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Rockingham Castle

Market Harborough
LE16 8TH

Tel : 01536 770240

Fax : 01536 771692

Northamptonshire's hilltop castle provides nine hundred years of history, 450 years a Royal Castle and 450 years a family home.

It was built by William the Conqueror overlooking the Welland Valley and has been the home of the Watson family since 1530.

With splendid rooms, collections of paintings and armour and 12 acres of beautiful gardens. Also a gift shop and tearoom. Just 2 miles north of Corby on the A6003.

Opening Times and Admission Charges :

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Witness to the English Civil War

Absorbing the atmosphere of Rockingham it is easy to imagine the spirits of bygone cavaliers and roundheads. Caught up in the English Civil War, they were the victims of the bitter struggle between King and Parliament which set father against son, brother against brother. Originally a Royalist stronghold, Rockingham was stormed by Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads. The Royalists laid seige to the castle but its defences held out against repeated assaults. Steeped in history, the castle recalls memories of the evocative characters of the time; Charles 1, the proud Stuart King who would not bow to the wishes of his people; Oliver Cromwell, the strict Parliamentarian who raised the New Model Army and overthrew his King; Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Charles' nephew and dashing cavalry commander whose early successes were halted by the pikes and musketry of disciplined Roundhead infantrymen. Major battlefields of the war such as Naseby and Edgehill are to be found in the area. Re-enactments of the Seige of Rockingham are held, with Cavaliers and Roundheads locked in conflict with the cannon and muskets across the walls of the castle.

900 Years of Living History

450 years a Royal Castle, 450 a family home, Rockingham has something of interest for everyone. Its hilltop site commands magnificent views over five counties and visiting its interior is like a passage through time.

The Normans - Built by William the Conqueror on the site of an earlier Saxon fortress the Castle was host to William Rufus and Archbishop Anselm at the Great Council of Rockingham in 1095. Medieval kings visited the castle frequently to hunt in Rockingham Forest and King John left his treasure chest in the hall giving rise to the legend that his crown jewels are buried at Rockingham and not in the muddy wastes of the Wash.

The Tudors - Henry VIII granted the Castle to Edward Watson, ancestor of the present owner, Commander Michael Saunders Watson, who converted the medieval fortress into a comfortable Tudor house. His portrait hangs in the Hall alongside Jane Seymour, one of Henry's unlucky wives. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I also hangs there surrounded by her Courtiers, Cecil, Howard and Dudley.

The Civil War - Rockingham played a major role in the Civil War which was echoed in the BBC TV Series "By The Sword Divided" in which Rockingham was portrayed as Arnscote, the home of the imaginary Lacy family who faced similar problems to their real predecessors, the Watsons.

The Victorians - Rockingham was in its heyday as a Victorian mansion. Richard and Lavinia Watson had many servants and entertained in style. Their guests included Charles Dickens who acted plays in the Long Gallery and drew on Rockingham as his inspiration for Chesney Wold in "Bleak House".

Children and the National Curriculum

In a unique way Rockingham can combine the magic of a castle with a living interpretation of the National Curriculum history course.

Contemporary Rockingham

Rockingham remains today first and foremost the family home of Michael and Georgina Saunders Watson who take pride in welcoming visitors to their historic home. It is also the centre of an agricultural community and village dating back to the 17th century. Pictures from the 20th century add a particularly personal contemporary flavour.

The Gardens

Poised above the Welland Valley with views of five counties the ramparts enclose 12 acres of sweeping lawns, formal and informal gardens set among the medieval fortifications. There is a circular rose garden on the site of old keep and a wild garden in the ravine below containing over 200 species of trees and shrubs.