Bryan Little describes Arundel Castle, a stately home of great Catholic relevance and beauty,
0 F ALT. England's stately homes with strong Catholic associations, one of supreme importance is not a country mansion of mediaeval or Georgian character.
It is a great castle, of' Norman origins, for less than half its history in the hands of the family now there, and in the later Victorian decades expensively refeudalised in an astonishing gesture of ancestral and heraldic pride.
Arundel Castle is now owned, but not actually lived in, by the seventeenth Duke of Norfolk, premier duke and hereditary Earl Marshal of England, and by general consent England's leading Catholic layman.
A visit, for anyone conscious of history and of our Catholic heritage, is enthralling and moving. It is an experience shared, on any summer day, with hundreds who appreciate the beauty of the setting and the charm of the little town whose streets climb up to a culmination in the great French Gothic church.
The church was first dedicated to Our lady and St. Philip Neri but now, with its second dedication changed to another saint of the same name — St. Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel and a member of the ducal family, whose lingering death in the Tower made him one of our penal martyrs. His new tomb is in the north transept of what now ranks as Arundel Cathedral.
The castle was started by Roger de Montgomery whom the Conqueror had put in charge of much of western Sussex; it had an excellent tactical position commanding the Arun valley arid an important river crossing. It was, and is, a castle of the "motte and bailey" type, with a later shell keep enclosing the top of its conical motte.
A splendid Norman doorway, with two rows of continuous chevron moulding, is late Romanesque as arc some other windows remaining among much later work; these prove that changes were still made late in the twelfth century.
The motte and its keep are not at one end of the castle but, as at Windsor, half way along it, so that there is a "bailey" on each side of the keep, The buildings round the lower bailey are those which are visited and which arc of the castle's chief importance.
Another convincing mediaeval relic, largely of the fourteenth century, is the fine entrance tower, with its boldly projecting barbican.
Drawings and engravings show that the Civil War bombardment much damaged the castle. Some repairs and extensions to the living quarters were made in the eighteenth century, but a scheme by the eminent architect James Gibbs (himself a Catholic) to rebuild the castle, probably as a great classical mansion, came to nothing. Really dramatic developments awaited the late Georgian period.
These changes were made for Charles, the eleventh .Duke, known as the Apostate Duke because he conformed to the Established Church. Ile was a rumbustious character, and a boon Companion of the future Prince Regent.
Like "Prinny", he was a man of considerable taste and culture. In his architectural endeavours he consulted Horace Walpole, and resembled his contemporary William Beck ford of Foothill, while in what he did at Arundel he anticipated George IV's refashioning of the state apartments at Windsor Castle.
He was his own architect for the rebuilding of much of the lower bailey, with an imposing neo-Norman entrance arch but with most of the detail in late Perpendicular Gothic then in vogue but out of fashion with the mid-Victorians. The northeastern tower remains much as he rebuilt it. But the most satisfying of his rooms, with pillars, panelling, and bookcases all in Honduras mahogany, is in the library which has a splendid collection on Catholic subjects.
By the late 1870s, when the fifteenth duke started more transformation of the castle, it was time for the "Early English" or "Decorated" styles then favoured. It was somewhat early for the "Arts and Crafts" Gothic of such a Catholic architect as Leonard Stokes, or for the more imaginative handling that Lutyens could have provided.
the work of the Duke's architect, Charles Alban Buckler, can be contrasted, not all unfavourably, with the more fanciful, richly coloured work of Burges for the Marquess of Bute, another very wealthy Catholic landlord, in the transformation of Cardiff Castle and the reconstruction of Castel! Coch.
Buckler's work notably appears in the vaulted and curiously aisIed chapel (not normally used nowadays for Mass), in the new Great Hall with its disproportionate chimney hoOds, and in the dining room, once the site of the mansion chapel, whose eastern lancet windows look like those of a church. One also has the stupendous outer towers which rise dramatically from a steep site. One, at the south-eastern corner, recalls the equally impressive, genuinely late mediaeval Caesar's Tower at Warwick Castle.
Arundel Castle's contents are of immense and varied interest, for family, national, and Catholic history and as works of art. 'I'wo carvings alone are from the great collection, of marbles and other work, formed by St. Philip's son, Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel, who was the patron of Inigo Jones. Van Somer's portraits of him and his Talbot wife are of great interest to art historians.
Portraits commemorate the two members of the Howard family who were cardinals, while another scarlet — robed .`portrait of Millais' superbly spiritual one of Newman in his last years. Two small, most exquisite portraits are those by Lawrence, in their young days, of the thirteenth duchess and her sister, both of them daughters of the first Duke of Sutherland.
As befits the residence of the Earl Marshall there is a profuse display of proud heraldry, in windows, over fireplaces, and in other means of display, No visitors to the castle should miss the Fitzalan chapel, from late in the fourteenth century the choir limb of a collegiate church which followed a small Benedictine priory dependent on a Norman abbey. It became the eigenkirche of the Fitzalan Earls of Arundel whose heiress married the fourth Duke of Norfolk and so brought the Norfolks their Arundel property and. their Fitzalan surname. Still the present family's burying place, its main interest lies in its mediaeval choir stalls, in some brasses, and in its splendid set of tombs, mostly late mediaeval and in alabaster or dark Sussex marble, of various Fitzalans.
For reasons made clear in legal judgment of 1879 this part of the church, of which the rest is the parish church of our Anglican friends, remains Catholic and is used for Howard burials and requiems.
NEXT WEEK HORTON COURT Chipping Sodbury, Avon