Essential Architecture-  United Kingdom

Leeds Castle


Richard de Crevecoeur


in Kent, south of London









Built in 1119 by Richard de Crevecoeur to replace the earlier Saxon manor of Esledes, the castle became a royal palace for King Edward I of England and his queen, Eleanor of Castile in 1278. Major improvements were made during his time, including the Barbican, made up of three parts, each with its own entrance, drawbridge, gateway, and portcullis. The medieval keep is called the "Gloriette" in honor of Queen Eleanor.

In 1321 King Edward II besieged the castle after his queen was refused admission, and used ballistas, or springalds, to force its defenders to surrender. In 1395, King Richard II received the French chronicler Jean Froissart there, as Froissart described in his Chronicles.

Henry VIII transformed the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and a painting commemorating his meeting with Francis I of France still hangs there. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the castle for a time before her coronation.

The castle escaped destruction during the English Civil War because its owners, the Culpeper family, sided with the Parliamentarians. The last private owner of the castle was Lady Baillie, who bought it in 1926. She redecorated the interior, working with the Paris decorator Stéphane Boudin. Baillie established the Leeds Castle Foundation. The castle was opened to the public in 1976.

On July 17, 1978, the castle was the site of a meeting between the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan in preparation for the Camp David Accords.

Leeds is the home of the black swans. They were a gift given to Winston Churchill after WWII. He sent them to Leeds to live. Their descendants are still there.

This castle and its grounds are now an important leisure destination in the county of Kent. The castle has an aviary, a maze, a grotto, a golf course and what may be the world's only museum of dog collars. It also plays host to an annual hot air balloon display.

The castle was used as the location for Chalfont, the family home of the d'Ascoynes, in the film Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) [1].
There is a sundial at Fairfax, Virginia telling the time in Leeds Castle, and a sundial at Leeds Castle telling the time in Virginia. [2]