One of England’s most magnificent castles
First built in the 1120s and a royal castle for most of its history, Kenilworth Castle was expanded by King John, John of Gaunt and Henry V. In 1563 Elizabeth I granted it to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who converted Kenilworth into a lavish palace. The castle’s fortifications were dismantled in 1650, and the ruins later became famous thanks in part to Walter Scott’s 1821 romance, ‘Kenilworth’.
The tower itself had two storeys beneath a walkway at roof level. The significant changes in the castle’s layout and functioning in the 16th century have partly impeded a better understanding of how the great tower was used.
However, we can be certain that the building was laid out to impress upon visitors the great power and influence of its builders and owners.
Apart from the tower, the 12th-century castle comprised a courtyard enclosed by stone walls. The buildings around it housed other aspects of daily life in the castle: the kitchen, accommodation spaces and storage facilities.
Later changes at Kenilworth, including John of Gaunt’s massive remodelling, have swept any visible evidence of this away.
In 1253 Henry III granted the castle to Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, for life. De Montfort’s fateful decision to lead a rebellion against the king cost him his life at the Battle of Evesham in 1265.
After the battle, some of his followers made a last stand at Kenilworth in what became the longest siege in English medieval history.
Architectural features from other buildings at the castle were reused in the gatehouse after 1650, giving an impression of Kenilworth’s showy interiors in the Elizabethan period. This magnificent alabaster fireplace contains the initials RL (Robert of Leicester), his family motto, and the badge of the Order of Garter, of which he was a knight.
Cameron Moffett, Will Wyeth, Rose Arkle