Sudeley Castle England. History, Drama, Royalty and Stunning Gardens. Should you visit?
One of the attractions of living in, or visiting, the UK is that is has such a rich history, and the countryside is dotted with many historic and interesting castles and stately homes that bring the human side of that history to life.
Visiting these homes gives a great understanding of the history of the UK, and how the rich, famous and Royal lives (and loves) were intertwined and linked.
Sudeley Castle is one such place. Located in Winchcombe near the spa town of Cheltenham in the Cotswolds, this rambling estate and house is best known as the place where Henry VIII’s last wife (Queen Katherine Parr) lived and died. Her body is buried in the church (Chapel of St Mary) in a side room off the altar area. However, it has had its share of drama and both good times and bad times.
A brief history of Sudeley Castle
Katherine Parr moved the Sudeley Castle to be with Sir Thomas Seymour after Henry VIII’s death. She did not live very long after this, and was only 36 when she died. He was executed for treason the year after her for a raft of charges.
The Castle and grounds has been visited by many generations of Royalty over the centuries including Henry VII, Elizabeth I, Charles I (who was based here during the English Civil War), and George III (who narrowly escaped serious injury falling down a staircase when a staff member broke his fall). In recent times the Duchess of Cornwall attended events there in her role as Patron of the Katherine Parr Quincentenary Festival in 2012.
Sudeley Castle was left neglected, decaying and plundered by locals for materials for 200 years from 1655 after the end of the English Civil War. It was finally bought by the Dent family, wealthy glove makers, who owned large chunks of land near by who restored, expanded and rebuilt it.
During the Second World War Italian and German Prisoners of War worked on the grounds, while the Castle was used to store most of the treasures from The Tate to protect it against the bombing of London.
Today the Dent-Brockhurst family live in and own Sudeley Castle. They have renovated and built it up, and opened the house and grounds to visitors and events like weddings to help fund the maintenance and upkeep.
What is there to see?
The Dent-Brockhurst family open the grounds and house from April to October. They do have some restrictions on access to the house itself, for example you usually cannot see inside the house on the weekends but do have tours on at least 3 days in the week. Saying that there is a lot to see even when you cannot see through the main house.
Grounds. These are huge and have 9 varied and amazing gardens which include a secret garden, herb garden, Queen’s Garden (a formal style one), Mulberry Garden and Tudor Physic Garden. There is also a ruined Tithe Barn and pond. You can also visit The Pheasantry which has a collection of beautiful birds. You can buy a garden only pass.
Castle, Banqueting Hall Ruins and South Hall. These are open even when tours of the house itself are not operating. In the Castle you climb up a steep circular staircase and on the top floor there is an exhibition of the history and various models and mannequins of Henry VIII and his wives. These used to be the stables, coach house and Banqueting Hall. In the exhibition are various items from Katherine Parr. In the South Hall you can explore more where the Queen lived and some of the rooms she used. There is a short, but interesting video of the time she spent there.
St Mary’s Church. This is a very beautiful stone church that has services some Sundays during the year. In the church is a side room where Katherine Parr is buried. Around the church as small plaques and memorials to generations of people who have lived in the Castle.
House. They run tours, called “Connoisseur Tours”, 3 times a day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They need to be booked as can be quite busy. This takes you around the private areas of the house where the family live.
Coffee Shop. This is on the ground floor of the castle and sells lunches and snacks. As the Castle is popular for weddings this is often closed on the weekend and operates in a more temporary structure.
Visitor Centre and Shop. In here you can buy various gifts and local produced jams. There is also a small area selling plants.
A fascinating and glorious stately home and grounds to visit. Seeped with a long history linked to the Royal Family and times of drama and change, like the English Civil War and during the Second World War. This impressive home and gardens are even more impressive knowing that it was left to go to ruin for 200 years, and has been restored and is maintained on private money. It is not owned by either National Trust nor English Heritage who maintain and run so many of similar amazing stately homes.
Definitely worth a visit if you are in the Cotswold and Cheltenham area.