Arundel Castle visit 7th of July 2009

Report by Sandra

photo of group members in costumeEveryone loves a castle! There has been a castle at Arundel overlooking the river Arun since 1067. The present day one is home to the Duke & Duchess of Norfolk and their family.

Arundel Castle looks like a proper child's castle- motte and bailey, drawbridge, battlements, towers, spiral staircases, the whole thing. As the Queen does not allow filming at Windsor Castle (unless it is a documentary) Arundel often plays stunt double for Windsor Castle. Parts of the recent film 'Young Victoria' were filmed down at Arundel.

As many of us have visited castles and done the medieval-bows-and-arrows-and jousting type of trip, I thought that a visit that looked at life in Victorian times might be interesting.

photo of group member in costumeWe met at 10am at the castles gates and were collected by our guide. The castle grounds open at 10am but the castle interior not until 12 noon. I have to admit to feeling slightly smug as we sailed past the queue of people waiting for their tickets.

We were taken to the Education Room and introduced to Brenda our Educational Guide. All the children were assigned roles of various Victorian servants and given costumes to wear. We were then shown some genuine Victorian servants costumes.

Then it was off on the tour. For some reason known only to castle logic, photography was permitted as long as the castle was closed to the public. So we could take pics in the morning but not after lunch (?!)

We were shown a dining room, set out ready for a banquet. The rope barriers were taken down and the children allowed to sit on the furniture, wait on table or dust the furniture (if they were maids) We saw the billard room, the drawing room, some of the guest bedrooms and bathrooms.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Arundel in 1846 having given two years notice of their intentions. A suite of 6 rooms was set aside for their visit (3 nights) and all new furniture made for the occasion. We saw the royal chamber pot but the maids were distinctly unimpressed once they realised that they would be required to empty them...!

photo of dining tableWe then had an hour for lunch then it was off to the castle kitchens, the Victorian Kitchen gardens and greenhouses. The castle in those days grew all it's own food. Today they still grow a fair amount and all the flowers for the castle but I expect the present Duchess orders from certain well known supermarkets.

We then headed back to the castle coming across a very inviting grassy mound and hill. All the children with a remarkable show of telepathy as one child ran to the edge and rolled down with much shrieking. We stood and watched and I thought 'This would never have been permitted on a school trip- someone would have hay fever and think of the grass stains..' The game continued, in spite of Alex steam-rollering over Zoe. I half expected her to emerge like a cardboard cut-out !

But Brenda wasn't finished with us yet, it was down into the moat (yes of course a dry one) and back into the castle. Up the stairs into the armoury, a peek in the library-home to 10,000 books, a quick look in the chapel and down to the Great Hall. Again used briefly in the filming of' Young Victora'. In that particular chamber was a wonderful carved wooden sleigh with a dragon on the prow. It looked like something straight out of Narnia.Then our guide finally ran out of steam and led us back to the shop where she left us and we were free to do as we wished.

It was a fascinating tour and in spite of the fact that I have visited several times before, I learned a great deal. The gardens alone are worth a visit, particulary the grotto with the water feature and spinning coronet. It was much more fun than going as a member of the public and gave us a real feel for what life might have been like for Victorian people.

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