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Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire

Grimsthorpe Castle and parkland courtesy Tim Heaton Grimsthorpe Castle, dating from the 13th century, sits in a 3000-acre landscaped park with lakes, woods, and trails. The manor house and grounds have been in the same family for 17 generations, that of the Willoughby de Eresbys. The manor was first given to the family in 1516 by Henry VIII who presented it to William, the 10th baron as a marriage gift.

The building began as a medieval tower with 7 foot thick walls. It was not until the Duke of Suffolk took ownership on his marriage to William’s daughter in 1533 that any changes took place to the tower. Stone from a nearby abbey was used to build a rectangular shaped house with an inner courtyard.

Grimsthorpe Castle courtesy John Goldsmith In the early 1700s the 17th baron became the Duke of Ancaster and set about making improvements to fit his new title. However Sir John Vanbrugh, who was commissioned to build a four-sided building, only completed the north front and courtyard. Thus Grimsthorpe today is an amalgamation of this work and the original Tudor mansion.

Only the ground floor is open to view. There are state rooms and picture galleries, tapestries, and Venetian and French furniture. Attractive chandeliers hang from the ceilings. An unusual collection is that of several thrones used by kings—the 14th baron was appointed Lord Great Chamberlain and secured them through that connection.

Grimsthorpe Lake courtesy Tim Heaton The landscaping of the grounds dates from the 18th century. The park, artificial lake, and pretend bridge were the planning of ‘Capability’ Brown. Directly behind the castle are gardens (flower and topiary) with several large squares and one with trees and a long border. There is also a woodland garden with spring bulbs, an ornamental vegetable garden, an herbaceous border, and an orchard. A formal rose parterre is lined with small box hedges.

Tour of the House

Vanbrugh Hall: huge interior hall with arcaded screens off of which are staircases; black marble insets in floor; arcades high up with figures and antique busts; massive chimneypiece with family crest; five gilt gesso chandeliers; painted hall chairs; used as games room in 1800s and as sitting room in early 1900s.

Staircases and Vaulted Hall: staircase leads to state rooms; ladings have pedimented doorcases; ceilings painted with mythological subjects; vaulted hall from doorway beneath staircase was designed to be a kitchen; has 16th century armour on display.

State Dining Room: in north-east tower; Venetian window; painted ceiling; mahogany doors inlaid with walnut and holly; 18th century Rococo chimneypiece with carved panels; 17th century Brussels tapestries; family portraits; gilded thrones; gilt wall sconces; paintings.

King James Room: first in set of state rooms in Tudor east range; portrait of James I; gilt pilasters, cornices; arched doorcases; marble chimneypiece; 19th century continental furniture; 18th century Italian giltwood table; Derbyshire Blue John vase collection.

State Drawing Room: 16th century oriel window; once used as dining room; Palladian overmantle; gilded festoons; papier maché ornamentation; chimneypiece of note; family portraits; Baroque console table.

Tapestry Room: tapestries woven by Joshua Morris c1730; black and gold chairs and settee are by William Kent.

South Corridor: family portraits; 17th century Flemish tortoiseshell cabinet; suite of 17th century furniture inlaid with pewter, brass, and ebony; thrones used by Prince Albert and Edward VII; desk of Queen Victoria’s; Prince Regent’s bedroom at end of corridor.

Gothic Bedroom: named for crimson velvet canopy over bed, embroidered with George IV cypher—once hung over his throne.

West Corridor: 18th century Chinese Chippendale chairs; family portraits; rosewood writing table used by George IV.

Tapestry Bedroom: white marble chimneypiece; late 18th century bed in gothic style; staircase leading from here has early 18th century walnut longcase clock once in House of Lords.

Chinese Drawing Room: off the chapel lobby; mix of rococo, classical, Chinese and gothic motifs show off various decorative schemes through the years; coffered ceiling with rosette designs; 18th century oriel window; painted Chinese wallpaper; Italian gilded mirrors.

Chapel: part of the late 17th century front; 17th century plasterwork in ceiling; gallery with family pew and fireplace; 17th century Spanish painting; vaulted lobby has English Renaissance marble table.

Visitor Information

Grimsthorpe Castle, Park and Gardens
Four miles north-west of Bourne, Lincolnshire
Tel. 0 1778 591 205
Open: park and gardens, April-May, Sun, Thu, and BH Mon, 11am-6pm; June-Sep, Sun-Thu; house same days as park, 1-6pm but by tour only weekdays, departing every half hour from 1pm—collect timed ticket at shop, self guided tours on Sun and BH
Historic Houses Association member; parking; tea-room; shop; special events
Web: Grimsthorpe Castle

Photos courtesy John Goldsmith and Tim Heaton at Geograph

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Historic Lincolnshire Churches
Grimsthorpe Castle
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Heckington St Andrews Church
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Lincolnshire's Historic Churches, Part II
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