Arundel: A History of the Town and The Castle traces the history of a small town and magnificent castle set in the English countryside of West Sussex. The principal focus of this work is the question of whether or not Arundel was a "castle town," as well as a series of related questions: Is this term appropriate? If so, how far did the domination extend? What direction and forms did it take? The answers to these questions reveal that the term is too simplistic to describe a relationship that included domination, neglect, conflict, and symbiosis between town and castle.
The picturesque town of Arundel is situated on the banks of the river Arun, with the steep slope of the South Downs forming a backdrop. The castle keep rose on its motte soon after the Norman Conquest of 1066 when William the Conqueror granted Arundel to Earl Roger Montgomery with the provision that he provide fortification along the south coast of England. During the medieval period subsequent earls continued the building and development of the castle; it became the focal point of that medieval collection of estates known as the Honour of Arundel. In the process the castle withstood sieges and warfare and accumulated legends and ghosts along with a number of religious foundations. During the early modern period the castle experienced increasing neglect due in part to the religious idealism and political waywardness of the Fitzalan and Howard families. At the time of the Civil War the castle was important as a military bastion and changed hands several times. The final siege left it in the hands of the Parliamentary forces and the castle was subsequently "slighted" or partially destroyed to render it indefensible. Beginning in the eighteenth century the Fitzalan-Howard family renewed its interest in and appreciation of the castle, which culminated in progressive improvements and ultimately two major rebuildings. The development of the town often provided a counterpoint to the fortunes of the Fitzalan-Howards. Demographic growth and economic development continued into the early nineteenth century, with attendant social problems and religious conflicts. Although the town experienced progressive decline as a trading center during the course of the nineteenth century, its economic vigor was sustained by the growth of the tourist industry. Although the castle clearly dominated the town during the middle ages, its grip on town affairs was progressively relaxed in the early modern period. Relaxation became neglect in the period of the Civil War and continued for some time afterward. When the Fitzalan-Howards did revive their interest in the town and castle there was sporadic conflict over such issues as parliamentary patronage, land exchanges, and seigneurial rights, which culminated in the famous Fitzalan Chapel court case. Both sides, however, regretted the extremity of that legal conflict, and as the dukes became more paternal, the town became more deferential. It was in a spirit of increasing respect, affection, and cooperation that the town and castle faced the challenges of the twentieth century.