Herstmonceux Castle

Herstmonceux Castle


History of Herstmonceux

The first written evidence of the existence of the Herst settlement appears in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book which reports that one of William’s closest supporters granted tenancy of the manor at Herst to a man named ‘Wilbert’. By the end of the twelfth century, the family at the manor house at Herst had considerable status. Written accounts mention a lady called Idonea de Herst, who married a Norman nobleman named Ingelram de Monceux. Around this time, the manor began to be called the “Herst of the Monceux”, a name that eventually became Herstmonceux.

A descendant of the Monceux family, Roger Fiennes, was ultimately responsible for the construction of Herstmonceux Castle in the County of Sussex. Sir Roger was appointed Treasurer of the Household of Henry VI of England, and needed a house fitting a man of his position, so construction of the castle on the site of the old manor house began in 1441. It was this position as treasurer which enabled him to afford the £3,800 construction of the original castle. The result is not a defensive structure, but a palatial residence in a self-consciously archaising castle style.

The profligacy of the 15th Baron Dacre, heir to the Fiennes family, forced him to sell in 1708 to George Naylor, a lawyer of Lincoln’s Inn in London. Naylor’s grandson followed the architect Samuel Wyatt’s advice to reduce the Castle to a picturesque ruin by demolishing the interior. Thomas Lennard, 16th Baron Dacre, was sufficiently exercised as to commission James Lamberts of Lewes to record the building. The castle was dismantled in 1777 leaving the exterior walls standing and remained a ruin until until the early 20th century.

Twentieth century

Radical restoration work was undertaken by Colonel Lowther in 1913 to transform the ruined building into a residence and completed for Sir Paul Latham in 1933 by the distinguished architect, Walter Godfrey. The existing interiors largely date to this period, incorporating architectural antiques from England and France. The one major change in planning was the combination of the four internal courtyards into one large one. The restoration work, regarded as the apex of Godfrey's architectural achievement, was described by the critic Nikolaus Pevsner as executed 'exemplarily'.

Today it is one of the oldest significant brick buildings still standing in England; brick was a relatively unusual material for the time in Britain. The builders of Herstmonceux Castle concentrated more on grandeur and comfort than on defence to produce a truly magnificent estate.

The property passed through the hands of a number of private owners until it was sold in 1946 to the Admiralty. In 1957 the Herstmonceux Castle grounds became the home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory and remained so until 1988 when the observatory moved to Cambridge. Several of the telescopes still remain but the largest telescope (The Isaac Newton Telescope) was moved to La Palma, Canary Islands in the 1970's. The estate still provides housing for the Newton Telescope and the Equatorial Telescope Buildings, which have been converted to an interactive science centre for schoolchildren.

Queen's International Study Centre

In 1992, Queen's alumnus Alfred Bader learned of the castle's vacancy. He offered to purchase the castle for his wife, but she declined on the grounds that there would be "too many rooms to clean". Fact|date=June 2007 Bader later contacted then-Principal of Queen's University, David Chadwick Smith, asking if a castle might fit into the school's plans, possibly as an international study centre. In 1994, after intensive renovations, Bader's dream became a reality and the Queen's International Study Centre opened its doors to the first students.

The International Study Centre hosts primarily undergraduate students. In the summer, approximately 60 law students call the centre home during an intensive program studying either International Business Law or International Public Law.

Appearances in fiction

The castle was used for filming part of the "The Silver Chair", a 1990 BBC adaptation of the book (one of The Chronicles of Narnia) by C. S. Lewis.

Both the castle and its gardens were used by comedians Reeves and Mortimer for one of their Mulligan and O'Hare sketches.

In August 2002, the Coca-Cola Company rented the castle for use as part of a prize in a Harry Potter-themed sweepstakes -- the castle served as "Hogwarts" in a day of Harry Potter-related activities for the sweepstakes winners.

Owners of Herstmonceux Manor/Castle

*1066 - Edmer, a priest.
*1086 - Wilbert, tenant-in-chief.
*c.1200 - Idonea de Herst (married Ingelram de Monceux).
*1211 - Their son 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 Sir John Fiennes)
*1351 - The eldest son William Fiennes.
*1359 - His son Sir William Fiennes.
*1402 - His son Sir Roger Fiennes (built Herstmonceux castle)
*1449 - His son Sir Richard Fiennes (married Joan de Dacre Baroness Dacre of Gilsland)
*1483 - His 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 Sampson Leonard).
*1612 - Their son Sir Henry Leonard.
*1616 - His son Richard Leonard.
*1630 - His son Francis Leonard.
*1662 - His son Thomas Leonard.
*1708 - Estate purchased by George Naylor for £38,215.
*1730 - His nephew Francis Naylor.
*1775 - His half-brother Robert Hare who demolished the castle in 1776.
* ? - His son Francis Hare Naylor.
*1807 - Purchased by Thomas Reed Kemp.
*1819 - Purchased for John Gillon MP.
*1846 - Purchased by Herbet Barrett Curteis MP.
* ? - His son Herbert Mascall Curteis.
* ? - His son Herbert Curteis.
*1911 - Purchased by Lieutenant-Colonel Claude Lowther (restoration begins).
*1929 - Purchased by Reginald Lawson.
*1932 - Purchased by Sir Paul Latham (completes restoration under Walter Godfrey).
*1946 - Purchased by H.M. Admiralty for The Royal Observatory.
*1965 - Transferred to the Science Research Council.
*1989 - Purchased by James Developments, transfers to a receiver, the Guinness Mahon Bank.
*1993 - Purchased for Queen's University, Ontario (Canada) as a generous gift from Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader.


*John Goodall in "Burlington Magazine" (August 2004).
*cite book
last = Nairn
first = Ian
authorlink = Ian Nairn
coauthors = and Nikolaus Pevsner
title = Sussex ("Buildings of England" series)
origyear = 1965
publisher = Penguin Books
location = London


Herstmonceux is home to a number of popular event attractions throughout the summer. Medieval themed weekends featuring the Medieval Siege Society are a particular favourite.

External links

* [http://www.herstmonceux-castle.com/ Herstmonceux Castle official website]
* [http://www.queensu.ca/isc/ Queen's University (Canada)'s International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle]
* [http://www.the-observatory.org/ The Observatory Science Centre, Herstmonceux]

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