Sherborne Castle Estates

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Sherborne Castle is a 16th-century Tudor mansion southeast of Sherborne in Dorset, England. Sherborne Old Castle is the ruin of a 12th-century castle in the grounds of the mansion.

The old castle was built as the fortified palace of Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of England, and still belonged to the church in the late 16th century. After passing through Sherborne on the way to Plymouth, Sir Walter Raleigh fell in love with the castle, and Queen Elizabeth relinquished the estate, leasing it to Raleigh. Rather than refurbish the old castle, Raleigh decided to construct the new mansion in the grounds on the site of an existing hunting lodge. The new house, a four-story, rectangular building was completed in 1594 and named Sherborne Lodge.

After Raleigh’s execution, King James sold the estate to Sir John Digby, 1st Earl of Bristol in 1617. In the 1620s the Digby family added four wings to the house in a similar architectural style to the original.

In the Civil War Sherborne was strongly Royalist, and the old castle was ruined by General Fairfax of the Parliamentary forces in 1645. The name “Sherborne Castle” was then applied to the new house.

Through the early and mid-18th century Robert Digby laid the present castle gardens, including the 1753 lake designed by Lancelot Brown, which separates the old and new castles. The ruins of the old castle are part of the gardens, being conspicuous amongst the trees across the lake. King George III visited the house and gardens in 1789, shortly before awarding Henry Digby with a Peerage. When the last Earl Digby died in the 19th century the house was passed to the Wingfield Digby family, who still own the house. The house was modernised by the architect Philip Charles Hardwick.

In World War I the house was used by the Red Cross as a hospital and in World War II as the headquarters for the D-Day landings.

The gardens are open to the public much of the year, and the house is open to the public most Saturdays. The estate often hosts special events, such as concerts and firework displays. The old castle was purchased by English Heritage and is now separate from the rest of the estate.

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