Leeds Castle


Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in England and is often referred to as 'the loveliest castle in the World'. Leeds Castle has a chequered history which moves from its construction as an earthwork enclosure with wooden pallisades to a Motte and Bailey castle in the style of a Donjon by William the Conqueror to a fortified stone fortress built by King Edward I (r.1272-1307). William the Conqueror used enforced Anglo-Saxon labour for work on the construction of Leeds Castle. The original wooden castle was replaced by a fortified stone castle in 1119. An important feature of Leeds Castle is its access to the River Len. During the re-construction of Leeds Castle men by King Edward I equipment and building materials were transported by boats to the site of the castle.

Once Leeds Castle had been built built fresh supplies, provisions and reinforcements prevented the castle occupants from being starved into submission during siege warfare. The decline of the feudal system saw castles built as fortified strongholds were no longer owned by feudal lords (this was seen as a risk to the monarchy). At this point in history King Henry VIII converted the castle into a Royal palace.

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is situated on the River Len where it was built by built on two adjacent islands. The name Leeds originates from the name of a chief minister of King Ethelbert IV ( 856-860) called Ledian ( it is not associated with the city of Leeds! )

Leeds Castle

  • The known History of Leeds Castle
  • Information & Facts about Leeds Castle
  • When was this Medieval Castle built?
  • The Design, Layout and Architecture of the famous Leeds Castle
  • From Castle to a Royal Palace!

Interesting facts and Information about Leeds Castle

  • The location of Leeds Castle - Maidstone, Kent, England
  • Leeds Castle is located on 500 acres
  • Leeds Castle now occupies three islands formed by an artificial lake

The Earls and owners of Leeds Castle passed through several great dynasties. The medieval castle was held by members of several families - the St Legers, the Culpepers and the Fairfaxes and the Wykeham Martins. It was purchased in 1926 by the Hon Mrs Wilson Filmer, Lady Baillie, who was an Anglo-American heiress. After her death, the castle was handed over to the Leeds Castle Foundation.

Description of the Edwardian Leeds castle
Leeds Castle consists of two huge piles of buildings which with a strong gate- house and barbican form four distinct forts, capable of separate defence should any one or other fall into the hands of an enemy. Three causeways, each with its drawbridge, gate, and portcullis, lead to the smallest island or inner barbican, a fortified mill contributing to the defences. A stone bridge connects this island with the main island. There stands the Constable’s Tower, and a stone wall surrounds the island and within is the modern mansion. The Maiden’s Tower and the Water Tower defend the island on the south. A two- storeyed building on arches now connects the main island with the Tower of the Gloriette, which has a curious old bell with the Virgin and Child, St. George and the Dragon, and the Crucifixion depicted on it, and an ancient clock.

The Gloriette at Leeds castle (the Ladys Castle) and the Queens of England

  • The residential Gloriette was built by King Edward I in 1278. Queen Eleanor was the wife of Edward I
  • Eleanor of Castile (1241 - 28 November 1290) was the first queen consort of Edward I of England
  • The Gloriette was named in honour of Queen Eleanor and included a Great Hall
  • The Gloriette was a residential D shaped tower built on the smallest of the two islands in the lake
    • A Gloriette was a Medieval summerhouse, often in the woods near a castle often used by the ladies to take a meal while watching a hunt
  • It became customary for the castle to become part of a queen’s dowry which was retained during widowhood
  • The Medieval Queens of England thus associated with the castle and who were residents were:
    • Queen Isabella
    • Anne of Bohemia
    • Joan of Navarre
    • Catherine de Valois
  • King Henry VIII transformed the castle into a Royal palace in honour of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon
  • Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned in Leeds for a short time before her coronation

The History of Leeds castle
The castle withstood a siege in the time of Edward II because Queen Isabella was refused admission. The King hung the Governor, Thomas de Colepepper, by the chain of the drawbridge. Henry IV retired here on account of the Plague in London, and his second wife, Joan of Navarre, was imprisoned here. It was a favourite residence of the Court in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Here the wife of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, was tried for witchcraft. Dutch prisoners were confined here in 1666 and contrived to set fire to some of the buildings.

Interesting facts and Information about the three islands of Leeds Castle

  • Leeds Castle occupies three islands surrounded by an artificial lake
  • The outermost island is referred to as the Barbican is nearest to the shore of the lake and is accessed by three different causeways
    • Each of the causeways were defended by a gatehouse complete with a portcullis and drawbridge
  • The central island is the largest and is connected to the Barbican by a small bridge
    • It is defended by a gatehouse
    • It had 15 foot high walls
  • The smallest island is called the Gloriette
    • It was built by King Edward I c1280
    • It now contains the oldest section of the castle
    • It consists of a two storey structure
    • Has a bridge which connects the other two islands

The Purpose of the Leeds Castle
The purpose of the Leeds Castle were as follows:

  • To act as a fortified post
  • To provide a base where men, provisions and horses could be housed
  • To overawe and frighten the indigenous population
  • To provide a site from which the Normans could govern the surrounding district
  • To act as a royal power base
  • King Henry VIII converted Leeds Castle into a Royal Palace but retained the defences due to the possible risk of invasion from Spain or France
  • Keep was used as a prison in the 17th century to hold French and Dutch prisoners

Leeds Castle was first built as a Donjon fortress, successive lines of fortification were added over hundreds of years and several different reigns. The castle was converted from a fortress stronghold to a Royal palace by King Henry VIII.

The Main Events in the History of Leeds Castle
The History of the site of Leeds Castle dates back to the Saxons. Famous historical figures and events feature in the history of Leeds Castle including William the Conqueror, the Wars of the Roses, the Civil War and the Age of Chivalry with Knights and tournaments. The History of Leeds Castle events also features a siege when the castle was bombarded with missiles from the massive siege engine - the Mangonel.

Leeds Castle

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