22/06/2022 | News

An Extraordinary Venue…900 Years of Living History

Historic Castle in Surrey

Farnham Castle’s historic timeline

For over 900 years, the site of Farnham Castle has been the main focal point of Farnham in Surrey, and this month we’re sharing a glimpse of our fascinating history with you.

Building the Bishop’s Palace

Farnham Castle’s story begins back in 1138, when it’s believed that Bishop Henri de Blois, the grandson of William the Conqueror, began building (or re-building) the Castle. For hundreds of years thereafter, it was the seat of the powerful and wealthy medieval Bishops of Winchester, and served as an administrative centre, fortress and accommodation; a convenient stopping place between London and Winchester.

The oldest part of the Bishop’s Palace is thought to be the Norman Chapel; originally a Norman Hall House and the Bishop’s first residence, but converted in to a Chapel after the creation of the Great Hall. Next, the building of the Lantern Hall, originally ‘the old kitchen’ with eleven lancet windows and two corner bread ovens. Today, 5 lancet windows remain, as well as the original ovens and the large sky lantern, which was originally used to release the smoke from the kitchen.

Between 1470 and 1475, Bishop Wayneflete erected a grand, four-story brick entrance tower on the foundations of what was a much smaller porch. Mortar mixed with red ochre heightens the tower’s colour and dark blue bricks pattern the sides in diamond shapes. Latin mottos on the two sundials read ‘PRACTERUNT’ (they pass by) and ‘IMPUTANTUR’ (they are reckoned unto us). Latin script was also added to the magnificent fireplace in the Great Hall, ‘A DIEU FOY, AUX AMIS FOYER’ (To God my faith, to my friends my hearth).

Royalty at Farnham Castle

In this 2022 Platinum Jubilee year and throughout history, Castles are always associated with Royalty, and Farnham Castle has been associated with many of England’s Kings and Queens over the centuries. We thought you might like to hear of a few.

  • King John used to visit the Castle on a regular basis and his association with Farnham Castle was strong enough to order and pay for horses and greyhounds to be stabled and kennelled here, in readiness for his visits.
  • In 1216 the French Dauphin, Louis was installed in Farnham Castle, in readiness to take the throne, although was never crowned King.
  • It is believed King Henry III was a guest at Farnham Castle on at least fourteen occasions.
  • Edward III was a frequent visitor, and at least once visited with his Queen.
  • There is little doubt that the Tudors – from Henry VII onwards – enjoyed coming to Farnham Castle. ​In fact, Henry VII’s link to the Castle was sufficiently strong for him to entrust the welfare of his first son and heir, Prince Arthur, to Bishop Peter Courtenay at Farnham Castle. The King’s trust meant that Arthur was at Farnham for much of the first seven years of his life.
  • Prince Henry (who would become Henry VIII), who visited his brother Arthur at Farnham several times. It is also reported that he came to Farnham Castle, as King, in 1516, at the age of 24, and from there wrote a letter to Cardinal Wolsey. Henry was said to have enjoyed hunting through the woodland of Farnham, and Alice Holt Forest, nearby.
  • In 1554 Queen Mary chose Bishop Gardiner to officiate at her marriage to Philip of Spain at Winchester Cathedral. Mary arrived at Farnham Castle on June 22nd 1554, together with her entire Privy Council. It is known that Mary was presented with both greyhounds and a hawk while at Farnham, and that payments were made for shoeing, stabling and feeding her horses.
  • When Elizabeth I came to the throne she gave the bishopric of Winchester to Robert Horne, whom she visited at Farnham in 1567 and in 1569. Then, in 1583, rumours of a Plot to kill Elizabeth led to her passing the entire summer at Farnham Castle, and the whole Castle was given up to the Queen, her councillors and her courtiers.

Click here to read more about Farnham Castle’s history and, if you’d like to hold and Event or your Wedding at Farnham Castle, our team would love to chat with you.