Around 11 miles to the East from the ancient city of Chichester, we arrived in Arundel, which has one of the most spectacular skylines we have seen for a while…
Status: Arun District, West Sussex, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Arundel Cathedral, Arundel Castle, River Arun, War Memorial, The Swan Hotel, Arundel Museum, The Norfolk Hotel, Arundel Priory, St Mary’s Gate Inn, St Nicholas’s Priory Church, Elizabeth II Coronation Monument, Blackfriars Ruins, St Wilfrid’s Priory etc
I took this photo from a layby on the A27 which bypasses the town. Arundel has a magnificent skyline, with the Roman Catholic Cathedral over to the left, and the extensive buildings of Arundel Castle to the right, whilst the historic Arundel Priory Church of St Nicholas sits in the centre, its rectangular tower becoming the third major landmark above the rest of the town.
Already very intrigued, we set off into the centre of town to explore…
Arundel Cathedral is a stunning edifice, and it was incredibly originally built as a Roman Catholic Parish Church, in 1868. The architect was Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803 – 1882, Gothic Revival Architect) who designed a grand gothic building for the town.
The town has the Howard Family to thank for its construction, as they are the Earls of Arundel (as well as the Dukes of Norfolk) and are the most important Family/Peerage in the whole of England after only the Duke of Cornwall, which is always the Prince of Wales (Prince Charles currently). After Roman Catholicism Parish Creation was legalised again in 1829 the 15th Duke, Henry Fitzalan-Howard (1847 – 1917) commissioned the new Church. It had previously been against the law to start a new RC Parish in England.
In 1965 the new Roman Catholic Diocese of “Arundel & Brighton” was created, which covers the whole of Sussex and Surrey. The seat of the Bishop was chosen as Arundel, and the Church was elevated to the status of a Cathedral, which much befits its grand designs.
Directly opposite the Cathedral sits the 16th Century “St Mary’s Gate Inn”, built in 1525 as a small farm building with a Thatched Roof, before a man named Henry Mackett arrived in 1764 and created a new public house here. There have been a number of famous visitors to the Inn over the years, including Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658, Lord Protector of England) & His Guards in the 17th century. The ghost of one of the guards is reputed to still haunt the building.
The Cathedral sits at the West end of London Road, whilst at the other end, to the East, the vast Arundel Castle casts its shadow.
The Castle is still inhabited by the Dukes of Norfolk, who have been in residence for centuries.
The very first Castle here was built in 1067 by Roger de Montgomery (Died 1094, Earl of Shrewsbury and the then King William II (1056 – 1100) granted him the additional title of Earl of Arundel. Upon Roger’s death the Crown took ownership of the building, and it eventually passed hands until it reached William d’Albini II who created the first stone portions of the Castle.
It has passed down through many generations, and aside from the Crown taking ownership a number of times, it has been inherited by the same successive line ever since, who have all left their unique touch. This includes a new building which housed apartments built for the arrival of Empress Matilda (1102 – 1167, Holy Roman Empress) in 1139. In the 1280’s the new Well Tower and Main Gate were added, followed by large improvements by the 11th Duke, Charles Howard (1746 – 1815) in the 18th century. Another royal visit in 1846, that of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert warranted construction of another new apartment block, later used by the Dukes as their private suites.
Today whilst still a residence it is open to the public to visit, and you can look around the main Castle itself, as well as the grounds which surround it. You can find out more on their official website here.
There are a number of other landmarks to see between the Cathedral and the Castle along London Road, starting with the Priory of St Wilfrid’s, shown over to the left.
It sits alongside the main Priory Church of St Nicholas, and dates back to 1380, when it was created as Holy Trinity College, along with a Hospice. Again the Dukes of Norfolk (Earls of Arundel) had a hand in their creation.
By 1544 the building was disused and ruinous, which was made worse when the English Civil War arrived in the mid 17th century (which also saw Arundel Castle badly damaged). The Priory was eventually restored and rebuilt around 1815, and today it is used in the care of the elderly.
To the rear of St Wilfrid’s sits the main Priory Church, that of St Nicholas. The Church too was built in 1380, in the same style as St Wilfrid’s.
It is open to visitors, and the detail inside is fantastic. Together it forms a stunning little complex with the adjacent Priory, and both the Cathedral and the Castle are easily visible from the Churchyard.
London Street lies high above the rest of the town, so we took a short trip down in to the centre of Arundel, and parked up on the far side of the River Arun, looking back towards the town.
This area was once the towns quayside, and indeed a number of boats still inhabit it. Arundel became a reasonable sized port, with warehouses lining the river. Many centuries ago, Arundel was quite important, as the lowest road crossing point for the River, until 1908 when a new swing bridge was built downstream in Littlehampton, which incidentally was our next stop.
Also along the banks of the River, you will find the ruins of “Blackfriars”, which was the very first building of religious origin built in the town. It’s origins come from the arrival of a group of Dominican Friars in the 13th century, and it remained active until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1564, instigated by King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547). The building subsequently fell into ruin, and now sits alongside the new Arundel Museum.
On the far side of the bridge, just into the town centre sits a monument to Elizabeth II, erected in 1953 upon her coronation as Queen of the United Kingdom. In attendance at the unveiling were the towns Mayor, A. G. Whittaker, the Town Clerk, Geoffrey Campbell, and the then Duke of Norfolk (16th), Bernard Marmaduke Fitzalan-Howard (1908 – 1975).
The monument features the Arundel Crest on top, which includes a trio of Martlets at the bottom. These come from the Crest for West Sussex as a whole, although only three of six are used. Martlets are also featured on the Sussex County Flag, for the old traditional county comprised of both East & West.
The town centre contains a myriad of Listed Buildings, which are centuries old. One of the first historic buildings we spotted was the delightful early 19th century “Swan Hotel” shown above.
The Hotel sits on “High Street”, one of two roads with the same name that originate at the Bridge over the Arun, and meet at the War Memorial, shown below…
The War Memorial was erected at the end of World War I, and pays tribute to all those that gave their lives in defence of their country. The Roll of Honour was later updated after World War II and subsequent conflicts.
A few buildings of note can be seen behind the Memorial, starting with “Numbers 18 & 20, High Street”, currently home to a shop called Antiques & Militaria. Amazingly this building is actually from 1390, just a few years after the Priory was built. It is in remarkably good condition, and doesn’t look that dissimilar from styles built many centuries later.
To its immediate left is the “Norfolk Hotel”, which opened in 1785, and predates the Swan Hotel by nearly a century. It is similar in style to Numbers 18 & 20, and at a glance on the day I had assumed they were from a similar period.
I haven’t been able to find a date yet for the bridge which crosses the river here, but it offers a stunning view into the town, with the old Mock Tudor style buildings around the centre, the former quayside, and of course the Castle on the hill overlooking its subjects below.
Arundel is a stunning town which has an incredible skyline, replicated by only that of the Cathedral City of Ely in Cambridgeshire whose Cathedral can be seen from miles around. There is plenty of history to explore in Arundel, and we followed the course of the River Arun towards Littlehampton on England’s South Coast…