Rockingham Castle is a former royal castle and hunting lodge in Rockingham Forest, a mile to the north from the town centre of Corby. The site on which the castle stands has been used in the Iron Age, Roman period and by the invading Saxons, also used by the Normans and Tudors and also used in the Medieval Period. This is because its position on elevated ground provides clear views of the Welland Valley from a strong defensible location. William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a wooden Motte and Bailey at Rockingham in the 11th century shortly after the Norman Invasion of Britain. Within three decades, William II replaced it with a stone castle. A stone keep was added to the large motte and the outer bailey was enclosed by a curtain wall. The castle was then used as a Royal retreat throughout the Norman and Plantagenet periods. Nearby Rockingham Forest was especially good for hunting wild boar and deer. In 1270 Henry III strengthened the castle with the addition of a twin D-tower gatehouse. But less than a century later Edward III became the last monarch to visit the castle while it was possessed by The Crown.
By the late 15th century Rockingham Castle had fallen into disrepair. Sir Edward Watson (founder of the Watson Family dynasty) acquired the lease of the castle from Henry VIII. Parts of the castle were subsequently replaced with a Tudor house with gardens. The former royal castle became a hunting lodge for the nobility. Watson's grandson Lewis Watson acquired the freehold of the castle and lands from the crown. Watson was successively a knight, baronet and baron. In the 1640s Rockingham was garrisoned by troops loyal to Charles I during the English Civil War. Several small skirmishes were fought with Parliamentary forces. In 1643 Rockingham was captured by Parliamentarian general Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford and Lewis Watson temporarily forced to leave. Its remaining walls were slighted in 1646. In the latter 17th and 18th centuries, Rockingham returned to being a civil residence. Lewis' grandson, also Lewis, was created Earl of Rockingham in 1714, a barony that was extinguished with the death of the 3rd baron in 1746. The estate then passed to his cousin Thomas Watson-Wentworth, who was created the 1st Marquess Rockingham later that year. When Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham died in 1782, the estate among others passed to the son of his sister, William Fitzwilliam, 4th Earl Fitzwilliam. The castle underwent further restoration in the late 19th century. Today the castle remains the private home of the Saunders-Watson family.
Rockingham Castle is often stated as being in the county of Leicestershire. This mistake arises due to Rockingham having a Market Harborough postal address, even though it borders directly onto the town of Corby in Northamptonshire. Rockingham village is part of, and is administered by Corby Borough Council. Rockingham Castle was a popular haunt of writer Charles Dickens who was a great friend of Richard and Lavinia Watson, ancestors of the current family. The Castle is arguably the inspiration for Chesney Wold in one of his greatest works, Bleak House. Rockingham Castle takes its name from the village of Rockingham, where the Castle is located. Rockingham Forest was also named after Rockingham village, during the time of William the Conqueror, because of the Castle's importance as a Royal retreat. A cricket pitch lies within the grounds of the castle and is home to Old Eastonians Cricket Club.
The parking area for disabled visitors is located immediately outside the Norman Towers which form the entrance to the Castle. On arrival at the Ticket Office you will be provided with a Welcome leaflet. The map inside indicates the disabled parking area. If you identify your need to any member of staff they will be delighted to assist you with directions. Due to the architecture it is not possible for visitors in wheel chairs to enter the Castle via the main visitor entrance. The access is via the ramp to the Gift Shop the location of which is identified on the Welcome Leaflet. They have a ramp providing access to the Restaurant in Walkers House. Whilst this can and is put in place on a need basis it would be helpful to know in advance that you need this ramp. The Castle Courtyard is gravelled as are the paths in the formal garden. An audio tour, narrated by the Castle’s Owner, James Saunders Watson, is available to hire. These are available to all visitors to enjoy and accordingly, at very busy times, may not be available. If you would like to book the use of one of these tours please email or telephone the Estate Office and the necessary arrangement will be made for you. There is a full disabled WC situated adjacent to the Ticket Office on the visitor car park. Assistance dogs are welcome. Outside tours take place daily on open days at 12.30pm, 1.30pm & 2.30pm. These tours are complimentary, last approximately 45 minutes and cover the development of the Castle through the ages.
Location : Rockingham Castle, Rockingham, Market Harborough, Leicestershire LE16 8TH
Transport: Corby (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 67 stops 0.5 miles away.
Opening Times : Tuesday, Sunday, Bank Holiday 12:00 to 17:00.
Tickets Castle + Grounds: Adults £11.00; Children (5 - 16) £6.50.
Tickets Grounds Only: Adults £6.50; Children (5 - 16) £6.50.
Tel: 01536 770240