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Lulworth Castle was never intended for military use. It was built in 1610, as a hunting lodge by Thomas Howard, 3rd Viscount Howard of Bindon, (a grandson of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk) to compliment his nearby manor house at Bindon Abbey which was later destroyed in the Civil War.

The castle was purchased in 1641 by Humphrey Weld, grandson of a rich London Merchant, and has remained in the same family ever since.

It was remodelled internally several times, but then on 29 August 1929 the castle was gutted by a disastrous fire. Only the basement survived intact; the rest of the building was left as a roofless ruin for nearly 70 years.

In 1984 restoration of the exterior was begun by English Heritage. It included a new roof and the restoration of the surviving walls, but no new internal walls or upper floors were constructed. It was finally completed in 1998.

It is always difficult to know what to make of a partially restored building like this. Yes, I can understand the arguments both in terms of aesthetics and cost for not installing a reproduction of the original interior, but it leave the building in a strange sort of limbo; neither a romantic ruin, nor a fully functioning stately home.

The one thing English Heritage did do though, was to install a fire escape style staircase up on one of the towers, giving access to the roof. A long climb, but the views are magnificent.

St Mary's Chapel


Dorset Map

St Mary's Chapel in the grounds of Lulworth Castle was the first free standing Roman Catholic Chapel to be built for public worship in England since the Reformation.

After the reformation as staunch Catholics, the Weld family, had had to worship in secret, until in 1786 Thomas Weld was given permission by King George III to "build a mausoleum and you may furnish it inside as you wish". The architect was John Tasker.

In 1789 the King and Queen visited Lulworth and were not in the least bit surprised to find it fitted out as a chapel.

Photography is not allowed inside the building, which is a shame. It has a beautiful domed ceiling, lit through clear windows, and is thought by many to be one of the finest pieces of Georgian architecture in Dorset.