Thornbury Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Thornbury Castle

Thornbury, England, United Kingdom

Thornbury Castle is an original Tudor manor house which once played host to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Amy Irvine

18 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Thornbury Castle

Thornbury Castle is a Tudor castle in the parish of Thornbury, Gloucestershire – situated next to the parish church of St Mary, founded in the Norman era. It is not a true military fortress but rather an early example of a Tudor country house, with minimal defensive attributes, and it now operates as a luxury hotel.

History of Thornbury Castle

The earliest reference to Thornbury is in a Saxon charter of 896 AD. In an ancient love triangle, Brictric ‘the fair’– a powerful Saxon nobleman who owned Thornbury and many other properties – spurned the advances of Matilda of Flanders. Matilda later went on to marry William the Conqueror, who then seized all of Britric’s lands after his invasion of England in 1066, awarded them to his queen, and imprisoned Brictric, who is thought to have starved to death.

Thornbury Castle’s current form was built in the early 16th century by Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. However, long under suspicion from King Henry VIII because of his royal blood and lavish lifestyle, the Duke was arrested for high treason and executed in 1521, and Thornbury Castle was then passed into the possession of the Crown.

Thornbury Castle was then frequented by Tudor royalty on several occasions, including by King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, who stayed there for 10 days in August 1535.

Queen Mary I returned Thornbury Castle to the Duke of Buckingham’s son (Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford) in 1554. Following the Civil War, the castle fell into disrepair until its renovation in the 19th century by the Howard family, who owned it until 1960.

Between 1966-1986 the castle operated as one of the UK’s top restaurants by Kenneth Bell MBE. Staff included food writer Nigel Slater during the early stage of his culinary career.

Thornbury Castle today

Today Thornbury Castle is a grade I listed building and a 27-room luxury hotel, restaurant and wedding venue, which offers guests the opportunity to stay in the very room once occupied by Henry VIII, or dine in a dungeon dining room. There is a grand hall for balls, feasts and parties too.

Guests can also explore the scenic grounds of the castle, where there are also a variety of activities to conjure up the atmosphere of Tudor England, such as croquet, archery or falconry.

Getting to Thornbury Castle

Thornbury Castle is located just under 15 miles north of Bristol. From Bristol, it is approximately a 30 minute drive – take the M32 to join the M4, then leave the M4 at exit 20, continuing on the A38 (Gloucester Road) to Thornbury.

The nearest train station is Bristol Parkway. There is a local bus route that runs from Broadmead (near Bristol) to Rock Street (near Thornbury). From there, Thornbury Castle is a 10 minute walk.

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