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Castle Goring


Castle Goring itself is heavily screened by trees. Directly in front of the north front is a large turning circle in the driveway, and grassed space enclosed by trees. A lone oak of great antiquity (400 years perhaps) dominates this space. Immediately to the south of the house is a large semi-circular lawn bounded by a hedge. Other features include a walled garden and a number of estate buildings.

Castle Goring itself is heavily screened by trees. Directly in front of the north front is a large turning circle in the driveway, and grassed space enclosed by trees. A lone oak of great antiquity (400 years perhaps) dominates this space. Immediately to the south of the house is a large semi-circular lawn bounded by a hedge which has been allowed to grow out, although it seems likely that the original intention would have been for the lawn to afford expansive views across the parkland to the south.

A landscape feature known as the Roundel partly screens the walled garden from the house, but less effectively since suffering storm damage. It is thought that these features may have been intended as the infrastructure of a landscape design for the estate which was never completed or fully implemented. To the west, an attractive stream flows along the edge of the open parkland, and beyond that the boundary is heavily wooded, framing views of and from Castle Goring.

The group of estate buildings now known as Castle Goring Mews has a very open character and appearance, except where this is being eroded by unsympathetic planting, especially of hedges, by occupiers or owners. Again, there are expansive views across the parkland to the south, and the relationship of the estate buildings with the house, the walled garden and Forest Farm is clear to see.

The walled garden, listed Grade II by English Heritage, is 400 metres to the south of the house with attached outbuildings, and was probably built in the early-19th century. It is a rectangle, approximately 90 by 55 metres. The walls are of red brick in Flemish bond with back headers. They are about 12 feet high, with brick pilasters at regular intervals and stone coping. On the north side are lean-to outbuildings in pebble with red brick dressings and slate roof, probably potting sheds and gardeners' bothy. On the other side of this wall facing south are late-19th-century glasshouses. The north wall has flues, probably for heating. Although the walled garden is associated with the present house it may well pre-date it.

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Bysshe Shelley, grandfather of the poet, was a principal landowner in Worthing and a Town Commissioner from 1804 until his death in 1814. In the 1790s he decided to build a new house for himself on land to the north-west of the town. He chose for his architect John Biagio Rebecca, who was the son of Biagio Rebecca, also a well-known architect.

The house is essentially Palladian on the south front, with Greek-detailed grand steps, and Gothic castellated to the north (entrance) front. Inside, on the main floor, the two styles merge into a vaulted passage leading to the main rooms, which are disposed along the south side. The incongruous large top-lit central space has a curious sweeping, curving staircase which dates from 1825. There are wings east and west, Gothic facing to the north, and Classical to the south. This charade is slightly un-nerving now that the original tree screening is impaired.

The house took many years to construct and there were horrific estimates of its probable cost. It was a standard jaunt for trippers from Worthing who are blamed for breaking the windows for sport. Mr. F. Somerset, writing in 1891, thought that the house was finished externally by about 1798, but it was described as still being erected in 1805 (‘begun about 12 years ago') when the expenditure to date was reported to be £100,000, with 5-6 years work still to be done at a probable cost of another £50,000. When the question of insurance arose in 1825, Sir Timothy Shelley said that the cost had been no less than £36,000, but a valuation of £12,000 was accepted.

But it is still described as unfinished in 1809, and by 1815 work had ceased, doubtless upon the death of Sir Bysshe Shelley in 1814. It was offered for sale in 1816, but no purchaser could be found. In Chancery Proceedings of 1819 it was described as ‘in an unfinished and uninhabitable state'.

Eventually, in 1825 Sir Timothy managed to get the incomplete structure off his hands by nursing Captain George Pechell RN into a lease involving the necessary finishing. He later purchased the property outright. Naturally, these works were done to a minimum standard. Shelley, well jaundiced by half a lifetime's watching his inheritance evaporate, had a dim view of Rebecca who he blamed for serious design faults regarding drainage and water supply. To what extent these complaints are reasonable it is impossible to say, but since the house had stood unfinished for so long must be viewed with caution. At the same time, whilst hooking Captain Pechell, Sir Timothy wrote to him of how surprised he was at finding so little needing to be done: ‘and a short time will put essentials in Requisition for you to inhabit the Principle part, viz. the Villa Lanti apartments etc. I was astonished to see the House so dry'. It is interesting that an owner of Rebecca's work elsewhere considered it, with the benefit of long hindsight, to be ‘very competent'.

Captain Pechell engaged Jeremiah S. Hemingway, Surveyor of Chichester, to complete the building for him. Pechell renewed the lease in 1838. By now a Rear Admiral and MP for Brighton, he purchased the property outright in 1846 for £11,250. Unfortunately, his son was killed in 1855, aged 25, at the Battle of Sebastopol during the Crimean War. In 1874, Sir Percy Burrell's widow was the owner of the land which passed to her sister Adelaide Harriet, who had married Lt.-Col. (later Sir) Alfred Somerset, whose descendents still hold the land.

During World War 2 the house was in the hands of the military and suffered the usual depredations, making subsequent maintenance troublesome. The house is now occupied by a language school. The house is on the English Heritage At Risk listing.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Conservation Area

  • Reference: Castle Goring


  • House (featured building)
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Trees
  • Lawn
  • Hedge
  • Walled Garden
Key Information





Principal Building




Open to the public


Electoral Ward





  • Shirley Penny

  • Sussex Gardens Trust