Castles of England/Cambridgeshire

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There are seven castles of note in Cambridgeshire.

Name
Type
Date
Condition
Ownership
/ Access
Notes (Key)
Buckden Towers Fortified manor house 120113–15th century Fragment Claretian conference centre Renamed Buckden Towers, partly demolished and remnants incorporated with 19th century house.
Elton Hall Fortified manor house 1477c.1477 Fragment HHHH icon.png Gatehouse survives, incorporated in building of 1662–1689, remodelled and extended 18–19th centuries.
Kimbolton Castle Castellated house 160117–18th century Intact School Site of medieval castle, rebuilt and later remodelled by Vanbrugh 1707–10.
Kirtling Tower Fortified manor house 1530c.1530 Fragment NGS 150116th century gatehouse on site of moated Saxon castle.
Longthorpe Tower Tower house 12631263–1300 Intact EHEH icon.svg Elaborate scheme of domestic medieval wall paintings.
Northborough Castle Fortified manor house 13301330–40 Fragment Private residence Gatehouse and hall survive, with 16–17th century alterations.
Woodcroft Castle Quadrangular castle 1280c.1280 Habitable fragment Private residence West range of original building survives, with alterations.

Buckden Towers[edit]

Entrance to Buckden Towers

Buckden Towers is a 12th century fortified manor house in Buckden, Cambridgeshire. It was built in the late 12th century, when records show it as being used to house the Bishops of Lincoln. The tall brick tower was added in 1475, protected by walls and a moat, and surrounded by an outer bailey. It was used by the bishops until 1842.

Little now remains of the bishops' moated palace except the great tower, the inner gatehouse, part of the battlemented wall, which used to surround the inner court within the moat, and the outer gate and wall.

Elton Hall[edit]

Elton Hall

Elton Hall is a baronial hall in Elton, Cambridgeshire. It has been the ancestral home of the Proby family since 1660.

The hall lies in an 3800 acre estate through which the River Nene runs. The building incorporates 15th, 17th, 18th and 19th century parts.

Kimbolton Castle[edit]

Kimbolton Castle

Kimbolton Castle in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire is best known as the final home of King Henry VIII's first queen, Catherine of Aragon. Originally a medieval castle but converted into a stately palace, it was the family seat of the Dukes of Manchester from 1615 until 1950. It now houses Kimbolton School.

A wooden motte and bailey castle was built in Kimbolton, on a different site, in Norman times. Later, King John granted Geoffrey Fitz Peter, Earl of Essex permission to hold a fair and market in Kimbolton, as a consequence of which a market place was created, with the existing church at one end and a new castle at the other. No remains of this castle remain, although it was built on the site of the present castle.

The castle went through various phases of ownership until, by the 1520s, it belonged to the Wingfield family. The medieval castle was rebuilt as a Tudor manor house, parts of which survive. Catherine of Aragon was sent here in April 1534 for refusing to give up her status or deny the validity of her marriage.

The castle was bought by Sir Henry Montagu, later 1st Earl of Manchester, in 1615. His descendants owned the castle for 335 years until it was sold in 1951.

Kirtling Tower[edit]

The remaining Tudor gatehouse of Kirtling Tower

Kirtling Tower was a medieval castle and Tudor country house in Cambridgeshire of which the gatehouse still remains. The first documentary records for Kirtling Tower date from 1219, and the 13th century Kirtling Castle was described as having a moat, a ditch and a palisade. In 1424 there was a substantial rebuilding of the castle by Richard de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick, with a hundred oak trees used to create a complex with a parlour, a solar and chambers.

Edward North, a successful lawyer, rebuilt the castle in the 1540s and between 1556 to 1558 using the architect Francis Adams, renaming it Kirtling Hall. The earthworks around the castle were considerably altered to provide for a raised platform for the new house, which included contemporary Tudor features such as a gatehouse, gallery, lodgings, a banqueting house and a garden, complete with grand water features and ponds. Queen Elizabeth I stayed at the castle in 1578 during her state procession across Cambridgeshire. The castle continued to develop, and by the 1660s was the largest country house in Cambridgeshire, centred on a symmetrical two-storey south-facing range, with east and west wings providing additional accommodation and facilities.

The castle went into decline after 1691 and by 1735 the Victoria County History of the castle describes the property as being "in disorder". Much of the castle was pulled down in 1748 in order to make the remainder habitable for Lord Elibank, but the property went into decline again after his death in 1762. By the 1770s it was uninhabitable and most of the castle pulled down in 1801. In the 1830s the gatehouse was turned into a residential property and was renamed Kirtling Tower; an extension was built in 1872 and the house remained in use under a sequence of tenants.

The main feature of the castle today is the three-storey Tudor gatehouse, which closely resembles the gatehouse at Leez Priory, built by North's friend and fellow lawyer Richard Rich. Built of brick, it has octagonal turrets and an oriel window of Italian design. It is a scheduled monument and a Grade I listed building.

Longthorpe Tower[edit]

Longthorpe Tower

Longthorpe Tower is a fourteenth century, three-storey tower in the village of Longthorpe which is part of Peterborough about two miles to the west of the city centre.

It was added in 1310 to a fortified manor house. The interior contains the best-surviving example of English medieval wall paintings in northern Europe, which survived under a layer of whitewash.

Northborough Castle[edit]

The gatehouse to Northborough Castle

Northborough Castle, also known as Northborough Hall, is a medieval fortified manor house in Cambridgeshire. It was built between 1333 and 1336 by Roger Northburgh, the Bishop of Lichfield; of the original manor, only the gatehouse and the hall still survive. The gatehouse is dominated by a huge gateway, which, whilst it did not have a drawbridge or portcullis, provided considerable protection to the manor behind it. The hall typified the 14th century fashion for improved lighting, with bay windows placed regularly along the line of the hall, and was decorated with wall paintings. Some 16th and 17th-century extensions to the castle were made.

Woodcroft Castle[edit]

Woodcroft Castle

Woodcroft Castle is a converted medieval castle in the parish of Etton, Cambridgeshire. It was built at the end of the 13th century and named after the Woodcroft family who owned it at around this time. The medieval remains of the castle today include a front, a circular tower and a gatehouse. There is debate as to whether the original castle followed a normal Edwardian quadrilateral design, of which most has since been lost, or if it was simply never fully completed. A later Tudor conversion retained these medieval elements into the current design.

Woodcroft Castle was held by the Royalists during the Civil War and was successfully attacked and taken by Parliamentary forces in 1648.