What’s it like to live in Arundel
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 January 2020
Credit: Tony Watson / Alamy Stock Photo
For a settlement of its size, the West Sussex town of Arundel has a huge number of attractions – from a fairy tale castle to county cricket
Described by the town council as a gateway to the South Downs National Park, Arundel is accessible from west or east by the A27. From the north the town is accessed by the A29.
There are mainline rail links from London Bridge and London Victoria stations (both about 90 minutes) and also Gatwick Airport (approximately 45 minutes). The coastal train line runs to Brighton in one direction and Portsmouth and Southampton in the other. There are regular bus services to Chichester and Brighton.
For a small town of 3,500 inhabitants, Arundel has an unusual grandeur, being the proud owner of both an imposing Catholic cathedral and a remarkable sprawling castle, both of which dominate its skyline. The town straddles the River Arun, with the historic centre on the north and new developments on the south. The two halves of the town are also separated by the Ford Road roundabout where the busy A27 becomes a single lane and can become very congested. A proposed bypass has been the subject of debate for many years, with the most recent public consultation closing in October.
With its close proximity to beautiful South Downs countryside and nearby beaches at Climping and Littlehampton, added to the town's own rich history and abundance of things to do, Arundel has much to offer residents and visitors.
The town is dominated by its splendid castle, originally built in 1067 and open to the public from April to November. It was extensively restored and rebuilt during the Victorian period but surviving original features include the Norman Keep, medieval Gatehouse and Barbican. As well as its extraordinary history (including being badly damaged during the Civil War, when it was twice besieged) visitors to the castle can enjoy a fascinating collection of fine furniture dating from the 16th century, tapestries, clocks, and portraits by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Mytens, Lawrence, Reynolds, Canaletto and others.
The castle has been the home of the Dukes of Norfolk for 800 years. The Duke of Norfolk is the premier duke in the peerage and also, as Earl of Arundel, the premier earl. The title comes with the hereditary position of Earl Marshal, with the responsibility for organising state occasions such as the coronation of a monarch and the state opening of parliament. The current duke is Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk, who succeeded his father, Miles Stapleton-Fitzalan-Howard, 17th Duke of Norfolk, in 2002.
The town itself developed as a Saxon settlement and has a mention in the Domesday Book. Historically it was a busy international port, with ships sailing to and from Arundel via the river Arun to the sea five miles away but the advent of the railway superseded the need for transport by sea and the port ceased to operate in the early 20th century.
In 1846 the station at Ford was built along the railway along the coast from Brighton to Portsmouth, which was then known as Arundel Station. Arundel Railway Station was built in 1863 when the line was extended down the Arun Valley.
The parish church of St Nicholas was built in 1380 and is unusual for sharing a building with the (Catholic) Fitzalan Chapel - a screen divides the two.
In 1868 a new Catholic church was commissioned by the 15th Duke of Norfolk and designed by architect Joseph Aloysius Hansom. It is now the cathedral church for the Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
Arundel's main shopping area is the High Street and Tarrant Street, both home to a number of interesting independent businesses including the Digby Fine English wine-tasting room, a butcher, delicatessen, five pubs, several restaurants and shops including children's toys and clothes, women's clothing, interiors and gifts. The town has two dentists, a dermatologist, hairdressers, a pharmacy and a medical surgery.
Arundel Lido has two outdoor pools and is extremely popular during the summer months. There's no shortage of clubs and societies too - whether your interests are sporting (football, cricket at the stunning Arundel Castle Cricket Ground, tennis or bowls) - or cultural (poetry, amateur dramatics, live music, book clubs). There are jazz and comedy evenings at The Old Jailhouse and regular productions at the Priory Playhouse Theatre. Arundel Museum has a well-presented history of the town, and the WWT Wetlands Centre is home to many rare water birds.
festivals and events
The 10-day festival around the August bank holiday is a real highlight, with the whole town taking part. With music, drama and art forming the backbone of the programme, there's also plenty of street theatre, family activities and dragon boat racing. In December, the town twinkles for Arundel by Candlelight - which includes shopping, street entertainment including carol-singing and an old-fashioned funfair.
The farmers' market is on the third Saturday every month.
meet the neighbours
Author and playwright Simon Brett lives in nearby Burpham and television presenter Ben Fogle has a particular fondness for the area, having grown up between here and London. Gormenghast author Mervyn Peake apparently based the castle at the centre of his fantasy epic on Arundel.
Those born in the town earn the nickname of Mullets - a reference to the fish found in the Arun.