Herstmonceux Castle

Herstmonceux Castle, England, Photo Tour

Herstmonceux Castle in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, United Kingdom, is the home of the Queen’s University International Study Centre.

The first written evidence of the existence of the Herste settlement appears in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book which reports that one of William’s closest supporters granted tenancy of the manor at Herste to a man named ‘Wilbert’. By the end of the twelfth century, the family at the manor house at Herste had considerable status. Written accounts mention a lady called Idonea de Herste, who married a Norman nobleman named Ingelram de Monceux. Around this time, the manor began to be called the “Herste of the Monceux”, a name that eventually became Herstmonceux.

A descendant of the Monceuxes, Roger Fiennes, was ultimately responsible for the construction of Herstmonceux Castle in the County of Sussex. Sir Roger was appointed Treasurer of the Household of Henry VI of England, and needed a house fitting a man of his position, so construction of the castle on the site of the old manor house began in 1441. It was this position as treasurer which enabled him to afford the £3,800 construction of the original castle. The castle was dismantled in 1777 and remained a ruin until restoration work was undertaken by Colonel Lowther in 1913 and Sir Paul Latham in 1933 (architect: Walter Godfrey). The one major change introduced in the restoration was to combine the four internal courtyards into one large one.

Today it is the oldest significant brick building still standing in England. The castle was built of brick, a highly unusual material for the time in Britain, and the builders of Herstmonceux Castle concentrated more on grandeur and comfort than on defence to produce a truly magnificent estate.

Former Royal Observatory, Herstmonceux CastleThe property passed through the hands of a number of private owners until it was sold in 1946 to the Admiralty. In 1957 the Herstmonceux Castle grounds became the home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory and remained so until 1988 when the observatory moved to Cambridge. Several of the telescopes still remain but the largest telescope (The Isaac Newton Telescope) was moved to La Palma, Canary Islands in the 1970’s. The estate still provides housing for the Newton Telescope and the Equatorial Telescope Buildings, which have been converted to an interactive science centre for the schoolchildren.

Queen’s International Study Centre
In 1992, Alfred Bader, learned of the castle’s vacancy, and offered to purchase the castle for his wife. His wife declined on the grounds that there would be “too many rooms to clean”. Bader, a Queen’s alumnus, later contacted the former Principal of Queen’s University, David Chadwick Smith, and asked if a castle might fit into the school’s plans, possibly as an international study centre. In 1994, after intensive renovations, Bader’s dream became a reality and the Queen’s International Study Centre opened its doors to the first students.

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