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Old Wardour Castle was built under licence granted in 1393 for the fifth Lord Lovel and is argued by some to have been designed by William Wynford, one of England's finest architects. It was clearly influenced by French designs and was built more with luxury and display in mind than defence. It was remodelled between 1570 and 1678 by Robert Smythson for Sir Matthew Arundell, including renovations to many of the private rooms. The castle consists of a two-floored hexagonal keep, open in the centre, with projecting gatehouse flanked by two towers, which contained the great hall on the first floor. This was set within a curtain wall which enclosed a spacious bailey. The approach to the main keep entrance was guarded by a ditch crossed by a drawbridge, although no remains survive due to 18th century landscaping. The keep contained all of the associated function rooms of the Lord's retinue, and included a private chapel. Following two sieges in the Civil War, during the second of which in March 1644 the south-west side of the keep was largely destroyed, the castle was abandoned. A new house was built immediately to the south of the castle in 1686, which was surrounded by formal gardens using the ruin of Old Wardour as a picturesque centrepiece. In 1754, the Baron Arundel (1717-56) consulted Lancelot Brown (1716-83), who produced a plan for alterations to the estate. Richard Woods (1716-93) was later employed to improve the gardens and park which included plans for a new mansion. This became known as (New) Wardour Castle and was built between 1770 and 1776 to the north-west of Old Wardour Castle. The curtain wall of the outer bailey survives at Old Wardour together with the remains of 17th century stables, an elaborate grotto, a miniature stone circle and a summerhouse (see associated records). In 1934, the sixteenth Baron Arundell started a new planting scheme and repairs to the Castle. In 1936, Old Wardour Castle was placed in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works.

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