A castle may have been built on the site during the reign of King Stephen (1135–1154). In 1442, Ralph Boteler who was created Baron Sudeley by Henry VI of England, built the current castle on its present site using what he had earned fighting in the Hundred Years' War (ransoms and the odd bit of pillaging). He built quarters for servants and men at arms on the double courtyard that was surrounded by a moat. He also added state and family apartments on the second courtyard. The Chapel, which would become St. Mary's, and the tithe barn were also built under Boteler. In 1469, Edward IV of England confiscated the castle from Boteler and gave it to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who later became Richard III of England. Richard used the castle as a base for the Battle of Tewkesbury. The Duke would later exchange this property for Richmond Castle making Sudeley property of the crown. Ownership returned to Richard when he became king in 1483. During his reign the Banqueting Hall with oriel windows and the adjoining state rooms, now in ruins, were built in place of the eastern range of Boteler’s inner court as part of a royal suite.
After Richard's death at the Battle of Bosworth, Sudeley passed to the new king, Henry VII, who then gave it to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford. By the time Henry VIII succeeded to the throne, the castle was the property of the Crown again. In 1535, Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn visited the castle, which had been empty and unattended for some time. When King Henry died, the castle became the property of his son, Edward VI of England, who gave it to his uncle, Thomas Seymour who he made Baron of Sudeley. In early Spring 1547, Thomas married Edward's stepmother, the Dowager Queen Catherine Parr. At the announcement of her pregnancy in late 1547, Thomas began to renovate the castle for Catherine's use, but only one room that he built remains today. Lord Seymour and Queen Catherine decided that Catherine should move to Sudeley for the final months of her pregnancy. At about six months, Catherine was accompanied by Lady Jane Grey and a large retinue of ladies to attend on her, as well as over one hundred gentlemen of the household and Yeomen of the guard. Catherine's sister, Lady Pembroke, also came and attended upon her as her chief lady and groom of the stool. Catherine would give birth to her daughter, Lady Mary Seymour, on 30 August 1548 only to die on 5 September of that year. Catherine was buried in the Chapel. Her grave was discovered in 1728 after the castle and the chapel had been left in ruins by the English Civil War. She was later reinterred by the Rector of Sudeley in 1817 and an elaborate tomb was erected in her honour.
In 1549, Seymour's ambitions led him to being arrested and beheaded; after which, Sudeley Castle became the property of Catherine's brother, William Parr, Marquess of Northampton. After Parr's involvement with the plot to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne, he was stripped of his property and title by Queen Mary. Parr would regain his titles under Queen Elizabeth but the Castle remained property of John Brydges, 1st Baron Chandos. In 1554, Queen Mary gave Sudeley Castle to John Brydges, 1st Baron Chandos, and it remained his property throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was at Sudeley that Queen Elizabeth was entertained three times and in 1592 a spectacular three-day feast to celebrate the anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada was held. Katherine Parr Exhibition: Rare copies of original books written by Katherine Parr, the first queen to have her own work published, are displayed in an exhibition to celebrate this remarkable queen. The exhibition also features her love letters to Thomas Seymour and the eye-witness account of the discovery of her body at Sudeley in 1782. Guests can also visit Katherine Parr’s tomb in St Mary’s Church – Sudeley is notable for being the only private castle to have a queen buried in its grounds. Richard III Exhibition: Sudeley Castle & Gardens was the last stop on the tour before the head returned to its final resting place in Leicester’s new King Richard III visitor centre, however a permanent Richard III exhibition remains at the castle.
Textiles Exhibition: The castle is notable for its textile collection, The Threads of Time exhibition. This features a collection of textile treasures from Sudeley’s history displaying textile techniques spanning over 400 years. This fine exhibition has been described as one of the best in the country and includes a 17th-century stumpwork casket, delicate lace and a Sheldon tapestry. Sudeley Castle has nine individual gardens. The centrepiece is the Queens Garden, so named because four of England’s queens – Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I – once admired the hundreds of varieties of roses found in the garden. St Mary’s Church, in which Katherine Parr is buried, is bordered by the White Garden, rich with peonies, clematis, roses and tulips, where Katherine and her companion, Lady Jane Grey would have entered the church for daily prayers. The Knot Garden is based on a dress pattern worn by Elizabeth I in a portrait that hangs in the castle. More than 1,200 box hedges form its intricate geometric design, interspersed with coloured gravel and a Moorish mosaic fountain at the centre. Disabled toilet near the Visitor Centre and in the Terrace Café. Visitor Centre & Coffee Shop are Wheelchair accessible. Gardens: Circular route around gardens is wheelchair accessible although some visitors may require assistance from their companion. Paths are loose gravel or grassed. Exhibition: Upper floors of the exhibition areas are unsuitable for wheelchair users or those with mobility issues. Two manual wheelchairs are available at the Visitor Centre.
Location : Sudeley Castle & Gardens, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire GL54 5JD
Transport: Cheltenham Spa (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : Marchants Coaches, 606 Service or from Cheltenham.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £14.50; Concessions £13.50; Children (5 - 15) £5.50
Tel: 01242 602308