Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire



Located within the Honour of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, the castle is a Grade I Listed Building and a Scheduled Monument.

If only they could speak……..this pile of ancient stones have many a tale to tell of battles, sieges, squabbling, royal scandal and partial destruction – it’s all here!

Conceived in the 1120’s under the direction of Geoffrey de Clinton, Lord Chamberlain to Henry I, little would he have known of the contribution to the history of England his home would have.

Royalty would fight here, one hand over their crown after being held here, and one was entertained by her supposed lover. What scandal!!

Sitting quietly and serenely in the still English countryside it is hard to believe the siege that took 172 days to end, making it the longest in British Medieval history, took place here; or the great tournament involving over 100 knights competing in their Round Tables; the partial destruction at the hands of a cut-throat Parliament; and the hundreds of thousands who now flock every year to glimpse a bit of the dramatic history of these old stones…..

Read on and enjoy – you will not be disappointed!

1120’s –                Built by Geoffrey de Clinton, Lord Chamberlain to Henry I. It included a sandstone keep. The walls were 5 meters thick and the towers at the corners stood 30 meters high.

1133 –                 Geoffrey de Clinton died, and his son Geoffrey inherited the lands.

1173-1174 –       The castle was garrisoned by Henry II.

1180’s –               Owned and held by Henry II.

1184-1189 –        Major defense works carried out under the orders of Henry II.

1189-1191 –        Hugh de Nonant was constable of the Castle.

1208 –                    King John was excommunicated and he strengthened his castles, including Kenilworth.

1210-1216 –           £1,115 was spent on the castle – King John added the outer defences which included buttresses and towers. Barbican, The Swan Tower, Lunn’s Tower added and the water defences improved.

1253 –                  Henry II granted the castle to Eleanor, wife of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester.

1265 –                    Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester fell at the Battle of Evesham and the site passed to his son, Simon.

1266 –                   Sieged by Henry III for 172 days during the 2nd Baron’s War. The Dictum of Kenilworth was signed which gave the castle garrison surrender terms.

1267 –                     Henry II granted the site to Prince Edward, later Edward I

1279 –                   A large tournament was held at the castle which included Sir Roger de Mortimer, 100 knights and their Round Table events.

1298 –                   Edward I granted the castle to his son, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. It became the main centre for his estates.

13th-16th C –         Mortimer’s Tower, a gatehouse in the outer bailey, was extended.

1303 –                    Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster enclosed the Hunting Park.

1314-1317 –          The Great Hall was built, and the Water Tower in the outer defences.

1314-1322 –          Chapel of St. Mary built at the site. Foundations remain near the Stables built later.

1322 –                      Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster was executed for treason. The castle passed back to the Crown. Edward II was held prisoner at the castle.

1323 –                     Edward II spent Christmas at the castle.

1326 –                     Edward II was held prisoner at the castle.

1326-1330 –            Was the main holding and base of Isabella of France, wife of Edward II.

1327 –                      21st January Edward II abdicated in favour of his son Edward III.

1345 –                     Inherited by Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster – he remodeled the Great Hall.

1359 –                     Held by John of Gaunt and his first wife, Blanche.

1371 –                    John of Gaunt remained at the castle and spent a lot of money improving the buildings turning the site into a palace. He added the Great Hall and increased the size of the kitchens to double the size they had been.

1372-80 –               Buildings were added to the Inner Bailey.

1376 –                    The roof of the Great Hall was rebuilt by William Wintingham.

1399 –                    The castle was back in the hands of the Crown.

14th C –                  Water Tower dates to.

1414 –                    Henry V added a lavish Banqueting Hall.

1455-1487 –        Was a base for the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses.

1456-1461 –         Henry used Kenilworth as one of his many bases.

1485-1509 –        Henry VIII added a tennis court.

15th C –                The Gallery Tower, one of the gatehouses was remodeled.

1524 –                 The Chapel was destroyed.

1550’s –               Stables were added by Robert Dudley.

1563 –                  Elizabeth I granted it to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

1566 –                 Visited by Queen Elizabeth I.

1568 –                   Visited by Queen Elizabeth I.

1570’s –               Windows added to the Great Tower. Robert Dudley added buildings to the Inner Court.

1571-1573 –        Leicester’s Gatehouse was built. A 4 storey tower was added for Queen Elizabeth I to stay in.

1572 –                   Visited by Queen Elizabeth I.

1575 –                   Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, entertained Queen Elizabeth I at the castle.

1583 –                 An inventory was made of the castle’s contents.

1588 –                 Dudley refused to return to England under direct orders of James I. The castle was back in the hands of the Crown when Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester died without issue. The site was then granted to Ambrose, Earl of Warwick.

1590 –               Ambrose, Earl of Warwick died and it was inherited by his illegitimate son Sir Robert Dudley.

16th C –             Additions made to the Swan Tower.

1605 –               Robert Dudley went to Italy.

1611/12 –         The castle passed to Charles I.

1624 –               Visited by James I.

1625 –               Charles I granted the castle to his wife, Henrietta Maria.

1628 –               Granted to Robert Carey, Earl of Monmouth.

1642 –               Used as a base for Charles I prior to the Battle of Edgehill. Taken and garrisoned by Parliamentary forces.

1643 –              The Governor of the castle was Hastings Ingram – who was later arrested for being a secret Royalist supporter.

1645 –              The castle was back in the hands of Parliament.

1649/50 –         Fortifications slighted by order of Parliament following the end of the English Civil War. This included part of the keep and some of the walled defences.

1651 –               After: Purchased by Colonel Joseph Hawkesworth. He divided the estate up between the soldiers who had fought with him. He kept the castle though and lived in Leicester’s Gatehouse.

1656 –               Dugdale stated that part of the Great Tower and battlements had been destroyed.

1660 –               Charles II evicted Colonel Joseph Hawkesworth.

1660’s –            Described as being in ruins. Was used as a farm.

1665 –               Charles II granted it to Laurence Hyde, 2nd Earl of Clarendon.

1685 –               Granted to Sir Edward Hyde, and still used as a farm.

17th C –             The King’s Gate was added.

1770’s –             Many people started to visit the site.

1777 –                The first guidebook for the site was produced owing to so many people visiting and wanting to know about it.

18th C –              In ruins.

1819 –                 Granted to the young Prince, and later George IV.

1821 –                  Sir Walter Scott wrote his novel Kenilworth about the site.

1860’s –               Ivy was removed from the ruins.

19th C –               In ruins.

1931 –                 Up until: Owned by the Clarendon family.

1931 –                 Purchased by Sir John Siddeley.

1939 –                   Sir John Siddeley handed over the maintenance of the site to the Ministry of Works.

1951 –                 Field Investigation.

1958 –                  Sir John Siddeley’s son granted the castle to the town of Kenilworth.

1960 –                  The main Visitor Centre opened to the public.

1961 –                    Field Investigation.

1968 –                    Field Investigation.

1984 –                  English heritage started to maintain the site.

1996 –                  Scheduled.

2004 –                   Excavated and Evaluated. Geophys Survey.

2006 –                   Repairs were undertaken to the gatehouse.

2005 –                   Garden Investigated.

2007 –                    Tree ring analysis undertaken from beams in the Leicester’s Gatehouse.

2009 –                    The Elizabethan Garden was recreated.

2012 –                    Surveyed.

2014 –                   Viewing platforms were added

What a fascinating history………..

Plan of Kenilworth Castle



Recommended Reading



References & Bibliography

Allen Brown. R. 1955. Royal Castle Building in England, 1154–1216, English Historical Review, pp. 353-398.

Beck. J. 1873. Guide to Kenilworth Castle. J. Beck.

Cathcart King. D. J. 1988. The Castle in England and Wales: An Interpretative History. Croom Helm.

Colvin, H. (1968). Castles and Government in Tudor England. The English Historical Review, 83(327), 225-234. Retrieved August 25, 2020, from

Ellis. J. (2013). Kenilworth, King Arthur, and the Memory of Empire. English Literary Renaissance, 43(1), 3-29. Retrieved August 25, 2020, from

Hilliam. D. 2003. Castles and Cathedrals: The Great Buildings of Medieval Times. The Rosen Publishing Group Inc..

Morris. E. 2015. Exploring English Castles: Evocative, Romantic, and Mysterious True Tales of the Kings and Queens of the British Isles. Skyhouse.

Morris. R. K. 2010. Kenilworth Castle: Second Edition. English Heritage.

Pettifer. A. 1995. English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Boydell Press.

Pounds. N. J. G. 1994. The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Social and Political History. Cambridge University Press.

Rhodes. W. E. 1895. Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. The English Historical Review, 10(37), 19-40. Retrieved August 25, 2020, from

Sewter. A. 1940. Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 76 (444), 71-76. Retrieved August 25, 2020, from

Sharpe. H. 1825. Concise History and Description of Kenilworth Castle: From its Foundation to the Present Time, 16th Edition. Sharpe.

Storer. J. A. 1813. Ancient Reliques: or Deliniations of Monastic, Castellated, & Domestic Architecture, and Other Interesting Subjects with Historical and Descriptive Sketches. W. Clarke.

Strickland. A., & Strickland. E. 2010. Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest. Cambridge University Press.

Whitelock. A. 2013. Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court. A. & C. Black.

Woolnoth. W. 1825. The Ancient Castles of England and Wales. Longman.


Kenilworth Castle Panorama.
By PaulJohnson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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