This is not really a castle. Charles Stuart was born in 1779, the eldest son of General Sir Charles Stuart and Anne Louisa who was the daughter of Lord Vere Bertie. Educated at Eton college, in 1801 he entered the diplomatic service, serving it in Vienna, St Petersburg, French occupied Spain, and Portugal. It was as ambassador in Spain that he became indispensable to the Duke of Wellington, and accompanied him during Napoleon's Hundred Days through to the Battle of Waterloo. After the defeat of Napoleon, Charles escorted the exiled French King Louis XVIII back to Paris and became British Ambassador there. During his ambassadorship in Paris he married the wealthy Lady Elizabeth Yorke, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke. They had two daughters Charlotte (later Lady Canning), and Louisa (later Lady Waterford). His greatest achievement was the treaty which enabled Brazil to become independent of Portugal in 1825. In 1828 he was made Baron Stuart de Rothesay, and in the same year was appointed for a second term as ambassador to France. Early retirement from the diplomatic service meant Lord Stuart could start on the project to build a new family home, and by 1830 he had purchased much of the eastern end of the estate, which previously had been owned by his forebears. This allowed him to start construction of the modern Highcliffe Castle.
William Donthorne, a founder member of the Royal Institute of British Architects designed Highcliffe Castle. The castle is built on an L shaped plan, oriented on a south-east axis, so the oriel window is central on the south east elevation, providing a vista across the landscaped gardens to a panorama of the needles and Isle of Wight. Used in the building of the house was carved medieval stonework from the Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Peter at Jumieges and from the Grande Maison des Andelys. Both of these buildings had fallen into disrepair after the French Revolution. Also included in the castle, were a 16th-century oriel window and a stained glass window. After the Castle was completed, Charles became Ambassador to Russia in 1841. However ill-health caused his return to England and he died at Highcliffe in 1845. He was buried at St Mark’s Church, Highcliffe and his memorial can still be seen there. In 1907 Kaiser Wilhelm II stayed at Highcliffe Castle for three weeks to recover his health.
One of the most notable tenants from 1916 to 1922 was the American-born retail entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge. He lived there with his wife Rosalie, his mother Lois and son Gordon. At the age of 21, Wisconsin-born Selfridge joined the wholesale retail firm of Marshall, Field and Co in Chicago, where he worked for 25 years. He rose to become a junior partner, and amassed a considerable fortune. In 1906 he came to London and opened his own store, Selfridges, in 1909. It was a huge success as he introduced new American ways of marketing. In 1916 Selfridge leased Highcliffe Castle. Although he was only a tenant he set about fitting modern bathrooms, installing steam central heating and building and equipping a modern kitchen. During the War Rosalie opened a tented retreat called the Mrs Gordon Selfridge Convalescent Camp for American Soldiers in the castle grounds. Highcliffe Castle is a Grade I listed building and described as "the most important remaining example of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture." The Gift Shop provides level access into the Castle. Once inside, the ground floor is fully accessible. A wheelchair is available for use by visitors on request and subject to availability. Dogs are welcome in the grounds of Highcliffe Castle. They ask that they are kept on a lead at all times. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted inside the House, unless they are access-companions.
Location : Rothesay Drive, Highcliffe, Dorset BH23 4LE
Transport: Hinton Admiral (National Rail) 20 minutes or bus. Bus Routes : 111, 788 and C10 stop nearby.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 - 17:00; Friday + Saturday until 16:30.
Tickets : Adults £3.50; Children Free; Guided Tours £5.95
Tel: 01425 278807