| Highcliffe Castle is a Grade I listed building owned by Christchurch Borough Council. It was built between 1831 and 1835 by Lord Stuart de Rothesay. It has been described as "the most important remaining example of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture."The Castle was built on the site previously occupied by High Cliff, a Georgian mansion designed for the 3rd Earl of Bute (a founder of Kew Gardens), with grounds laid out by Capability Brown. The Earl's fourth son, General Sir Charles Stuart who sold the estate apart from Bure Homage, a small house on its outskirts, inherited High Cliff. All that remains of High Cliff today are the two entrance lodges, presently being used as a restaurant and some of the garden walls.
The son of Sir Charles Stuart, resolved that one day he would repurchase his grandfather's estate and build his own home there. A distinguished diplomat, his long and accomplished career resulted firstly in being given a knighthood, and culminated in his being raised to the peerage by George IV. In 1828 Sir Charles Stuart became Lord Stuart de Rothesay. Early retirement meant Lord Stuart could pursue his dream and by 1830 he had bought back much of the eastern end of the estate.
He employed architect William Donthorne, a founder member of RIBA, to design his new home, Highcliffe Castle. The design incorporated large quantities of carved medieval stonework which Lord Stuart had acquired from the Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Peter at Jumieges and from the Grande Maison des Andelys, both of which had become derelict following the French Revolution. The most famous pieces are an entire oriel window and also a complete window of stained glass, both from the sixteenth century. Examples of stained glass from France and other European countries, dating as far back as the twelfth century, were also introduced.
The Castle was built almost "L" shaped and positioned on a south-east axis with the oriel window placed centrally on the south-east elevation. This was to incorporate a vista through landscaped gardens across Christchurch Bay to the Needles and the Isle of Wight. The end result was a remarkable and unique building in the Romantic Picturesque style, which remained in the family until 1950 when much of the estate was sold separately from the castle. The land has since been developed almost up to the castle walls, with bungalows. Since then the future of the Castle has not been so assured. At the beginning of the 50s the Castle was a children's home, before being sold in 1953 to the Claretian Missionary fathers as firstly a noviciate, then for use as a seminary. However, rising costs and a restructuring of the scholasticate (body of students studying for priesthood) saw the Claretians moving in 1966 to be attached to Heythrop College. This led to the Castle being put up for sale once more.