Arundel in 1833
ARUNDEL, a borough town in the rape of Arundel, in the county of Sussex, on the river Arun, a short distance from the sea; 55 miles S.S.W. from London, and 10 miles E. by N. from Chichester. It stands on a declivity on the N.W. bank of the river, the course of which is very winding in this neighbourhood.
The houses are tolerably well built, and the streets paved. The trade of the place is not very great, though vessels of 150 tons can come up to the town, and a canal unites the river on which it stands with the Wey, a feeder of the Thames. There is, however, a good deal of bark shipped, as well as much timber for the use of the dockyards. The custom-house being at Arundel keeps up the business of the place, which might otherwise be drawn away to Little Hampton, about four miles distant, on the east bank of the Arun, at its mouth. The population of Arundel in 1831 was 2,803. The number of houses rated to the house tax at £10 and upwards was, at the same time, 120 : the whole number of houses was 537, twenty of which were uninhabited. There are two weekly markets (Wednesday and Saturday), and four annual fairs (May 14, August 21, September 25, and December 17), chiefly for cattle. There is also a theatre.
A neat stone bridge, of three arches, over the Arun unites the main part of the town with a smaller portion which lies on the opposite bank of the river. The church is a handsome Gothic structure, built partly of flint and stone, in the form of a cross, and mostly in the perpendicular style. From the intersection of the cross rises a lower tower. The chancel has a north aisle, and contains many monuments of the former owners of the castle and others. It is now shut up, and in a very dirty, dilapidated state ; but the nave and transepts, which are used for divine service, are kept in good repair and clean. A pulpit of stone, supported on wood, standing against the south-west pier of the cross, was till lately used in divine service. This church belonged originally to a priory of Benedictines, subject to the abbey of Seez in Normandy ; but the priory was suppressed in the time of Richard II, and a chantry, or college, for a master and twelve secular canons, with other officers, was founded in its place. Southward from the church is a range of buildings, seemingly founded on the ruins of an ancient structure, which was perhaps the habitation of the above-mentioned canons. A hospital, called ‘Maison Dieu’ (God’s House), was founded in the time of Richard II, by one of the Fitz Alans, for the maintenance of as many poor as its revenues would permit. It was suppressed at the Reformation, when its income was estimated at £42, 3 shillings, 8 pence per annum.
The most striking feature in Arundel is the ancient castle, which gives to its possessor (now the Duke of Norfolk) the title of Earl of Arundel. This instance of a peerage attached to the tenure of a house is now an anomaly. In 11 Henry VI, it was decided, that the tenure of the castle of Arundel alone, without any creation, patent or investiture, constituted its possessor Earl of Arundel. (Nicolas’ Synopsis of the Peerage, 27 ; Cruise’s Digest, 3 vols. 152 ; Report of the Lords’ Committee respecting Peerage, 1820.) In 3 Charles I the Earl of Arundel obtained an Act of Parliament, intituled, ‘An Act concerning the title, name, and dignity, of Earl of Arundel, and for annexing of the castle, honor, manor, and lordship, of Arundel, in the county of Sussex, with the titles and dignities of the baronies of Fitzallan, Clun, and Oswaldestre, and Maltravers, with divers other lands, tenements, and hereditaments, in the Act mentioned, being then parcel of the possessions of Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Earl Marshal of England, to the same title, name. and dignity, of the Earl of Arundel.’ (Report of the Lords Committee respecting Peerage, p.374.)
The castle stands high, on a steep circular knoll, partly natural, partly artificial, close to the town, and commands an extensive prospect over the low flat country towards the sea as far as the Isle of Wight. It has been supposed that the sea once washed the castle walls, as anchors and other marine implements have be found near it. Arundel castle is mentioned as early as the time of King Alfred, who bequeathed it by his will to his nephew Adhelm. After the Norman Conquest, it was given by William I to his kinsman Roger de Montgomeri, created Earl of Arundel and Shrewsbury. Robert, one of the successors of this earl, supported Robert Duke of Normandy, the eldest son of William I, against Henry I, the youngest son of the Conqueror. Afterwards the castle passed into the family of Albini, from there to the Fitz-Alans, and at last, by the marriage of the heiress of this race with Thomas Duke of Norfolk (in the reign of Elizabeth), into the family of the Howards, by whom it is still retained.
In the civil war between Charles I and his parliament, Arundel castle was held and garrisoned by the latter. It was, however, taken by Lord Hopton in 1643, surrendering to him at the first summons, and two months after was as suddenly retaken by Sir William Waller. From that time it continued little better than a mass of ruins, until it was restored by the late Duke of Norfolk to its ancient magnificence. A considerable portion of the old building was demolished on this occasion. The modern parts are in the Gothic style, built of free-stone ; and stones of a brown cast were selected, in order to accord better with the remains of the ancient fabric.
The castle is surrounded on the N. and W. sides by a deep ditch. The entrance gateway, anciently defended by a drawbridge and a portcullis, was built by Richard Fitzalan in the reign of Edward I, and repaired and restored by one of his successors. This, with some of the walls and the keep, is all that remains of the ancient castle. The keep is a circular stone tower 68 feet in diameter, and the most perfect in England. In the middle of it is the dungeon, a vault about 10 feet high, accessible by a flight of steps, and about I5 feet by 9¾ in extent. The keep has been long tenanted by some owls of large size and beautiful plumage, sent over from America, as a present to the late duke. Among the interior apartments of the castle may be mentioned the magnificent library, calculated to contain 10,000 volumes, and built in imitation of the aisle of a Gothic cathedral : the ornamental parts are in imitation of the cloisters at Gloucester, and St. George’s, Windsor. It is 122 feet long, and 30 feet wide. The ceiling, columns, &c., are entirely of mahogany. The great hall, called ‘the Barons’ Hall,’ was begun in 1806 ; it is 70 feet by 34, and 36 high. The roof is of Spanish chestnut, curiously wrought, and the plan is taken from Westminster; Eltham, and Crosby Halls. There is at one end a window of stained glass, representing King John signing Magna Charta. In a series of thirteen stained glass windows are portrayed the figures of some of the barons from whom the late Duke was descended ; and there are also portraits of his family. In the dining-room is a handsome stained glass window, representing the late duke and duchess as King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba at a banquet ; and a painting by Le Brun, of Adam and Eve in paradise, in imitation of basso rilievo.
The park is very extensive and finely wooded, including a great variety of picturesque scenery. In the Museum Rusticum, i, 85, we are informed, that the country round Arundel was covered with vineyards, from which wine was made ; and that, in 1763, there were sixty pipes of excellent wine, resembling Burgundy, in the cellar of the castle, the produce of one vineyard attached to it.
The town was incorporated by Queen Elizabeth, and the corporation consists of a mayor, twelve burgesses, a steward, and other officers. The mayor is chosen annually at the court leet of the lord of the manor, and is a justice of the peace within the borough. The town has been represented in parliament ever since the 30th of Edward I. The franchise was in the inhabitants paying scot and lot ; and up to the passing of the Reform Bill they returned two members. The Duke of Norfolk having fixed his residence at the castle, and made considerable purchases in the town, acquired the power of influencing the return of both members. By the Reform Bill the number of representatives was reduced to one ; but the boundaries of the borough (which are coincident with those of the parish) remained unaltered, though it had been proposed by the commissioners of boundaries, in their report, to add the parishes of Leominster and Little Hampton, which would have swelled the population to 5,039 persons. The proposal of the commissioners met, however, with violent opposition ; a committee of the house was appointed to consider their report, and a surveyor sent down from London to make a fresh examination. Upon his report the house acted, and abstained from any alteration in the boundary. The living is a discharged vicarage, in the diocese of Chichester. Arundel is the seat of a deanery, and gives name to one of the rapes into which Sussex is divided. This division is of Saxon origin, and the name is peculiar to Sussex.
The river Arun, on which the town stands, rises in St. Leonard’s Forest, in the northern part of the county. Its course is not less than forty miles. It is famous for the grey mullets (which, in the summer, come up to Arundel in large shoals in quest of a particular weed, the feeding on which renders them a great delicacy) ; and also for eels.