Leicester Castle

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Leicester Castle 2012
Leicester Castle as it looked in 2012. It is situated next to St Mary De Castro and the rear of the building can be viewed from Castle Gardens

We know that Richard III made his way to Leicester just weeks after being crowned King of England in July 1483.  Remarkably a letter from the period dated 18 August 1483 has survived providing us with evidence that the new king stayed here. The letter was signed “from my castle of Leicester”.

Richard III would probably have visited his castle on several occasions. Leicester Castle was crown property during this time and held great importance as an estate office for the Duchy of Lancaster´s Leicestershire estates. The Great Hall was also a place for holding the courts of assize, criminal courts that would only have heard the most serious cases of the day. On the occasions when the king visited, the castle would have seen great pageantry and entertainment.

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Leicester Castle Print
Leicester Castle From Braunstone Gate Bridge, print published in 1791

What would Leicester Castle´s Great Hall have looked like during the reign of Richard III?

Today a late 17th century brick entrance conceals the 12th century structure that Richard III would have been familiar with. The Great Hall, built in 1150, would have been a large open space with timber aisle posts (some of which still remain) but its medieval character is now largely hidden by two 19th century court rooms built in 1821. Adjacent to the Great Hall is a medieval vaulted cellar known as John of Gaunt´s cellar.

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Leicester Castle Courtroom
The inside of Leicester Castle showing the courtrooms that were added in 1821

Leicester Castle in medieval times

In the 14th and 15th centuries we believe Parliament met in the Great Hall.  We also know royalty stayed here including Edward I, Edward II and Henry IV.

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John Gaunt Celler
The 15th century 'John of Gaunt's Cellar' runs under a courtyard adjacent to the Castle Hall, it is 14 by 6 metres and is built of large sandstone blocks

 King Richard’s letter from Leicester Castle 18th August 1483

“According to the right of the said truces. Upon which matter, in order that my said subjects and merchants be not deceived under the shadow of the same. I pray you that by my servant, this bearer, one of the grooms of my stable, you will let me know by writing your full intention, and at the same time if you desire anything that I can do for you, that I may do it with good will. And farewell, my lord my cousin.

Written in my castle of Leicester, the 18th day of August 1483”

Download an information sheet about Leicester Castle at the bottom of this page.

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