Herstmonceux Castle

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Herstmonceux Castle from the southwest

Herstmonceux Castle is a brick-built Tudor style castle . It is located in the village of Herstmonceux in the English administrative division of East Sussex . From 1957 to 1988 the Royal Greenwich Observatory was housed there. Today it is used by the International Study Center at Queen's University in Ontario , Canada .


Herstmonceux Castle is one of the oldest important brick buildings still standing in England today. Bricks were an uncommon building material in the United Kingdom during the Tudor period . The builders of Herstmonceux Castle paid more attention to the grand appearance of the building and the comfort of its residents than to its defensive strength.

Herstmonceux Castle hosts events throughout the year, such as the annual England's Medieval Festival on the Bank Holiday weekend in August .


Early history

The first written evidence of the existence of a settlement in Herst appears in the Domesday Book of Wilhelm the Conqueror , which states that one of Wilhelm's closest followers gave the manor of Herst as a fief to a man named Wilbert . At the end of the 12th century the family had achieved a respectable status in the Herst manor house. Written records mention a lady named Idonea de Herst who married a Norman nobleman named Ingelram de Monceux . Around this time the manor was called Herst of the Monceux . Later it became Herstmonceux .

A descendant of the Monceux family, Roger Fiennes , was ultimately responsible for building Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex . Sir Roger was founded by King Henry VI. appointed Treasurer of the Household and needed housing appropriate to a man in that position. So from 1441 he had the castle built in place of the old manor house. His position as treasurer enabled him to spend £ 3,800 on building the original castle. The result was not a defensive structure, but a palace residence in a self-confident, ancient castle style.

Floor plan of the original castle; (left) ground floor, (right) 1st floor.

After one of his numerous poaching expeditions through a neighboring property led to the death of a gamekeeper, Sir Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre, was charged in 1541 with the murder and the robbery of royal game. He was convicted, hanged as a commoner and his property in Herstmonceux was initially confiscated by Henry VIII , but later returned to the Fiennes family under the government of one of Heinrich's children.

The extravagance of the 15th Baron Dacre, heir to the Fiennes family, forced him to sell the property to George Naylor, a lawyer at Lincoln's Inn in London , in 1708 . Since the castle did not meet the standard of living at the time and he lived in its neighborhood himself, Naylor's grandson followed the advice of the architect Samuel Wyatt to turn the castle into a picturesque ruin by destroying the interior and the furnishings and the building materials that were accrued as a result to expand his own castle used. The castle was demolished in 1777, leaving the outer walls. Thomas Lennard, 16th Baron Dacre, commissioned James Lamberts from Lewes to make detailed drawings and pictures of the building and its rooms as well as a floor plan of the property as documentation before the demolition. It remained in ruins until the beginning of the 20th century.

Restoration in the 20th century

In 1913 Colonel Lowther restored the ruins from scratch and turned them back into a habitable house. The architect Walter Godfrey completed the castle for Sir Paul Latham, 2nd Baronet, in 1933. Most of today's interiors date from this period, even if they show architectural details from England and France. There was only one major change to the original floor plan: the four courtyards were merged into one large one. The restoration work, seen as the pinnacle of Godfrey's architectural work, has been described by critic Nikolaus Pevsner as "exemplary".

Royal Greenwich Observatory

Royal Greenwich Observatory in Herstmonceux

The property subsequently passed through the hands of various private owners and was finally sold to the Admiralty in 1946 . In 1957 the Royal Greenwich Observatory was located on the Herstmonceux Castle property and stayed there until it moved to Cambridge in 1988.

Various telescopes remained on site, but the largest telescope, the Isaac Newton telescope with 254 cm, came to La Palma in the Canary Islands in the 1970s . At Herstmonceux Castle you will also find the Equatorial Telescope Buildings , which have been converted into an interactive science center for school children. The empty dome of the Isaac Newton telescope remained on the property and is now a landmark that can be seen from afar.

International study center

Inner lock coridor

In 1992, an alumni of Queen's University , Alfred Bader , learned that the castle was empty and offered to buy it for his wife; she declined and jokingly said that there were "too many rooms to clean". Bader later got in touch with then Vice Chancellor of Queen's University, David Chadwick Smith, and asked him if a castle might fit into the plans of the educational institution as an international study center.

In 1994, after extensive renovations, the International Study Center (ISC) at Queen's University was opened. There mainly students of the lower level arts or economics study within the framework of the Canadian University Study Abroad Program (CUSAP) and also students of the upper level international public law or international business law. At the end of January 2009 the ISC was renamed the Bader International Study Center .

In film and television

The castle was used as a film set for The Silver Chair , a BBC film adaptation from 1990 of the book of the same name from the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis . The castle and gardens were used by comedians Reeves and Mortimer for one of their Mulligan and O'Hare sketches. In August 2002 Coca-Cola rented the castle as part of a prize in a raffle for Harry Potter - Hogwarts Castle represented the winners of a “Harry Potter Day” . A painting of the castle served as a magical object on US TV -Show Charmed , episode 2.3, The Painted World .

Owner of Herstmonceux Manor / Castle

Herstmonceux Castle
North facade of Herstmonceux Castle and Gardens
The overgrown castle in the 1890s
  • 1066 - Edmer, a priest.
  • 1086 - Wilbert, feudal man.
  • c. 1200 - Idonea de Herst (married to Ingelram de Monceux).
  • 1211 - The son of the two, Waleran de Monceux.
  • 1216 - His son, William de Monceux.
  • ? - His son, Waleran de Monceux.
  • 1279 - His son, John de Monceux.
  • 1302 - His son, John de Monceux.
  • 1316 - His son, John de Monceux.
  • 1330 - His sister, Maud de Monceux (married to Sir John Fiennes)
  • 1351 - The eldest son of the two, William Fiennes.
  • 1359 - His son, Sir William Fiennes.
  • 1402 - His son, Sir Roger Fiennes (built Herstmonceux Castle)
  • 1449 - His son, Sir Richard Fiennes (married to Joan Dacre, 7th Baroness Dacre)
  • 1483 - The two grandson, Sir Thomas Fiennes.
  • 1533 - Sir Thomas Fiennes.
  • 1541 - His eldest son, Thomas Fiennes.
  • 1553 - His brother, Gregory Fiennes.
  • 1594 - His sister, Margaret Fiennes (married to Sampson Leonard).
  • 1612 - The son of the two, Sir Henry Leonard.
  • 1616 - His son, Richard Leonard.
  • 1630 - His son, Francis Leonard.
  • 1662 - His son, Thomas Lennard, 1st Earl of Sussex.
  • 1708 - Estate bought from George Naylor for £ 38,215.
  • 1730 - His nephew, Francis Naylor.
  • 1775 - His half-brother, Robert Hare, who had the castle torn down in 1776.
  • ? - His son, Francis Hare Naylor.
  • 1807 - Property bought by Thomas Read Kemp.
  • 1819 - Property bought for John Gillon, Member of the House of Commons.
  • 1846 - Property bought by Herbet Barrett Curteis, Member of the House of Commons.
  • ? - His son, Herbert Mascall Curteis.
  • ? - His son, Herbert Curteis.
  • 1911 - Property bought by Lieutenant-Colonel Claude Lowther (restoration work started).
  • 1929 - Property bought by Reginald Lawson.
  • 1932 - Property bought by Sir Paul Latham (completion of restoration work under Walter Godfrey).
  • 1946 - Property purchased by the Admiralty for the Royal Observatory.
  • 1965 - Property transferred to the Science Research Council.
  • 1989 - Property purchased by James Developments and transferred to Guinness Mahon Bank.
  • 1993 - Property bought for Queen's University, Ontario (Canada) as a donation from Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ranulph Fiennes: Ranulph Fiennes, Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family . 2009.
  2. ^ John H. Farrant: The Drawings of Herstmonceux Castle by James Lamberts, senior and junior, 1776–7.  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. In: Sussex Archeological Collections 148 (2010), pp. 177–181, Archeological Data Services website (PDF)@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / archaeologydataservice.ac.uk  
  3. ^ Royal Institute of Chemistry: Chemistry in Britain . Chemical Education Trust Fund for the Chemical Society and the Royal Institute of Chemistry. Issue 29 (1993)


  • John Goodall: Burlington Magazine . (August 2004).
  • Ian Nairn, Nikolaus Pevsner: Buildings of England . Penguin Books, London 1965. Chapter: Sussex .

Web links

Commons : Herstmonceux Castle  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 50 ° 52 ′ 10.2 "  N , 0 ° 20 ′ 19.3"  E