Sherborne castle was constructed by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594 on the site of a medieval hunting lodge which was located in a deer park in the same grounds as the 12th century Sherborne Old Castle. Although it was owned by the church, Raleigh was successful in getting Queen Elizabeth I to give the estate to the crown, after which Raleigh was given the lease which lasted for 99 years.
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At first he was going to renovate the Old Castle but decided to start from scratch to build his home. To avoid confusion he named the new castle Sherborne Lodge. The four storey house was constructed with hexagonal corner turrets in a rectangular form. He had a stained glass window installed with his initials and coat of arms (it no longer exists).
Raleigh didn’t get the chance to enjoy his home for long, living in it for only 10 years. He had the misfortune to be accused of treason and was beheaded. The crown took back the estate and sold it to Sir John Digby in 1617.
The Digby family still lives in the castle today. They added the four wings in the 1620s. In 1688 the Digbys entertained Prince William of Orange. Another famous visitor (1724) was the poet Alexander Pope. George III came for a visit in 1789 and later gave Henry Digby the title of earl. Sherborne Lodge changed its name to Sherborne castle after the civil war when the original castle was ruined by parliamentary forces.
In 1753 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was hired to landscape the grounds and create the lake. The project took two years to complete and encompassed 30 acres. In the gardens are an orangery, bridges, a cascade, and follies. In the spring visitors can enjoy bulbs in blooms. There is a collection of trees and plants that include large cedars of Lebanon by the lake and ginkgos. On the west side of the castle is a holm oak thought to date from 1776.
Water birds seen on the lake year round include great crested grebe, mute swan, mallard, coot, moorhen and Canada geese. Lake visitors are teal, wigeon, and tufted duck. In summer reed warblers, swallows, house martins, and swifts enjoy the grounds.
Sherborne Castle Estates
9 Cheap Street
Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3PY
Tel. 01935 813182
Open: April-end Oct, 11am-4.30pm (last admission), daily except Mon and Fri (open BH Mon); on Sat castle interior not open until 2pm.
Historic Houses Association member; tearoom, shop; picnic area; car park; three floors of the castle open for viewing; events program.
Website: Sherborne Castle