Ampthill Castle

Has been described as a Possible Masonry Castle, and also as a Possible Palace (Royal)

There are no visible remains

NameAmpthill Castle
Alternative NamesAmphill; Ampthil; Antehille
Historic CountryBedfordshire
Modern AuthorityBedfordshire
1974 AuthorityBedfordshire
Civil ParishAmpthill

Site of castle in the grounds of Ampthill Park constructed during the early C15 by Sir John Cornwall and later became a royal property used by Henry VIII who placed it at the disposal of Catherine of Aragon during the divorce proceedings. It had fallen into decay by the end of C16. Its site is marked by a cross which was erected in 1773. The cross stands on an octagonal base of three steps and is decorated with the royal arms and the arms of Castille and Aragon. (PastScape)

The site comprises the remains of a 15th century palace, known as Ampthill Castle, which is situated in Ampthill Park, at the top of the north-facing scarp of the Greensand Ridge. The approximate site of the palace is marked by Katherine's Cross, erected in the 1770s to commemorate Katherine of Aragon who lived for a time at the palace. Although there are no upstanding walls, there exists a detailed survey of the palace precinct drawn up in 1567 which enables the plan and extent of the ruins to be ascertained. The main precinct comprised four wings ranged about a rectangular inner court, with a gatehouse on the east wing and kitchens and a great hall on the north. Other chambers were the state rooms and private quarters. The external dimensions of this precinct were about 65m east-west by 55m north-south. Outside the north wing was a smaller court, measuring 60m east-west by 20m north-south, which contained a well-house. To the east and south the palace was surrounded by an outer, or "Base", Court which had a range of buildings at the perimeter which contained stables, workshops and other rooms which housed the ancillary functions of the palace. The outer range of buildings lay about 45m to the east of the east wing of the inner court and, although the full extent of the outer court is not shown, it must have extended for a similar distance to the south. Using the known plan as a guide, the remains of the palace can be traced on the ground

At the crest of the ridge is a rectangular platform, about 0.5m to 1m above the normal ground surface and measuring 70m east-west by 60m north-south, which is the site of the Inner Court. Katherine's Cross is located on this platform. Between the north edge of the platform and the edge of the steeply-sloping natural scarp is a terrace about 15m wide which accommodated the well-house court. The eastern edge of the Base Court ran about 50m to the west of the platform, diagonally across the present Rugby field, and its southern side is considered to lie at the break of slope of the scarp above the car park fence. The route of an original access into the Base Court from Woburn Road is marked by a gully leading up this scarp. This scarp and the steep slope to the west of the palace are likely to have been terraced, both in order to consolidate them and for aesthetic reasons. The palace was built in the early 1400s by Sir John Cornwall, later Lord Fanhope. He married Elizabeth, sister of Henry IV, and wanted a residence "Meet for his Royal spouse". The palace came into the hands of Henry VIII in 1524 and Katherine of Aragon lived there during the divorce proceedings of 1533. The buildings had already fallen into decay by 1555 and at the time of the 1567 survey its partial demolition was planned. Final demolition took place before 1649. (Beds HER)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL024383
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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  • Petre, James Scott, 2012, The Castles of Bedfordshire (Lavenham: Lavenham Press for Shaun Tyas) p. 88-92
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  • Lowerre, A.G., 2005, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd: BAR British Series 385) p. 217 (not the site of a Norman castle)
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  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
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  • Kennett, D.H., 1990, 'The destruction of country houses: Eighteenth-century Bedfordshire reconsidered' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 20 p. 15 online copy
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  • 1988, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 18 p. 7 online copy
  • Kennett, D.H., 1987, 'Greens, Moats and the Great House: aspects of the Bedfordshire landscape in the seventeenth century' South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 17 p. 28 online copy
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  • George, M.D.F., 1956, 'The Builder of Ampthill Castle' Bedfordshire magazine Vol. 5 no. 37 p. 185-9
  • Thomsom, G.S., 1950, 'Ampthill: House, Manor, Park 1542-1800' Journal of the British Archaeological Association (3rd ser) Vol. 13 p. 14-23

Primary Sources

  • Turner, M.J.B., 2012, Summary of the Information obtained from the Accounts available for the King's Manor of Ampthill 1533 – 1567 (Ampthill and District Archaeological and Local History Society) (Has interesting and useful summary and primary source references) online copy
  • Turner, M.J.B., 2012, Information on the Workers obtained from the Accounts for the Manor of Ampthill 1533-1567 (Ampthill and District Archaeological and Local History Society) online copy
  • S314/25 (Survey of 1 Mary) (in Thomson 1950 p. 17)
  • E178/378 (survey of park 13 Eliz.) The National Archives reference


  • Kevan J. Fadden, Michael J. B. Turner, Brian D. Lazelle and Clive Makin, 2011, Resistance Survey of the area believed to be the site of Ampthill Castle in the County of Bedfordshire. September 2002 & April 2003. Revised January 2011& Survey of Castle site using a Bartington 601 Gradiometer
  • September 2010_ (Ampthill and District Archaeological and Local History Society) online copy
  • Turner, M.J.B., 2010, The Orientation of Ampthill Old House or Castle (Ampthill and District Archaeological and Local History Society) online copy
  • Kevan J. Fadden & Michael J. B. Turner, 2009, Pseudo-sections of selected areas of the original geophysical survey carried out on the area believed to be the site of Ampthill Castle in the County of Bedfordshire. 2008 & 2009 (Ampthill and District Archaeological and Local History Society) online copy
  • Lowerre, A.G., 2004, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (PhD thesis: Boston College) p. 440
  • Albion Archaeology, 2002 (edited January 2005), Extensive Urban Survey - Bedfordshire and Luton (Bedfordshire County Council and English Heritage) Download copy