Leeds Castle


Leeds Castle, Kent                                                                                                                                                               Photo © Dillif, May 09

Leeds Castle, four miles (6.5 km) southeast of Maidstone, Kent, England, dates back to 1119, though a manor house stood on the same site from the ninth century. The castle and grounds lie to the east of the village of Leeds, Kent, which should not be confused with the far bigger and more well-known city of Leeds in West Yorkshire.

History

Built in 1119 by Robert De Crevecoeur to replace the earlier Saxon manor of Esledes, the castle became a royal palace for King Edward I of England and his queen, Eleanor of Castile in 1278. Major improvements were made during his time, including the barbican, made up of three parts, each with its own entrance, drawbridge, gateway, and portcullis.

Richard II's first wife,Anne of Bohemia, spent the winter of 1381 at the Castle on her way to be married to the King. In 1395, King Richard II received the French chronicler Jean Froissart there, as Froissart described in his Chronicles.

Henry VIII transformed the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and a painting commemorating his meeting with Francis I of France still hangs there. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the castle for a time before her coronation.


Leeds Castle, Kent                                                                                                                                                              Photo © Dillif, May 09

The castle escaped destruction during the English Civil War because its owners, the Culpeper family, sided with the Parliamentarians. The last private owner of the castle was the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, a daughter of Almeric Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough, and his first wife, Pauline Payne Whitney, an American heiress. Lady Baillie bought the castle in 1926. She redecorated the interior, first working with the French architect and designer Armand-Albert Rateau (who also oversaw exterior alterations as well as adding interior features such as a 16th-century-style carved-oak staircase) and then, later, with the Paris decorator St├ęphane Boudin. Upon her death in 1974, Lady Baillie left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation, a private charitable trust whose aim is to preserve the castle and grounds for the benefit of the public. The castle was opened to the public in 1976.


Leeds Castle, Kent

On 17 July 1978, the castle was the site of a meeting between the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan in preparation for the Camp David Accords.

In September 1999, Sir Elton John played two sold-out solo concerts in the grounds of Leeds Castle.

Tourism


Leeds Castle, Kent

This castle and its grounds are now a leisure destination in the county of Kent. The castle grounds have an aviary, a maze, a grotto, a golf course and what may be the world's only museum of dog collars. The castle is available to host conferences.

Maze

The maze was constructed in 1988, using 2,400 yew trees. To the disappointment of some who use the technique of solving a maze by keeping one hand on a wall while walking through as a wall follower, the method fails at the Leeds Castle Maze, because not all 'walls' are connected. Using the wall follower method a visitor is led in a circle and will not reach the exit, located beneath a small lookout in the centre of the maze. You can find a solution to the maze here.

Trivia

 

 

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