About Old Wardour Castle
Wardour Castle is a ruined 14th century castle which was destroyed during the English Civil War. It lies in south west Wiltshire, close to the Dorset border.
History of Old Wardour Castle
King Richard II granted John, 5th Baron Lovell, permission to build a castle on the site in 1392. Constructed using locally quarried greensand, the design was inspired by French hexagonal castles, and was unusual for its time. Similarly unusual was the inclusion of self-contained ‘guest suites’ within the castle for visiting nobility and friends.
Wardour Castle was confiscated in 1461, during the Wars of the Roses: the Lovells fell from favour after they supported the Lancastrian cause. In 1544, it was bought Sir Thomas Arundell: the Arundells held numerous properties and estates across the south west. Arundell was executed for treason in 1552, and the castle was confiscated once again. In 1570, his son, Sir Matthew, bought it back from the crown.
The Arundell family were Catholics, and naturally sided with the Royalist cause when England descended into Civil War in the mid 17th century. Parliamentarian, led by Sir Edward Hungerford, laid siege to the castle in 1643: after 5 days, the castle surrendered and was taken by Parliamentarian forces.
However, Henry Lord Arundell decided to blockade the castle with Royalist forces, and eventually mined the walls, blowing up much of the structure in an attempt to get the Parliamentary garrison to surrender.
The ruins of Wardour Castle were left as a kind of romantic ornamental feature, and the Arundell family later built ‘New’ Wardour Castle north west of the original spot, which is more of a neo classical country house than castle.
Old Wardour Castle today
The ruins of the castle are open to explore today, and are very evocative: it’s easy to imagine it as a seat of power and the destruction which happened here too. The rolling landscape was carefully designed to maximise views and create a romantic atmosphere.
The grounds of the castle host outdoor theatre on summer evenings, and wandering round when the light is softer (dawn or dusk) is particularly lovely.
The ruins of the castle themselves can be visited and it’s possible to explore relatively extensively inside, although it’s worth keeping an eye on small children as there are water features and the ruins aren’t designed to be climbed up!
Getting to Old Wardour Castle
Old Wardour Castle is only really accessible by car: it is accessible via the A30 and A350, although both routes involve narrow rural roads, so caution is advised. Tisbury is the nearest town (and station), about 3 miles away – it has plenty of amenities.
Discover 10 of the best historic sites in Wiltshire with our expert guide. Located in the heart of Wessex, Wiltshire's history spans several millennia and caters to every taste: from ancient stone circles to modern day military history.