- Travel and Places
Castles of England: II
A castle that was the site of martyrdom, executions, and witch trials; a castle famous for its underground tunnels; and a castle that withstood the longest siege in British history; read about these stories and more on this page.
A continuation of The Castles of England, this site is a journey through the grounds of England to explore the astounding history of these beautiful castles and fortresses. The castles on this page are: Leeds Castle, Colchester Castle, Dover Castle, Goodrich Castle, Kenilworth Castle, Eastnor Castle, and Portland Castle.
Located four miles southeast of Maidstone and east of the village of Leeds, Kent, England, the grounds of Leeds Castle began in the 9th century as a manor house. The castle itself was built in 1119 by Robert de Creycoeur to replace the Saxon manor of Esledes. In 1278, Leeds was the royal palace of King Edward I and his Queen, at which time many improvements were made.
King Henry VIII made his own improvements for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and for a time, his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I, was imprisoned in Leeds Castle.
In 1926, an American heiress, Lady Baillie, bought Leeds Castle and redecorated it with the help of a famous French architect and a prominent Parisian decorator.
Leeds Castle is often host to medieval fairs and concerts. The castle grounds contain a yew maze, using 2400 trees, an aviary, a grotto, and a golf course. Leeds Castle is also home to a rather unusual museum of dog collars! For visitor's information, go to this wonderful Leeds Castle website.
Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord and Baron of Cameron, was born at Leeds Castle. He sailed to America and at the young age of 16, befriended George Washington. He died an old man in Frederick County, Virgina. In the town of Fairfax, Virginia, there is a sundial that tells the time at Leeds Castle, and there is a sundial at Leeds Castle which tells the time in Virginia.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Mary Harrsch and Richard Croft under a CC license.
Colchester Castle is located in Colchester, Essex, England, and was completed in 1110. It is the largest keep ever built by the Normans. Colchester was once the capital of Roman Britain and was attacked by Queen Boudica (Boadicea) in 60 AD. Colchester Castle was built directly on top of a famous building of Roman Britain, the Temple of Claudius.
In 1645, Colchester Castle was also used as a prison and interrogation site for suspected witches of infamous witchfinder Matthew Hopkins. Colchester Castle also saw pain, suffering, and death, with the executions of Royalists Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas. They were executed at the rear of the castle, and legend has it that nothing will grow at that spot. An obelisk marks where they met their end. Another execution was that of James Parnell, a Quaker, was martyred here in 1656.
Sometime around 1720, Colchester Castle became the property of Charles Gray, who restored the castle, built an Italian facade and tower, a park, a summer house in the shape of a Roman temple, a library and study, and gave the castle a red-tiled roof.
In 1892, the castle was given to the town of Colchester and is now a public museum with many interesting and interactive exhibits. The castle is also host to travelling exhibits and medieval fairs. For visitor's information, visit the Colchester Castle Museum website.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Wikiain and Ed Clayton under a CC license.
Located in Dover, Kent, England, Dover Castle is noted as being the "Key to England" because of it's superb defensive capabilities. Originally an Anglo-Saxon fort, it was strengthened by William the Conqueror in 1066 who built the wooden fortress. It was Henry II who, around 1180, built the strong towered walls, with Henry VIII making additional defensive improvements.
Dover Castle fared better than many castles during the English Civil War because of trickery by the Parliamentarians who took the castle without firing a shot.
Dover Castle is the location of the famous secret tunnels built deep into the cliffs in 1797 to initially protect against a potential attack from Napoleon. While Napoleon never attacked Dover Castle, the tunnels were useful for many other endeavours by the British, from combat, to smuggling, to being used as an air-raid shelter and underground hospital, to use as headquarters by Vice Admiral Ramsey, who directed the evacuations of the French and British soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940.
Dover Castle is also site of an ancient Roman Lighthouse which is now being used as the bell tower of the castle church of St Mary de Castro. For visitor's information check out the English Heritage website.
Photo of Dover Castle courtesy of Webzooloo Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of piair and atomicmaestro under a CC license.
Located to the north of the village of Goodrich, Herefordshire, England, Goodrich Castle is a Norman Medieval Castle once known as Godric's Castle, possibly named after Godric of Mappestone (sometimes Marplestone) and dates back to the late 11th or early 12th century. The castle was built out of pink sandstone and overlooks the River of Wye. The oldest part of the castle is the Keep, which dates to the 12th century.
Goodrich Castle was seized in 1144 by William Fitz-Osbern, the first Earl of Hereford and relative of William the Conqueror.
In 1247, Goodrich Castle became the property of William de Valence, the half brother of King Henry III. William de Valence made many improvements to the castle before it was passed on to the Talbot family.
Goodrich Castle is home to the famous "Roaring Meg" mortar which was actually responsible for the taking of the castle by Colonel John Birch acting on behalf of Sir Thomas Fairfax during the English Civil War. Supporting the Parliamentary, Colonel Birch used the giant mortar, nicknamed "Roaring Meg" to reduce the castle to ruins and effectively bring about the surrendering of the castle by the king's forces.
Goodrich Castle is said to be haunted by two lovers, Alice Birch, the niece of Colonel Birch, and Charles Clifford, a Royalist. According to legend, the couple had eloped and were hiding in Goodrich Castle when Colonel Birch attacked. The lovers escaped the castle on horseback during a stormy night, but they misjudged the ford and the horse fell into the river with its riders. The doomed couple drowned in the river, and have haunted the castle ever since.
For visitor's information go to English Heritage/ Goodrich Castle.
Large photo of Goodrich Castle above courtesy of Jelle Drok. Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Stuart Bryant and Pauline Eccles.
Located in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England, Kenilworth Castle was actually built in the Forest of Arden. A fort has existed here since Saxon times, but the castle itself is Norman.
Built for strength, Kenilworth Castle has walls 20 feet thick, and was taken by Henry II who improved the defenses of the castle. Henry III made further improvements by adding a large lake covering over 100 acres around three sides of the castle.
Kenilworth Castle carries the distinction of being the object of the longest siege in English history. In 1266, the siege began in earnest in May and lasted until December 13, 1266, when the leaders of the castle garrison could hold out no longer. Suffering from starvation and disease, there were few left to fight, and they accepted the Dictum of Kenilworth and received safe conduct from the King.
After the English Civil war, Sir Oliver Cromwell ordered Kenilworth Castle partially destroyed and the moat drained to deter it being used as a stronghold again.
In the mid 1500's Kenilworth Castle was passed to Robert Dudley after his father was executed for plotting to get his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne. Robert Dudley was responsible for renovating and expanding the castle. He is also well known for an expensive 19 day gala held in honor of the visiting Queen Elizabeth I.
Kenilworth Castle is now in the capable hands of English Heritage. For visitor's information check out their website: Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Damek, Dave from Leicester UK, and cyberslayer under a CC license.
Located near the village of Eastnor, Herefordshire, England, the construction of Eastnor Castle began in 1810 by the first Earl of Somers. This lavish castle was built purely as a status symbol. It took a workforce of 250 men six years to complete this huge castle home.
By the time the last Lord Somers inherited Eastnor Castle, the Earldome had become extinct. The land and castle art collection were sold and divided between the last Lord Somers and his cousin. Lord Somers was then appointed Governor of Victoria in 1926 and moved his family to Australia, leaving Eastnor Castle unoccupied.
Between 1945 and 1949, the widow of Lord Somers returned to the Eastnor Castle, but lived under difficult circumstances, since the family had been hit hard with taxes.
In 1949, Eastnor Castle became the home of Elizabeth Somers-Cocks and her husband Benjamin-Hervey Bathurst. This new family breathed life into the castle when they began to repair and restore their home, which had been neglected due to the hard financial times endured by the former Somers widow.
The grounds of Eastnor Castle is host to popular festivals and concerts, and a small but beautiful waterfall can be found at the end of the castle lake. Eastnor Castle is still undergoing repairs, but the future of this beautiful family home is bright. For visitor's information visit this beautiful Eastnor Castle site.
Large photo courtesy of Rileyroxx Smaller hyperlinked photos courtesy of Suzieq, Matt Buck, and Rileyroxx under a CC license.
Portland Castle was built low to the ground and in a circular shape with thick walls to help deflect any incoming ordnance. It has survived throughout the ages looking much like it did in the 16th century and is therefore one of the best preserved of Henry VIII's castles.
In the 19th century, Portland Castle was the home of Captain Charles Manning, who used tons of Portland stone and the labor of prisoners to build the great Portland breakwater, which turned the bay between Weymouth and the Isle of Portland into the largest man-made harbour in the world. Portland Castle was also used as a prison by Oliver Cromwell.
For visitor's information on Portland Castle, check out this English Heritage page.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of Leo Leibovici and Eugene Birchall under a CC license.
While I couldn't find a good video on Portland Castle, this video of Dorset, where the castle is located, is magnificent!
Which castle would you most like to visit?
A great DVD from A&E (Ryming unintentional, but cool non-the-less)
Like a good mystery along with your history? Check out this DVD from A&E.
If documentaries aren't your thing, grab a book, or statue, or a even a pair of pink bunny slippers (I actually own a pair of those).