Leeds castle is included in our 16 days "Best Castles of
Britain and Ireland" tour. Visit our site.
information was researched by our volunteer team member
Location: Kent, England
Leeds Castle ghost is a large black dog. Although animal lovers will undoubtedly wonder what is so scary about a large black doggie? This one appears as an omen of death. There is a story though that the ghost once saved the life of a woman. She was sitting in a bay window when she saw the ghost; alarmed she jumped away from the window and within seconds the wall with the window collapsed into the moat! It is unsure if this is true or not but itís a nice story anyway.
Shrouded in mist, mystery and legend, Leeds Castle is one of Englandís most picturesque. Leeds Castle sits on two small islands in a tranquil lake. It has survived for 1,000 years and today is one of the greatest buildings of the British Isles. "One of the most romantic and most ancient castles in the Kingdom."
Leeds was named after Led, the Chief Minister of King Etelbert IV, of Kent. Originally the site of a manor house owned by the Saxon Kings it was built in 857 AD. The original castle was an earthwork enclosure with a timber palisade and two timber towers along the perimeter. It is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. King Edward the Confessor granted the Manor to the powerful house of Godwin. Over the next several hundred years the castle was the center of sieges and fighting resulting in many changes of ownership. "Leeds became the stone castle of the Norman Crevecoeur family." It has been a Norman stronghold for over 900 years. In 1119, Robert Crevecoeur started rebuilding the castle in stone. The Cellar is the oldest surviving part of the castle and can be seen today; it dates from the mid 12th century. In 1278, Leeds was given to King Edward I of England. This was the beginning of a long royal ownership of Leeds Castle. King Edward I built the fortified mill and barbican; he made extensive alterations to the castle including the moat. He enlarged the castle by building an outer stone curtain wall around the edge of the larger island, with cylindrical open backed flanking towers and a square-plan water gate on the southeast. The gatehouse and a single tower pierced by an arched passage was improved. The fountain court, the central courtyard of the Gloriette, dates from the 1280ís. In the 14th century a system was devised for bringing piped water from springs in the park into cisterns beneath the paving to supply the fountain. The same springs supply the castle today. "Falling to King Edward IIís troops in 1321 because his Queen was refused admission, the castle was never again besieged because of itís reputation for being a ladies castle." A Royal residence for over 300 years, Leeds Castle was the home of six medieval Queens of England.
Henry VIII, the most infamous of Leeds Castlesí owners spent large sums of money on improvements. "It was from Leeds that Henry started for his momentous meeting at the Fields of the Cloth of Gold with Francis I of France in 1520, embarking at Dover - an event recalled by the magnificent paintings in the Banqueting Hall." The bay window dates from 1517.
In 1552, Leeds was granted to Sir Anthony St. Leger, the Lord Deputy of Ireland. His successors, the Smyths, built a Jacobean house on the larger island selling it in 1632 to the Culpeper family. Supporting Parliament during the Civil War, the Culpepers allowed Leeds Castle to become a Parliamentary arsenal.
From the Culpepers the castle passed to Lord Fairfax. The 6th Lord Fairfax Gothicized the main house, entertaining King George III in 1778.
Leeds Castle has been constantly inhabited and rebuilt since. Most of the castle today is the result of the 19th century reconstruction and additions.
In 1821, the Wykeham Martins inherited the castle. They bankrupted themselves rebuilding the Smyth House. "In 1822, Charles Wyeham Martin married an heiress and retrieved the situation!"
In 1926, Lady Baillie bought the castle from the Wykeham Martins. Lady Baillie filled the castle with fine medieval furnishings, ceramics, tapestries and paintings, all of the highest quality. Her collection of 18th century Chinese porcelain is remarkable. Lady Baillieís achievements culminated in the most radical development at Leeds Castle in itís long history; by her will, the Leeds Castle Foundation was created to maintain the castle, garden and park. Today Leeds Castle has become a national treasure, faithfully restored by the Leeds Castle Foundation.