History of Old Wardour Castle
The king sold the estate, and it eventually passed to the Earl of Ormond. It was later owned by the Broke family, and in 1547 it was purchased by Sir Thomas Arundell of Cornwall. Arundell married a sister of Catherine Howard, fifth queen of Henry VIII. He escaped censure when Howard fell from grace, but after Henry's death he threw his support behind the Duke of Somerset. That scheming noble was executed for treason in 1552, and Arundell went to the block in his wake. Wardour was siezed by the crown, and later granted to the Earl of Pembroke. But the Arundell heir was not willing to let Wardour slip. Matthew Arundell married a lady in waiting to Elizabeth I, and in 1570 he obtained Wardour from the Earl in return for another estate.
Rather than demolish the old castle, Arundell transformed it into an Elizabethan mansion, possibly with the aid of Robert Smythson, who was working at Longleat House around that time. Arundell's renovations enlarged the windows and created a grand entrance. The rooms, particularly those on the upper floors, were transformed with rich furnishings and ornate decoration.
Sir Matthew's grandson, the 2nd Lord Arundell, fought for King Charles in the Civil War and was killed in 1643. In that same year the castle was besieged. The defenders, led by Lady Blanche Arundell, held out for 6 days, but eventually surrendered. Parliamentary troops under Edmund Ludlow took control of the castle, but the Arundell heir, Henry, led a counter siege.
The defenders held out for over 3 months, until gunpowder set in a drain tunnel under the castle was accidentally set alight. The subsequent explosion brought down two towers and badly weakened the castle structure. Arundell took control of the house once more, but when the war ended in triumph for Parliament the castle was once more siezed. After the Restoration of the monarchy the Arundells regained Wardour, but never rebuilt the damaged castle. Instead, they built a small house out of the ruins of the stables.
Finally, changing tastes and family fortunes enabled the Arundells to start again. The 8th Lord Arundell married well, and in 1769 he had James Paine build a new, contemporary house at New Wardour. The old castle became the centrepiece of the grounds surrounding the new mansion. The grounds were designed by Capability Brown, and include a series of ponds linked together to create water features.
The last Lord Arndell died in 1944 and the house passed into government control. It was eventually placed under the care of English Heritage, who maintain it today.