Rockingham Castle

The History Of Rockingham Castle

LocationCorby, Northamptonshire, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned bySaunders Watson Family
Official WebsiteRockingham Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Weddings, Events, Filming)

Rockingham Castle is a glorious historic castle and stately home that stands strategically, overlooking the Welland Valley. It provides views over five counties and therefore has been popular with the visitors.


Rockingham Castle was built on the orders of William The Conqueror. Built to serve as the administrative centre for the nearby forest, it was also used to control the crossing over the River Welland. William II, the son of William The Conqueror, came to Rockingham for the Council of Rockingham in 1095, which aimed at resolving Anselm’s (Archbishop of Canterbury) conflict with the royal will. This brings to light the castle’s importance as a seat of the government. Throughout the 12th century, Rockingham Castle regularly hosted successive kings. King John, in particular, frequently visited the castle almost every year during his reign.

In 1219, William de Fortibus, the castle’s constable, rebelled against Henry III. He aimed to besiege and take over the Rockingham Castle with the help of a Royal army. The attack heavily damaged the castle, which was later repaired and sustained as an important Royal fortress in the Midlands. The task was continued by Edward I, Henry’s son, who made substantial modifications to the ageing Norman structure. He was behind the addition of the impressive drum-shaped towers to the main gatehouse. The castle was in the hands of the Crown for over 450 years and was a magnificent hunting lodge until the reign of Edward III.

Rockingham Castle went into a decline by the late fourteenth century due to the centralization of administration in London. By 1485 the castle was ruinous, and no repairs were made. However, Henry VII built a hunting lodge within the park to ensure he could enjoy the local hunting.

In 1544, Henry VIII leased the castle to Edward Watson. Till then, it was in an impoverished state. He converted the medieval residential ranges into a comfortable house which took him thirty years to complete. Edward’s grandson, Sir Lewis Watson, bought the Castle from James I in 1619 and rebuilt the Gallery wing in 1631. The castle was majorly demolished in the Civil War twelve years later when Parliamentary forces led by Lord Grey of Groby captured the castle and fortified the keep. They held it against gruesome attacks by Royalists. The castle was subsequently returned to Sir Lewis after the war; however, it had been so severely damaged that he spent the rest of his life claiming compensation and restoring the house.

Rockingham Castle remains the centre of an agricultural community and is still home to the Saunders Watson Family. Watson family’s collection of 20th Century pictures adds a personal, contemporary flavour and is a driving force for the visitors.


Rockingham Castle
Rockingham Castle, by Tanya Dedyukhina, is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Rockingham Castle is a glorious combination of Norman, medieval, Tudor, and Victorian architecture. It was initially built as an earth and timber construction and consisted of two baileys with a central motte topped with a palisade and tower. Much of what is seen today is Tudor, enclosed within the earlier Norman castle walls. William the Conqueror’s castle motte has been levelled, the southern bailey is almost gone, and is marked by the rose garden. Part of the curtain wall of the north bailey still stands along with its sturdy stone gatehouse. King John may have built the surviving structures and spent £200 strengthening the castle’s defences. King Edward I built the house’s core, and the great hall built under his reign survives as the centrepiece of the historic interiors. There is a wealth of historic furniture and artwork, including an extensive collection of 20th-century art.

Rockingham Castle Gardens is enclosed within 12 acres of sweeping lawns and formal and informal gardens, set among the medieval fortifications. Rockingham Castle’s opening times for 2022 are available to be viewed on the website. The grounds and gardens will be open from noon and the castle from 1 pm. They close the gates for the visitors at 5 pm.

Movie Features

By The Sword Divided (1983-1985)– Rockingham Castle is featured in the War- Drama TV Series set in the backdrop of the English Civil War.

Medieval Lives (2004)– The castle is also featured in the History- Documentary mini TV Series hosted by Terry Jones, exploring facts about the Middle Ages and its roots.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why was Rockingham Castle built?

Rockingham Castle was built on the orders of William The Conqueror for the location’s strategic importance, which helped him subdue his new kingdom. Built as a motte-and-bailey, it was a base for the royals for several centuries before becoming a surplus and being sold to private ownership.

Where is Rockingham Castle?

Rockingham Castle is situated on the side of the Welland Valley, off the A6003. It is 1 mile north of the town of Corby and 24 miles from Peterborough, Northampton, and Leicester. It is half an hour from the A1 and M1 and 10 minutes from the A14 at Kettering if you go by road.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
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He is a versatile E-Learning Support Officer and former Academic Officer at the University of York, United Kingdom. Not just an expert in education and technology, Debayan also has a deep love for castles and mountains. With a passion for travel, having explored 168+ cities worldwide, and a keen eye for photography, He brings a unique blend of experiences to the table. Specializing in E-learning content, IT support, AR development, and software engineering, Debayan has made a significant impact, educating over 200,000 students on Udemy.

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