Arundel Castle is a stately home as well as an ancient castle and is located in a commanding position on a hill in West Sussex overlooking the River Arun, originally constructed to defend the approaches to Sussex from attack.
The Castle construction began as a motte (artificial mound ) and a gatehouse in the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel a loyal Baron of William the Conqueror. Subsequently the Castle became the family home of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years. The present building is the result of massive restoration carried out by the 15th Duke of Norfolk between 1875 and 1900. It was one of the first English country houses to be fitted with electric light, lifts and central heating. The building plan bears a great similarity with Royal Windsor Castle.
The results of all this history are housed in the Castle in the form of fine furniture dating from the 16th century, tapestries, clocks, and fine paintings, this combined with the magnificent views of beautiful Sussex downland and out to sea, plus 30 acres of grounds including several gardens, make for an excellent day out.
The building we see now owes much to Henry,15th Duke of Norfolk (1847-1917) and the restoration project was completed in 1900. It was one of the first English country houses to be fitted with electric light, integral fire fighting equipment, service lifts and central heating. The gravity fed domestic water supply also supplied the town. Electricity cost over £36,000 to install, but the splendidly carved chimney piece in the Drawing Room only cost £150!
Arundel Castle is now the home of The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk and their children. The Duke of Norfolk is the Premier Duke, the title having been conferred on Sir John Howard in 1483 by his friend King Richard III. The Dukedom has carried with it the hereditary office of Earl Marshal of England. This means that the Duke is in charge of state ceremonial such as the coronation and funeral of the sovereign and such occasions as the sovereign declares shall be a state occasion, e.g. the investiture of HRH The Prince of Wales and the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. Visitors often ask about the relationship of the English sovereign to the Dukes of Norfolk: they share a common ancestor in King Edward I (1239-1307) and also King Edward III (1312-1377). As Earl Marshal, the Duke is head of the College of Arms, founded in 1484, the official authority on heraldry and genealogy in England and Wales.
Founded in 1390 by the 4th Earl of Arundel and situated in the grounds of Arundel Castle, the Fitzalan Chapel is still the burial place of the Dukes of Norfolk. It is a fine example of Gothic architecture with a carved timber roof and choir stalls. The carved stone tombs are of major artistic interest. In 1879 it was determined that the Chapel did not form part of the Protestant parish church but was an independent ecclesiastical structure and therefore remains Catholic. A glass wall now divides the Chapel from the parish church; an unusual, if not unique, anomaly in England. Access involves a ramp and a step to the gardens and 9 steps up to the Chapel.