Leeds Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Leeds Castle

Maidstone, England, United Kingdom

Leeds Castle in Kent was a 12th century stronghold which has since served as a royal palace, a prison, and as a stately home.

Lily Johnson

04 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle in Kent is a 19th century castle with roots dating back almost 1,000 years, that today draws visitors from far and wide to explore its beautiful structure, positioned picturesquely on an island in the middle of a lake.

Leeds Castle history

Leeds Castle was originally constructed as a fortification in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur, an Anglo-Norman lord under William II.

In 1278, Leeds Castle was bought by Eleanor of Castile, following which it took on a different role as a royal palace to her husband King Edward I. He expanded it, likely adding further elements such as the lake and an impressive barbican spanning 3 islands.

Leeds Castle passed through numerous royal hands over the coming centuries, hosting a myriad of important guests including Henry VIII, who visited it on several occasions. Henry VIII also extensively renovated the castle as a residence for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Eventually falling into private ownership under King Edward VI, Leeds Castle survived the English Civil War in the hands of the Parliamentarians and later acted as a prison for Dutch and French prisoners of war.

Leeds Castle today

Today, Leeds Castle is a major leisure destination and houses a maze, a golf course, and what may be the world’s only dog collar museum.

Though most of what survives today hails from the 19th century rebuild, the beautiful location of Leeds Castle and its eminent history draws people to explore this intriguing site, with guided and audio tours available for groups and schools.

A number of items are on display throughout the castle, including a host of antique furniture, portraiture, and even the doublet worn by Parliamentarian General Fairfax at the Battle of Maidstone in 1648.

Getting to Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is located 7 miles east of Maidstone in Kent, taking Junction 8 of the M20 motorway. It is clearly sign posted from all routes following the brown and white tourist signs.

The nearest train station is Bearsted, with a coach shuttle service run by Spot Travel available from the station from April to September.

The number 13 bus also runs from Maidstone to Hollingbourne, a 30-minute walk to the site.

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