Grimsthorpe Castle

Venue Type & Location

Private Residence

Site Name: Grimsthorpe Castle
Location: Grimsthorpe Castle
County: Lincolnshire
Location Type: Countryside - at determined location


Located on a ridge with extensive views over the rolling countryside, the early 13th c. castle was rapidly extended over 18 months for a visit by Henry VIII in 1541.

The early 13th c. King John's tower still stands at the SE corner and 3 wings of the large quadrangular house date from 1541, though much altered, but the grand N front is early 18th c. The 2-storey Tudor great hall was in the N wing. In the 17th c. Fuller noted:
'The Hall therein was fitted to a fair Suit of Hangings, which the Duke had by his Wife Mary the French Queen, and is now in the possession of the Right Honourable Montague Earl of Lindsey' (Fuller, Worthies of England 151).

Performance History

Household accounts surviving for a brief period from 1561--2 show that the Willoughby family hosted entertainments of various kinds. Entertainers patronized by Katherine, Duchess of Suffolk, and her first husband, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, toured elsewhere but the Duchess' players are also on record performing at Grimsthorpe.

Current Status

Still the home of the de Eresby family. Open to the public at stated times.

History of the Venue

early 13th c. Castle erected on the site by Gilbert de Gant, Earl of Lincoln.

by 15th c. Acquired by the de Beaumont family.

1516 Granted to William, 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, on his marriage with Maria de Salinas, by Henry VIII.

1526 Their daughter, Katherine, became Baroness Willoughby de Eresby at the age of 7 on the death of her father and became a ward of Court.

1528 Wardship purchased by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

1533 Brandon married Katherine Willoughby.

1537 Charles Brandon and Katherine Willoughby made the castle their residence.

1539 Brandon granted the lands of nearby Cistercian abbey of Vaudey.

1540--1 Enlarged and renovated using coarse limestone from Vaudey Abbey for the visit of Henry VIII. 3 small towers and 4 wings added around a small courtyard. A 2nd court was added later as Leland noted: 'The place of Grimesthorpe was no great thing afore the new building of the secunde court. Yet was al the old work of stone, and th[e g]ate house was faire and [strong,] and the waulles of ech[e side of] it embatelid. [There is also a] great dich about the house' (John Leland, Itinerary 1.23).

1640s Damaged and sacked by parliamentary troops.

later 17th c. N front rebuilt in classical style by Robert Bertie, 3rd Earl of Lindsey.

1722--7 N front again rebuilt by Sir John Vanbrugh for Robert Bertie, 1st Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven. Interior redecorated, including the great hall on the site of the Tudor original.

mid-18th c. E wing renovated: 3 new oriel windows added to co-ordinate with projecting Tudor oriels. Work likely also done on the S front at the same time. Landscaping done by Capability Brown.

1811 Restoration done for Priscilla, 21st Baroness de Eresby. E front raised and refaced, with battlements added; another storey and a bay window rising to the full height of the house added to the restored W wing; some redecoration of the interior begun.

mid-19th c. Service range added in the courtyard.

later 19th c. Grimsthorpe ceased to be used as a family residence.

1911 Gilbert, 2nd Earl of Ancaster and Grimsthorpe, began extensive restoration and redecoration.

1940--4 Requisitioned by the army during World War II.

1950s Repairs, redecoration and alterations, including demolition of the service block, for James, 3rd Earl of Ancaster.

1978 Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust created to ensure the future of Grimsthorpe.

Record Source

REED Bristol 66, 68; Cambridgeshire 1.216, 497; Coventry 346, 351, 353, 386, 396; Cumberland/Westmorland/Gloucestershire 299; Dorset/Cornwall 212; Lincolnshire 1.88, 238, 355--61; Newcastle upon Tyne 32, 126, 131; Norwich 1540--1642 48, 109; Sussex 114; York 1.464

Patrons who owned this venue

Name Dates Titles
Bertie, Peregrine 1555-1601 13th Baron
Bertie, Richard 1517-1582
Bertie, Robert 1582-1642 14th Baron , 1st Earl of , Knight of the
Brandon, Charles 1484-1545 Knight , Knight of the , 5th Viscount , 4th Duke of
Willoughby, William 1476-1526 11th Baron

Bibliographic Sources

  • Allen, Thomas. The History of the County of Lincoln, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. London & Lincoln: John Saunders, Junior, 1834.
  • Fuller, Thomas. The History of the Worthies of England. London: Thomas Williams, 1662.
  • 'Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, The Seat of the Earl of Ancaster' Country Life 14 (22 August 1903): 272–7.
  • Hodgett, Gerald A.J. Tudor Lincolnshire. History of Lincolnshire VI. Lincoln: History of Lincolnshire Committee, 1975.
  • Hussey, Christopher. 'Grimsthorpe Castle – I. Lincolnshire, The Seat of the Earl of Ancaster.' Country Life 55 (12 April 1924): 572–9.
  • Hussey, Christopher. 'Grimsthorpe Castle – II. Lincolnshire, The Seat of the Earl of Ancaster.' Country Life 55 (19 April 1924): 614–21.
  • Hussey, Christopher. 'Grimsthorpe Castle – III. Lincolnshire, The Seat of the Earl of Ancaster.' Country Life 55 (26 April 1924): 650–7.
  • King, David J. Cathcart. Castellarium Anglicanum: An Index and Bibliography of the Castles in England, Wales and the Islands. 2 vols. Millwood, NY, London and Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus International Publications, 1983.
  • Kip, Johannes. Nouveau theatre de la grande Bretagne. 4 vols. London: Joseph Smith, 1724.
  • Leland, John. The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the Years 1535–1543. Lucy Toulmin Smith, ed. 5 vols. London: Centaur, 1964.
  • Lomax, S.B., ed. 'Report on the Manuscripts of the Earl of Ancaster Preserved at Grimsthorpe.’ . . The 37th Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission. Dublin: HMSO, 1907.
  • Mackenzie, James D. The Castles of England: Their Story and Structure. 2 vols. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1896.
  • Pettifer, Adrian. English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Woodbridge: The Boydell P, 1995.
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, and John Harris. Lincolnshire. 1964. The Buildings of England. London: Penguin Books, 1998.
  • 'Report of the Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Lincoln in 1974.' Archaeological Journal 131 (1974): 268–382.
  • Salter, Mike. The Castles of the East Midlands. Malvern: Folly Publications, 2002.
  • Tipping, H. Avray. 4 & 5-English Homes: Period III, Late Tudor and Early Stuart, 1558-1649. 9 vols. London: Country Life, 1922.
  • Turner, Thomas Hudson, and John Henry Parker. Some Account of Domestic Architecture in England, from Richard II. to Henry VIII. 3 vols (vol 3 in 2 pts). Oxford: John Henry and James Parker, 1851–9.
  • Williams, Sally, rev ed. Grimsthorpe Castle. Grimsthorpe, Bourne: The Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust, 2003.