Updated: Sep 2, 2022
Leeds Castle, which has been described as the loveliest castle in the world, is actually in Kent. Nowhere near Leeds at all!! It is about 7 km from Maidstone and about 60 km from London.
Following the Battle of Hastings, where William of Normandy killed the English King, Harold, he divided England up; and the Manor of Leeds was given first to his half-brother, Bishop Odo.
It was later given to a cousin, Hamon (Hamo) de Crevecoeur, who had fought alongside William at the Battle of Hastings. It was Hamo’s grandson, Robert de Crevecoeur, who began the building of Leeds Castle in 1119.
King Edward I became King around 200 years later. His wife, Elanor of Castille, was a very beautiful Spanish princess. Together they added to the buildings at Leeds and created a medieval royal castle for them to live in. Elanor brought luxury items with her to decorate the castle, such as glass for the windows and carpets for the floors and walls.
King Henry VIII inherited Leeds Castle in 1509. He was married to Catherine of Aragon for 24 years and did a lot of building work at Leeds, especially for her. He made it bigger and more luxurious by adding another floor and putting in bigger windows.
400 years ago Leeds Castle was sold by King Edward VI. Since then it has been owned by private families.
The last owner was Lady Baillie. She bought the castle in 1926 and lived here with her 3 children. She loved the historical buildings, but also wanted modern conveniences and put a lot of work into redesigning the insides of Leeds.
During the 1930s, Leeds Castle became one of the great country houses of England and a centre of lavish hospitality for leading statesmen, European royalty and film stars.
There are 20 guest bedrooms, all with antiques and valuable paintings and other authentic furnishing. The castle is a popular place for weddings, banquets and Christmas parties.
During World War II, the castle became a hospital. It was used for the rehabilitation of severely burned pilots. Weapons research was secretly carried out in the grounds, including emergency flame weapons to counter the feared German invasion.
Before Lady Baillie died, she created a perpetual trust, to which she left the castle, it’s contents and 500 acres of land. The entrance ticket allows you full access to the castle and grounds for a whole year. The money paid goes towards maintenance of the buildings and the gardens.
On the grounds of Leeds Castle is Britain’s only dog collar museum. Here are over 100 collars on display, including some almost 500 years old belonging to royal hunting dogs. That is the only part we didn't manage to see!
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