The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:

Open location in Google Maps: 51.248434, 0.630139


This text was copied from Wikipedia on 30 June 2022 at 6:00AM.

Leeds Castle
Leeds castle.JPG
Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle is located in Kent
Leeds Castle
Kent, UK
General information
Architectural styleCastle
Town or cityLeeds
Coordinates51°14′55″N 0°37′48″E / 51.24856°N 0.63008°E / 51.24856; 0.63008Coordinates: 51°14′55″N 0°37′48″E / 51.24856°N 0.63008°E / 51.24856; 0.63008
Construction started857[1]
OwnerLeeds Castle Foundation
GroundsBuilt on islands in a lake formed by the River Len

Leeds Castle is a castle in Kent, England, 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Maidstone. It is built on islands in a lake formed by the River Len to the east of the village of Leeds.

A castle has existed on the site since 857.[3] In the 13th century, it came into the hands of King Edward I, for whom it became a favourite residence; in the 16th century, Henry VIII used it as a dwelling for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

The present castle dates mostly from the 19th century. It has been open to the public since 1976.


Medieval and Tudor

An aerial panorama of Leeds Castle

From 857, the site was owned by a Saxon chief called Led or Leed who built a wooden structure on two islands in the middle of the River Len.[4] In 1119, Robert de Crevecoeur rebuilt it in stone as a Norman stronghold and Leeds Castle descended through the de Crevecoeur family until the 1260s.[5] What form this Norman stronghold took is uncertain because it was rebuilt and transformed in the following centuries. Adrian Pettifer speculates that it may have been a motte and bailey.[6]

In 1278, the castle was bought by King Edward I's Queen, Eleanor of Castile. As a favoured residence of Edward's, it saw considerable investment. The king enhanced its defences, and it was probably Edward who created the lake that surrounds the castle. A barbican spanning three islands was also built and a gloriette with apartments for the king and queen was added.[7] In the Late Middle Ages, the growth of the royal household meant fewer residences could accommodate the monarchy when they visited. As a result, expenditure on royal residences in south east England generally decreased except for the Tower of London and Windsor Castle. The activity at Leeds Castle during the reign of Edward I was a notable exception to this pattern.[8]

The castle was captured on 31 October 1321 by the forces of Edward II from Margaret de Clare, Baroness Badlesmere, wife of the castle's constable, Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere, who had left her in charge during his absence. The King had besieged Leeds after she had refused Edward's consort Isabella of France admittance in her husband's absence; when the latter sought to force an entry, Lady Badlesmere instructed her archers to fire upon Isabella and her party, six of whom were killed.[9] Lady Badlesmere was kept prisoner in the Tower of London until November 1322.[10] After Edward II died in 1327 his widow took over Leeds Castle as her primary residence.[11]

Richard II's first wife, Anne of Bohemia, spent the winter of 1381 at the castle on her way to be married to the king. In 1395, Richard received the French chronicler Jean Froissart there, as described in Froissart's Chronicles.

Henry VIII transformed the castle in 1519 for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. A painting commemorating his meeting with Francis I of France still hangs there. The glazier Galyon Hone reworked and restored the chapel windows in 1536.[12]

In 1552 Leeds Castle was granted to Sir Anthony St Leger (d.1559)[13][5] of Ulcombe, Kent, whose grandfather Ralph I St Leger (d.1470), of Ulcombe, Sheriff of Kent in 1467/8, had been Constable of Leeds Castle.

17th and 18th centuries

Doublet worn by Fairfax at the Battle of Maidstone in 1648
Civil War cuirassier armour at Leeds circa 1640

The St Lever family continued to own the castle until Sir Warham St Lever sold it to Sir Richard Smythe in 1618.[13]

The castle escaped destruction during the English Civil War because its owner, Sir Cheney Culpeper, sided with the Parliamentarians.[14] The castle was used as both an arsenal and a prison during the war. Other members of the Culpeper family had sided with the Royalists, John Colepeper, 1st Baron Colepeper, having been granted more than 5,000,000 acres (20,000 km2) of land in Virginia in reward for assisting the escape of the king's son, Charles, the Prince of Wales.[15] This legacy was to prove vital for the castle's fortunes.

Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron was born at the castle in 1693 and settled in North America to oversee the Culpeper estates, cementing an ongoing connection between the castle and America. There is a commemorative sundial at the castle telling the time in Belvoir, Virginia and a corresponding sundial in America.[15] Fairfax was the great grandson of Thomas Fairfax who led the parliamentarian attack at the nearby Battle of Maidstone in 1648 and whose doublet worn during the battle is on display.

19th century

The new castle was completed in 1823 in the Tudor style.

Robert Fairfax owned the castle for 46 years until 1793 when it passed to the Wykeham Martins. Sale of the family estates in Virginia released a large sum of money that allowed extensive repair and the remodelling of the castle in a Tudor style, completed in 1823, that resulted in the appearance today.[15]

20th century

The Wykeham Martins were forced to sell the castle and estate in 1924, in order to meet death duties.[16] The last private owner was the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, daughter of Almeric Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough and his first wife, Pauline Payne Whitney, an American heiress. Lady Baillie bought the castle in 1926 for £180,000 (equivalent to £10,524,500 in 2019). She redecorated the interior, first working with the French architect and designer Armand-Albert Rateau, who oversaw exterior alterations and added interior features such as a 16th-century-style carved-oak staircase, then with the Paris decorator Stéphane Boudin. During the early part of World War II the castle was used as a hospital where Lady Baillie and her daughters hosted burned Commonwealth airmen as part of their recovery. Survivors remembered the experience with fondness. Upon her death in 1974, Lady Baillie left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation, a private charitable trust whose aim is to preserve the castle and grounds for the benefit of the public.[17] An estimated £1.4 million (equivalent to £14.7 million in 2021) was invested and a further £400,000 (£4.2 million in 2021) was retrieved from the sale of the furniture to make improvements to the Castle and attract paying corporate conferences. However, it was quickly understood that it could not support the ongoing costs of running the Estate, so in 1975 the gardens were opened to the public, and the following year the Castle was also made available to visitors.[18]

On 17 July 1978, the castle was the site of a meeting between Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in preparation for the Camp David Accords.[15] The castle also hosted the Northern Ireland peace talks held in September 2004 led by Tony Blair.

In October 2021, Leeds Castle Foundation was one of 142 recipients across England to receive part of a £35-million injection into the government's Culture Recovery Fund.[19]

A wide panoramic view of Leeds Castle from across the moat on the north west side
Leeds Castle and its moat from the rear


The maze at Leeds Castle was made with 2,400 yew trees and was opened in 1988.[20][21]

An aviary was added in 1980 and, by 2011, it contained over 100 species, but it was decided to close it in October 2012 as it was felt the foundation could make better use of the £200,000 a year it cost to keep the aviary running.[22] The castle and its grounds are a major leisure destination a golf course and what may be the world's only museum of dog collars. There are two castle-themed children's adventure play areas targeted at the under sevens and the under fourteens.[23] A maze opened in 1988, constructed of 2,400 yew trees with the general appearance of a topiary castle. The centre is on a raised viewpoint, which also contains an exit through a shell grotto.[24]

The castle is a Grade I listed building (first listed in 1952)[25] and recognised as an internationally important structure.[26] In 1998, Leeds Castle was one of 57 heritage sites in England to receive more than 200,000 visitors.[27] According to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, 539,971 people visited the castle in 2019.[28]

Film location

The castle was a location for the Ealing Comedy film Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) as a stand-in for 'Chalfont', the ancestral home of the aristocratic d'Ascoyne family. It also appeared in the films The Moonraker (1958) and Waltz of the Toreadors (1962). It was used for filming of Purge of Kingdoms (2019) starring Armando Gutierrez and Angus Macfayden.

On the small screen, the castle and grounds provided all the filming locations for a Doctor Who serial, The Androids of Tara, in 1978. Cliff Richard, performed a live concert at the location (released on DVD), with Leeds Castle as a backdrop, titled, Castles in the Air.[29]

Castle interior

See also


  1. ^ Illustrated London News, January 1975
  2. ^ Emery 2006, p. 304
  3. ^ Illustrated London News, January 1975
  4. ^ Illustrated London News, January 1975
  5. ^ a b Historic England, "Leeds Castle (418125)", Research records (formerly PastScape), retrieved 14 March 2012
  6. ^ Pettifer 1995, pp. 121–122
  7. ^ Emery 2006, p. 304
  8. ^ Emery 2006, p. 268
  9. ^ Costain 1958, pp. 193–195
  10. ^ McKisack 1959, p. 64 note 3
  11. ^ Emery 2006, p. 305
  12. ^ Hilary Wayment, 'Stained Glass in Henry VIII's palaces', David Starkey, Henry VIII: A European Court in England (London, 1991), p. 28.
  13. ^ a b McCann 2002, p. 14.
  14. ^ McCann 2002, p. 75.
  15. ^ a b c d McCann 2002
  16. ^ McCann 2002, p. 77.
  17. ^ "LEEDS CASTLE FOUNDATION, registered charity no. 268354". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  18. ^ "THE LEEDS CASTLE FOUNDATION". Leeds Castle Kent England.
  19. ^ "Heritage and Craft Workers Across England Given a Helping Hand"Historic England, 22 October 2021
  20. ^ The Maze, Grotto and Turf Maze, Leeds Castle, retrieved 14 March 2012
  21. ^ Fisher & Loxton 2007, p. 68
  22. ^ "Leeds Castle to shut its aviary to save £200,000". BBC News. 12 October 2011. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  23. ^ Louise (2 April 2015). "A day trip to Leeds Castle, Kent - Globalmouse travels". Globalmouse travels. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  24. ^ McCann 2002, p. 87.
  25. ^ Historic England, "Leeds Castle (1039919)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 14 March 2012
  26. ^ "Frequently asked questions", Images of England, English Heritage, archived from the original on 11 November 2007, retrieved 14 March 2012
  27. ^ "Castle fires up tourists". BBC News. 30 August 1999. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  28. ^ "ALVA - Association of Leading Visitor Attractions". Retrieved 23 October 2020.
  29. ^

Further reading

  • Martin, Charles Wykeham (1869), The History and Description of Leeds Castle, Kent, Nichols and Sons

External links

2 Annotations

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Leeds Castle near Maidstone, Kent, has a long and rich history you can explore at your leisure. For our purposes:

Edward VI’s Protectors granted Leeds Castle to Sir Anthony St. Leger in recognition of his work in Ireland for Henry VIII. Princess Elizabeth was imprisoned there for a while before her coronation.

Sir Anthony St. Leger’s grandson, Sir Warham, was ruined by Raleigh’s El Dorado expedition and was forced to sell Leeds Castle to Sir Richard Smythe who made many improvements before selling it to Sir Thomas Culpepper of Hollingbourne in 1632.

Sir Thomas of Hollingbourne lived there with his eldest son Sir Cheney, who backed Parliament against King Charles and Leeds Castle was used as a prison and arsenal for Kent.

Sir Cheney died bankrupt and his second cousin, Thomas, 2nd Lord Culpepper of Thoresway, used his wealthy wife, Margaret van Hesse's dowry to buy it.

Sir John, 1st baron Culpepper of Thoresway was master of rolls under King Charles, and accompanied the royal family into exile at the end of the First Civil War. His loyalty was rewarded on September 18, 1649, when King Charles granted him and six others ownership of the Northern Neck, 5,000,000 acres of land between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers in Virginia.

Although Parliament sold the Culpepper estates in 1651, the exiled Charles II offered to restore to the family what it had lost. Young Thomas lived with his father, Sir John, 1st baron Culpepper of Thoresway, in the Netherlands during most of the exile years, and on August 3, 1659, married Margaretta van Hesse, a wealthy Dutch heiress at The Hague.

In the Diary years Lady Margaretta van Hesse Culpepper lived at Leeds Castle while Sir Thomas, 2nd baron Culpepper of Thoresway lived openly on the Isle of Wight and in London with his mistress, Susanna Willis.

Sir John, 1st baron Culpepper of Thoresway, died a few months after the Restoration, but Charles II did not fulfill his promise to restore their estates, which Sir John valued at £12,000.

Sir Thomas, 2nd baron Culpepper of Thoresway enjoyed royal patronage. In July 1661 Charles II appointed him captain of the Isle of Wight, and in mid-1664 promoted him to governor of the Isle of Wight, a post he filled competently until 1668.

During the mid-1660s Thomas, 2nd Lord Culpepper of Thoresway leased part of Leeds Castle to John Evelyn to detain French and Dutch prisoners. Evelyn made renovations and refilled the moat to make it into a prison, but the prisoners succeed in setting fire to their buildings anyway.

I'm sure Lady Margaret enjoyed that a lot.

In 1680 Lord Thomas left Leeds Castle for America and, through his daughter, Catherine’s marriage to Thomas, 5th Lord Fairfax, the castle passed to the Fairfax family.

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