The Castle, Park and Gardens
The Castle is the centrepiece of the Estate. It is a large quadrangular house with a central courtyard. Each section has a different appearance, reflecting the different architectural styles that have been employed here since building began in the 13th century.
Once inside you can see the collection of paintings, furniture, tapestries and objects d’art that fill the state rooms. Thrones and furnishings from the House of Lords are some of the more unusual items on view.
Grimsthorpe Castle has been in the Willoughby de Eresby family for five hundred years. It was granted by Henry VIII to William, Baron Willoughby de Eresby on the occasion of his marriage to Maria de Salinas, lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon, in 1516. Rising majestically from the undulating landscape of south Lincolnshire, the castle is set in extensive parkland of great antiquity, now consisting mainly of oak trees replanted in the 17th century. The oldest part of the castle, King John’s Tower, was built in the early 13th century. It is the main front which gives the castle its grandeur and dramatic scale. The final masterpiece of Sir John Vanbrugh, architect of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard, it was commissioned in 1715 by Robert Bertie, Baron Willoughby de Eresby, to celebrate the family’s elevation to Dukes of Ancaster and Kesteven. Th e Willoughby de Eresby family is one of three in England who still fulfill the hereditary office of Lord Great Chamberlain, the Monarch’s representative at the Palace of Westminster.
Castle, gardens and park are open to visitors five days a week from June to September and twice a week in April and May
Gardens surround the Castle on three sides. To the South lies a formal lawn with topiary squares beyond. These contain small ornamental pools. Further from the Castle the garden becomes a semi-wild woodland garden, filled with spring bulbs. If you venture beyond this you will arrive at the Head Gardener’s own garden. You are welcome to view it, including his mini arboretum.
To the West of the Castle a long herbaceous border provides colour during the summer months. The neatly trimmed yew hedge is cut low enough to give spectacular views to the lake.
On the East of the Castle a formal rose parterre is lined with small box hedges. Beyond it lies a walled kitchen garden. This ornamental fruit and vegetable garden is a haven of tranquility on a quiet summer afternoon. It contains apple and pear espaliers and a collection of Quince and Medlar trees.
Parents: please note that there are two small ornamental ponds in the gardens and a fountain in the main courtyard. Young children should be supervised at all times, particularly when close to the water features mentioned above.
Dogs are not allowed in the formal gardens, but can be walked (on leads) in the park.
Grimsthorpe Park was the southern edge of the great Lincolnshire forest. Oak trees that had been recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 were growing in the park when drawings of the park were made in the early 18th century. Some of these ancient trees were still growing here in the 20th century. Oaks were felled during the Tudor period for ship building and again during Cromwell’s ten year Commonwealth.
Most of the oak trees you see today were planted after the restoration of the Stuart Monarchy, the straight ridings through the trees creating a formal park. The Four Mile Riding was a double planted oak avenue which ran from the Castle to the boundary of the Park. The formal pattern of the ridings remains, though some have been replanted as chestnut avenues. The trust continues to plant hundreds of trees each year and is returning some arable land to Oak Pasture, using trees grown from acorns harvested from the ancient trees.
In the 18th century an open area near the site of Vaudey Abbey became the ‘Foal Field Race’ with gallops for training the 3rd Duke of Ancaster’s racehorses. In the 1920s the area was used as a 9 hole golf course, and served as a bombing range during the Second World War. Nowadays it is farmed.