THE CASTLE & EXHIBITIONS
Discover the fascinating past of "the loveliest Castle in the world"
Leeds Castle has been a Norman stronghold; the private property of six of England’s medieval queens; a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon; a Jacobean country house; a Georgian mansion; an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous; and in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain.
The first stone castle was built in 1119 by a Norman baron during the reign of William the Conqueror’s son Henry I, on an island in the River Len. In 1278, a century and a half later, it came into the possession of Queen Eleanor of Castile, first wife of Edward I.
For the next 300 years the castle remained a royal residence, before again becoming a private home. This in turn was handed down over four centuries, by both inheritance and purchase, through a network of interlinked families.
Discover the fascinating history of the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, the last private owner of the castle; a wealthy Anglo-American heiress who acquired Leeds Castle in 1926 when it was sold to pay death duties.
Today, the influence of Lady Baillie continues to bring the state rooms to life while visitors can see the effect of Medieval and Tudor periods in many of the other Castle rooms.
Please note: Due to space restrictions pushchairs cannot be permitted inside the Castle but a buggy park is provided. A free loan of baby slings is available inside the Castle, please ask the steward near the buggy park for further information.
The Gatehouse Exhibition
A visit to our exhibition within the ancient Gatehouse of Leeds Castle will take you on a fascinating journey through almost 900 years of the Castle’s history.
Each key stage of its development is captured, from early Norman beginnings through 300 years of royal ownership to Henry VIII’s resplendent Tudor Palace, then many centuries of private ownership and onto its most recent incarnation as a sumptuous country retreat. This extraordinary story is beautifully recreated through original artefacts, expert historical detail, illustration and film.
Leeds Castle Audio Guide
Bring your visit to life; listen to the amazing story of Leeds Castle, learn about the people that made their mark on the Castle and discover more about the wealth of antique furnishings, paintings and treasures as you explore the rooms.
Available in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Japanese. Leeds Castle Audio Tours can be purchased from The Gatehouse.
THE DOG COLLAR MUSEUM
A unique collection of historic and fascinating dog collars has been built up over the years
and is now the largest of its kind on public display anywhere in the world!
The fascinating collection of canine neckwear, spanning five centuries, is now on display in a fresh and creative new presentation – fun for children and adults alike.
There are over 130 rare and valuable collars including 30 collars, which were discovered in storage and have never been on public display before are now on show.
The earliest in the collection, dates back to the late 15th century and is a Spanish iron herd mastiff’s collar, which would have been worn for protection against wolves and bears roaming Europe at the time.
Other collars range from sixteenth-century German iron collars with fearsome spikes and ornate gilt collars of the Baroque period, through to finely-chased nineteenth century silver collars and twentieth century examples fashioned from tyres, beads and plastic.
In 1977 Mrs Gertrude Hunt presented the collection of dog collars to the Leeds Castle Foundation in memory of her husband, the historian John Hunt. Mr and Mrs Hunt were both avid collectors and amassed a large collection of art and antiquities, but the dog collars were Mrs Hunt’s particular passion.
Her donation consisted of more than 60 collars from all corners of Europe, dating from the 16th to the 19th century. Since that original gift, many more collars have been acquired by purchase and donation from members of the public and the collection continues to grow.
The Leeds Castle Foundation
Upon her death in 1974, Lady Baillie left the Castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation, a private charity whose aim is to preserve the Castle and its grounds for the benefit of the public in perpetuity. In accordance with her wishes, the Castle is kept as a living house, with bedrooms that regularly accommodate guests at weddings, conferences and banquets.
Restoration & Conservation
If you visit the estate between October 2018 and March 2019, you won’t fail to notice scaffolding on the front of our historic Castle. Here’s why...
Leeds Castle is run by the Leeds Castle Foundation; a charity whose main aim is to look after the Castle and its estate for the enjoyment of today’s visitors and future generations. Now in its 900th year, restoration on its stonework and exterior fabric has inevitably become a necessity in conserving this beautiful Castle for the next 900 years.
The current project taking place on the front elevation of the Castle is due to be completed in March 2019, and is part of a long stonework repair programme which first began in 1995 on the Castle Island, then moved onto the Maiden’s Tower; Gate Tower; Moat Bridge and Gloriette.