D and I prebooked tickets to visit Kenilworth Castle last Saturday - our first visit to an EH property in 18 months.
It was all well organised and there were even stewards on the car park. You showed your e-ticket and membership card to someone on an outside stall and numbers were being limited in the shop. It was busier than I thought it would be although possibly a weekend at the end of half term was not the best day to go!! Leicester's Gatehouse was closed and a steward was limiting numbers wanting to ascend one of the towers.
For much of its history Kenilworth Castle has been a royal castle and many buildings are unaltered from Elizabethan times. The first castle in the 1120' s was built on a low sandstone hill, where two ancient trackways crossed, by Geoffrey de Clinton, the royal chamberlain, who built the Great Tower and also founded Kenilworth Priory.
King John in the early 13th century added an outer circuit of stone walls and built a dam to hold back a large lake. This created a formidable castle which withstood a siege in 1266.
The castle was soon in use as a palace and John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, created the Great Hall and its associated apartments.
Lancastrian kings visited in the 15th century to hunt and Henry V had a retreat constructed at the end of the lake called "the Pleasance in the Marsh".
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was granted the castle in 1563 by Queen Elizabeth I and he turned it into a place where she could be entertained.
After the Civil War the fortifications were removed in 1650 and Leicester's Gatehuse was used as a residence by Colonel Hawkesworth, a Parliamentarian officer.
The ruins of the castle were used by Sir Walter Scott as a setting for his novel "Kenilworth" which told the story of Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth in a romanticised way.
In 1958 Lord Kenilworth gave the castle to the town and it has been managed by English Heritage since 1984.
This field of buttercups was once the great lake next to the castle.
I hope in the future to visit just to walk around the outside of the castle - there seem to be many footpaths and it would be good to find "the Pleasance in the Marsh" or its ruins!
Leicester's Building built as apartments for Queen Elizabeth can be seen on the left of the photo and the Great Tower to the right.
Mortimer's Tower built by King John 1210-15 as the principal entrance through the castle's outer defences. It was named in the 17th century by Sir William Dugdale,the antiquarian, possibly he was referring to Roger Mortimer who hosted a great tournament at Kenilworth in 1279.
The Stables contains a cafe and excellent exhibition - we didn't go inside this time as you can see it was quite busy.
Leicester's Gatehouse built by Robert Dudley around 1571/2.
I had seen the recreated Elizabethan garden when I visited in July nearly two years ago but it was a lovely surprise for D as he had only seen it in January!
The garden was recreated by English Heritage in 2009 based on historical research and descriptions made, when the garden was originally created, by a Robert Langham, a minor court official. Robert Dudley had the garden created for the use of the queen and her friends but Langham sneaked in one day assisted by a gardener. He described all the main features - terrace, arbours, marble fountain, aviary and giant obelisks.
The fountain is the centrepiece of the garden. The original and the new fountain were/are made of white Carrara marble from Tuscany, Italy. The base is octagonal and the central column has 2 "Athlantes" (Atlas figures holding up the sky).
Panels in the base are carved with 8 scenes from the "Metamorphoses" (Ovid's narrative poem) which reveal the lives and loves of gods and humans and describes their transformation into animals or plants. Carvings include: Neptune with his trident, his son Triton drawn by fish, Proteus (another son of Neptune) hearding "Sea bulls", Doris and her Daughters, the Nereids (sea nymphs) and Thetis in her chariot drawn by dolphins. Three additional panels have been added to today's fountain.
The aviary with its top painted to make it look as though it is encrusted with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
Robert Dudley's badge was the Bear and Ragged Staff - you see this symbol everywhere in Warwickshire.
The Great Tower
The remains of the kitchens you can see today were mainly the work of John of Gaunt. The hearths of fireplaces can be seen together with a bread oven and furnace. The kitchen was large enough to cater for several hundred people.
While D went up one of the towers I had a look round my favourite part of the ruins the Great Hall. I love the way the windows look as though they belong in a cathedral with their Perpendicular tracery. The Hall itself was on the first floor and there were stone vaulted cellars beneath.
Weathering of the Permian Kenilworth Red Sandstone!
Leicester's Building was built between 1571/2 by Robert Dudley to provide private apartments for Queen Elizabeth I whenever she visited Kenilworth on her summer progress. She stayed here for 19 days between 9th and 27th July 1575 and on several other occasions.
Fireplace in the State Apartments
A huge amount of photos! If you are still here! just a few more D took with the Canon SX50 bridge camera. You can see me in the distance in the last picture!
It was a lovely afternoon out and good to be visiting EH properties again with my son. I do like Kenilworth Castle - it is very atmospheric and English Heritage has done a wonderful job of maintaining it without over commercialising it.
I hope everyone is staying safe and well.
Apart from the last 4 photos pictures taken by my son the rest are taken by me with the Panasonic Lumix FZ330 bridge camera.
Reference: English Heritage Guidebook to Kenilworth Castle
Information Boards around the site.