Featured image of Grimsthorpe Castle

The History of Grimsthorpe Castle

LocationBourne, Lincolnshire, England
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byGrimsthorpe & Drummond Castle Trust
Official WebsiteGrimsthorpe Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Grimsthorpe Castle is a magnificent country home situated in the South Kevesten District, Lincolnshire. The Castle’s design incorporates several unique styles from across the centuries, and it is widely considered an architectural marvel. Grimsthorpe Castle gardens and the acres of surrounding parkland provide an atmosphere of serenity to the Estate. Grimsthorpe Castle and St John’s Tower (13th century) have a fascinating history spanning across centuries, which can be unravelled during a visit to the Castle grounds.
The Willoughby de Eresby family, whose members have held several honourable titles, have been the owners of Grimsthorpe Castle for over five hundred years. The person who holds the position of Baron or Baroness Willoughby de Eresby has several important responsibilities even today. The Office of the Lord Great Chamberlain is partially held by the Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, who was also one of the Maids of Honor at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.


The origins of Grimsthorpe as a site of nobility go back to the 13th century. The Earl of Lincoln, Gilbert de Gant built a defensive tower on the site in the early 13th century. After de Gant passed away, the property was transferred to the Earl of Chester and Grimsthorpe, Ranulph de Blondeville. The Earl served the King, and it is speculated that it was during this period that the tower acquired the name King John’s Tower. There is little evidence of the ownership of Grimsthorpe between the 13th and late 15th centuries. The next known owner of the Grimsthorpe Estate was Lord Francis Lovel (1456-1487). Lord Francis was a loyal supporter of King Richard III and is said to have been one of the King’s close confidants.

As England moved into the Tudor period, the ownership of Grimsthorpe Castle changed once again. Henry VII defeated King Richard III, and the property was confiscated by the Crown. In 1516, the property was gifted by King Henry VIII to William Willoughby, the 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby, on his marriage to the lady-in-waiting of Catherine of Aragon. The Baron passed away soon, leaving behind the Estate to his only daughter, Katherine. She inherited Grimsthorpe Castle and several other properties at the age of seven. Being a minor, she was not eligible to acquire the properties according to the law of the time. As a ward of the Court, her properties were conceded to the Crown. Charles Brandon, the 1st Duke of Suffolk, married Katherine in 1533 and acquired Grimsthorpe Estate. He immediately set about renovating the country home. The construction began in 1539 and was completed in 1541, in time for the visit of King Henry VIII, who spent a night at Grimsthorpe on his way to York.

After Charles Brandon passed away, Katherine fell in love with Richard Bertie, who was formerly her Master of the Horse and married him. Richard Bertie was a follower of Anglicanism and was in danger of being targeted by the Reformation for his religious views. Queen Mary was a staunch supporter of Catholicism and persecuted Protestants widely during this period, leading her to infamously gain the title “Bloody Mary”. After Elizabeth I ascended the throne, religious persecution decreased, and it was safe for Richard and Katherine to return to Grimsthorpe with their children, Susan and Peregrine, in 1559.

Peregrine inherited Grimsthorpe Castle from his mother on the occasion of his marriage to Mary de Vere, an English noblewoman, and eventually inherited the title of 13th Baron Willoughby de Eresby. Peregrine was a soldier and was away fighting the Spanish in the Netherlands for a long time. He died soon after returning from war, and Grimsthorpe Castle was passed on to his son, Robert Bertie. In 1625, Robert was appointed the Lord Great Chamberlain by the Crown. As payment, he was allowed to take ownership of furniture and artefacts from the Royal Court. Several of these antique collections are housed in Grimsthorpe Castle even today.

Robert Bertie gained yet another important title soon. He was appointed the Earl of Lindsey for his service to the Crown during the English Civil War. Robert was injured in battle in 1642 and succumbed to his injuries. His son, Montagu Bertie inherited Grimsthorpe Castle after being released from imprisonment. After the Restoration of the Monarchy, he served as Lord Great Chamberlain at the coronation of Charles II. After Montagu’s death, the Castle was inherited by his son Robert, who married three times. His third wife, Lady Elizabeth Pope, played an active role in developing Grimsthorpe Castle gardens.

In 1701, the title of Earl of Lindsey was passed on to Robert, who was also 17th Baron Willoughby de Eresby. He also received the title of Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven. To celebrate his promotion to the title of Duke, Robert hired Sir John Vanbrugh, one of the time’s most famous architects, to design a grand country home in the Grimsthorpe Estate.

Grimsthorpe Castle was then passed on to Peregrine, who oversaw much of the Castle’s interior redecoration. His son, Robert Bertie, succeeded him as the Fourth Duke of Ancastor but died soon after leaving behind no male heirs. The Dukedom became extinct on this account, while the title of Baroness Willoughby de Eresby was passed on to this sister, Priscilla. Peter Robert Drummond-Burell inherited Grimsthorpe Castle and the title of 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby after the death of his mother. He attended the coronation of Queen Victoria and was a Member of Parliament for Boston in Lincolnshire.

During World War I, the British Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force used the Estate as an emergency landing ground, and a company of the Parachute Regiment again used the grounds in World War II. Timothy, the heir of the Estate, disappeared at sea in 1962, and the title of 28th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby was finally passed on to Lady Jane Heathcote Drummond Willoughby.


Grimsthorpe Castle
North Side of Grimsthorpe Castle, by Wehha, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Grimsthorpe Castle and the formal Castle gardens are widely considered architectural wonders. The country home is in the shape of a large quadrangle with a courtyard at its centre. Several architectural styles have been incorporated into the Castle’s design, giving it a unique stylistic blend. The Vanbrugh Hall has a symmetric design with double arches decorating the interiors. The Hall’s ceilings are decorated with paintings of mythological scenes. It also houses a fine collection of portraits of British monarchs and an exquisite chimneypiece. The State Dining Room, located inside Vanbrugh Hall, showcases royal thrones from the Georgian period, portraits of some of the ladies of the family, and beautifully painted ceilings.

The Chinese Drawing Room features a skilful blend of classical, rococo, Gothic, and Chinese elements. Other impressive elements of Grimsthorpe Castle include the Tapestry Drawing Room, the King James Room, and the Gothic Bedroom. At the southeast corner of the Castle stands King John’s Tower. The Castle gardens and surrounding parkland provide a pleasant atmosphere to Grimsthorpe Castle’s grandeur, making the Estate a marvellous site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns Grimsthorpe Castle?

Grimsthorpe Castle has been in possession of the Willoughby de Eresby family for over five hundred years. It has been the seat of the Baron/Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, which is currently held by Lady Jane Heathcote Drummond Willoughby.

Who designed Grimsthorpe Castle?

Sir John Vanbrugh, one of the most talented architects of his time, designed parts of Grimsthorpe Castle in the early 18th century. He designed the baroque-style front of the country house, and the Vanbrugh hall contains rooms that incorporate rococo, classical, gothic and Chinese styles. Stephen Switzer was also commissioned to design a fortified garden, which only partially stands today.

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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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