Parks & Gardens
Title: Herstmonceux Castle
Description: Although the 15th-century moated castle is not open to the public, the beautiful parkland and superb Elizabethan gardens are. Also available a gift shop, tea room, visitor's centre, children's woodland play area and a nature trail.
Address: , Herstmonceux, Nr Hailsham, East Sussex
Post Code: BN27 1RN
Although Herstmonceux Castle features a moat, 4ft thick walls and a gatehouse, it is more a defended manor house than a castle. Built in 1441 by Sir Roger de Fiennes who served with Henry V at Agincourt and set in over 200 acres (80 hectares), it is one of the earliest large buildings constructed of bricks in Britain. Flemish brick makers were believed to have been brought over to England to supervise the work.
With gun and arrow loops in the gatehouse and equipped with a cannon, the castle was never used in anger. Unlike many other fortifications around during the Civil War, it survived intact and it was not until 1776 that the interior was demolished. With its materials used to build the nearby Herstmonceux Place, the castle was said to be a 'romantic ruin' by Victorian times.
Rebuilding of the beautiful castle started in 1910 and later became the home to the Royal Greenwich Observatory - the smog in London had become so bad that stargazing was becoming increasingly difficult, so in 1948 the Observatory moved here. The Queen visited Herstmonceux in 1967 to open the Isaac Newton telescope, but by the 1980's far more use was being made of the telescope located on La Palma in the Canary Islands. In 1987 a Government cost saving exercise meant that the Royal Greenwich Observatory moved to Cambridge University, although the green domes that once housed the telescopes still act as an eerie reminder of earlier times.
For a time, there were plans afoot to turn the castle and grounds into an exclusive country club, denying public access in the process. In 1993, however, Queen's University, Ontario bought it as an international study centre and the grounds are now open to the public between Easter and October.