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The History of Arundel

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A Roman presence is recorded in the area of Arundel, and Celts are known to have inhabited the area prior to them. However, it was the arrival of the Saxons that drove the development of the settlement and lay the basis for the modern town. The village the Saxons established grew enough to rate a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a market town. The few hundred or so that made up the population of Norman Arundel would rate it as a sizeable settlement for the time.

The Normans arrived in 1066 and after defeating King Harold at The Battle of Hastings they set about subjugating the population. The Normans favoured castles and forts as a way of stamping their authority on the conquered people of Britain. At Arundel Lord Roger de Montgomery built a wooden castle, later to be rebuilt in stone. The castle doubled as a statement of Norman might and a place to garrison the troops needed to quell any local disturbances. Arundel castleís might was soon proved when Roger de Montgomeryís son Hugh rebelled against King Henry I . It took the king three months of siege to capture the castle. The castle was again at the centre of squabbles over the crown when Henry I died in 1135. Civil war broke out between his daughter Matilda and Stephen for control of the country. When Matilda sheltered in the castle in 1139 during the war, Stephen responded by preparing to siege the castle. By 1243 the castle was in the hands of the Fitzalan family, they passed it to the Duke of Norfolk in the 16th century. In 1258 Arundel was granted the rights to hold an annual fair. In 1381 a riot took place in Arundel as part of the Peasantsí Revolt. A failed aristocratic plot against Richard II centred around Arundel in 1397.

Arundel isnít all about the castle . The river Arun flows through the town and on to the English Channel. It is navigable by large enough craft to have allowed it to operate as a viable inland port during most of its long history. Arundelís development as a port was hampered by competition from nearby Chichester , with itís excellent harbour. The port ceased operating as a working port early in the 20th century. Sadly the castle, Arundelís status as a port and the townís strategic location along the south coast meant that Arundel was often literally in the wars. The Civil War brought more destruction to Arundel when Parliamentary soldiers captured the castle in December 1642. The castle changed hands three times in the war, with Royalist forces finally surrendering the castle in January 1644. Previously, from the mid 13th century, Dominican friars had established a friary in the area. In the 14th century the parish church of St Nicholas was built.

Arundelís development continued to be bound up by the aristocratic owners of the castle and the lands around the town. Duke Bernard Edward vigorously opposed the railways, resulting in the town missing out on the benefits of a mainline station within the town centre. Victorian towns that welcomed the railways with open arms were soon rewarded with economic and even administrative benefit. Those that didnít welcome the railways tended to decline. A catholic church was built in Arundel in 1873 and this was dedicated as cathedral in 1965. Extensive rebuilding work was carried out on the castle during the years 1890 to 1903. Arundel has remained largely the same over the past 100 years, retaining its ancient character and avoiding much of the urbanisation that effected many other towns in the area. Today the town is a popular tourist attraction, famous for its fine Georgian buildings as much as the magnificent castle.

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