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KENILWORTH CASTLE, CV8 1NE

GETTING THERE

Postcode: Castle Road, CV8 1NE

Lat/Long:  52.3478N 1.5927W

Notes:  The castle is a major tourist attraction that is well sign-posted and has dedicated (pay) car parking directly adjacent.    

WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?

One of English Heritage’s ‘highlight’ properties, there are significant ruins of both medieval and Tudor periods along with various exhibitions.

VISIT OFFICIAL SITE (Opens in new window)

Owned by English Heritage.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

1. Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, led a baronial rebellion against Henry III in 1264 which included calling England's first Parliament the following year hence his legacy as the 'founder of democracy'. It was not to last; Montfort was routed by the future Edward I at the Battle of Evesham (1265). Edward's forces included a dedicated team designed to locate and kill the Earl; after the battle his body was dismembered.


2. Kenilworth is the largest ruined castle in Britain.






England > Midlands KENILWORTH CASTLE

Originally built to mitigate against the power of the Earls of Warwick, Kenilworth Castle saw more than its fair share of rebellions. It was garrisoned against the King during the Simon de Montfort rebellion whilst Edward II was imprisoned within its walls and forced to abdicate.

HISTORY OF KENILWORTH CASTLE


By the early twelfth century Roger de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick had become a formidable regional power in the Midlands with his authority centred on nearby Warwick Castle. Henry I sought to weaken this power and installed a new magnate - Geoffrey de Clinton, Lord Chamberlain - as Sheriff of Warwickshire. It is he who built Kenilworth Castle; construction started no later than 1129 initially of timber but soon after (possibly even concurrently) in stone. Its strategic position was such that in 1173, whilst faced with a revolt led by one of his sons, Henry II garrisoned Kenilworth at his own expense and in 1180 the castle was brought into Royal ownership. Strengthening of the defences and improvements to living quarters were subsequently made, at great expense, during the reign of King John.


John's son, King Henry III, granted Kenilworth to his sister whose husband - Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester - became its Governor in 1244. Montfort rebelled against Henry and at the Battle of Lewes (1264) captured both the King and his son, the future Edward I. The latter escaped, raised an army and engaged Montfort’s godson Simon near Kenilworth defeating them and capturing enemy banners which were used to approach and destroy the forces of the Earl at the Battle of Evesham (1265). The late Earls supporters gathered at Kenilworth which was placed under siege and, despite holding out for six months under the command of Montfort's son, ultimately fell. Henry then granted the castle and Montfort estates to his second son Edmund, Earl of Lancaster.


By 1322 the castle was in the hands of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster who rebelled against Edward II; the uprising failed and the castle was once again taken into Royal ownership. Thomas was executed near Pontefract Castle but Edward’s regime had other powerful enemies; in 1326 Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, imprisoned Edward II at Kenilworth and forced him to abdicate his throne in favour of his son, Edward III, who was at the time under the effective control of the Earl.


By the mid-1350s the castle underwent significant enhancements to convert it from a fortress into a palace. John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, built the Great Hall around this time and in the early fifteenth century, Henry V built a wooden retreat in the grounds; the Pleasance in the Marsh. This conversion continued in the subsequent century when the castle was granted by Elizabeth I to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.


During the Civil War Kenilworth was initially garrisoned for the King. In 1642 it was used as a base for attacks on Parliamentary strongholds in the Midlands and provided logistics support to the Royalist forces amassing for the Battle of Edgehill. The battle was inconclusive however and the Royalists withdrew their garrison with the vacuum quickly being filled by Parliament who held it until the end of the war. This did not save it from the post-war slighting imposed on so many other English castles; in 1649 the Great Tower and sections of the battlements were ordered to be partially dismantled. Following the war the Gatehouse was converted into a comfortable lodging but the castle never regained its former status.

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