History- Kenilworth Castle


When and why it was built

When was Kenilworth castle built?

  • It was built in the 1120s by Geoffrey de Clinton (the royal chamberlain).
  • King Henry i granted land to him to build the castle.
  • Built in the Norman period (1120's to the 1170's)

Why was Kenilworth castle built?

  • Kenilworth castle was originally built to mitigate against the powers of the Earl of Warwickshire.
  • It was also built to protect England from the Welsh Kings up until the conquest of Wales in 1282.
  • To defend the country from raids.
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The reasons for its location

In between Oxford, Nottingham, Hereford and Shrewsbury.

  • allowed them to trade with lots of different people.

On a well connected road system

  • allowed access to lots of materials and trade routes

Close to Coventry

  • this was one of the largest cloth and textiles supplier

On a natural hill

  •  harder for enemies to reach and good for overlooking

Good supply of sandstone and water sources nearby

  • free building material and water can be used for defence
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The Norman period

The Norman period: 1120 to 1174

Purpose: to mitigate against the Earl of Warwick, defense

 Why it changed: to strengthen the castle, to add more materials 

People involved:

  • King Henry i - granted the land and ordered for a castle to be built
  • Geoffrey de Clinton- started the build of the castle

Main features of the castle: 

  • The great tower/ keep
  • The artificial mere
  • Inner court 
  • Small chapel
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The Norman period

People found at the castle: 

  • Knights, guards and soldiers- to defend the castle
  • Priest- to lead the daily prayers/mass
  • Nobles- in charge of the castle

Activites in everyday life:

  • Hunting- popular sporting activity for men
  • Training soldiers for battle
  • Mass and banquets

Attitudes and values:

  • Religion- many people were catholic and believed in God
  • The feudal system- the norman hierarchy 
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The Angevin period

The Angevin period: 1174 to 1266

Purpose: Mainly defense, but starting to add more luxury features

Why it changed: to protect people from rebels and attackers

People involved:

  • King John- extended and developed the castle further
  • Simon de Montford- took over the castle in 1244

Main features:

  • Mortimers tower
  • Lunn tower
  • Stone outer wall
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The Angevin period

People found at the castle: 

  • Knights, guards and soldiers- to protect the castle
  • Earls and Barons- visiting the castle
  • Rebels- trying the invade the castle on the siege of Kenilworth

Activities in everyday life:

  • Making weapons- to deter the rebels away
  • Religious services- religion became popular due to the new chapel

Attitudes and values:

  •  Religion- many people still held catholic beliefs and the new owners of the castle built a chapel fit for services.
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The Lancastrian period

The Lancastrian period: 1266 to the 1540's 

Purpose: Kenilworth castle has now changed to a royal residence 

Why it changed: to show off and become a palace of comfort and luxury

People involved:

  • Earls of Lancaster- the main owners of the castle
  • John of Gaunt- made many improvements to the castle

Main features:

  • Great hall
  • Kitchens
  • Royal apartments
  • Gaunts tower
  • Saintlowe tower
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The Lancastrian period

People found at the castle:

  • Chambermaids- cleaned the castle 
  • Jesters and musicians- entertained the guests staying at the castle
  • Cooks- prepared food for the feasts
  • Priests- lead religious services and mass

Activities in everyday life:

  • Painting- the renaissance period aspired people to take part in the arts
  • Entertainment- the castle was for impressing people 
  • Feasts- Kenilworth has exotic foods so put on feasts to impress guests

Attitudes and values:

  • Weath- money was becoming more of a status symbol
  • Religion- religion still played a big part in life
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The Elizabethan period

The Elizabethan period: 1547 to 1588

Purpose: to impress the Queen, a luxury castle

Why it changed: to accommodate for Elizabeth i, add comfort and luxury to the castle

People involved: 

  • Robert Dudley- granted the castle in 1564
  • Elizabeth i- the castle was mainly built to impress her

Main features:

  • Leicesters building
  • Leicesters gatehouse
  • Stables
  • Gardens
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The Elizabethan period

People found at the castle:

  • Marshals- looked after the stables and horses
  • Blacksmiths- made iron objects for the castle and for the horses
  • Spinners and weavers- made clothes for the members of the castle

Activities in everyday life:

  • Sports- sports became very popular in this time period
  • Music/ theatre- increase in arts due to people like William Shakespeare
  • Hunting- Queen Elizabeth I often went out hunting

Attitudes and values:

  • Patronage- the Queens method of giving out land and power
  • Love- Robert Dudley added features of the castle to win over Elizabeth
  • Marriage- many people were getting married
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The importance of Kenilworth locally and nationall

Kenilworths importance locally:

  • Royal progresses- her visits to the castle in 1566,1568,1572 and 1575 show how her progresses were held in the midlands and how it was an important part of her government.
  • Noble power- Kenilworth castle shows the power Robert Dudley held in the midlands, by how impressive and imposing it is over the local landscape.

Kenilworths importance nationally:

  • The renaissance age- the castle is an example of the renaissance golden age through the remodeling of the castle and new buildings like Leicesters gatehouse. The pagents and banquets that took place showcased English culture and arts.
  • Power of status- the transformation into a luxury palace symbolises how important wealth, status and power were important to the elizabethans.
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The typicality of Kenilworth


  • Normans- the capacity of the castle made it suitable for defening against Wales
  • Angevins- the castle was expanded, in 1203 it was in the ownership of an Earl 
  • Lancastrians- domestic features were added like a great hall and kitchens
  • Elizabethans- mainly used as a judicial centre


  • Normans- built after a Norman invasion, shows strength
  • Angevins- the castle was modernised and extended and accommodation was built
  • Lancastrians- no longer needed for defence when the war ended with Wales
  • Elizabethans- turned into a great house, still used for defence


  • Angevins- owned by the king who added the keep
  • Lancastrians- targeted for raids so used for defence
  • Elizabethans- governed by a Northumberland family for 400 years
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Main features of the castle

The great tower- one of the first building to be built by Geoffrey de Clinton. Built to defend the castle but was also used for residence and entertainment.

The great hall- built by John of Gaunt to symbolise his regal status. Includes bay windows, fireplaces, tapestries and hall cellars.

The stables- built by Robert Dudley to impress the Queen. Most of the building was made by storm but it was covered in timber bars.

The lunn tower- built by King John. Accuipted with fish-tailed arrow heads which suggests the tower was used for defending the castle.

Leicesters gatehouse- built by Robert Dudley in 1571. Provided a grand entrance into the castle and gave access into the town and for hunting.

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Significant dates

1120- the castles was built by Geoffrey de Clinton 

1244- Henry 111 granted the castle to Simon de Montford

1266- the siege of Kenilworth was held by the castle for 6 months

1563- Robert Dudley started to turn the castle into an Elizabethan palace

1575- an account was published about the queens famous three week visit to the stay at the castle with the Earl of Leicester.

1611- the castle was given to Prince Henry 

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