Grimsthorpe Castle

Has been described as a Possible Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameGrimsthorpe Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLincolnshire
Modern AuthorityLincolnshire
1974 AuthorityLincolnshire
Civil ParishEdenham

The Castle was built in the thirteenth century. The south-east tower is traditionally known as King John's Tower. The east, west and south fronts were originally Tudor. The north front is by Vanburgh in 1722. The west front was partly rebuilt by him and wholly rebuilt in Tudor style in 1811. Serious damage to the south wing was reported in 1960. (Lincolnshire HER)

It is likely that the first castle at Grimsthorpe was built by Gilbert de Gant, the great grandson of Baudouin, Count of Flanders. He succeeded in 1192 as 5th Lord of Folkingham. Created Earl of Lincoln in 1216 by Prince Louis of France (later Louis VIII), he was dispatched to the north to oppose King John during the baron's revolt. He devastated the city of Lincoln, but was later taken prisoner and deprived of his estates. He died in 1242. Much of his large estate eventually passed to Henry, 1st Lord Beaumont, who served both Edward I and Edward II in a military capacity.

The association with Grimsthorpe and the Barons Willoughby de Eresby, which has lasted down the centuries, began when Henry, 5th Lord Beaumont married Elizabeth Willoughby, daughter of William, 5th Baron de Eresby. Their grandson, William was the last of the Beaumont family line. His second wife, Elizabeth Scrope, previously married to the Earl of Oxford, occupied Grimsthorpe until her death in the summer of 1537.

However, in 1516 Henry VIII granted the reversion of the manor to William Willoughby who became 10th Baron Willoughby de Eresby on his marriage to Maria de Salinas, Maid of Honour to Queen Katherine of Aragon. In March 1520 Maria gave birth to a daughter, Katherine. Dating back to 1313, the Barony of Willoughby de Eresby is an English peerage which can pass in the female line. Katherine was only about six when her father died and she succeeded as 11th Baroness and heiress to Grimsthorpe

She became a ward of the king until 1528 when Henry VIII sold the wardship to his brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

Suffolk's devious plan was for his young son, Henry Brandon, Earl of Lincoln, to improve his prospects by marriage to Katherine, the heiress to Grimsthorpe. But the scheme collapsed in 1533 when his wife, Mary Tudor, died and their son Henry became terminally ill. Ever the opportunist, Suffolk, then aged about 50, took the fourteen-year-old Katherine for his fourth wife.

Within two years riots occurred in Lincolnshire inspired by the King's policy to dissolve the monasteries. This led to 'The Pilgrimage of Grace when many northern lords gave their support to the abbots and monks who were being ejected from their religious houses. Henry VIII ordered Suffolk to Lincolnshire to help crush the revolt.

With the dissolution of the Abbey of Vaudey, which stood in the grounds of Grimsthorpe, Suffolk had an excellent supply of stone available to improve and enlarge his wife's inheritance and make it ready for a visit by the King, who planned to stay there while on his way to meet his nephew, James V of Scotland, in York.

Grimsthorpe Castle was the last work of Vanbrugh. By the time Britannia Illustrata was published in 1707, the 15th Baron Willoughby de Eresby and 3rd Earl Lindsay had rebuilt the north front of Grimsthorpe in the classical style.

Presumably these improvements were not to the taste of the 17th Baron, who also held the title Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven, who employed Vanbrugh to replace the north front with a Baroque facade. Other ambitious plans to transform the rest of the building were modified after the Duke's death.

Had all Vanbrugh's planned modifications been completed, it would not be possible to walk round Grimsthorpe today and see its past so clearly portrayed in its walls.

What remains has been molded and reshaped into a variety of styles that reflect changes in fashion and the fortunes of its owners. Now its future is in the hands of the Grimsthorpe and Drummond Castle Trust, a charitable body set up by the 3rd Earl of Ancestor and his daughter Jane Heathcote Drummond Willoughby, 27th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

There is much obvious post-medieval landscaping making the castle seem rather more isolated from the village than it probably was originally. The modern road (A151) has a large loop around the park of the castle but probably originally ran in a straighter line through the park and nearer to the castle.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTF044227
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Copyright Photo by Dave Pearson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Photo by Dave Pearson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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  • Conner, T., 1974, 'Grimsthrope Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 131 p. 330-3
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