A peacock walks through the gardens of Sudeley Castle

As Sudeley Castle and Gardens celebrates Lady Ashcombe’s 50th year as the castle’s esteemed Chatelaine, we take a look at the fascinating history of the Tudor castle and the year of celebrations ahead.

With royal connections spanning a thousand years, Sudeley Castle has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England’s past.

The earliest known record of Sudeley Castle dates back to the 10th century, when it was owned by King Ethelred the Unready. It was later passed to his son, King Edward the Confessor. Two centuries later, following the Norman Conquest, the estate was granted to John de Sudeley by William the Conqueror. The de Sudeley family constructed the first parts of the castle.

Formal garden with topiary hedges in front of ruins. Credit: David Hamilton

In the mid-1400s, the castle was significantly rebuilt by Ralph Boteler, a wealthy and influential nobleman. Much of the structure of the castle you see today was added by the Boteler family, including the Banqueting Hall.

Sudeley Castle really came to prominence in the Tudor period when King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited the castle. A few years later, in 1547, the castle was acquired by Thomas Seymour, the 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, after he married Catherine Parr, the widow of Henry VIII. Catherine Parr lived and died at Sudeley Castle. Today Sudeley remains the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds.

The Tomb of Katherine Parr

King Charles I found refuge at Sudeley during the Civil War, when his nephew, Prince Rupert, established headquarters at the Castle. Following its ‘slighting’ on Cromwell’s orders at the end of the Civil War, Sudeley lay neglected and derelict for nearly 200 years.

Then in 1837, Sudeley was rescued by the wealthy Worcester glove-makers, brothers John and William Dent. They began an ambitious restoration programme, which was continued by their nephew, John Coucher Dent, when he inherited the castle in 1855. His wife, Emma Brocklehurst, threw herself enthusiastically into Sudeley’s restoration, at the same time forging strong links with the nearby town of Winchcombe. It is the results of Emma’s dedication that are so evident in the gardens and exhibitions at Sudeley today.

Throughout the 20th century, the castle continued to be maintained and improved by the Dent-Brocklehurst family and during World War II it was used as a refuge for evacuated children.

Library with wooden panelled walls, ornate furniture and stained glass. Credit: Nigel Schermuly

Sudeley Castle & Gardens is now the home of Elizabeth, Lady Ashcombe, and her son, daughter, and their families. The longest ever owner and Chatelaine of the historic estate, Lady Ashcombe is responsible for the notable decision to adapt Sudeley from a family home to the much-loved visitor attraction and destination venue it is today.

The castle is tucked away in the gently rolling landscape of the Cotswold hills, amongst 1,200 stunning acres, set against a breathtaking background of dreamy, romantic ruins and spectacular gardens. 

Known worldwide as one of England’s most historic and exclusive private estates, Sudeley Castle stands proudly overlooking the quintessential Cotswold village of Winchcombe and has developed an esteemed reputation as one of the UK’s leading wedding and private event venues.

In honour of the 50 year milestone, throughout 2024 visitors will be invited to join in a series of special events to celebrate both the rich history of the castle, along with key moments in Lady Ashcombe‘s 50-year presence. A particular highlight is a brand-new exhibition giving visitors the opportunity to delve into the American connection that Lady Ashcombe brings to Sudeley Castle, beginning in the iconic and colourful era of the 1970s, when she assumed her role.

Visit Sudeley Castle on your next trip to the Cotswolds and delve further into its fascinating history.

Aerial view of Sudeley Castle amongst rolling hills




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