Herstmonceux castle is one of the
oldest brick buildings in England, and was the height of fashion in 1441
when Sir Roger Fiennes,a knight and Treasurer of the household of King Henry
VI, was granted permission to replace his existing Manor House with a
castle. The majority of castles were built for protection rather than luxury
and could be dark, cold and rather uncomfortable places to live.
Herstmonceux Castle however was very much designed with splendour in mind.
Sir Roger had amassed a considerable fortune and he decided to use it to
construct a castle befitting his family's new found importance. The
impressive building was the largest private home in England at the time.
The castle continued its function as
a grand country house until 1708, when it was sold to a lawyer named George
Naylor. His heir, Francis Hare, unfortunately squandered his inheritance and
by 1777 the building was in such poor state that it was carefully pulled
down and its interior bricks and contents sold. What
was left of the castle stood as a ruin for many years, and was even used by
smugglers in the nineteenth century to hide rum and tea. The legend of the
Headless Drummer, a ten feet tall ghost that appeared on the battlements was
likely put about to deter the locals from investigating the goings-on at the
The ruins became a tourist
attraction in the Victorian eraand a fashionable place to have Afternoon
Tea. Rebuilding work began with the purchase of the estate bylocal M.P.
Claude Lowtherin 1910. In 1932 Sir Paul Latham boughtthe castle and
successfully completed the restorations that Lowther had started.
An RAF camp, part of RAF Wartling,
was established on the estate during WWII. The Admiralty then bought the
estate for the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1946. When the RGO decided to
relocate in 1988 because of light pollution from Eastbourne, the castle was
subsequently purchased by Dr Alfred Bader, an alum of Queen's University in
Canada. He generously gifted the castle to Queen's University in 1993 and
today the castle is home to the Bader International Study Centre - welcoming
undergraduates from all over the world to Sussex every school year.
Herstmonceux Castle's gardens and
grounds are open to the public from April to October. Our long list of
visitors includes the likes of Virginia Wolf, Sir Winston Churchill, Stephen
Hawking and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We invite you to explore the
beautiful walled gardens, take a stroll around our magnificent exhibition of
Zimbabwean sculptures and stay for light refreshments at Chestnuts Cafe.
The castle has been proud to host
England's Medieval Festival for the past 24 years.