Herstmonceux Castle (eighteenth century engravings)

Herstmonceux Castle has been described as the finest early brick building in England. Begun in 1441, it was partially dismantled in 1777. It remained a ruin until the early 20th century when it was converted back into a residence (but with a different room plan). It was occupied by the Royal Observatory from 1948 until the end of the 1980s when the Observatory was moved to Cambridge.

The Royal Observatory at Herstmonceux

Herstmonceux Castle in old photographs (1850–1910)


Engravings published in The antiquities of England and Wales (1785)

By the start of the 1770s, the castle had fallen into a state of disrepair. In 1775, it was inherited by the Reverend Robert Hare who lived nearby at Herstmonceux place. He decided that it was uneconomic to repair the Castle and drew up plans with the architect Samuel Wyatt to dismantle the castle interior and use the materials to augment his own house instead. This it seems upset Thomas Lennard, Lord Dacre, a descendent of the family that had owned the Castle until 1708. As a result, Lennard commissioned James Lamberts of Lewes to create a full set of drawings of the Castle prior to the work commencing. Most of these were completed in 1776.

Francis Grose included engravings based on four of Lambert’s drawings in volume 5 of his multivolume set: The antiquities of England and Wales (published in 1785). Grose however records in the index that they were engraved from drawings by Mr Grimm, who had presumably copied them from those done by Lamberts. The four engravings were all published by S. Hooper in 1785 – plate 1 on 15 June and plates 2, 3 and 4 on 22 June. Plates 1 and 2 were engraved by Sparrow and plate 4 by Godfrey.

Click here to read Grose’s accompanying description of the Castle. In 2005, Lamberts’ volume of drawings was purchased by the East Sussex Records Office. Click here to see the images as Lambert drew and coloured them.

Plate 1: The castle from the south-west

Plate 2: The great-hall

Pate 3: The south view of the Green Court

Plate 4: The porter's lodge