The History of Cholmondeley Castle

LocationCholmondeley, Cheshire, England (Google Map Location)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned by7th Marquess David Cholmondeley
Official WebsiteCholmondeley Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Situated in Cheshire County, England, Cholmondeley Castle is a magnificent 19th-century structure with origins tracing back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Since the Norman ages, the Estate has been with the Cholmondeley family, but there aren’t enough historical records to trace their origins. Despite the shortage of data, it is said that Robert De Cholmondeley was made the first Lord of Cholmondeley around the year 1200.

Apart from being a marvel from the 19th century, the Cholmondeley Castle also consists of the Chapel of St. Nicholas. The Chapel was originally constructed in 1285 by Hugh De Cholmondeley and remodelled in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Castle’s ornamental gardens are one of the most admired features, along with the vast stretches of parkland. There are also five elegant lodges situated across the Estate along its picturesque park and garden trails.

History

While little was known about the Castle and the Estate until the 16th century, pieces of information that historians have gathered give us a fascinating account. Robert De Cholmondeley was made the First Lord of Cholmondeley around the year 1200, and he is the first member of the family known to us. St. Nicholas’ Chapel was constructed in 1285 after Hugh De Cholmondeley sought permission to build it from the head of the parish.

Cholmondeley Castle has remained in possession of the Cholmondeley family since the 1200s and has mostly been their preferred residence. The next known event in the history of the Estate was in the year 1572 when Sir Hugh Cholmondeley rebuilt the medieval-style family home. He built a timber-framed Elizabethan family home surrounded by a moat with the help of William Fawcomer, a well-appreciated carpenter of the time.

The English Civil War of 1641-1651 was another turning point in the Castle’s history. The Cholmondeley family supported the Royalists. The Castle was close to the Parliamentarian stronghold in Nantwich and was attacked multiple times. In 1644, the Castle was finally surrendered to the Parliamentarians, while Lord Cholmondeley managed to escape. In 1706, Hugh Cholmondeley, son of Viscount Robert Cholmondeley, was made the Earl. In the 1688 Revolution, the 1st Earl of Cholmondeley supported the cause of William the Orange. He was then appointed as the Controller of Her Majesty’s Household in 1708.

After the death of the 1st Earl, the Cholmondeley Estate was passed on to his nephew, George. This was followed by the Estate being transferred to the 3rd Earl, who spent most of the family’s finances and almost drove them into bankruptcy. The Cholmondeley Castle was neglected for nearly the entirety of the 18th century and required restoration. In 1770, the 4th Earl and 1st Marquees of Cholmondeley inherited the Estate. He got the 16th century Hall demolished and got it replaced by a Gothic-style country house designed by William Turner. New wings and towers were also added to the Castle in the 19th century.

During World War II, the Cholmondeley Castle grounds were used to house troops serving the Czechoslovakian government, which was in exile. The Castle was also used for planning Operation Anthropoid, a secret attempt by the Czech forces to assassinate one of the top officials of Nazi Germany’s Secret Service, Reinhard Heydrich. During this period, the Estate also served as a naval hospital for taking care of soldiers affected by nervous disorders.

The Cholmondeley family was highly regarded by her Majesty’s government during the Civil War and well after it. Today, the position of Lord Great Chamberlain, who is responsible for Royal Affairs in the Westminster Palace, is held by the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley. The duties of this position include meeting the Queen in Parliament on ceremonious occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament, as well as administering some areas of the Westminster Palace.

Architecture

Cholmondeley Castle, by pam fray, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The ornate new house built in the early 19th century is situated on the top of a hill with an entrance having two castellated blocks. The crenellated sandstone building is built in Gothic fashion and has two stories and a basement. It is not a very grand structure but is symmetric in design. The East side of the house facing the park was also constructed during this time.

Cholmondeley Castle’s lateral wings have beautiful windows with Gothic arches. These sections include a new dining room, a family wing with a tall rectangular tower, and two turrets to the south of the house. The Castle also boasts elaborate and intricate interior design. With its chandeliers and ceiling decorations, the drawing-room makes for a marvellous sight. The dining room has a marble mantelpiece with a cornice decorated with gilded flowers and leaves. Other attractions include the Bird Room, which currently houses various documents related to the Estate, and the library.

St. Nicholas’ Chapel stands on a hill West of Cholmondeley Castle at a slight elevation. It was originally built in the 13th century with a timber frame. It was then encased in brick and extended in 1717, followed by further renovations. The Chapel’s interiors are made of elaborate Oak woodwork from the 17th century.

Cholmondeley Castle’s gardens are one of the most popular attractions of the Estate, housing diverse and unique collections of flora. The garden is surrounded by terraces at various heights. There is a temple situated at the center of a lake, which is beside the garden area. The temple garden’s architectural entrances, rock garden, and cascade are also some of the attractions.

There are five elegant lodges situated across the Estate originating from the 19th century. The Beeston Lodge is built of sandstone in 1854 with a broached and crenelated stone tower. It is situated at the entrance of the Estate along with Nantwich Lodge. At the entrance of the pleasure grounds north of the Castle is the Somerset Lodge, a 19th-century castellated structure. The Deer Park Lodge is also an elaborately designed building, with Tudor detailed windows and a shallow hipped roof. Lastly, Park House Lodge stands between the Scotch farm and the Park House to the North of Cholmondeley Castle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns Cholmondeley Castle?

Cholmondeley Castle has been in the ownership of the Cholmondeley family since Norman times. The first known owner of the Castle was Robert de Cholmondeley, who was the 1st Lord of Cholmondeley in the early 13th century. The current owner is David Cholmondeley, the 7th Marquees, who resides in Houghton Hall, Norfolk.

Is Cholmondeley Castle open for visitors?

Visitors are welcome to explore Cholmondeley Castle’s ornate gardens and nature trails. The 19th-century house is not open to visitors.

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