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Sudeley Castle as visible from the Cotswold Way (Ethan Doyle White / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Sudeley Castle’s ‘Footprints’ Of The Tudors

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Awarded the accolade as “one of England’s most picturesque castles”, the manor of Sudeley Castle lies just to the east of the picturesque River Isbourne, a few miles from Cheltenham, on the edge of the Cotswold Plateau. Besides being renowned for its majestic beauty, the castle is well-known as one of the favorite palaces of the most infamous of all royal dynasties; the Tudors. Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII stayed there whilst, ahead of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, they investigated the authenticity of the relic of Holy Blood at Hailes Abbey.  Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife lived, died and is buried there, whilst his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I most famously in 1592 celebrated the anniversary of her victory over the mighty Spanish Armada at the castle.  She stayed for three days and was hosted at a huge expense by Giles Brydges, third Baron Chandos of Sudeley, in what was called one of the greatest celebrations in royal history.

Engraving of Sudeley Castle in 1732, showing the ruinous inner court, and still occupied outer court. (Public Domain)

Engraving of Sudeley Castle in 1732, showing the ruinous inner court, and still occupied outer court. ( Public Domain)

Pre-history Of Sudeley

For the last four years Dig Ventures have been excavating the site every summer and made remarkable discoveries, including the site of a temporary Tudor palace related to Elizabeth I’s celebrations, traces of a great feast, garden features and finds relating to Winchcombe Abbey. All of which contributing to rewriting the rich and varied history of Sudeley castle, spanning several centuries.

The castle was built in an area that already had a long history of human occupation. The surrounding landscape is littered with Neolithic long barrows and flint finds which attest to a prehistoric presence in the area. The long barrow of Belas Knap lies particularly close and is of relevance to Sudeley in that it was excavated between 1863 and 1865 and was later restored by Mrs Emma Dent, wife of the then owner of Sudeley castle who in the 1870’s funded excavations at Sudeley under the direction of Cannon Lyson prior to her restoration of the house and gardens. She also recorded, in 1877, Roman tesserae having been found just to the east of the castle, along with an altar stone in the area. This has led archaeologists to suggest that there was at some point a Romano-British villa in the area, overlaying possible Iron Age activity.

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Rebecca Batley has a Bachelor’s degree in archaeology (University of Wales) and a Master’s degree in Classics. In the field she has worked on sites dating to the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Romano-British, Roman, Medieval, Tudor, Georgian and modern periods. Employed by the Louvre Museum, she researched and excavated at sites in Egypt, Syria, and Israel. She works at the Military Intelligence Archive to help to prepare World War One records for cataloguing and digitalisation and she is a part time History tutor.

Top Image : Sudeley Castle as visible from the Cotswold Way ( Ethan Doyle White  / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

By: Rebecca Batley

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