Kimbolton Castle


Kimbolton Castle is a residential castle that was originally the site of a pre-Norman manor house. After the Norman Conquest, a fortified manor house was built at the same site and rebuilt during the reign of King John.

In the 15th century, the castle came into the possession of the Tudor monarchs.

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It was famously the castle where Katherine of Aragorn spent her final years after Henry VIII’s attempts to have his marriage with her annulled. The castle remained for the next few centuries in the hands of the Earls of Manchester.

Today, it hosts the Kimbolton School and parts of it are open for weddings and other events.

History of Kimbolton Castle

Kimbolton castle was originally the site of a motte-and-bailey fortification dating back to the Norman times. Later during the period of King John, a marketplace sprang up near the site of the old fortification, and the older castle itself was replaced by a fortified manor house. Later in the 16th century, this manor house was replaced by a new Tudor manor house.

It is most of this Tudor structure of the castle that remains extant to this day.  The castle passed to the ownership of the 1st Earl of Manchester in the early 17th century. Significant modifications and reconstructions were done in the 18th century to revive the castle’s grandeur and to add a new gatehouse.

It was in the use of the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II. It finally passed to the ownership of the Kimbolton School in 1951 and remains in that position to this day.

Kimbolton Castle Location

Kimbolton Castle is located in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire. According to some historical sources, the site was the exact location of a Roman-era fortification. It is also claimed that at the time of the Norman invasion, the site had a manor house that was held by King Harold himself.

The medieval castle was located at the edge of a vast marketplace although the marketplace did not survive the later times.

Kimbolton Castle Timeline

The original castle at the site was built in the 11th century as a motte-and-bailey structure.  It was completely replaced with a fortified manor house sometime around 1200. In 1520, the castle was in the ownership of the Wingfield family. It was built as a royal manor house by the Tudors and Catherine of Aragorn came to live in it in 1534. In 1536, she died in the castle.

Later the castle passed into the ownership of Sir Henry Montagu in 1615. It underwent major architectural modifications in the 17th and 18th centuries and most of the modern-day structure dates to this time.

The castle remained in the ownership of the Earls of Manchester until the 20th century.

What Type of Castle is Kimbolton?

The first castle built at the site of the present Kimbolton castle was a wooden motte and bailey castle, probably meant for fortification. The second castle, built during King John’s reign, served a more residential purpose as a manor house.

Later, the castle built during the Tudor time was also a residential structure and it was used as a royal residence until it passed to the Montagu family.

The castle was never put to any military use either during the middle ages or later.

Interesting Features of Kimbolton Castle

An interesting feature of the Kimbolton castle is that it never faced any major military activity after the Norman invasion.

It was one of the rare few castles which avoided any conflict and were used as a residential site throughout the medieval ages and later.

Kimbolton Castle Construction

Most of the modern-day Kimbolton castle was constructed during the 17th century as a luxurious residence for the Dukes of Manchester. It was later remodeled in the 18th century along with a more contemporary architectural style.

It was during this century that a new gatehouse was built and previously existent structures such as the portico were reconstructed. The gatehouse was designed by the notable architect Robert Adam who also designed other structures but those were never built.

Later in the 18th century, a Warren house was built on castle grounds on atop a hill close-by.

Kimbolton Castle Defences

The castle lacks most of the defensive structures since it was used as a manor house and later, as a residential castle. It was not involved in any fighting or sieges, so no need was felt for any defensive features to its structure.

As a castle, it stands undefended by any natural or artificial contraption and is easily accessible to anyone approaching it.

Kimbolton Castle is Famous For?

Kimbolton Castle is most famously associated with Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. In 1534, the Queen was sent to stay in the castle after Henry VIII began his attempts to have his marriage with her annulled. It is said that the weather in the area was not suitable for the queen’s health and suffering from it, she soon died in 1536.

Her body was then carried from the castle in a procession. It is claimed that the queen still haunts the castle to this day. The room in which the queen died is called, to this day, the Queen’s Room.

Kimbolton Castle Summary

Kimbolton Castle was the site of a Roman-era fortification which was later used by the Saxon kings as a manor house.  At the time of the Norman invasion, it is stated that the manor was held by King Harold, although this is disputed. According to historical evidence, the castle came into the possession of the De Bohun family after the Norman Conquest who then built a new manor house and a parish church at the site in the 13th century.

In the early 16th century, it passed into the possession of the Wingfield family but was soon being used as a royal residence by the Tudor monarchs. Katherine of Aragon famously spent her last few years in the castle and died in it. It later passed into the possession of the Earls of Manchester. Today, it is used as the building for Kimbolton school.