Rockingham Castle has an incredible history and it’s easy to see why, not long after the victory of William the Conqueror in 1066, he chose this site to build an impressive fortress. The Normans were in a shaky position with a new kingdom to control, and with its sweeping views across the Welland Valley, Rockingham was the perfect location for this stronghold. Not only was the castle used as a formidable fortress, but it was also used as his seat of government. The Great Council of Rockingham took place here in 1095.
The castle retained its importance through the ages and continued to be an essential stronghold for royalty during the middle ages. Kings visited and stayed at the castle, including Richard the Lionheart who brought his brother here to hunt and hosted the Scottish king among others. There is a legend that states Richard’s brother John left his treasure in the Great Hall of the castle and that it remains buried there to this day. There are many treasures to see in and around Market Harborough, so why put it on your to-do list this summer.
One of our most infamous kings, Henry VIII gifted the castle to a man named Edward Watson, whose ancestor still owns the property today. Edward Watson successfully updated the castle from a medieval fortress into a gentrified and comfortable Tudor home. You can still his portrait hanging in the Hall. His portrait hangs next to one of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, one of the unluckiest of Henry’s wives.
Rockingham Castle enjoyed much drama during the English Civil War as well. It started off in the hands of the Royalists but was soon captured by Cromwell’s Parliamentarians. The castle then suffered a siege by Royalist troops. The building stood strong but suffered a great deal of damage and Edward Watson lost most of his wealth because of this traumatic experience.
Thankfully, the castle enjoyed happier times during the Victorian period. The property was home to another generation of the Watson family with many servants looking after the family and grounds. The location was ideal for entertaining and among the famous guests were charles dickens. It is said some of his inspiration for his novels came from visits to the castle and he even performed his plays in the Long Gallery.
Today, the castle is still an important part of the local countryside and the heart of a thriving agricultural community. It is still in the hands of the Watson family who love to display their collection of 20th century portraits. Its gardens remain a big draw to the many people who visit the grounds every year. Its fine location means it boasts views across five counties, with 12 acres of both formal and informal gardens, lawns and a rose garden. The medieval ramparts are still visible, and the ravine contains a wild garden with an impressive display of rare plants and trees of more than 200 different species.