At the point where the River Arun cuts through the South Downs, lies the quiet town of Arundel. With the skyline dominated by its castle and 'Gothic' cathedral, from a distance Arundel has more the air of a feuding settlement than the picturesque market town that it really is.
High Street, which is said to be the steepest in England, rises up the southern slopes of the Downs. At the bottom of the hill is the river, at the top the castle, and in between are numerous picturesque shops and inns. An important settlement in pre-Norman times, the buildings are a fascinating mixture of old and new, with plenty of attractive facades and fine Georgian houses. The unpretentious narrow streets are lined with antique shops and places to dine, with many of the buildings concealing
Tudor timber-framing and medieval foundations.
The River Arun is tidal from Pulborough in the north all the way south to the sea at Littlehampton, and the stretch around Arundel has been owned by the Dukes of Norfolk and their predecessors from before the Magna Carta. The docks and warehouses on the riverbanks have gone, but Arundel was once a busy port exporting 60,000 tons of grain a year during the Napoleonic Wars.
In its heyday, ships were built here and in the sixteenth century, Henry Fitzalan widened and cleared the river to improve the town's prospects as a commercial port. Even as recently as the 1930's, tall ships would come up river full of coal, salt and timber; and there was once a thriving oyster fishery based upon shellfish beds in the Channel.