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Saturday 8 September 2012

Regency History's guide to Lulworth Castle

The early history of Lulworth Castle

Lulworth Castle
Lulworth Castle was built as a hunting lodge at the beginning of the 17th century in Lulworth, Dorset, by Thomas Howard, Viscount Bindon. It was purchased by Humphrey Weld in 1641 and has belonged to the Weld family ever since. The Castle has played host to Kings; both James I and Charles II stayed there.

The Fitzherbert connection

Mrs Fitzherbert
from Memoirs of George IV
by Robert Huish (1831)
Edward Weld inherited the Castle from his father in 1761. His first wife died without giving him an heir and in 1775, he married the beautiful Mary-Anne Smythe. Tragically, Edward died a few months later following a fall from his horse. Mary-Anne, known as Maria, then married Thomas Fitzherbert, and on his death, she became the secret wife of the future George IV.

Thomas Weld and St Mary’s Chapel

St Mary's Chapel
On Edward’s death, Lulworth Castle passed to his brother, Thomas, who rebuilt much of the Castle’s interior in the Neo-classical style. The Welds were devout Roman Catholics and Thomas was influential in promoting Catholic emancipation and helping Catholics fleeing from the French Revolution.

In 1786, George III gave Thomas permission to build a mausoleum, purportedly with the licence to “furnish it inside as you wish”.

The Chapel of St Mary’s was designed by John Tasker to look like a classical garden building and it became the first free-standing Roman Catholic Church to be built for public worship in England since the Reformation.

George III’s visit

In 1789, George III and Queen Charlotte visited Thomas Weld at Lulworth Castle whilst they were on holiday in Weymouth. They saw inside the Chapel and gave it their approval.

The Royal connection continued when the Duke of Gloucester leased the Castle from Thomas’ son from 1824 to 1827.

Lulworth Castle today

The Castle was gutted by fire in 1929 but has now been restored. It was visited by the Queen in 1984 and is now a family-friendly visitor attraction.

Inside Lulworth Castle today

Sources used include:
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth (The Dovecote Press, 2003, Wimborne)
Delamotte, Peter, The Weymouth Guide (1785, Weymouth)
Feltham, John, Editor of the Picture of London, A Guide to all the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places (1815)
Groves, E, The Weymouth and Melcombe Regis New Guide (E Groves, 1835, Weymouth)
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of George IV (Thomas Kelly, 1830, 1831, London)
Weld, Wilfrid, The Weld Family & Lulworth (Guidebook to Lulworth Castle purchased Aug 2012)

Photographs by Andrew Knowles -

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