Herstmonceux Castle

Venue Type & Location

Private Residence

Site Name: Herstmonceux Castle
Location: Herstmonceux Castle
County: Sussex
Location Type: Countryside - at determined location

Performance Spaces


Located in a tranquil setting, facing S overlooking the Pevensey Levels. Built in fashionable red brick with greensand stone dressings on a generous quadrangular plan surrounded by a wide moat. Octagonal towers at each corner with a formidable gatehouse in the S facade. The great hall central range ran E to W across the courtyard, creating 2 oblong courtyards, further subdivided by building ranges running N and S from the hall block to create 4 courtyards.

Most of the interior buildings were dismantled in the 18th c. The present exterior walls and gatehouse are original but the single courtyard layout and buildings are 20th c.

Nothing is known of the earlier medieval manor house on the same site.

Performance History

Probable performance venue. Entertainers patronized by members of the Fiennes family performed elsewhere in the SE in the 15th c.

Current Status

Currently The International Study Centre, Queen's University (Canada). Grounds open to the public at specified times.

History of the Venue

early 13th c. Manor belonged first to the de Herst and subsequently to the de Monceux family after the marriage of Idonea de Herst to Ingelram de Monceux (Calvert and Martin, Herstmonceux 3).

1330 Manor acquired by Sir John de Fiennes via marriage with John de Monceux's sister Maud.

1441 Sir Roger Fiennes granted a licence to build and crenellate the castle on the site of an earlier manor house.

1449 Inherited by Richard Fiennes, accepted as 7th Baron Dacre by marriage with Joan, heiress of Thomas, 6th Baron Dacre.

1541 Thomas Fiennes, 9th Baron Dacre, executed for murder and his properties forfeited to the Crown.

1558 Restored to Gregory Fiennes, 10th Baron Dacre.

ca. 1570 Castle decayed and the moat drained.

1594 Acquired by Sampson Lennard of Chevening, Kent, via marriage with Margaret Fiennes, 11th Baroness Dacre.

ca. 1600 Interior alterations by Lennard, including the addition of a grand staircase in the pantry court N of the hall to connect the high end of the hall with the upper floor withdrawing rooms.

ca. 1670 Further renovations made by Thomas Lennard, 15th Baron Dacre and 14th Earl of Sussex.

1708 Sold by the Earl to George Naylor of Lincoln's Inn.

mid 18th c. Inherited by Naylor's nephew, Francis Hare, Bishop of Chichester.

1777 Most of the buildings dismantled by the Rev. Robert Hare on the recommendation of the architect Samuel Wyatt and the masonry used to build Herstmonceux Place. Only the external walls and gatehouse were left.

19th c. Sold to Thomas Read Kemp (1807), John Gillon (1819) and H.B. Curteis (1846).

1911 Purchased by Col. Claude Lowther.

ca. 1913 Outer masonry repaired with some restoration of the interior. Single central court created and a new great hall built in the W block on the site of the original kitchen. S moat widened and the length of the bridge trebled.

1932 Sold to Sir Paul Latham; restored by Walter Godfrey. New interior buildings erected; moat on S, E and part of W sides
refilled with water.

1948 Royal Observatory transferred from Greenwich.

1988 Vacated by the Royal Observatory.

1993 Purchased by Alfred Bader and given to Queen's University, Kingston, to operate as an international study centre.

Record Source

REED Sussex 45, 47, 186

Patrons who owned this venue

Name Dates Titles
Fiennes, Richard 1422-1483 7th Baron
Fiennes, Roger 1384-1449 Knight
Fiennes, William 1428-1471 2nd Baron

Bibliographic Sources

Calvert, David and Roger Martin. A History of Herstmonceux Castle. Hailsham: International Study Centre, 1994.
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Conway, Martin. 'Herstmonceux Castle – II. Sussex, The Seat of Col. Claude Lowther, M.P.' Country Life 43 (9 March 1918): 242–8.
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Turner, Thomas Hudson, and John Henry Parker. Some Account of Domestic Architecture in England, from Richard II. to Henry VIII. 3 vols (vol 3 in 2 pts). Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1851–9.
Venables, Edmund. 'The Castle of Herstmonceux and its Lords.’. Sussex Archaeological Collections 4 (1851): 125–202.