Country: United Kingdom
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Leeds Castle, acclaimed as the most romantic castle in England, is located in south-east England, built on two adjacent island in the river Len.
Leeds Castle was originally a manor of the Saxon royal family possibly as early as the reign of Ethelbert IV ( 856-860). The first castle was an earthwork enclosure whose wooden palisade was converted to stone and provided with two towers along the perimeter. This is now vanished. Traces of arches in a vault thought to be Norman were found at the beginning of this century.
The Cellar is the oldest surviving visible part of the castle and shows Norman influence, dating from the mid-twelfth century.
Around 1119 Robert Crevecoeur started to build a stone castle on the site, establishing his donjon where the Gloriette now is. Stephen, Count of Blois, and his cousin the Empress Matilda contested the crown of England. In 1139 Matilda invaded England with the help of his brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who held Leeds castle, but Kent was loyal to king Stephen and following a short siege he took control of the castle.
The fountain court, the central courtyard of the Gloriette, dates from 1280's. In the fourteenth century a system was devised for bringing piped water from springs in the park into cisterns beneath the paving to supply the fountain. The same springs supply the Castle today.
The castle came into the possession of Edward I (1278) . He rebuilt much of the castle as it stood at the beginning of his reign, and enlarged it, providing an outer stone curtain round the edge of the larger island, with cylindrical open-backed flanking towers and a square-plan water-gate on the south-east. The gatehouse at the south-west, a single tower pierced by an arched passage was improved.
The main island is bounded on the west side by a revetment wall with two drum bastions, dating from c1280
Latter on, King Edward, the Confessor granted the manor to the powerful house of Godwin.
The Maiden's Tower, reconstructed in Tudor times to house, it is said, royal maid of honor. The nineteenth-century name refers to the recluse Christina Hayde, who lived here in the reign of Richard II. The crenellations were added in the 18 century .
Henry VIII, the most famous of all the owners of Leeds Castles, expended large sums in enlarging and beautifying the whole range of buildings. At the same time, he carefully retained the defenses of the castle for he often had cause to fear invasion from either France or the Spanish . The king entrusted the work of alteration to his great friend Sir Henry Guidford.
The Henry VIII Banqueting Hall, with its superb ebony wood floor and carved oak ceiling was introduces by Lady Baillie. The bay window dates from Sir Henry Guildford's who supervised the rebuildings for Henry VIII in 1517.
Leeds has been constantly inhabited and rebuilt since then. Most of the castle today is the result of the nineteenth-century reconstruction and addition.
The Culpeper Garden was created in 1980. The garden is enclosed on three sides by the warm brick of old estate buildings and high wall , while the remaining side looks out over the Great water. The flower beds, edged with low box hedges are arranged in an informal patters.
The flowers are those of an old English cottage garden - roses, pinks, lad's love, poppies and lupins and some more exotic blooms. many with wonderful scents.
The first aviary was established in the late 1950'x to house Lady Baillie's collection of small Australian finches.
In 1926 Leeds was bought by the Hon. Mrs. Wilson-Filmer, known as Lady Baillie. Immediately she began the restoration of the castle that took her over 30 years to leave it as it stands today.
Sébastien Laflamme, 18, from Saint-Prosper, Québec, Canada, wrote:
Very beautiful castle. Nice emplacement. It is wonderful
Peggy Rutcosky, 32, from Texas wrote:
We were stationed at RAF Mildenhall, UK where we had the chance to see some beautiful castles. I just wanted to share the fact that Leeds Castle had the most beautiful surrounding area as far as English countryside was concerned. It also has an aviary and a maze out of hedges where you can get lost quite easily. There is a tower for your family to see you from and guide you through to the end. We enjoyed it so much.