I had a guest visiting me this weekend and since it was a bit too breezy to hang out and sunbathe on the beach, I took her to Herstmonceux Castle instead. We were very lucky as there was a tour of the castle, which isn’t always the case, and which lasts about an hour.
Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and his sense of humour made what could have been an extremely mind numbing tour into something that was very pleasant and made the time pass very quickly. He was a good storyteller.
Unfortunately, my camera battery died in the middle of the tour, so I wasn’t able to take many photographs. Fortunately photographs are allowed and I will most likely come back again as the building is very interesting and I would like to explore the grounds more.
Herstmonceux Castle has a very interesting history and has had some colourful owners over the centuries. The castle was built in the 15th Century by Sir Roger Fiennes. It is of a brick construction (English bond) which was very rare for the time. Although it looks like a mediaeval castle, it is not a castle in the traditional sense. The building is in a poor position to defend itself and the gun ports are too small for the guns that were used at the time. The walls would not have withstood bombardment by cannon balls for very long. However, it was a stylish country house to look like a castle.
The interior of the building has changed dramatically over the years. At one point, for many years, only the outside walls were standing. The building has had some lovely renovations and is now owned by Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario and is used as a study centre, which is why it is not generally open to the public.
Because the castle had been practically dismantled and items such as staircases, fireplaces, etc, sold off and the brick used from the inner sanctions to build a property in the area by one of the owners, most of the restoration is not replicated as the original. However, there are some very interesting details. I would happily sit through another tour just to have a look at the Grinling Gibbons staircase and doors in more detail.
After the castle tour, we had a lovely stroll through the gardens around the back. The rose garden actually contains some beautiful roses that have a scent. I certainly did stop and smell them. I can’t help it. Occasionally there are special outdoor events and you can even get married here. The wedding room looked lovely and was set up for a wedding taking place that afternoon. There is also a tea room on the premises. The food looked good and although we didn’t eat there, we did have a very nice coffee. There is a picnic area if you wanted to bring your own food. Oh, and the loos were ok and clean.
We didn’t have time to visit the Science Centre, so I will definitely have to come back. One can so easily spend a whole day here, especially if the weather is nice.