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Leicester Castle

Visited July 2022

Location Leicester
Entrance Fee No 
Railway Station Nearby Yes- Leicester
Parking City Car parks
Facilities City Centre facilities
Map

 

There is not much actual masonry left of this once grand castle. The main surviving parts are the Motte, the Great Hall and the Church of St Mary de Castro which was the church of the castle complex and is still in use today. 

 


 

 


Review

 

The castle was started in about 1070, possibly by William the Conqueror himself. It was well utilised by royalty on official visits over the years, and was a particular favourite of John of Gaunt. There are surviving medieval cellars under the Great Hall which were supposedly used by John of Gaunt, but they are currently closed to the public as they are in need of repair. 

 

The castle was slighted after civil war, but the Great Hall survived as it was being used as a law court, a role it fulfilled until 1992. The church of St Mary survived as it had over time been adapted for use as a parish church, much to the annoyance of the castle occupants who built a wall inside the church to keep their side of it exclusive.

 

The motte originally had a wooden structure on top and the precinct was surrounded first by wooden and then by masonry walls. The mound is situated in a city centre park and can be visited; it is grassed and has benches on the summit so is a good spot for a picnic. It was very quiet on the day we visited, with no one else around.

 

St Mary's church welcomes visitors and is certainly worth a look. The medieval Great Hall was remodelled with a Georgian façade in the 17th century, but inside it still retains some of its 12th century features. It is currently occupied by De Montford University and is open mainly on Heritage Open Days.

 

One of the castle gateways, known as the Turret Gateway survives today, and the wall surrounding it still displays the gun loops which were created during the siege of Leicester in the civil war. The Turret gateway lost its top storey during a riot in 1832.

 


 

 


 

One famous association of Leicester that you cannot get away from is King Richard III. The King seems to be everywhere, and since the discovery of his remains in Leicester in 2012 a dedicated visitor centre has been established in the city. King Richard was known to have stayed at Leicester Castle shortly after he succeeded to the throne in 1483, and it was from within the city that he rode out to meet the forces of Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

 

We visited the Richard III exhibition at Leicester and can recommend it. There are interactive displays for children and the centre sets out Richard's story and that of the Wars of the Roses, with of course most emphasis on the Battle of Bosworth and its aftermath. The battlefield itself can be visited but this is not in the city itself so we ran out of time to visit there too. 

 

Leicester Cathedral is now the final resting place of the remains of the King. At the time of our trip to Leicester the Cathedral was closed for renovations which are due to finish in 2023, so unfortunately we couldn't visit at this time.

 

 


 

 


 

There are other interesting places to visit in the city including the Magazine Gateway, which once stood at the entrance of the religious precinct adjoining the castle complex. It was used to store gunpowder during the civil war, hence its  name. 

 

We also checked out the references to Richard III on the Bow Bridge, an earlier version of which he allegedly rode over on his way to Bosworth, and was brought back over slung on the back of his horse after his death on the battlefield. There is also a plaque marking the spot where the now-discredited story goes that Richard's remains were thrown into the River Soar by an angry mob. 

 

About 20 minutes walk away is the Abbey Park, a large area of green space popular with families, which also contains the ruins of Leicester Abbey. There is much for children here, with a play area, miniature railway and lots of space to run around.

 


 

 


 

More info: Leicester Castle

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