History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 12th century Banqueting Hall with minstrel gallery
Starting around 1130 De Vere built Hedingham Castle, possibly to a design by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald of Bec. The castle was finished by his son, another Aubrey. Matilda rewarded Aubrey III for continuing his father's loyalty to her cause by naming him the first Earl of Oxford. Today Hedingham is still owned by a descendent of Aubrey de Vere.
Throughout the Norman and medieval periods the de Veres were in the forefront of national politics. They were traditionally Lord Great Chamberlains to the reigning monarch, and many kings and queens visited Hedingham Castle, including Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I.
The 2nd Earl went on Cruade with Richard I, and the 3rd Earl was among the leaders of the barons who forced king John to sign the Magna Carta. King John took his revenge, and in 1216 his armies seized Hedingham after a brief seige. The following year the royal forces were ousted by the Dauphin of France and the de Veres regained their castle.
During the Wars of the Roses John de Vere, the 13th Earl of Oxford, supported the Lancastrian cause, and helped lead Henry VI's armies at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. Not surprisingly Edward IV seized his estates. De Vere helped Henry VII defeat Edward's successor, RichardIII, and the grateful Tudor king restored his lands and titles. Henry invited de Vere to stand as godfather to his eldest son, Prince Arthur.
The Earl entertained the new king at Hedingham, but according to a tale (possibly apocryphal) related by Sir Francis Bacon, de Vere made the mistake of flaunting his wealth by showing off his huge number of retainers. Henry's strict laws made such a large number of retainers illegal, and the king fined de Vere a vast amount of money. The Earl had enough wealth to pay the fine and transform much of his medieval castl;e to a paltial Tudoor residence. Hardly any trace of this grand house remains, save for a red brick bridge betwen the castle motte and outer bailey.
Part of the charm of Hedingham Castle are the delightful gardens that surround the castle and country house. When William Ashhurst built his Queen Anne house on the old castle earthworks, he called in designer Adam Holt, know for his garden at Wanstead Park, to create formal gardens on the sloping land below the house. Holt transformed Norman fish ponds into a canal with a lovely octagonal folly feature, and a formal lake. The landscape was carefully softened by planting carefully arranged clusters of speciment trees. Large drifts of snowdrops were planted to create a colourful valley walk. In the 1920s the garden was extended to include a bog garden centred on a Georgian dovecote. A more recent addition are a number of modern sculpures, scattered strategically throughout. The result is a gorgeous mix of formal and informal gardens surrounded by woodland.
I absolutely adored Hedingham. The location is utterly superb. The interior of the keep is in an astonishing state of good repair. I could almost imagine the great hall filled with medieval revellers, while musicians played from the gallery. And the gardens were an unexpected delight. Seeing the castle keep reflected in the lake is a marvellous sight.
Just to be picky let me note that the castle is properly called Hedingham Castle, while the village has the words the other way around and calls itself Castle Hedingham!
About Hedingham Castle
Address: Bayley Street, Castle Hedingham, Essex, England, CO9 3DJ
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: Off the B1058. Well signposted, pleanty of on-site parking.
Website: Hedingham Castle
Phone: 01787 460 261
OS: TL788 359
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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Anne Boleyn (Person) - castle (Architecture) - Charles II (Person) - Edward IV (Person) - Elizabeth I (Person) - Georgian (Time Period) - Henry I (Person) - Henry VI (Person) - Henry VII (Person) - Henry VIII (Person) - King John (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - Norman (Architecture) - Queen Anne (Person) - Richard I (Person) - Tudor (Time Period) - Wars of the Roses (Historical Reference) - William Shakespeare (Person) - William the Conqueror (Person) -
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