Sherborne Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Sherborne Castle

West Dorset, England, United Kingdom

Sherborne Castle is a 16th century Tudor mansion in the market town of Sherborne in Dorset, overlooking the River Yeo. It was built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594 and includes 42 acres of Capability Brown-designed landscaped gardens.

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About Sherborne Castle

Sherborne Castle is a 16th century Tudor mansion in the market town of Sherborne in Dorset.

History of Sherborne Castle

Sir Walter Raleigh passed through the town on his way to Plymouth and ‘fell in love’ with the ruin of a 12th century castle that was on the site. After Elizabeth I relinquished it to Raleigh in 1592, he decided, rather than refurbish the existing structure, to build a new four-storey lodge. It was completed in 1594 and six years later, Raleigh added the four, heraldic beast-topped hexagonal turrets, one to each corner of the house.

After Raleigh was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London for his role in the Main Plot to remove King James I from the English throne, the King leased the castle to Robert Carr who then sold it to Sir John Digby, 1st Earl of Bristol in 1617. Digby proceeded to add four wings to the house, staying true to the original designs including squared-headed windows, balustrade roofs and hexagonal turrets, this time at the end of each wing in order for the house to appear to be in one piece.

Over the years, each subsequent guardian added their own touches including Georgian sash windows, panelled doors, marble fireplaces and more and more fine furniture which you can see today.

Sherborne Castle was the seat of the Digby’s from then until 1856 when Edward, 2nd Earl Digby died and the house was passed to the Wingfield Digby family who remain owners today.

Inside, the house reflects four centuries of decorative style and includes beautiful furniture, paintings, porcelain, archaeological treasures from the original 12th century castle and in the basement, Raleigh’s original kitchen and family artefacts.

The present gardens were laid out in the 1750s by Henry, 7th Lord Digby and includes the 50-acre lake, sweeping lawns, herbaceous borders and grand trees designed by none other than Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, widely recognised as Britain’s greatest landscape gardener.

Sherborne Castle today

The castle and gardens are open from April through to September every year – guided tours are available. Be sure to allow yourself time to explore the grounds (dogs are allowed outdoors) and enjoy the castle’s tea room. Tickets can be booked online in advance, which is recommended in peak periods i.e. July and August.

Getting to Sherborne Castle

Technically Sherborne ‘New’ Castle, the site is located on the fringes of the town of Sherborne, on the B3145. It’s a short walk from the train station (connections to Salisbury, London and Exeter regularly) and there’s ample parking at the castle and in town.

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