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Lulworth Castle and Park - Purbeck

Lulworth Castle and Park
Lulworth Castle and Park

This castle dates from the 17th century and offers a variety of attractions including an indoor children's activity room, animal farm, an 18th century Chapel and jousting shows.

Lulworth Castle was built in 1610 as a hunting lodge by Thomas Howard, the third Lord Binden, son of the second Duke of Norfolk, to a design inspired by the Chivalric literature that was popular at the time of James I. A solid, square three storey block with a huge round tower on every corner rising to four storeys and decorated with tall mullioned windows and crenallated parapets, Lulworth Castle is a popular venue for Medieval-themed events and often described as a 'mock' castle.

Thomas Howard's principal seat was at the nearby Blindon Abbey (which was later destroyed by fire). He built Lulworth Castle for the sole purpose of hosting royal hunting parties.

Lulworth Castle was badly damaged during the civil war and after the Restoration it passed into the ownership of Humphrey Weld, a wealthy Londoner. A hundred years later Humphrey's grandson, Thomas Weld, began the process of transforming Lulworth Castle into a magnificent country house. A staunch Catholic, it was Thomas Weld who built the church of St Mary in the grounds of the castle to designs by John Tasker. Family legend holds that King George III gave Weld permission to build the church (the first free-standing Catholic church to be built since the Reformation) only if it did not look like a church, which goes some way to explaining why it looks like a large garden temple, albeit complete with a marble altar shipped from Rome.

After the French Revolution, surviving members of the French royal family used the castle as one of their residences-in-exile.

Lulworth Castle was gutted by fire in 1929 and left as a roofless ruin until the 1970s when the Weld family, with the help of English Heritage, began an extensive restoration project that was finally completed in 1998. The castle is still owned by the Weld family, although it is managed as a tourist attraction by English Heritage. Visitors can view the cellars and kitchens, look at displays showing how the building developed over time and climb the towers for excellent views over the park and the surrounding countryside. There are numerous artefacts and memorabilia on display in the basement vaults. The twelve thousand acres of landscaped parkland are open all year on a pay-and-display basis.

There are woodland walks, an adventure playground and picnic areas.

Lulworth Castle is a popular wedding venue and hosts the annual Camp Bestival.

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