Arundel Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Arundel Castle.

  • Arundel Castle is near the town of Arundel, in West Sussex. It dates from the 11th century, although large parts of it were entirely rebuilt during the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • William the Conqueror built the castle to protect the area from a French invasion and to guard the mouth of the River Arun. The first Earl of the castle was Roger de Montgomery.
  • Several Kings have owned the castle over the centuries, including Henry I, Henry II and Richard I. The Dukes of Norfolk have lived in the castle for over 800 years.
  • Arundel Castle was badly damaged during the English Civil War of 1642-45.
  • Improvements were made in the 18th century, including building the folly overlooking Swanbourne Lake.

Arundel Castle

  • The castle’s beautiful gardens have been open to visitors since 1854. They include a cut flower garden and an organic garden, which supplies the castle with fresh flowers and fruit.
  • Cricket has been played in the castle grounds since 1895.
  • Arundel Castle has events all year, including jousting shows, living history days and classic car shows.
  • The 14th century Fitzalan Chapel is still the burial place of all the Dukes of Norfolk. The church and chapel are unusual, in that one is Protestant and one Catholic.
  • Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed in Arundel Castle for several days in 1846. Her specially made bedroom furniture can be seen today, as well as her toilet and her guest book.
  • In 1900, the 15th Duke of Norfolk carried out more renovations. Arundel Castle was one of the first English country houses to have central heating, lifts and electric lighting.
  • The nearby Arundel Museum is also a good place to explore the area’s history. The exhibits include Roman remains, horse racing memorabilia, 18th century clocks and a wooden rudder from a river barge.

What next? Discover some more facts about famous castles.

St Michael’s Mount: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about st Michael’s Mount.

  • St Michael’s Mount is a small island located off the south coast of Cornwall. It is connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway, which can be crossed only at low tide.
  • About 2,000 years ago, the Mount was an important centre of the tin industry.

  • It became an important religious destination and place of pilgrimage during the 6th century.
  • About 30 people live on St. Michael’s Mount. During the early 19th century, almost 200 people lived there, and the island had several schools, and a chapel.
  • The St Aubyn family has lived on the island since the 17th century. In 1954, the family gave St Michael’s Mount to the National Trust, who look after it to this day.
  • The 12th century castle is known for its library of valuable books, its 18th century tidal clock and its mummified cat. It also has a model of the Mount made entirely from champagne corks.

St Michael's Mount

  • During World War II the Mount was fortified against a German invasion, and the bunkers can still be seen. Some Nazis planned to live on the island after invading Britain.
  • In 1588, the Mount was the first place from where the invading Spanish Armada was spotted.
  • In 1755,an earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal caused the water around the Mount to rise by two metres.
  • St Michael’s Mount is well known for its sub-tropical gardens, with plants from Mexico and South Africa. Some terraces are so steep that the gardeners climb down with rope.
  • The Mount can be seen in several films, including the 1983 James Bond film, Never Say Never Again. It was also used as the outside of Dracula’s castle in the 1979 film Dracula.
  • Legend says that the Archangel Michael appeared to island fishermen in 495. The Mount is said to be located on a ley line, a line connecting mystical or spiritual places.

Urquhart Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Urquhart Castle.

  • Urquhart Castle is situated on the bank of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland, home of the famous Loch Ness Monster. It was built during the 13th and 16th centuries.
  • The castle grounds and towers offer some of the best views of Loch Ness, and many supposed monster sightings have been made there. The monster has been seen since the 7th century.

  • The medieval castle seen today was built on the site of an earlier castle.
  • The 6th century Irish monk, St. Columba is said to have visited the site and performed miracles there.
  • The walled part of the castle measures about 150 metres by 46 metres. A 30 metre wide dry moat also offered protection, although many visitors arrived by water.

Urquhart Castle

  • In the late 13th century, King Edward I of England controlled the castle. It was taken by the Scottish and in 1332 was the only castle in the Highlands to withstand English attacks.
  • During the 14th century, Urquhart Castle was controlled by the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce. Legend says that he was inspired to keep fighting the English by watching a spider spin its web.
  • The MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles attacked the castle several times during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Grant clan owned the castle from the 16th century until 1912.
  • One attack by the MacDonalds and Camerons in 1545 is known as the Great Raid. The attackers took most of the furniture, cannon and castle gates, as well as 2,000 cattle.
  • It is Scotland’s third most visited castle, after Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. As well as having a museum and cinema, the castle also hosts wedding ceremonies during the year.
  • Much of Urquhart Castle was destroyed during 17th century fighting between the Jacobites and Williamites. Locals used the stones for building and a tower was damaged during a 1715 storm.

What next? Learn more castle facts by visiting our castles resources page.

Balmoral Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Balmoral Castle.

  • Balmoral Castle is located in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
  • It is a large estate house and it’s been one of the Royal residences of the British monarchy since 1852.

  • Balmoral was purchased by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.
  • Prince Albert helped architect William Smith design the current Balmoral Castle.
  • The Balmoral Estate is now over 50,000 acres, and includes grouse moors, agricultural land and forests.
  • A pre-fabricated iron building was made for Balmoral after Prince Albert had seen corrugated iron used for house building at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
  • A bridge across the River Dee was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, linking Balmoral and Crathie. The construction was finished in 1857.

Balmoral Castle

  • Balmoral Castle is built from granite.
  • Malt whisky (the Royal Lochnagar Single Malt) is distilled on the Balmoral Estate.
  • There are over 150 buildings on the estate.
  • More than 2000 red deer are thought to live on the estate.
  • At the time of Princess Diana’s death, Queen Elizabeth II was at Balmoral.
  • An image of Balmoral Castle has appeared on £100 notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
  • A pyramid-shaped cairn was built on the estate after the death of Prince Albert to act as a memorial.

What next? Learn more about other famous castle and palaces in the United Kingdom.

Richmond Palace: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Richmond Palace.

  • In 1502, at Richmond Palace, Henry’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, became betrothed to King James IV of Scotland.

Richmond Palace

  • Henry VII died at Richmond Palace in 1509.
  • In the 1500s, Henry VIII confiscated the more modern Hampton Court Palace from Thomas Wolsey, forcing him to accept Richmond Palace in exchange.
  • In 1540 Richmond Palace was passed on the Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement.
  • When Mary I became queen, Elizabeth (to become Elizabeth I) was imprisoned in Richmond Palace.
  • Elizabeth I used Richmond Palace as one of her royal residences. She liked to hunt stags in the palace grounds. Queen Elizabeth died in Richmond Palace on 24th March 1603.
  • James I created Richmond Park as an area to be used for stag hunting. It is thought that some of the red deer in Richmond Park today may be the descendants of the herd hunted in the 17th century.
  • Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Richmond Palace was sold and demolished. Stones from the building were re-used in other projects.
  • Some original structures of Richmond Palace survive today, including the Gate House (built in 1501), Trumpeters’ House and the Wardrobe.
  • Along with Hampton Court Palace, Richmond Palace was one of the first buildings to be fitted with a flushing lavatory (designed by Sir John Harington).

What next? Discover more facts about the Tudors, or go to the Primary Facts History page.

Roman Forts: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Roman Forts.

  • Roman forts, also known as castra, could be found all over the Roman Empire, to protect it from attack. The huge empire stretched from northern England to North Africa and from Portugal to the Middle East.

  • Some Roman forts could hold up to 6,000 people. As well as barracks for soldiers, they had stables, a butcher shop and bakery and administrative offices.
  • Forts were always built in defensive locations and surrounded by a deep ditch. They were first built of wood, but later, many were replaced with stone.
  • Roman soldiers sometimes stayed at a fort for 25 years, and the daily routine was hard. Soldiers had to run 30 km, practice archery and throwing spears, and complete various chores.
  • Hadrian’s Wall which stretches for 117 km near the English / Scottish border had over 12 forts along its length. These could hold up to 1,000 men. The remains of some of the forts can be visited today.
  • One of the best preserved Roman forts is Vindolanda, near the wall. It is famous for wooden tablets containing military and personal letters which were found there.
  • Housesteads is another large Roman fort near Hadrian’s Wall. It had its own toilets and hospital, and a nearby building known as the Murder House, where two skeletons were found.
  • The Roman fort of Londinium (London) was built around 120 AD and originally covered about 12 acres. Parts of it remain under a road called London Wall.
  • The fort at Eboracum grew into the city of York, and was visited by the great Roman Emperor, Hadrian. Parts of the original Roman baths can be seen today in the cellar of the Roman Bath pub.
  • Binchester, in County Durham, was one of the largest Roman forts in the UK. Today, the site is open to visitors. It has a small museum and one of the best preserved private bath houses.
  • In the village of Baginton, near Coventry, a Roman fort has been reconstructed by archaeologists. Made from timber and turf, the Lunt Roman Fort is an example of the type of buildings the Roman Army constructed in Britain in the years after the uprising by Boudicca.

What next? Visit our Romans resources page to discover more Roman facts.

Welsh Castles: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about castles in Wales.

  • There are over 400 castles in the small country of Wales. Some are in ruins and many date from the Middle Ages.
  • Wales is said to have more castles for than any other country in Europe.

  • Some of the most spectacular castles in Wales are those built in the 13th century by Edward I to control the Welsh. These include Conwy Castle, Harlech Castle and Caernarfon Castle, all in North Wales.
  • Conwy Castle has one of the most dramatic settings of all Welsh castles. The walls around the town of Conwy are shaped rather like a traditional Welsh harp.
  • Most castles are open to the public, although some are still lived in as private homes. Rhuddlan Castle and several others offer authentic medieval banquet evenings.
  • Caerphilly Castle in south Wales covers 1.2 hectares and is surrounded by several moats. It is the country’s largest castle and featured in the popular BBC television series, Merlin.
  • Caerphilly was the first concentric castle in Britain, with walls inside walls offering extra defense. Its leaning tower leans more than the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • One of the oldest castles in Wales is Chepstow Castle in Monmouthshire, the UK’s oldest surviving post Roman stone building. It was built along the Welsh/English border in the 11th century.
  • Many Welsh castles are said to be haunted. Bodelwyddan Castle is often said to be the most haunted, and the ghost of a monkey is said to haunt Carew Castle.
  • Powis Castle in Powys is worth visiting for its beautifully landscaped terraces and gardens, and Caldicott Castle also has over 50 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland.
  • Some of the most visited castles are in North Wales. Caernarfon was the site of the 1969 investiture of the Prince of Wales, and is famous for its 8 sided towers and bands of different coloured stone.

What next? Visit our castles resources page to discover more castle facts.

Powis Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Powis Castle.

  • Powis Castle was built in the 13th century as a Royal residence. Other nearby castles, such as Caernarfon Castle and Conwy Castle were built to help the English control the neighbouring Welsh population.

  • It is located near the town of Welshpool, in the county of Powys, mid-Wales.
  • The castle is famous for its terraces, parks and gardens, and fine furnishings.
  • The original owner was Owain, the Prince of Powys. During the next few centuries, the castle was owned by several different Barons, Earls and Lords, some of whom made improvements.
  • The castle’s state bedroom was designed in the 1660s. It is the only surviving castle bedroom in the UK with railings separating the bed from the rest of the bedroom.
  • The beautiful gardens at Powis Castle were designed in the 1680s by architect William Winde. They were built in the style of an Italian terraced garden and a Dutch water garden.
  • The gardens were designed to be more formal in the 19th century. Today, the greenhouses are heated by solar panels and the plants are sold in the castle shop.

Powis Castle

  • Deer were introduced to the grounds over 300 years ago. Birds of prey, butterflies, snakes and bats can also be seen in the grounds and there are several beehives.
  • Major improvements to Powis Castle were made at the start of the 20th century.
  • During World War II, a London girl’s school was evacuated to the castle to be safe from German bombing.
  • The castle’s Clive Museum is named for Clive of India and is the largest of its kind in the UK. It features over 300 statues, suits of armour, weapons and Indian decorative items.
  • The rooms at Powis Castle are filled with valuable and unique items. These include a medieval prayer book, a Roman statue of a cat, and the colourful cotton tent of an Indian sultan.

What next? Check out our castle resources page for more facts about castles.

White Castle: Facts About Llantilio Castle

Here are some facts about White Castle.

  • White Castle, or Llantilio Castle is located about 1.5 km from Llantilio in Monmouthshire, South Wales. Along with nearby Skenfrith Castle and Grosmont Castle, they are sometimes called the Three Castles.

  • The castle is situated close to Offa’s Dyke. This 240 km 8th century earthwork was built to form the boundary between England and Wales; today the boundary still follows much the same path.
  • An earlier castle on the site was made of wood. It was replaced with the existing castle during the 12th century. It was given the name White Castle as the walls were originally whitewashed.
  • King Henry II ordered the castle to be built to strengthen his control over the Welsh. The castle’s position on a hill provided good views in all directions.

White Castle

  • In 1201, Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent took over ownership of White Castle. He is said to have spent a fortune adding the 6 towers to the structure.
  • In the 13th century, the Three Castles were given to future King Edward II and later to his younger brother. They were used as Royal homes and administrative centres.
  • By 1538 all 3 castles were abandoned and in ruins. They were used to store supplies, and as local offices until being cared for by the Welsh government in the early 20th century.
  • The Three Castles walk is a long distance path connecting the three strongholds. The 32 km walk also passes through woodlands and provides good views of the Black Mountains.
  • During World War II, White Castle was painted by Rudolf Hess when he was a prisoner in a nearby military hospital. Hess was Adolf Hitler‘s second in command.
  • The water filled moat can still be seen at White Castle and was one of its defensive features. Other defences included an inner and outer ward, a gatehouse and strong walls and towers.

What next? Visit our castle resources page to discover more facts about castles.

Pembroke Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Pembroke Castle.

  • Pembroke Castle is in Pembroke, west Wales.
  • The medieval castle was built on the site of an earlier Norman castle, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the estuary of the Cleddau River.

  • It was built by the Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger Montgomery and during the next few centuries owned by several earls and future kings. The future King Henry VII was born in the castle in 1457.
  • Defensive features of Pembroke castle included 5 metre thick walls, a deep ditch and an overhanging wooden fighting platform. It was also surrounded by water on 3 sides.

Pembroke Castle

  • Pembroke Castle is the only castle in Britain to be built over a large cave, known as the Wogan Cave. The cave served as a port for ships and was protected by a wall and arrow slits.
  • The main keep, or tower, at Pembroke Castle is almost 27 metres high. It features decorative moulding and an unusual stone dome as a roof.
  • In 1648, during the English Civil War, the castle was attacked by Oliver Cromwell‘s army for 7 weeks. The garrison surrendered when the attackers blocked off their water supply.
  • The castle was abandoned from the mid-17th century to the late 19th century, when much of it was restored. A World War I veteran bought it in 1928 and carried out more repairs.
  • The BBC has used the castle as a location. It featured in a 1989 production of the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, as well as in a later television version of William Shakespeare‘s Richard II.
  • Today, Pembroke Castle offers battle re-enactments and has several exhibitions on the castle’s history, including a typical medieval banquet. It also has its own brass rubbing centre.
  • The castle has also been licensed for weddings. Couples can get married in the Great Keep or the Henry VII Tower and either location can accommodate 60 guests.

What next? Visit our castle resources page to discover more facts about castles