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Castles of England: IV

Updated on May 9, 2012

The bones of two children under a staircase in one castle, the bones of a child buried in the wall of another caste, and a castle that saw frequent visits from Charles Dickens. These stories and more can be found here.

This journey began with the Castles of England, the Castles of England: II, the Castles of England: III, and ends with Castles of England: V.

The castles covered on this page are: Windsor Castle, Chillingham Castle, Featherstone Castle, Tower of London, Thornbury Castle, and Rockingham Castle.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world, is in the English county of Berkshire. Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Holyrood Palace in Scotland, are the principal official residences of the monarchy. While Queen Elizabeth II spends a lot of time here, her two other residences, Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle, are the Royal Family's private homes.

King Edward III was born at Windsor Castle and has the distinction of being called "Edward of Windsor". King Edward III was responsible for rebuilding much of Windsor Castle. He increased the fortifications as well as demolished and rebuilt certain aspects of the castle. There were plans to build a new church, but the Black Death hit England, and there were not many skilled men left to carry out the plans. King Edward III was also responsible for establishing the Order of the Garter, and the ceremony still takes place in St George's Chapel every year.

The beautiful Gothic St. George's Chapel was built by King Edward IV, although it is more a cathedral than a mere chapel.

After the War of the Roses, Windsor Castle became more of a royal palace, and improvements were more ornate and comfortable than just fortifying a castle against a siege.

Like many castles through British history, Windsor Castle changed hands many times through conquest. King Charles was imprisoned here before his execution, but his body was smuggled during a snowstorm to St. George's Chapel and he was buried there in a coffin next to the coffins of Henry VIII and his wife Jane Seymour.

Windsor Castle once again underwent restoration at the hands of King Charles II. Not only was Windsor Castle restored, but refurbished with grand furniture, beautiful carvings, and expensive artwork. The avenue known as The Long Walk was also laid out by King Charles II.

Eventually, Windsor Castle fell once again into disrepair, and in between 1820-1830, was to undergo the largest transformation in its history. Granted £300,000 for the restoration, King George IV set to work.

Later, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made Windsor Castle their principal royal residence, and Prince Albert actually died in the castle.

Queen Mary, wife of King George V, was responsible for modernizing Windsor Castle and adding to the artwork and furniture collections. She kept the state bedroom in it's present condition for posterity. It has not been used as a bedroom since 1909.

Windsor Castle once again became a fortress and refuge during World War I.

On 20 November 1992, a fire began in the Queen's private chapel and destroyed 9 of the principal staterooms and over 100 more rooms. The 15 hour fire damaged an area of 9,000 square metres. In 1997, the restoration was completed, mostly funded by opening the state rooms of Buckingham Palace. The total cost of repairing the damage was £37 million and was undertaken at no additional cost to the British taxpayer. The restoration of Windsor Castle was so true to the original that it is difficult to distinguish between the old and the new.

For visitor's information, go to Windsor Castle.

Chillingham Castle

Chillingham Castle
Chillingham Castle

Chillingham Castle is located in Northumberland, close to the border between England and Scotland. It belonged to the Grey family and was passed down through the ages to their descendants, the Earls of Tankerville. Originally a monastery, King Edward I stayed here on his way to battle the Scottish led by William Wallace. Located on the border, Chillingham castle was used as a staging post for the English, and was frequently attacked by the Scottish. Because of this, some of the fortifications were as much as 12 feet thick.

During the reign of James I, Chillingham Castle became more of a residential palace, with a banquet hall, and library.

During World War II, Chillingham Castle was used as army barracks, with the castle falling in great disrepair after the war.

Humphry Wakefield and his wife Catherine, a distant relative of the Greys of Chillingham, bought the castle in the 1980s and began restoring Chillingham to it's former glory.

Chillingham Castle has a rather dark side. It houses a torture chamber complete with torture devices. In the 1920s during restoration work, the bones of a child in scraps of blue cloth were found in a wall. The skeleton child was then given a proper burial in a nearby church yard. Before this, people reported seeing the ghost of a blue boy outlined by a bright light in and around "the Pink Room" of the private apartments.

Another ghost is said to be that of Lady Mary Berkeley, who's husband ran away with her sister. It is said she haunts the halls of Chillingham

Castle still looking for her husband.

A footman once claimed he was locked in a pantry by a lady in white, and ghostly voices are also heard in the library. Because of the many unexplained events, Chillingham Castle has been called by many the most haunted castle in Britain. Are you brave enough to stay at Chillingham Castle?

Large photo of Chillingham Castle courtesy of Nigel Judson

Featherstone Castle

Featherstone Castle
Featherstone Castle

Featherstone Castle, almost right in the center of Britain, is located on the bank of the River South Tyne near the town of Haltwhistle in Northumberland.

Belonging to the Featherstonehaugh family in the 11th century, Featherstone was an important castle during the war between the English and the Scots.

In the 17th century, Featherstone Castle became the property of Sir William Howard, who remodeled and added to Featherstone Castle. In 1711, Matthew Featherstonehaugh bought Featherstone Castle, which remained in the family until it was sold to James Wallace around 1789.

Featherstone Castle was sold once again in 1950 and in 1961, it became a student residential conference and activity center.

There are some reports of an odd annual haunting at Featherstone Castle. The story is that young Abigail Featherstonehaugh, who lived here in the 17th century fell in love with a local boy, but was promised in marriage to a neighboring Baron. After the wedding, the wedding party went out for a hunt as was the custom. As they were riding through the estate, the entire wedding party was ambushed and killed. It is said that every year on the 17th of January, the wedding party lead by Abigail and the Baron return to the castle, as if to enjoy the wedding banquet that they missed out on.

Tower of London

Tower of London
Tower of London

Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, known as the Tower of London or "The Tower" is located in London on the northern bank of the River Thames. The White Tower is the original fortress built by William the Conqueror in 1078. The Tower was used not only as a fortress, but a royal palace and a prison. The Tower of London is also the home of the Crown Jewels.

Although there are many named towers in the Towers of London, one of the most famous is the Garden Tower, nicknamed the Bloody Tower. It was here that 13 year old Edward V of England and his brother, 10 year old Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, were imprisoned (the Princes in the the Tower). These two sons of Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville were declared illegitimate by an Act of Parliament of 1483. They were placed in the tower by their uncle, Richard III of England, and the boys were not seen afterwards. They were almost surely murdered, and in 1674, the skeletons of two children were found under a staircase leading to the chapel. Their bones were reburied in Westminster Abbey at the orders of Charles II. Sir Walter Raleigh was also imprisoned in this tower for 13 years.

King Richard the Lionhearted enclosed the White Tower with a curtain wall and moat in the 12th century, and in the 13th century King Henry III greatly improved the moat and strengthened the wall. King Edward I built an outer curtain wall creating a double defense, filling in the previous moat and digging out a new one around the outer wall.

The Tower of London is also famous for the ravens that inhabit the Tower and are cared for by the Ravenmaster. Legend says that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, Britain will fall.

The Tower of London was the site of much misery. Numerous members of royalty were imprisoned here, many unfortunate souls were tortured, and many executions took place. It is no wonder that the Tower of London has many reports of hauntings and some consider it the most haunted building in England.

The large photo of the Tower of London above courtesy of stranger0429.

Thornbury Castle

Thornbury Castle
Thornbury Castle

Thornbury Castle is located near St. Mary's Church in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, England. It was built in 1511 as the home of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. There are accounts of a manor existing here as far back as the mid 900's. Thornbury Castle was designed as a fortress but has few defenses. Thornbury is actually more a Tudor country house than castle.

The Duke had great plans for Thornbury Castle, but was beheaded by King Henry III for alleged treason in 1521, the King then confiscated the castle. There are serious doubts concerning the treasonous words of the Duke of Buckingham, and historians believe he may have spoken indiscreetly, but had no intention to seize the throne. The seeds of discord was sowed by Kynvett, a steward that was dismissed by the Duke, who happily planted them into the head of Cardinal Wolsey as revenge for losing his position at the Tonbridge Estate. Thornbury Castle was still in the hands of the King in 1535, and he stayed there for over a week with his wife, Anne Boleyn.

In 1554, Mary Tudor returned the castle to the descendants of the Duke, but it stood unoccupied for two centuries, and fell into a state of disrepair. In 1824, the Howard family renovated Thornbury Castle, and today, it is a von Essen estate luxury hotel and restaurant.

Rockingham Castle

Rockingham Castle
Rockingham Castle

While Rockingham Castle has a Market Harborough, Leicestershire address, it is actually located in the county of Northamptonshire, near the village of Rockingham and north of Corby.

Rockingham Castle sits atop a hill overlooking five counties. It began as a Saxon fort, and because of it's strategic position, became a Norman castle at the hands of William the Conqueror. Rockingham Castle became a retreat for travelling Norman kings because the surrounding forest was an excellent source of wild boar and deer.

Not only was Rockingham Castle host to The Great Council of Rockingham in 1095, Rockingham Castle has also been host to several Kings during it's history. Richard the Lionhearted played host to the King of Scotland. King John, a frequent visitor, left a treasure chest in the Great Hall, spawning the legend that his crown jewels are buried somewhere at Rockingham Castle.

By the time King Henry VIII came into power, Rockingham Castle deteriorated to nothing more than a hunting lodge for the noblemen. King Henry VIII granted ownership of Rockingham Castle to Edward Watson, who made many improvements and turned the "hunting lodge" into a Tudor estate. Rockingham Castle is still home to the Watson Family.

Rockingham Castle was involved in a few skirmishes during the English Civil War, including being temporarily taken by Cromwell's forces. The dungeons, church, and almshouse of Rockingham Castle were destroyed during the skirmishes. After the war, Rockingham Castle was brought back to it's former glory.

Charles Dickens was a family friend of Richard & Levinia Watson, and visited Rockingham Castle frequently. In one of his greatest works, Bleak House, Rockingham Castle was the inspiration of Chesney Wold, the estate of two of his characters: Sir Leicester Dedlock and Lady Honoria Dedlock. Charles Dickens also acted in some of his own plays that were performed in The Long Gallery of Rockingham Castle.

For more information on Rockingham Castle, visit the official website.

Rockingham Castle photo courtesy of Kev747

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The Royal Palaces of London
The Royal Palaces of London

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    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 5 years ago from UK

      Some of England's finest and most famous castles here... plus some I hadn't heard of and would now love to visit. I've been to the Tower and to Windsor, naturally. But I forget sometimes just how many wonderful castles we have dotted around the UK. We are lucky indeed to have this heritage on our doorstep.

    • profile image

      Lindrus 5 years ago

      I haven't - accept through your lenses, and that I enjoyed!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      There is so very much history in castles that it is hard not to find them fascinating. Beautifully romantic and coldly chilling all at the same time. Wonderful article on the castles of England.

    • PizmoBeach LM profile image

      PizmoBeach LM 7 years ago

      I am really enjoying reading the series of lenses on English castles. I especially like the Tower of London on the ones included in this lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I'm American, but my family (through my maternal grandmother) is descended from the Greys. When I visited the Chapel of St. John in the Tower of London in 1983, as a young woman, I had a sense of oppression, almost desperation. I loved the space, and found it peaceful to the eye, but the sense of pent-up urgency was rather overpowering. I was told by the guide that Lady Jane Grey had spent a great deal of her time here, pacing and reading the Bible, prior to her execution.

      Strangely, I can find no other account online of this emotional effect, except for the story of the yeoman warder (Arthur Crick) who during his rounds of the White Tower sat down on a ledge in the chapel of St. John to ease his right shoe. He had the shoe off and was massaging his foot, when a voice behind him whispered, âThereâs only you and I hereâ. Arthur's immediate response was, âJust let me get this bloody shoe on and thereâll be only you!" No word as to whether the whisper was male or female...

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I am glad that one of my photos was selected to introduce beauty of England.

      I also made a clip about some famous attractions of UK. Check it out at my Youtube:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w99SWbGoBSI&amp...

      More photos about UK, you are welcome to visit my Flickr

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/stranger0429/collecti...

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Just incredible! I like Featherstone Castle -- looks quite inviting.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens! 5* love the pictures.

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I have been to Windsor Castle a couple of times, great visit. Ok, I'm waiting for part 5, Corfe Castle, Bamburgh Castle... Love this series of lenses.

    • dlcummings profile image

      dlcummings 9 years ago

      Wow and to think that we almost moved to England

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 9 years ago

      I have visited all of these castles except Chillingham. I am British but have lived in the US for many years now. I miss being able to visit places like this.......