Our History

Hearts of Oak Christmas Party

For the past 500 years and more, people have been visiting Herstmonceux Castle to admire its impressive design, its unique brickwork, beautiful gardens and setting within the Sussex landscape. Its visitors include the likes of Horace Walpole, William Wilberforce, J.M.W. Turner, King George V, Virginia Wolf, Diana Cooper, Violet Bonham Carter, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Patrick Moore, Stephen Hawking and Queen Elizabeth II.

Our castle has attracted writers and artists, tourists and antiquaries, aristocrats and debutantes, soldiers and scientists. Today it continues to attract students interested in actively participating in a unique learning experience in an international setting.

Some important dates in our history:


Roger Fiennes, a Sussex Knight, petitions the Crown for the right to "crenellate" or fortify his manor Herstmonceux.


Thomas FiennesSir Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre, is tried and executed for murder, and robbery of the King's deer, after his poaching exploits on a neighboring estate implicate him in the death of a gamekeeper. The estate is confiscated by King Henry VIII.

1558 - 1603

Queen Elizabeth 1Reign of Queen Elizabeth I - during which time the estate is returned to the Fiennes family.

1642 - 1651

English Civil War - renovations are carried out to the Castle and the extremes of the 1640s are avoided.

1660 - 1685

The Restoration Period - a significant amount of money is spent refurbishing the castle including new fireplaces and elaborate oak carvings by Grinling Gibbons.


Excessive gambling, the cost of renovations, and the lavish merriment of the 15th Baron Dacre (heir to the Fiennes family) bankrupt the family and the estate is sold to George Naylor for £38,000 (the equivalent of approximately £4 million in 2018).


Samuel Wyatt, a well-known architect, pronounces the castle to be in such a poor state of repair that it is not worth saving. Furniture is sold off, the wood paneling removed, and the interior walls torn down.


Claude Lowther MPThe eccentric MP Colonel Claude Lowther purchases the estate with a view to restoring the castle to its former glory and creating a grand country home. Extensive restorations are undertaken and the southern half of the castle is transformed.


Sir Paul Latham purchases the castle and the architect Walter Godfrey continues the process of reconstruction, completing the remodeling of the northern half of the castle. Extensive work is also undertaken on the gardens and grounds, with the addition of a tennis court, a swimming pool, extensive plantings and the excavation and flooding of the moat.

1939 - 1945

Second World War - during which time the Hearts of Oak insurance company (pictured at the top of this page) relocates to the Castle to avoid the Blitz in London. An RAF camp, part of RAF Wartling, is also established on the estate.


Paul LathamSir Paul Latham sells Herstmonceux Castle to the Admiralty.


Observatory Science CentreThe Royal Greenwich Observatory is established at Herstmonceux.


The Royal Greenwich Observatory moves to Cambridge and the estate closes.


The BadersDrs. Alfred and Isabel Bader purchase the castle and donate it to Queen's University - Alfred's alma mater.


After extensive renovations the International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle opens to students.


The ISC is renamed the Bader International Study Centre.


Bader College LogoIn June 2022, Principal Patrick Deane announces the change of name from The Bader International Study Centre, to Bader College.