The construction of Old Wardour castle began in 1393AD, when Lord John Lovel obtained a "license to crenelate." The castle was built on land that previously belonged to the Martin family, which passed to Lord Lovel following the death of Sir Lawrence de St Martin in 1385AD. The reasons for this change in ownership are unclear. The design of the castle was unique for Britain, inspired by the hexagonal castles of continental Europe.
The castle consisted of a keep surrounding a central courtyard, protected by substantial corner-towers, and surrounded on the outside with a dry ditch. Access was via a drawbridge. Curtain walls originally surrounded the whole site, providing an extra line of defence.
The castle was confiscated by the crown in 1461AD, following Francis Lovel's support of Richard III It passed through several owners before eventually being bought by Sir Thomas Arundell in 1544AD. The castle was confiscated again in 1552AD when when Sir Thomas was executed for treason, but was later re-acquired by his son.
In 1643AD, during the English civil war, Old Wardour was attacked by Parliamentarian forces. It surrendered following a brief siege. That winter, Henry Arundell led a Royalist counter-siege, which was to last for several months. In March of 1644AD, gunpowder mines were laid in drainage tunnels beneath the castle. They were unleashed to devastating effect, ripping out a huge portion of the castle's rear.
When Parliamentarians ultimately gained control of the government, the Arundell estates at Wardour were confiscated, and the remains of the castle fell into disuse and decay.
During the 18th century, the Arundell family built New Wardour close to the site of the old castle. "Capability" Brown was hired to landscape the grounds, which ran up to the edge of Old Wardour's ruins. The 19th Century saw a surge in romanticism, which in turn led to an increased interest in the castle. After the death of the last Lord Arundell in 1944AD, Old Wardour passed into the care of the state.
Today, all that remains of the castle is the central keep - complete with its gaping wound suffered during the final siege. Due to the extensive landscaping undertaken at the site, no sign of the curtain walls or outbuildings can be seen. Despite this, Old Wardour has much to recommend it. The keep is impressive, with many unusual features. Its ruin is dramatic and evocative, and the grounds pleasant to explore on a sunny day. Although not the most extensive of historic sites, Old Wardour is still worth a visit if you're in the area.