Monday, 9 April 2012

H is for Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex

Herstmonceux is inland from Pevensey Bay with its Norman castle, where the estate lands were originally granted to one of William the Conqueror’s loyal entourage, the Monceux family.  

The Castle was radically rebuilt in the Tudor era (1485 – 1603) and is one of the oldest significant brick buildings still standing in England; brick was a relatively unusual material for that time in Britain.

Interior corridor at the Castle
However the builders of the Castle concentrated more on grandeur and comfort than on defence to produce a truly magnificent estate.  Over the years through profligacy by the owners, the estate was confiscated and fell into disrepair.

The ruined residence was transformed last century having various private owners before being bought by the Admiralty in 1946.

After the war, due to light pollution in London, the Castle grounds became the home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory and remained so until 1988 when the observatory moved to Cambridge.  

An Observatory Science Centre has been maintained within the grounds of the Castle where astronomy festivals are still held.

Herstmonceux Spring Garden
In 1992, the Canadian Ontario’s Queen’s alumnus Alfred Bader in conjunction with the University’s Study Abroad programme, purchased the Castle turning it into the Queen’s International Study Centre for Canadian students abroad.

It is now known as the Bader International School.  (Queen’s University is situated in Kingston, Ontario, Canada – and is where the renowned chemist, Alfred Bader, studied).

Elizabethan walled gardens, 
So Herstmonceux Castle has been through troubled times, however its fully restored imposing fortress-like brick building renowned for its magnificent moated castle, set in beautiful parkland with superb Elizabethan gardens – offers much to students, amateur astronomers and visitors to our part of Sussex.

Herstmonceux is a few miles from Pevensey Bay, landing place of William the Conqueror, not much further east is Battle, where the Battle of Hastings is believed to have been fought, or south-westwards to Eastbourne, where I live ... and though I’ve been to the Science Centre, I have yet to visit the Castle – shame on me, I guess!

That is H is for Herstmonceux Castle – a modern International School within a model brick fortress built in the 1500s, a parkland estate and an astronomical centre maintained in conjunction with the Royal Observatory ... part of the ABC series Aspects of the British Countryside

Bob Scotney featured Glenbuchat Castle, Ireland for his G castle on Saturday.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Old Kitty said...

I dare not pronounce Hertsmonceux as I know I'll get it wrong!

I love that it was built for comfort rather than defence! That sounds utterly correct! Who needs war when you can sit in plush gorgeous surroundings! Yay!

I never knew about the Bader International School! Thanks for such a fascinating history! Take care

Juliet said...

What a fascinating history this castle has had. I was intrigued to discover about the Observatory being located there. Maybe you should visit at night, if there is still a chance to see the stars from inside the castle walls. I rather like that thought.

Amanda Trought said...

I would love to visit the castle, the grounds sounds lovely and my son would love the science centre. Thanks for another informative post, blessings, Amanda

Lynn said...

I love that walled garden. Another beautiful castle, Hilary!


Another wonderful tour Hilary, The pics were awesome too.
Ever thought of being a guide around these castles?

Have a good Easter Monday.....Raining here in Bournemouth.


Denise Covey said...

'Built for comfort rather than defense' was surely the exception to the rule. Most of the castles I've been through were lacking in the comfort department!


Bob Scotney said...

Snap of a sort! I 'did' Herstmonceux last November - with ghosts of course at

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Old Kitty - well I can't hear you down here .. so give it a practise shout!

It's probably not strategically placed .. not on the coast, and not near London .. perhaps that's why they felt comfortable not worrying about defences too much.

I had been aware of the International school .. but now I know a little more specific history.

@ Juliet - sadly they shut you out .. but I'm sure they do have night events, when I could look around. The science centre is separate from the Castle .. so I'd have to sneak in - and I think my days for doing that have (long) gone!

@ Amanda - we took some friends with children there - to the Science Centre - they seemed to enjoy themselves .. I've just never got to the Castle - and with those gardens must do one day ..

I hope you can get down with your son and give us a report back - sometime ...

@ Lynn - I must say restored gardens are just magical .. and the doorway into another floral delight ..

@ Yvonne - glad you enjoyed the post - and no, I haven't, but I might ask the guides more sensible questions in future ... though when I've asked things they often don't know! Yup - raining here too ..

@ Denise - I expect it was still pretty uncomfortable compared to what we're used to .. but they didn't know better then .. I wonder what they're level of comfort meant - I'd better do a visit!

@ Bob - did you do it last year - oh dear .. I'd better check to see if I got it right! Oh yes and I even commented!!

Haunted Herstmonceux - check out Bob's post

Thanks everyone lovely seeing your comments - have a good week - cheers Hilary

Robyn Campbell said...

That name, Hertsmonceux is awesome and has got to be fun to say. Is it Hilary? That garden is beautiful! They definitely concentrated on grandeur. It is magnificent! :-)

Jo said...

I live in Canada these days and didn't know about Herstmonceaux being a Canadian school away from home. I knew of the castle having lived in Kent for a large part of my life.

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

This series is amazing! I really love the look of this castle. It's interesting to learn that bricks weren't the primary building material for castles and that this one is rare because of that.

Very fascinating information!

Bossy Betty said...

Wonderful post, Hilary! What gorgeous buildings and countryside!

Mimi said...

I am enjoying your photos and history.
the richness of the history of your country is incredible.

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors

Rosalind Adam said...

I rather suspect you'll go and visit it soon now you've posted up this blog. It does seem a shame to not see it when you're so close. We have nothing of interest like that near Leicester. There's not even a National Trust property.

Tara Tyler said...

love the majesty and functionality of this castle! gorgeous!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Another beautiful castle, but I don't think I could pronounce Herstmonceux. I would love to walk the grounds to see the gardens.


Inger said...

I am amazed at the amount of work you must put into these very informative and interesting posts. And also, all those castles you have in the UK!

Unknown said...

For Canadian students? Wow, if I knew, I would have tried to get in. If I could, that is.

A Lady's Life said...

What a wonderful history this building has and it is so lucky to be loved so by people who want to see it preserved and used for such good purposes.
Would be nice to have bricks made of plastic so the weather doesn't destroy them. They would be light and durable.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Herst Mon Cu ..

That's the pronunciation in 'basic' terms ..?!

@ Robyn - it is fun to say - I've always liked learning how things are pronounced - but I can't speak another language! The gardens do look quite wonderful .. the refurbishment must have been done with a great deal of care and money!

@ Jo - it's only been Canadian for 20 odd years - so understandable you wouldn't have known that connection. I've done or will be doing a few Kent castles ..

@ Chase - thanks .. I've tried to bring different aspects in to each castle selected - and yes, this brick built castle is very special .. glad you enjoyed the info.

@ Betty -thanks so much for coming by - good to know you enjoyed the post

@ Mimi - many thanks Mimi .. yes there is a lot of history here in the British Isles ...

@ Ros - I will definitely go and see it sometime soon. There must be a few castles or historic houses around Leicester .. Belvoir .. but I see the other 3 are ruined, with a number of earthworks. But you're so central to so many other wonderful places ..

@ Tara - you're so right - it's been suitably tamed for the 21st century ..

@ Teresa - pronunciation above! A walk through the various gardens would be glorious .. and one day I'll get there ...

@ Inger - thanks .. I do put some work in, but enjoy the learning process. We have a great many castles around .. more than 26 anyway - but I'm only doing 23!

Cheers to you all - have good weeks .. Hilary

MorningAJ said...

You keep finding castles I've never visited. Fascinating stuff.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

On your last two blogs, my comments didn't post. Maybe check your spam. I'm having double trouble with blogger, but I just want to let you know that I'm reading your castle posts and finding them fascinating, Hilary. Best to your mum.

Unknown said...

I'm ashamed. Thoroughly. I was born in Horsham, Sussex and I've never heard about Herstmonceux Castle! Can't even pronounce it. Well, I did leave when I was four and headed north, so maybe I have an excuse. What a fascinating place. I must take time to explore my roots. Lovely post. (Popping in from the A-Z by the way, it's great I found you)

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Theresa Milstein said...

I didn't know they had brick so early. I thought was a later material. I learn so much here!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a delightful castle with such a colorful history. ALL of the castles you've featured certainly capture the imagination, though. Not that I'd ever want to LIVE in one, (Way too many rooms to clean!!!) but I would dearly love to explore one of them. I do hope you been able to wander through some of these wonderful places.

Betsy Brock said...

Isn't that a gorgeous old castle! I love that it was built for beauty and not just fortitude. That interior corridor is breathtaking!

Anonymous said...

As Americans we love castles
Of the one's we have enjoyed to the North this one was looked after properly

thanks for the H post
We are actually writing an A to
Z in a castle a little place known as Carcassonne

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hilary, I love learning about the history of castles.

How wonderful this one has been restored and has a noble use.

I went back and read some of your other articles.

I always appreciate your tales.


Lynn Proctor said...

absolutely beautiful castle--

Julie Flanders said...

How amazing to have a modern school in a fortress from the 1500s. I love these buildings that have been through so many changes in the world and are still standing.

Beautiful pictures, I especially love the walled gardens.

Chuck said...

An astronomy festival at a castle!!! How great is that? I would love to attend.

scarlett clay said...

Isn't that funny you haven't been there and you live close by! Oh how I would love to have anything remotely that wonderful to looks like an enormous building in your photo, too. Amazing to see all the blogging being done for the A-Z challenge, really enjoying your series!

Lisa said...

Oh the garden is so pretty, almost magical.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anne - well there are a lot of castles - glad you're enjoying the info on them though!

@ Joylene - thanks for the info .. one (Grimsthorpe) just disappeared apparently .. but Framlingham arrived safe and sound as did this one. Thanks for your wishes for my Mama .. she loves to hear everyone's wishes.

@ Susan - good to meet you ... well there are lots of castles and Horsham is to the west. It probably wasn't open back then - as it was the Observatory centre. You need to come back for K .. that's nearer to Horsham! I'll be over to visit.

@ Teuvo - thanks for your visit.

@ Theresa - brick was very new in the 1400s - that's why the archaeologists and historians are pleased to find Tudor brickwork - but this castle is amazing.

@ Susan - I can see your dusting problems .. a crystal set provides a challenge! The daily and annual cleaning processes are an art in themselves - trying to preserve books, material, wood, etc without further damage ..

I've been round a few castles - but so much has changed in the recent decades - I need to do some more exploring I think ..

@ Betsy - the Castle is a stunning sight to see - while the interior corridor I loved too.

@ A Lady's Knight - they're all looked after properly - sadly we can rewind history .. wars, skirmishes between nobles, kings etc

I love Carcassone - so I'll be over .. nice to meet you ..

@ Sia - wonderful to hear you've been through and read some of the other castle posts .. Herstmonceux is beautiful isn't it ..

@ Lynn - thank you .. good to meet you

@ Julie - the Canadian students are lucky aren't they .. I'd love to study there and be surrounded by 500 years of building, and over 1,500 years of history (probably more). Thankfully this Castle seemed to escape unscathed - it's off the beaten track ..

Yes - those walled gardens look special don't they ..

@ Chuck - it's a good combination isn't it .. the kids love the astronomy centre.

@ Scarlett - I know - I've been to the Observatory part, but not the Castle itself - I need to rectify it. They do tours, even though the students are in residence ...

There are a lot of bloggers taking part in the A - Z challenge .. it's fascinating to see .. thank you - delighted you're enjoying the castles ..

@ Lisa - thank you - the gardens look glorious don't they ..

Many thanks everyone .. lovely having you here .. cheers for now - Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hi Hilary. What an interesting history. The pictures are wonderful. I'm enjoying your theme for the A to Z Challenge.

jabblog said...

The UK is stiff with castles, all so interesting and full of history. I think one could spend a year visiting a castle every day and still have more to visit.

Sue said...

The photo of the walled gardens remind me so much of the book "The Secret Garden" which I loved as a child.
Sue: An A-Z of Climate Matters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susanne .. many thanks - I have to say I'm enjoying myself too!

@ Janice - yes 365 wouldn't tick them all off .. there are lots of them - some well preserved, some just 'notches' in an ancient landscape ..

@ Sue - yes it reminded me of the "The Secret Garden" .. it's a great book as you say ...

Good to see you Susanne, Janice and Sue .. thanks for the visit - cheers Hilary

Sarah Tokeley said...

Beautiful, beautiful gardens, and a proper looking castle :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sarah - many thanks for coming by .. I must visit - as this is my local!! Aren't the gardens stunning - I love walled gardens .. and I'd love to see the Tudor brick up close ..

Thank you - Hilary