Old Wardour Castle: 15th July 2016
One of the perks of working as an English Heritage volunteer at Stonehenge is that, fairly frequently, outings are arranged for us. This time, we went to another English Heritage property. Old Wardour Casle.
You’ll probably recognise Old Wardour from the film ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’. According to the film, it’s just outside Carcassonne, to which Robin journeyed by way of Hadrian’s Wall. In actual fact, though, it’s near Tisbury, in Wiltshire, and is reached by way of a tortuous country road … which is probably why it doesn’t receive anything like as many visitors as we do at Stonehenge.
The castle is in ruins, and has been since the Civil War. At that time, it was occupied by the staunchly Royalist Arundell family. It was besieged by Parliamentarian forces, and, in the absence of Lord Arundell, the garrison of only 25 men, led by the formidable Lady Blanche Arundell, held out for six days against a besieging force of about 1300.
Eventually, Lady Blanche surrendered, but it wasn’t long before Lord Arundell decided he wanted his castle back, and laid siege to the place once more. The royalists laid explosive charges underneath the castle … but it’s believed these were accidentally set off by the defenders, destroying the castle wall, and leading to the eventual surrender of the Parliamentarian forces.
(This, I suspect, was the origin of the phrase ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ … long before Michael Caine made it famous!)
The castle was partly rebuilt and made habitable, but, in 1776, the Arundells built New Wardour nearby, retaining the ruins of the old castle as a ‘folly’, or landscape feature, where they would often hold outdoor balls, picnics and other celebrations. You can still do that today; you can even get married there.
And, that’s something you can’t do at Stonehenge!