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Alderbury & Whaddon

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Longford Castle

 

Longford Castle was commissioned by Sir Thomas Gorges c.1578, for his new Swedish wife Helena Snakenburg, a lady from the Swedish Royal Court who was formerly a Maid of Honour to Elizabeth I. She persuaded Sir Thomas to demolish the earlier house built by the Cervington family and replace it in 1578 with a building based on the castle at Uranienberg. The cost was nearly the end of Sir Thomas as huge piles had to be driven into the marsh but serendipity took a hand when, at the time of the Spanish Armada whilst he was Governor of Hurst Castle, Helena acquired the rights to a wreck from Queen Elizabeth I. This proved to be laden with silver bars and the project to construct Longford Castle became secure. It was completed in its original form in 1591.

 

The castle was built with a triangular central courtyard and circular towers at each corner. It was garrisoned by the Royalists in October 1644, with Sir Bartholomew Pell in command. In the spring of that year the King had issued a Commission of Impressment requiring the constable of each hundred to provide a number of able-bodied men to fight in the Royalist armies. However, Colonel Pell is recorded as complaining that the catchment area allocated to him for impressment was so small ‘that I am not able to get near the number of men assigned to me’. Undoubtedly men from Alderbury and Whaddon were conscripted. In the spring of 1645 the countrymen decided that they could stand no more and ‘peace-keeping associations’ of Clubmen bent on protecting their homes and communities from destruction emerged spontaneously, particularly in the western counties, calling on both sides to settle their dispute in more peaceful ways. Early in August Cromwell bloodily dispersed the Wiltshire and Dorset Clubmen at Hambledon Hill near Blandford and in October decided that Longford Castle should be taken. Lord Coleraine the owner of the castle, although a close friend of the King and a generous contributor to the Royalist coffers, had moved into his steward’s house in Britford with his family, leaving Colonel Pell to adapt the castle to the needs of defence. Rose trees and ancient vines at the bases of the three drum towers were savagely pulled up and the gardens devastated to make room for outworks and earthen banks. Trees in the park were felled. Cromwell’s forces arrived on 16 October 1645 and took up position near what is now Home Farm, using the high ground. Cromwell soon sited a battery on Picked Mead, the field between Home Farm and the river, and sent the usual demand for surrender. On 18 October, castle and garrison were surrendered with hardly a shot fired in anger. One shot, however, had barely missed Cromwell. Fired from a window in the castle it killed an officer at his side. The two men had been deciding how best to storm the castle. Colonel Ludlow took up occupation of the castle with the prime purpose of protecting the Parliamentary Commissioners who sat in almost daily session at nearby Faulston House deciding the fines to be imposed on the Wiltshire Royalists for their part in the Civil War. Robert Long of Whaddon was one of those fined. As for Longford Castle the building was not deliberately damaged but the inhabitants of Alderbury Hundred were required to level the earthworks and other defences around the castle.

 

During World War I it was used as a Red Cross hospital for wounded British officers. A letter from Lord Montgomery of Alamein (‘Monty’) in the castle archives confirms that he occupied Longford Castle as his headquarters during World War II; security procedures prevented detailed records from being kept. The castle is the family home of the Earls of Radnor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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