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Rockingham Castle

Built by William the Conqueror on the site of an ancient British Fortress, the Castle commands the valley of the River Welland.

For 500 years the Castle was a royal residence, used regularly by the early English Kings both as an administrative centre for the Midlands, and also as a hunting lodge, since the Rockingham Forest offered some of the best sport in the country.

During this period, many important events occurred at Rockingham, including one of the earliest assemblies of State, The Council of Rockingham in 1095, and a great siege later in the 13th century, the marks of which can still be seen on the walls.

King John was a frequent visitor to the Castle, and on his last journey North in 1216, during which he lost most of his personal possessions in the Wash, he left behind an iron chest, which can still be seen in the Castle.

By the middle of the 15th century, the affairs of state had become too complex to be conducted on an itinerant basis, the Kings based themselves more permanently in the South, and castles like Rockingham declined in importance.

In 1530 Edward Watson, a local landowner, obtained a lease of Rockingham from Henry VIII and set about restoring what remained of the Norman Castle, converting it into a comfortable Tudor House. His grandson, Sir Lewis Watson, bought the freehold from James I in 1619, and, apart from a brief period when Roundheads occupied the Castle during the Civil War, the Watson’s have lived here ever since.

Sir Lewis Watson was created a baronet in 1621, and Lord Rockingham in 1644. His only son, Edward, married Anne, daughter of the Earl of Stafford, and their son, Lewis, was created Viscount Sondes and Earl of Rockingham in 1714. Lewis, grandson of the first Earl of Rockingham, upon succeeding to the estate, was created Lord Sondes in 1760.

When the former owner, Commander Michael Saunders Watson took over the Castle he felt that the public should be able to share more fully this part of the nation’s heritage and decided to open more frequently.

The Gardens are now open to the public from 12 noon, and the Castle from 1.00 pm, to 5.00 pm on every Sunday from Easter until the end of September, as well as on Bank Holiday Mondays, and on every Tuesday from June to September. It is also open to booked parties on any day throughout the year. Rockingham Castle website: