Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire

Blending perfectly into the gentle, green slopes of the Cotswolds is a lovely old building whose golden coloured stonework is remarkably soft and appealing to the eyes. Sudeley Castle's history can be traced back over 1000 years, its estates bordering the former Saxon capital town of Winchcombe, but it was Ralph Boteler who began building the magnificent castle in the middle of the 15th century as a status symbol of his achievements. After a brilliant naval career, he became Baron Sudeley, and Lord Chamberlain of the King's household, and enjoyed a life of luxury at his grand new residence for less years than he had anticipated. Seized by the Crown in 1461, Sudeley Castle remained in the hands of the Kings of England until Henry VIII died in 1547, when it was left to his young son, Edward, who in turn gave Sudeley Castle to his uncle, Sir Thomas Seymour.

Having courted Katherine Parr before she became Henry's Queen, Sir Thomas renewed the relationship and made a proposal of marriage almost immediately. At the same time he arranged for a complete refurbishment of his estate, and several new apartments to be created at Sudeley Castle in readiness for Katherine's arrival as his bride. In less than two years Katherine died, and her remains are entombed in the chapel at Sudeley Castle. Over the next two centuries the fortunes of the castle changed rapidly, from being a lavishly comfortable venue where Queen Elizabeth I was extravagantly entertained on occasion, to a fatigued and sadly desecrated ruin. With the irreparable damaged sustained by Cromwell's troops, Sudeley Castle was left to the ravages of time and nature until the beginning of the 19th century. It was in 1837 that John and William Dent purchased the devastated castle, and the estates of Sudeley, with a plan to regenerate life into the old stones and transform it into a place of homely beauty.

Assisted by the great Victorian restorer, Sir Gilbert Scott, Sudeley Castle received a 'Tudor' makeover, and period furniture was obtained from the auction of Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill house. Extensive rebuilding was continued long after the brothers' death, and this was largely due to the enthusiasm and energy of Emma Dent, a lady whose name is synonymous with the present look of Sudeley Castle.

When Emma died in 1900 Sudeley Castle was thriving, but with the advent of two World Wars and seriously depleted funds as a result of debts and death duties, Sudeley was again abandoned in the 1970s, becoming a financial nightmare. Salvation arrived 10 years on in the form of Lord Ashcombe, a descendant of the architect builder, Thomas Cubitt, and for the third time new life was breathed within the ancient walls of Sudeley Castle.

Harmoniously combining the strong Tudor influences, the Royal connections, the superb Victorian restorations, and the more recent sympathetic remodelling, Sudeley Castle is a fine representation of history in the making, as well as a delightful family home full of treasures. With 14 acres of magnificent gardens encompassing the house and the splendidly romantic ruins, there is an inexplicably magical atmosphere to Sudeley Castle that tends to draw the visitor back time and time again.


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