Friday 24 February 2023

Arundel castle is so ugly it makes your ears bleed


Being a duke does not mean you have good taste. Being a dustman does not mean you don't.

I spent two nights in Arundel last August and intended to blog about it but didn't. The town is sweet, Catholic, Tory and Surteesian, though very touristy (British middle aged tourists and the racing crowd). The parish church, divided between Protestants and Catholics, is wonderful. The Catholic Cathedral is charming, though a 19th century imitation of a 14th century French town church out of place in Sussex. 

The castle is so ugly it makes your ears bleed. 

Instead of saying more I might as well quote Ian Nairn in the 1965 Sussex Pevsner. Choice extracts below:

“There is no getting away from the fact that Arundel Castle is a great disappointment”

“That anybody, Duke or Banker, could as late as 1890 have embarked on the pretty complete building of an imitation castle, remains a puzzle anyway...”

“What [the visitor] sees first as he walks up to the castle is the appalling S front...”

The little town brought home to me how little reading nineteenth century history brings the period alive. Arundel does: the Duke in his ghastly castle, the crowd for the Goodwood races, the pubs, the fight between Protestants and Catholics which led the church to be divided in two (the Duke, 'the premier Catholic in England' as he is called, owned the chancel, not the nave). Even though the little town is overlaid with a thick plastic veneer of tea shops and upmarket restaurants. 


  1. I have not been to Arundel since I was a young boy - but I do not remember it as ugly.

    1. It's not. Arundel is beautiful. I recommend the Norfolk Arms to stay in or to drink in. It's not part of some chain. They serve local beer from local small breweries and do good food.