Grimsthorpe Castle is located in Lincolnshire and was first thought to be built in the 13th century by Gilbert de Grant. However de Grant died in 1156 therefore the origins of the castle are much older and most likely date to around 1140. While called Grimsthorpe Castle the building is actually more of a large manor house than an actual castle. De Grant’s original building consisted of a square shape building built around a large courtyard with four varying size towers located on each corner of the building. The south east tower of the Castle is known as ‘King John’s Tower’ and this name may have led to the confusion that the castle was built during the reign of King John rather than a century earlier.
Upon Gilbert de Grant’s death much of his lands and estates went to Henry, 1st Lord Beaumont. Beaumont served Kings Edward I and II. Henry, 5th Lord Beaumont married Elizabeth Willoughby, daughter of William, 5th Bardon Willoughby de Eresby. Their grandson was William Willoughby, the 11th Baron Willoughby de Eresby who on the 5th of June 1516 married Maria de Salinas, maid of honour to Queen Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife. William was granted Grimsthorpe Castle by Henry VIII to celebrate the marriage.
William Willoughby died in October 1526 with only one living child, a daughter named Katherine. Katherine not only inherited her father’s title but also his vast estates and lands in Lincolnshire including Grimsthorpe Castle.
In March 1528 Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk bought the wardship of Katherine Willoughby from the King for a staggering £2,266 13s 4d. Brandon then married Katherine on 7th September 1533. With the marriage Brandon came into possession of Grimsthorpe Castle.
With the major rebellion in 1536 known as the Pilgrimage of Grace Henry VIII wanted to ensure that there was no further uprising in Lincolnshire. Sometime before May 26th the King ordered that Brandon permanently position himself within Lincolnshire to make the King’s presence known and to oversee the happenings in the county.
Brandon used Grimsthorpe and set it up as his main residence in Lincolnshire. The Castle was built on a rise which affords a magnificent view of the surrounding area. Brandon began extensive work upon the Castle over the next few years creating a magnificent quadrangle building with a centre courtyard. The castle is made of warm grey stone and slate roofing. Also located by the castle was a large park perfect for hunting, one of Brandon’s favourite pass times. In 1541 Henry VIII honoured Brandon with a royal visit at Grimsthorpe Castle and the Duke spent the previous eighteen months frantically upgrading and extending the Castle using much of the materials of the dissolved Vaudey Abbey which was located nearby.
After Charles Brandon’s death on the 22nd of August 1545 Katherine married Richard Bertie, her gentleman usher. They had two children, a daughter name Susan and a son named Peregine. After Katherine’s death the Willoughby title and the castle of Grinsthorpe passed to her son. Grimsthorpe Castle has been in the hands of the Baron/Baronesses Willoughby de Ersey ever since.
By 1707 the north front of Grimsthorpe has been rebuilt in the classic style however in 1715 Robert Bertie, 16th Baron Willoughby de Eresby employed Sir John Vanbrugh to rebuilt the front of Grimsthorpe in the baroque style to celebrate Bertie’s elevation to the title of Duke of Ancaster and Kesteven. The front of Grimsthorpe was subsequently redesigned and there were plans to complete the other three facings of the castle in the same style however these were never carried out.
The south façade of the castle remains similar to that which Charles Brandon extended during his time at Grimsthorpe and which he would have been familiar with. The south west tower of Grimsthorpe Castle is known as the ‘Brandon Tower’.
Chilvers, A 2010, The Berties of Grimsthorpe Castle, Author House, Bloomington Indiana.
The Grimsthorpe & Drummond Castle Trust 2015, Grimsthorpe Castle, viewed 26th July 2015, <http://www.grimsthorpe.co.uk/>.