Here to return to
SALARINO described to the merchant of Venice the ocean
where your argosies with portly sail, —
One is tempted to transpose that metaphor to Arundel. The poor little houses of the town are in a perpetual attitude of reverent humility at the foot of the great towers which over shadow them. At Richmond or at Norwich, after all, the signiors and rich burghers, the castle towers, still overpeer the petty traffickers which line the streets below, but there is no curtsying; the castles are lordless, and the towns have a commercial importance of their own. Arundel, on the other hand, renders almost feudal homage to the Dukes of Norfolk. Indeed, the town seems to have no other reason for existence to-day — although it is justifiably proud of its past traditions — than to provide servants for the estate and accommodation for the thousands of tourists who come to visit the castle.
Roger de Montgomery was the first to build a castle at Arundel soon after the Conquest. The reference in Domesday to a castrum there in the time of Edward the Confessor has been shown to mean the fortifications of the town, but the earth works outside the castle walls prove that the place was fortified in early times. Even if there were no such evidence one might assume it to have been fortified, for Arundel was of outstanding military importance throughout the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages.
The castle is built upon a spur of the downs commanding the River Arun at a point where there has always been a bridge. Where there is a bridge there is a road, where there is a river there is an avenue of attack from the sea, and where the river passes through the downs there is a gap through which armies can march inland. That is the importance of Arundel, but the lines of mediæval communication made that importance even greater. Arundel held not a bridge, but the bridge over the Arun.
In the early history of England, much more than in our day, rivers were used for commerce. Consequently, bridges were not constructed over the mouths of rivers, but at the point where ocean-going vessels could discharge their cargoes nearest to the seats of trade. In Sussex especially, where a number of small rivers parallel to one another opened the country to invasion, and where there were no coastwise roads (for the roads ran from bridge to bridge some miles inland) it was difficult to concentrate an army to repel an invasion. Local conditions such as these made the importance of Arundel, as of Bramber or Lewes. Arundel commanded an essential road at a point vital to the economic and military life of the district. Only recently have bridges at Littlehampton, Shoreham, and New haven linked together the coastal roads of Sussex.
Roger de Montgomery contributed sixty ships to the Norman fleet, commanded the centre at Senlac, and became lord of Sussex. Later he was Earl of Shrewsbury, and the family of the Norman adventurer left their name upon the map of Wales in the county where the ruins of their great castle may be seen. At Arundel Roger built a stockaded stronghold with a mound and court. Almost certainly the second court, which gave Arundel the same plan as Windsor, was part of the original design, but it is possible to consider this a later addition, for very little of the Norman work can be identified at Arundel, which has been restored and rebuilt with great care in recent years.
The castle extends its length from north-west to south-east. The long eastern wall is straight and uninterrupted, but the western curtain bends inward at about the middle where it crosses the ditch and climbs the mound to the wall of the keep. That is to say, a portion of the wall of the shell-keep at the summit of the mound faces the field, and the ditch below the mound becomes a part of the main ditch running around the northern end of the castle. Within the enclosure the mound forms the division between the two wards, leaving a narrow space from the edge of the inner ditch to the east curtain. Probably there were never any buildings in the upper ward to the north; this was used as an enclosure for cattle and horses.
The gatehouse, just south of the keep, gives entrance to the lower ward, around three sides of which are grouped the imposing buildings erected chiefly by the late Duke. The basement of the range on the south is partly Norman work. Of the military remains, the keep, a portion of the gatehouse, and the lower half of the Bevis tower in the upper ward are also Norman.
An account of Arundel’s history is necessary for an under standing of the castle as it appears at present. Arundel was lost to the family of Montgomery after it had been enjoyed for a time by Roger’s son, Robert de Bellesme, who supported Robert of Normandy against Henry I. Henry blockaded the castle with portable wooden towers, and before long the garrison asked for a truce that they might obtain permission to surrender from their lord in Shropshire. The permission was granted, and the besieged were only too glad to march out of the castle, which reverted to the Crown.
Henry’s widow, Adela of Louvain, brought Arundel in marriage to William de Albini, the Norfolk landowner who built the keep at Castle Rising, and the ancestor of the present Duke of Norfolk. Adela’s brother, Joscelin, was an ancestor of the ducal house of Northumberland. Joscelin was given the domain of Petworth by William de Albini “since which,” says Camden, “the posterity of that Joscelin, who took the name of Percy [upon his marriage to Agnes, the heiress of the Percys], have ever possessed it, a family certainly very ancient and noble, the male representatives of Charlemagne, more direct than the Dukes of Guise, who pride themselves on that account.”
It is a curious encounter in the bypaths of history to find the two eldest ducal houses of England claimed as the representatives of Charlemagne’s line to the exclusion of the French nobility. It is equally curious to find among the descendants of Charlemagne (through Adela of Louvain) two of England’s most unhappy queens — Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard.
William de Albini was chief butler or cup-bearer of the Duchy of Normandy. His descendants, the hereditary Earls Marshal of England, retain the honour, and when a new monarch drinks the health of his liege subjects at the coronation banquet the golden goblet is the perquisite of the Duke of Norfolk.
Adela spent long periods at Arundel. In 1139 she gave refuge to the Empress Matilda, although she held herself neutral in the struggles between Stephen and Matilda. The latter immediately raised his siege of Marlborough, and blockaded Arundel, demanding the surrender of Matilda. But he did not press the attack. According to one account he chivalrously recognized Adela’s claim that she was sheltering the daughter of Henry, not the enemy of Stephen. Another version is that Stephen felt Arundel to be impregnable, and by allowing Matilda to escape to the Earl of Gloucester at Bristol he would have all his opponents shut up together in one part of the country. At all events, he allowed Matilda safe conduct from Sussex.
The great-granddaughter of William de Albini brought Arundel to her husband, John Fitz Alan of Clun, in Shropshire. The Fitz Alan line continued until 1580, when Arundel passed by marriage again to the family of Howard, Dukes of Norfolk.
It cannot be said that Arundel had an eventful military history in the Middle Ages, despite its position of importance. The wars of the seventeenth century proved more destructive for the castle. There were occasions when artillery failed before walls built for the defence of mail-clad knights. Arundel may be cited as a good illustration of Shakespeare’s imagery—
The strongest castle, tower, and town,
In 1643 Waller captured the castle with the loss of only one man. In Waller’s absence, however, the Royalists under the command of Lord Hopton retook town and castle after a three days’ siege, but within a fortnight Waller again appeared fully prepared for a lengthy investiture. He planted cannon on the church tower to batter the walls while his musketeers raked the battlements until the keep was a ruin and the domestic buildings shattered to pieces. As usual the wits were among the Royalist party. In an attempt to disguise a shortage of provisions, they gravely offered to give the Puritans beef and mutton in exchange for sack, tobacco, cards, and dice. Of course, the Roundheads had no cards to give away, but they thankfully accepted some live oxen let down from the walls by the garrison as a rather transparent advertisement of their superfluous provisions. Shortly afterwards the garrison surrendered, to the number of about a thousand; they were made prisoners of war. The Commonwealth slighted the castle to complete the work already more than half accomplished by Waller’s cannon.
Not until 1791 did the Dukes of Norfolk begin the work of restoration, which was continued to the end of the nineteenth century, when the buildings were practically constructed anew and the defences restored. Much that was capable of restoration, the chapel, for example, has been replaced by modern buildings. But the new chapel in the Early English style is entirely admirable, and no visitor to the great hall or to the library can feel that the restorations are incongruous to the traditions of the castle.
Probably the castle besieged by Henry I was defended by palisades, and the buildings in stone were begun by him when he had possession of the place. The oldest existing portion is the inner gatehouse which contains dungeons reminiscent of the inner gateway at Alnwick. It also covers the approach to the keep along the top of the curtain wall running up the mound. Richard FitzAlan, in the thirteenth century, constructed a more elaborate outer gatehouse with two towers fronting the draw bridge, so that the whole work is not unlike the barbican at Warwick, the passage 40 feet in length being defended by gate and portcullis.
The shell-keep probably dates from the time of Henry II. In this type of keep the rooms were built against the inner walls, leaving an open space in the middle. They were, no doubt, of wood, and have disappeared, but a musty cellar or storehouse excavated from the space in the centre still remains. Originally the keep was entered by a Norman door in the south face. Evidently the approach was too easy, and there was no protection afforded to the well on the slope of the mound near the curtain, so two towers were built to cover the entrance. The smaller tower contains the well, and the larger tower encloses the keep entrance underneath a small oratory dedicated to Saint Martin. An enemy who had captured the gatehouse would have short shrift if he found himself upon the uncovered curtain wall at the foot of those well-protected towers.
The keep and its towers were repaired by the late duke, as well as the machinery for working the portcullis in the entrance tower. The Roundhead policy of dismantling the great castles of the country is now thoroughly reversed, at Arundel at least, and the visitor finds an equal interest in the walls and turrets of the upper ward, and the books and paintings of the palace overlooking the River Arun.