Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

The Important History Bit:

Kenilworth Castle was built on land granted by Henry I to royal chamberlain Geoffrey de Clinton in around 1120, in order to keep the Earl of Warwick in check. Clinton then sold off a great swathe of his lands but kept the southern part to create the wonderful castle and park. Henry II then pinched it, King John enlarged it, after which Henry III gave it to his sister who happened to be married to Simon de Montfort.  Bad idea. De Montfort promptly challenged Henry, unsuccessfully as it turned out, and the castle was given to Henry’s son.

The castle walls

The castle walls

There then followed a lot of royal shenanigins culminating in Elizabeth I giving the castle as a gift to her childhood friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1563.  Rumours abound about the relationship between Elizabeth and Dudley, but it is safe to say that during her early reign, he was as close to a royal consort as it was possible to be.

Dudley went all out to impress his queen.  He carried out a major refurbishment of the castle, created landscaped parkland, and, most importantly for us, created the wonderful garden that has so recently been restored.

 

The reconstructed gardens

The reconstructed gardens

The Garden:  For more than 400 years, the magnificent garden was lost to the world until a letter was discovered, written in 1575 by a servant, Robert Langham, which described in astonishing detail, the layout and minutiae of the garden.  Magnificent carved arbours; a bejewelled aviary; planting abundant in colour, perfume and fruits and an 18-foot-high fountain carved from dazzling Carrara marble are just some of the glories that make Kenilworth Castle’s latest addition the most complete picture of an Elizabethan garden anywhere in the world.

The re-creation of the garden in 2009 marked the end of a £3 million investment project by English Heritage including the refurbishment of Leicester’s gatehouse and stables.

Marble fountainA visit to Kenilworth is a terrific day out because there is genuinely something for everyone.  The gardens are breathtaking and an inspiration for even the most humble gardener.  The castle itself is crying out to be explored and clambered over, with staircases leading to the top of the towers for gorgeous views over the Warwickshire countryside.  There are plenty of places to picnic, but happily there is an excellent tea room serving teas and lunches and a large gift shop supplying everything from heritage gift items to battle armour for your budding warriors.  I have been four times and I plan to go again. Soon.

Opening times:  1st April to 30th September 10.00 – 18.00

Location:  Castle Green, Off Castle Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire – CV8 1NE

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle

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One Response to Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

  1. Stephen Barker August 9, 2014 at 01:57 #

    A pity English Heritage cannot recreate the Mere that surrounded the Castle. Just think how splendid the castle would look reflecting in the waters. Also think of the marketing opportunities you could be rowed to the site of The Pleasance or EH you restage the water borne attack when the castle was being besieged, that would get the punters in.

    On a more serious note Robert Dudley’s garden was created to mark a visit to the castle by Elizabeth 1 which lasted about 10 days. To recreate the garden for visitors expecting it to look good all summer has its problems. In using varieties of plants available in the 16th Century or as close as possible, one has to accept they have a much shorter flowering season than modern varieties. The garden looks its best in late spring early summer. The garden has had to be replanted as many of the original plantings had grown to much and were distorting the balance of the original plan. When the garden was first created it is likely that many of the plants were in pots that could be buried in the ground to create an instant garden and could be easily replaced to keep the garden looking at its best. Similar to creating a show garden for Chelsea.

    Having visited the site whilst it was being excavated prior to its recreation, the depth of archaeological material was only a few inches deep. It was the discovery of marble fragments of the fountain that confirmed the authenticity of the letter and allowed for the layout of the garden to be plotted based on the letter.

    Have a good holiday.

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