1660. Much later in the 18th Century, the now eighth Lord Arundell built a New Wardour Castle and instructed Capability Brown to design the grounds making ‘Old’ Wardour Castle a romantic ruin and centrepiece of the scheme. 

Today, Old Wardour Castle is one of those out-of-the-way places, a delight to visit and extremely peaceful and ideal for a family to relax for an hour or two. 

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown
From humble beginnings, Lancelot Brown became England’s greatest gardener. He whole heartily embraced the new style of English landscape gardening and was universally admired. Brown redesigned over 170 gardens of Britain’s grandest stately homes and became most sort after. He acquired the nickname ‘Capability’ Brown due to his habit of reassuring his clients that their estates had great capabilities. Probably his most famous work is Blenheim Palace.

Touring and accommodation
A stop at Old Wardour Castle can be combined with a tour of Stonehenge and Bath on a driver-guided trip from London. Also, please see our suggested Stourhead Gardens and Old Wardour Castle. If you have children, you may like combine a tour of Longleat Safari Park with Old Wardour Castle

Although you can visit Old Wardour Castle from London in a day, we would suggest staying overnight in Bath at the Royal Crescent Hotel as part of an extended excursion. There is a wide choice of accommodation in the UK; CottagesManor House Hotels and traditional Guest Houses. We have designed a tour with first-time visitors in mind; it is called the Town and Country Tour. Please take a look and remember we can customise a vacation for you from scratch.

Ireland and Scotland
Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. 

A Romantic Ruin

The perfect place for a family picnic

  • Grounds by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown
  • Access to all floors and chambers
  • See the Gothic banqueting house
  • See the grotto
  • High-end picnics by special arrangement