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Rockingham Castle is a former a royal castle and hunting lodge in Rockingham Forestmarker a mile to the north of Corbymarker, Northamptonshiremarker, Englishmarker.

History

The site on which Rockingham Castle stand has been in use during the Iron Age, Roman period and by Saxon tribes. Its position on elevated ground provides good defense and clear views of the Welland Valleymarker.

Shortly after the Norman Invasion in the 11th century, a Motte and Bailey castle was built here on the orders of William the Conquerer. His son, King William II, founded the stone castle. A shell keep was added to the large motte and the inner bailey was surrounded by a curtain wall. The castle was used throughout the Norman and Plantagenet periods as a Royal retreat. Especially as nearby Rockingham Forest was good for hunting wild boar and deer.

In 1270, Henry III strengthened the castle's defenses with a twin-tower gatehouse. However only a century later Edward III became the last monarch to visit the castle, during its possession by The Crown.

By the late 15th century Rockingham Castle had fallen into disrepair. In 1485 Edward Watson (founder of the Watson Family dynasty), bought the castle and converted the site into a Tudor house with gardens. In the reign of Henry VIII, the former royal castle had become a hunting lodge for the nobility.

However Rockingham's military might was put to use again when it was garrisoned for Charles I during the English Civil War. The royalists fought several small skirmishes with Parliamentary forces until it was eventually captured by Lord Grey of Groby in 1643. The walls were slighted in 1646.

In the later 17th and 18th centuries Rockingham Castle became a residence again and the seat of the Marquesses of Rockingham. It was restored to its full elegance and grace in the late nineteenth century.

Today the castle is the family home of the Saunders Watson family.

Location

Rockingham Castle is often stated as being in the county of Leicestershiremarker. This mistake arises due to Rockingham having a Market Harboroughmarker postal address.

It overlooks the villages of Rockinghammarker and Caldecottmarker and enjoys good views over the Welland Valleymarker. Now privately owned, it is open to the public on certain days.

Rockingham Castle was a popular haunt of writer Charles Dickens who was a great friend of Richard & Levinia Watson, ancestors of the current family. The Castle is the inspiration for Chesney Wold in one of his greatest works, Bleak House.

A cricket pitch lies within the grounds of the castle and is home to Old Eastonians Cricket Club.

Filming

Rockingham Castle was used as the set for the BBC English Civil War period drama By the Sword Divided. In the TV series "Arnescote Castle" was the home of the Royalist Lacey family. It also featured in the film Top Secret! which starred Val Kilmer.

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