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The History of Amberley Castle

LocationAmberley, West Sussex, England (Google Map Location)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byAndrew Brownsword Hotels
Official WebsiteAmberley Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (wedding, events, tourists)

While the Amberly Castle has been passed through the hands of several bishops and tenants for over 900 years, it is now a unique luxury hotel run by the Relais & Chateaux group. This picturesque retreat with contemporary cuisine is the perfect destination for special occasions or immersive tourist experiences. Let us explore the history of what once was within these medieval walls of the ancient Castle.

History of Amberley Castle

Today, what we see as a splendid castle started as a timber-framed lodge built by Bishop Ralph de Luffa in 1103. In the next 400 years and under the supervision of several resident bishops, this lodge transformed into a fortified manor house. The lodge was first replaced by a more elaborate stone hall in 1140 under Bishop Seffrid’s command, and an East Wing was added in 1200 by Bishop Seffrid II. Subsequently, Bishop John Langton added a larger Great Hall between 1305 and 1337, which was knocked down and replaced by a better one in 1377 by Bishop William Reade. At this time, Amberley Castle was fortified with 40 feet high walls. The last bishop to live in the Amberley Castle was Bishop Robert Sherborne, who died in 1536.

As a consequence of the English Reformation, many tenants stayed in the Castle on lease. And then, during the Civil War, Amberley Castle became a royalist stronghold. Unfortunately, this war created a ruin as it saw the destruction of 20 to 30 feet from the Curtain Walls and the Great Hall itself in 1643. General Waller, sent by Oliver Cromwell, was responsible for destroying these defences. Once the Civil War ended, the parliament seized the Amberley Castle from the Church. The Office of Sequestration of Estates then sold the Castle to a cloth merchant from London – Mr John Butler. It was Mr Butler who transformed the ruins of the Great Hall into the Manor House. But the Castle was given back to the Bishopric after the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. However, the Butlers continued to live in the Castle as tenants. Another transfer in ownership happened in 1872 when the church commissioners sold the Castle to Lord Zouche, the owner of Parham House. Lord Zouche used it as a hunting lodge until 1893 when the 15th Duke of Norfolk bought the Castle. The Duke, also known as ‘The Builder Duke’, finally renovated the Castle and even initiated the stonework repair over the portcullis.

The Emmet family bought the Amberley Castle in 1926 and sold it to Hollis Baker in 1982, who owned the Castle from 1982 to 1987. Hollis Baker also reinstated the famous 2.5-ton ancient portcullis at the Castle.

Finally, Joy and Martin Cummings converted the Castle into an international luxury hotel in 1989. Today, Andrew and Christina Brownsword are owners of the Castle, operated as a hotel by the Brownsword Hotel group.


Amberley Castle
Amberley Castle”, by Jonathan Day, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Amberley Castle is one of the most pleasing experiences of England’s history because of everything it has gone through and how beautifully it stands today. Enclosed by a 60ft high curtain wall, the Castle takes you back to the wars of the 12th and 13th centuries. Moreover, the South of the Castle is decorated with its splendid twin-tower gatehouse and a kitchen block, while the North boasts of a regal garderobe tower with gun loops. The west wall sports a small water-gate, and the east wall has a Norman postern in it. The Square internal towers stand at the corners to complete the majestic infrastructure of Amberley Castle.

In addition to its impressive structure, the Castle is famous for its beautiful 12 acres of formal gardens contained within the Castle walls. The rose-covered arches and topiary, the medieval stonework, Camelias and magnolias flowers, and the pond are just a few unmissable features of the glorious garden. And not to forget, the ruins of the great hall, desolated in the Civil War, still stand in the romantic 12-acre garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

How old is Amberley Castle?

The first recorded structure on the lands of the Amberley Castle dates back to 1103. But the Castle as we know it was renovated and built in 1893 by the 15th Duke of Norfolk. In 1989, the Castle was converted into a luxury Hotel.

Who owned Amberley Castle?

A series of Bishops and tenants have occupied Amberley Castle in its 900 years of history. The Emmet family and Hollis Baker are the more recent owners of the Castle. Today, the Castle/Hotel is owned and run by Andrew Brownsword Hotels.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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He is a versatile E-Learning Support Officer and former Academic Officer at the University of York, United Kingdom. Not just an expert in education and technology, Debayan also has a deep love for castles and mountains. With a passion for travel, having explored 168+ cities worldwide, and a keen eye for photography, He brings a unique blend of experiences to the table. Specializing in E-learning content, IT support, AR development, and software engineering, Debayan has made a significant impact, educating over 200,000 students on Udemy.

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