By Deborah Bowers SPECIAL TO THE SUN...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

January 02, 2000

A MEMORABLE PLACE

By Deborah Bowers

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

English castle with a Maryland link

The very best thing that can happen to you when you are traveling far from home is to have a local resident take you exploring at a local landmark -- in this case, a castle with Maryland connections.

When I arrived in the beautiful hilltop town of Shaftsbury, Dorset County, England, an arts instructor at a local school helped me find the tourist infor-mation center. Finding we shared a fascination for antiquities, he offered to take me to nearby Old Wardour Castle. David Selman's sincerity and enthusiasm were convincing, and I gladly accepted his offer.

On this gray and chilly morning, we were greeted at the castle gate by David's friend, Michael Blair, custodian and local historian. He told me that the castle had a connection to my home state, as it had belonged to the Arundell family, for which Anne Arundel County is named.

David and I roamed around the castle, climbing its winding stairs, looking out through the gaping holes in its walls. We walked through narrow passageways to stand in gloomy, dank places that once buzzed with activity, rooms now open to the wind and rain, stripped bare of all their trappings, yet surviving nearly 600 years.

Wardour Castle was built just before 1400 and was acquired by the Arundell family in 1570. In the 1640s, rather than let the enemy occupy his home, Henry, the third Lord Arundell, had barrels of gunpowder placed in the drain tunnels. The explosion brought half the walls tumbling to the ground. While the Arundells won the battle, they lost the war, and for their loyalty to the king, they forfeited their estates. About 75 years later, the Arundell family built a new castle within sight of the old.

Exploring the old castle gave David and me a chill, and after warming ourselves with lunch at a village pub, we set out on a public footpath across a pasture to New Wardour House. The mansion stood bleak and gray, like the weather -- a plain, unsophisticated behemoth, so immense it could house one or more of the Smithsonian museums. Workers were converting the house to apartments, a fate David and I agreed would have shocked its first owners. It made us strangely sad, even as we were awed by the ostentatiousness.

The Arundells' pockets were not so deep. When they built the new Wardour, the family had only a modest fortune, which was strained by the gargantuan project. The next generation was left with heavy debt, and parts of the interior went unfinished, even into the 1930s.

Deborah Bowers lives in Street, Md.

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