First, here are two scans of the latest guide, available from the Tourist Office in Christchurch.
And now click for a pdf version of both pages – around 1Mb.
Here is some of my own information about it.
- 1831-1836: Highcliffe Castle was built by Lord Stuart de Rothesay, who had loved the area from childhood. To create an 18th century French style he used materials from French medieval buildings, including stone gargoyles and stained glass.
- The Castle has had many important visitors, including William Gladstone, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), Nancy Mitford, Dame Nellie Melba, and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany in 1907.
1916-1922: (Harry) Gordon Selfridge lived there. Born in Wisconsin, USA, during the First World War he wanted to move his family away from London in case of zeppelin raids from the Germans.
It cost £5000 per year to rent, furnished, a large sum in those days, equivalent to almost half a million pounds today. Rosalie, his wife, established a convalescent camp on Highcliffe Recreation Ground, and his daughters Violette, Rosalie and Beatrice were Red Cross volunteers and worked at Christchurch Hospital. LINK His wife died after the war, in the severe influenza outbreak, which killed more than had perished in the war. Gordon Selfrdige continued with the life of a country gentleman, Mr and Mrs Selfridge and his mother are buried near, at St Mark’s Church, Highcliffe.
- 1950s: It became a children’s convalescent home, and from 1953-1967 it was owned by three senior Roman Catholic priests. There was a serious fire in 1968, and then vandalism and weathering continued the destruction.
- 1977: Christchurch Council compulsorily purchased the castle to halt the deterioration. For years there was little sign of improvement because of lack of funds.
- 1994: A grant from the newly-formed National Lottery meant that the roof and masonry could be repaired, as well as the south wing. It could then be used for education and events, as well as recreation.
- 2016: Another Lottery grant has enabled the Penleaze Wing, which had been closed for many years, to be restored. It will be re-opened soon.
There is a car park on site with 102 spaces. Note that in summer it gets full quickly. Here is a list of the current opening times and charges, taken from DorsetForYou.